Explosions Abound

by Michael Overa

Our goal, one rainy Thursday, in Ms. Eick’s Seventh Grade Language Arts class is to understand Story Arc.  I explain that all of the ideas they have are amazing, and all we need is a way to focus those ideas.

Zombies are great, I agree.
So are Robots.
Super Heroes? Ditto.
And, rabid aliens? Naturally.

But let’s focus on plane ol’ boring reality for a wee bit. We need the characters, we need the plot, and we need a setting. Why? Something has to happen (plot), it has to happen to someone (character), and it has to happen somewhere (setting).

Yes, there are exceptions.
Well, it could be the apocalypse.
Yes, an alien invasion could possibly happen.
Spiderman was – yes – originally a normal guy.

However, as we reign in our ideas, we focus on the terminology that we will be using to discuss stories and to create our own real-life fiction (groan).  We start our trek up what the students call Story Mountain — which is a term I now prefer over what I’ve always called Freytag’s Triangle or the Inverted Check Mark.

I stand at the front of the class asking them about the elements of Story Mountain:

What is an Inciting Event? An explosion!
And Rising Action? Trying to get to school but running out of time?
A Climax? An explosion!  (Yes, okay, also defusing a bomb?)
And, finally, Falling Action? Coming back home.

So explosions abound in more ways than one in this class.  Fortunately, the students are only exploding with energy.  I break the students into groups of six and seven to discuss different elements.  Each group gets one of the aspects of the Story Arc, and they set to work coming up with their own definition of the term, examples they’ve read, and possibilities for their own work.

As they present their definitions, examples, and possibilities to the class I stand near the back, where a Teaching Artist should be: learning.



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