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Stories That Work

Stories That Work

Unit Summary

Students produce a fantasy narrative to be shared with primary school students after using web 2.0 tools and graphic organisers to plan and reflect on successful story writing.

A blog and wiki will support the development of the strategies for writing (including note-making, using models, planning, editing and proofreading) and act as a showcase for student work. The curriculum framing questions will guide everyone through a comprehensive planning process while also encouraging reflection on the need of the author to consider the intended audience.

The end product will be delivered to a real audience thus providing an authentic context to the task.

Curriculum Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    What works for you?
  • Unit Questions
    How can I connect my writing to an audience?
  • Content Questions
    How can a story be written for a particular audience?
    What are structural characteristics of a good story?
    Why is it important to plan before you start writing?
    How can a story be planned?
    Who are the good story writers? Why are they successful?
    What is Fantasy Genre?

Assessment Processes

View how assessment is used in this unit plan. These assessments help students and teachers set understandable goals, monitor student progress, provide feedback, assess thinking, performance and products and reflect on learning throughout the activities.

Prerequisite Skills

Students Prior Knowledge
Nearly all students would have read fairytales, played fantasy games (including online games) or watched fantasy movies.
Most would have written stories, though perhaps paid less attention to the structural protocols of story writing. Students will have presented to an audience but may have had little experience in writing for an authentic audience.
The vast majority of students will be competent internet users but few would have utilised web 2.0 tools such as a blog or wiki to track their own learning and develop their understanding. 

Teachers’ Professional Learning
The unit can support a links across curriculum; the Essential Question ‘What Works for Me?’ could easily support a Science or Technology unit for example. The unit could therefore enhance an existing Professional Learning Team or help with the establishment of one.
Teachers may need some support with the ICT specific aspects of the unit, such as how to create a blog and wiki or utilising online thinking tools, collaborative sites such as Google Docs* or multimedia software to support the final presentation of student work.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

The unit is designed to model the characteristics of project-based learning whilst also encouraging the development of 21st century skills. Although the teacher takes a leading role at the start of the unit in introducing the activities, their primary role is that of facilitator as the pace and direction of the project is determined by the student. The project is authentic in that students will write for a real audience and will need to demonstrate 21st century skills such as self-direction, communication, critical thinking and media literacy skills.  The use of web 2.0 tools will scaffold the project whilst also providing a means for the teacher to track student progress throughout the unit. Delivery of the project needs to be flexible, enabling students to be at different stages of the process. Access to ICT is preferable though the project would work best in a flexible learning environment as computer access is not essential at all times. The assessment process should be ongoing and enabled by the utilisation of web 2.0 tools.

Teaching and Learning Activities

Introducing the Unit
The unit starts with a discussion on different audiences the students may write for and how the needs of those different audiences may differ. Reference can be made to the student’s own reading (or TV watching) habits in comparison with older or younger siblings, parents and grandparents.
Attention will turn to fairytale stories. To check student’s prior knowledge and understanding, they brainstorm A-Z phrases/words/characteristics associated with fairytales. A student blog * or an online collaborative tool such as Google Docs* may be used to support this activity.

Learning activities
Planning for Audience
Students are encouraged to consider structure in writing - how a story can be written for a particular audience and what the structural characteristics are of a good story. The Visual Ranking Tool could be used to enhance this activity and encourage students to evaluate the importance of different characteristics.
An introductory multimedia presentation, What Works for You (ppt) will be viewed as a whole class activity as a stimulus for a Placemat Activity (doc) that encourages the students to consider what works for story writing. See also the teacher support resource Lotus Placemat Instructions (doc).  Students should record their summary of this activity on to the blog site.
Students then use a Mind Map Template (doc) as a graphic organiser, to help with a reflection on the structure of fairytales, and use questions prompts as scaffolds.

