8 Questions To Ask Any Story

So I was looking for inspiration for a lesson on “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, and I stumbled on this site: http://livinginbetweenthelines.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/an-occurrence-at-owl-creek-bridge-short-story-questions/

The questions she poses are so universal—they truly could be applied to any story. (And her answers are so thoughtful. I hope to get such great responses from my students!) I adapted a few of them to add some options.

I think these could be used in several capacities:

  • group discussions of lit circle novels
  • independent reading journal entries
  • end of novel assessment – choose 2 or 3 to respond to

1. What demands does the story make on its readers? What does the story assume or understand about its readers? How might one describe the ideal audience for the story?

2. What motivates the main characters? What do they fear, know, desire, believe?

3. Would the story have the same effect if the location of the setting were changed?

4. If the story is being told in the third person, is the narrator omniscient (all knowing and seeing) or limited to the thoughts of one character?

4a. If the story is told in the first person, is the narrator reliable, believable? What similarities are there between the narrator and the author?

5.  How does the author use metaphors (or imagery or another literary device)? Are they used as an elaborate device that supplies more detail? Are they used to extend meaning through the entire story?

6. Does the author use long complex sentences, short simple sentences, sentence fragments? How do these stylistic choices contribute to the overall meaning of the story?

7. Does this story reflect a particular society/time period/group of people?

8. Keeping all of the above in mind, what is the intention of this story—what is its main idea? What is it trying to tell us?

It’s Been a Minute…

What a busy 9 weeks it has been! We started the year with 12 lb text books then traded them in 3 1/2 weeks later for 1 lb iPads. We used pens and paper then switched to Notability, Baiboard, and Google Docs. We filled folders and binders with hole-punched handouts then stored files on Google Drive. All that said, it’s been a thrilling learning experience.

ImageStudents use Socrative to participate in a class discussion.

With our iPads, we’ve toured museums across the world and collaborated on projects. One student joined class from home via FaceTime when she was too ill to attend.

A couple of my early concerns have mostly been unfounded. I was worried the wireless infrastructure wouldn’t be able to keep up with our needs, and I’ve had very few issues there. I also wondered how the kids would do when something didn’t work the way we wanted to, and they’ve been such troopers, just rolling with it and adapting as we go. They are not afraid of trying something new, and it really makes teaching so much fun again.

And There’s the Wall

I think I’ve hit max capacity of what my brain can withstand. We had great discussions this morning about being leaders on our campuses when we return. That’s not anything that concerns me; I feel confident enough to share information with my colleagues, and what I don’t know, I know how to find the answers. 

What I really need now is time with the curriculum. When we moved to breakout sessions, I decided that since I’m teaching something new, I should start a new Google site instead of a new SchoolWeb page, though I’m sure I’ll run into the same issues with connectivity that I’ve suffered in the past. Then I turned my attention to the curriculum to figure out just where to start. Then I went looking for resources online. Then I started talking with others from my campus about how to present what we’ve learned to our colleagues when we return to school in August. What it boils down to is that I’m overwhelmed with so much information and too many different ways to present it. 

The thing to remember (and maybe I’ve said this or seen it somewhere else before) is that the content must come first. And so after today I’ll go get a (real, not iBooks) copy of A Separate Peace and start reading and annotating it (with highlighters, post-its, and pencil) just as my students will be doing this summer. Then I’ll come back to all of the technology at my disposal and figure out what I can use to enrich and enhance students’ learning.