Which is Which?: Sorting Stories into Meta-Plots

Another Way to Review 

What fun to have students review stories read during the first semester and try to sort them into categories based on meta-plots.  Invite students to sort stories  into seven basic plots of fiction, based on writing by Christoper Booker.

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

Most fiction can fit one or more of these descriptions.  (The answers are not as important as the thinking that goes into the sorting.)

Consider an in-class activity during which students meet in small groups to organize the stories into categories.  Evidence should be based on references to the beginning, middle and end of each story. (Set timer to help pace, but not constrict you,  as class works through the steps.)

  • You could begin projecting the categories and asking students to give an example of a movie or TV show that fits. (Remind them to consider both internal or external conflict(s). (7-10 minutes)
  • Then, post the list of stories studied together the first semester.

  • Allot 15-18 minutes for finding evidence that the stories fit particular categories.  Encourage groups to keep their voices low – six inch voices so other groups are not influenced by what they hear from other groups. Some may find it useful to sketch plot lines to help them “see” the stories.
  • Groups then save their findings on a PPT slide to show to class.
  • Pull name for first group to have 2 minutes to show their list and substantiate their claims.  Subsequent groups present only if a story on their list is categorized different from any already presented.  No need to present if findings are the same.  Continue until all have presented any differences. (8-10 minutes)  If time remains, students may want to discuss how they came to same conclusion using different references within the stories.

Everyone gets full credit for completing the task.  The group that has the most unusual list, that members can defend, will get a bonus for the day.

(Bonus should be anything that does not cost you, the teacher, extra work. Could be first to leave the room at end of the period; a coupon for two points on next in class quiz on lit terms or, WOW! two pieces each of hard wrapped candy, when the other class members each gets just one.)

The goal, of course, is to conduct a formative assessment of what the students know and are able to do together before you move on to the next semester course work.



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