Planning for Structure
 
Students spend some time researching some characters from well known fairy stories from a range of sources, including the internet. Examples may be provided, eg Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Edward Scissorhands, the Big Bad Wolf. Students use a Lotus Diagram (doc) to reflect on the characteristics of one chosen fantasy character before creating their own possible character for their own narrative. (See also the teacher support resource Lotus Placemat Instructions (doc)) Student reflections should be added to the blog*.
Students then use Story Settings (doc) to consider the setting for their story by researching the story settings of at least 5 popular fairy stories (again possibly using the internet as a source) before considering a possible setting for their own story. This could also be an opportunity for broader research on story writing, again utilising web resources. Again, a reflection on the blog* will provide an insight into the development of the story plan as well as a summary of their own research.

Students then consider the plot structure of an unfamiliar fairy story in terms of its beginning, middle and end and share their research with the group through their completed Fantasy Structure (doc). They then go on to create their own Story Plan (doc) before summarising their thinking on their blog*. Students may also be directed to a range of digital learning objects that have been developed by the Curriculum Corporation© to support student creative writing. A sample is provided in Resources.

Writing

The writing element of the project will be supported by a course wiki*. Students will first consider a Self Assessment (doc) rubric that will be used as a personal checklist. The 21st Century Skills Assessment (doc) will guide teacher assessment of student development during and at the end of the unit of work. A draft story can be posted either to the wiki* or blog* and feedback invited either from fellow students or the teacher as well as self-reflection encouraged.

To enhance the story, students could be encouraged to present the final product as a multimedia presentation with music or animation or as a picture work with hand crafted or computer generated illustrations.

Students will publish their final stories to the class wiki* for peer and teacher assessment as well as reading their stories to a real audience of primary school students. The students will also provide informal feedback which will inform the assessment of the work.

Students could also be encouraged to revisit the Essential Question ‘What Works for You?’ by considering their role in designing and writing a story for a particular audience, what they learned from the experience and the feedback they received from the primary school students.

Accommodations for Diverse Needs

Students with special needs
Templates and graphic organisers will assist the students, as will providing opportunities for students to record their ideas visually if their language skills are underdeveloped.
Online podcasts, narrations or ‘read-a-long’ books could also support students with special needs
Students could record their story orally using a podcast or vodcast.

English as a second language (ESL) students
Again, templates and graphic organisers will assist the students, as will providing opportunities for students to record their ideas visually if their language skills are underdeveloped.
Online podcasts, narrations or ‘read-a-long’ books could also support students with language needs.
Students could record their story orally using a podcast or vodcast.
Students from ESL backgrounds could also be encouraged to read a familiar fairytale from their own culture.
Peer support could also be very useful, particularly if students from the same ESL background but with better English skills exist in the class.

Gifted Students
Students could be encouraged to utilise a wider use of language, for example encouraged to write an emotional description of characters not just physical. Students could write for an older target audience or taking a leading role in the peer support and assessment process.
Broadening the opportunities for how students can present their stories may also appeal to gifted students.

Indigenous Groups
Research an indigenous story may support these students or listening to a fairytale whilst reading text that matches, such as a Podcast or ‘read-a-long’ books if there are language difficulties. Students may also be encouraged to represent their ideas visually or artistically.

Credits

Jaclyn Curnow participated in the Intel Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

© State of Victoria 2008  
Jaclyn Curnow attended an Intel® Teach Essentials Online Course and provided the idea for this portfolio.  A team of teachers expanded the project. Copyright is owned by the Crown in right of the State of Victoria.  It may be reproduced in whole or in part for study or training purposes, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgment of the source and no commercial usage or sale.  Reproduction for the purposes other than those indicated above requires the written permission of the Department of Education. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction and copyright should be addressed to the Liability Management Manager, Department of Education, 2 Treasury Place, Melbourne, VIC, 3002. The State of Victoria accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any part of this material and bears no responsibility for any modifications made.

* Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Stories That Work

At a Glance

Year: 7


Subjects: English, Communication, Personal Learning, Thinking Processes


Time Needed: 1-2 hrs per week over 4-6 weeks