Thursday, September 13, 2012

Young Authors Lesson 1 ~ Story Stew

Each year of my elementary school life our teacher would make a simple announcement that would bring moans and groans to the majority of the students in the classroom.  "It's time to begin working on our Young Authors books," she would say.  But while those students were whining, my little heart would secretly jump with delight. 
Young Authors was a program hosted by our local newspaper and offered in every elementary and middle school in our county.  Students would write works of fiction, "publish" them by illustrating their stories and creating a final draft to be bound in some homemade way to resemble a "real book".  These works were judged and awarded according to grade.
When my children were old enough, I contacted the local paper to find out the guidelines for homeschool students wanting to enter into the contest.  Unfortunately, they had stopped hosting this contest but graciously offered links and articles aiding me in starting my own contest....which I did.  For the past four or so years, I have been running a homeschool Young Authors contest for my local homeschool group. 
This year I will also be teaching a Young Authors class at our homeschool co-op.  And since I am already planning the lessons, I thought I'd share them here in case you would like to create Young Author books with your students as well.  I'll be posting one lesson a week and I'm not finished with the plans yet, so I'm not exactly sure how many weeks it will take...probably about 6.  Just keep checking back for more!
Our first lesson is an exciting one...
Young Authors Lesson 1 -Creating a Story Stew 
First, you will want to excitedly tell your students that they will be beginning a new project.  They will be writing their very own short story!  And not only will they be writing a story, but they will be illustrating it and binding it to look just like a "real" book.  Books take time to create and their books will not be made in one day either.  But after all of their hard work, they will have a wonderful creation to share with their family and friends.
Next, you can tell your students that you will be making a "Story Stew".
This idea was adapted from lesson plans found at
Before you begin, you will need to gather some materials.  You'll want a large stew pot, mixing spoon, labeled index cards, a book, and an apron and/or chef's hat.
Put on your chef's hat and apron and grab your stew pot.  Explain to your students that like stew, a good story is made up of several "ingredients".
Reach into the pot and pull out an index card on which you have written "characters." Explain that characters are "Who is the story about?"  Discuss that a story usually has one "Main Character" and that the story is told from the main characters view point.  Mention familiar stories and ask students to tell you who the characters are.
Reach into the pot and pull out another index card on which you have written "setting." Explain to students that the setting is "When and where the story happens." Mention familiar stories and ask students to identify the setting.
Reach into the pot and produce an index card on which you have written "plot." Explain that plot is "What happens in the story."  Explain that stories have a beginning (introducing characters and setting), middle (the majority of the story, introduces conflict which gradually rises until the climax of the story), and end (the conclusion will usually end the conflict of the story and quickly wrap up the content).  Mention familiar stories and ask students to briefly explain the plot.   
Do the same thing with a card entitled ‘Conflict’.  Explain that a story needs a 'conflict' which is a problem or challenge that the characters (usually the main character) will face.  The four main conflicts we encounter in stories are: Man vs man (ex. two boys face off in a sports challenge), Man vs. Supernatural (ex. a boy must defeat the evil aliens invading his town and save the citizens), Man vs. Nature (a girl goes for a walk in the woods, but quickly becomes lost and must find her way home), Man vs. Self (a shy girl must overcome her fears to perform a piano recital).
Once you have done this, choose a short story to read aloud to your students.  I chose 'Library Mouse' by Daniel Kirk.
This is an adorable little book about how a mouse decides to become an author.
After reading the story, ask the students to identify the characters. Write them on an index or recipe card and drop it into the stew pot. Stir it up. Then ask students to identify the setting, conflict, and the plot in the same manner. After stirring up the "ingredients," reach into the pot and produce a photocopy of the cover of the story you just read.  Ta-dah!  The ingredients made into a book!
Next, have students brainstorm ideas.  Think of three story ideas and write them down.  Discuss their ideas and choose one.
Finally, students will create their own "Story Stew".  Students can use the worksheet I created below to fill in their own ideas for setting, characters, plot, and conflict for their story.


Story Stew Worksheet

Remember to encourage your students! Some may struggle with coming up with ideas on their own. Tell them that a work of fiction is a made-up story, but it is often helpful to authors if they write about things they are familiar with. You may want to suggest things that your student enjoys that he may want to write a story about (i.e. sports, hobbies, places he's visited).

Once the Story Stew worksheet is completed, you are finished with Lesson 1! Pin It Now!

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