My Favorite Fiction Unit to Begin the School Year
With so many topics to cover in a typical middle school Language Arts curriculum, it can be difficult to decide what to teach your students first! I realize that some schools and districts have required curriculum maps, etc. that don’t leave a lot of leeway, but in every school in which I have taught it has always been left up to the teachers.
As a first year teacher, this freedom felt so overwhelming with the vast amount of curriculum students were expected to master and I had no idea where to start! Even for veteran teachers, there are so many things to worry about during the first few weeks of school that it can easily feel very heavy.
The Wisdom of Elders
When I first began teaching, my supervisor (who I’m teasing here–she is really only a few years older than me and not quite my “elder”) advised me to begin the year with a fiction unit. I am SO glad I listened to her wisdom!
While my Elements of Fiction Unit has evolved and improved greatly since that first year, the basics of the unit have remained the same and have provided a great foundation for my students as we progress from short stories to full novel units. The way that this unit is organized ensures that students remember all the elements as each lesson builds upon the previous.
As an added bonus, studying the Elements of Fiction can be so fun and engaging! The students can recognize the elements in stories and books and even films with which they are already familiar. Not only is this fun for them, but it helps them remember the content so much better!
The Elements of Fiction Topics
We dissect the various elements down and examine each of them in great detail. I typically assign multiple assignments or activities for each element—many of which involve creativity and fun for the students! Students get ample practice reading various short stories as well!
- Character Types (major/minor; antagonist/protagonist; static/dynamic; flat/round)
- Characterization (direct/indirect; STEAL)
- Point of View (1st Person; 3rd-Person Omniscient; 3rd-Person Limited; 3rd Person Objective)
- Conflict (internal/external; character vs. character, technology, nature, self, society)
- Plot Structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution)
Once students have a firm grasp on all these elements, they are prepared to tackle any work of fiction that we could throw at them throughout the rest of the year!
What do YOU like to begin the school year with?
Until Next Time,
Brenna (Mrs. Nelson)