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Teaching Plot Structure: 5 Types of Plot

Lesson on Types of Plot is part of a 3-part series on teaching plot structure to kids. Includes a free printable

In the last couple weeks, we’ve covered the 3 types of story and the elements of plot. To wrap up my series on teaching plot, let’s talk about the different types of plot that occur in stories.  If you research types of plot at all, it won’t take but a minute to see that the experts disagree on just how many they are.  3, 5, 7?  36?

I think  most of the 36 could be boiled down to one of 5-7 plot types, but it’s fun to look at plot with a more detailed mindset.  I’ve heard it said that nothing original has been written since Shakespeare (and since so many of our current books and movies are based either on his plays or on fairy tales, I’m not saying that’s wrong).

But everyone has a different voice and a different idea of how the plot type will unfold.  So even though it seems like there are a million plot lines out there, let’s take a look at how closely our favorite books fit into just a few different types of plot.
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How Reading Counters Meanness

I have a story for you.  It’s a story about a little girl who loved to read.  When she was very young, she saw all of her family–mother, father, brother–always immersed in books.  Her father and brother read wonderful stories to her from those books.  She begged to be taught to read herself and finally her brother taught her because she couldn’t wait until she was in school to get to read stories herself.

austen reading by the window

Years passed.  Friends came into her life.  They laughed at the books she always carried, but they also asked what each story was about.  The girl began to write stories of her own, trying to match the wonder she found in Raggedy Ann stories and Nancy Drew mysteries.  She never stopped writing stories or reading books.  In high school, all her teachers encouraged her to become a writer.  With knowing smiles, they allowed her to read her own book when she should have been paying attention in class.  She discovered new authors without assistance–Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen.  She began to understand history in a way she wouldn’t have otherwise.  When stress or meanness came into her life, she had a place to go, always.  She always had a book.

Last week, my beautiful husband was sick.  He had bronchitis, sinusitus, and an upper respiratory infection.  He was not feeling well at all, and he stayed home from work the whole week.  This meant I ran more than usual, hopping into the car to go to the store and pick up this or that for him.  Apparently it was a bad week for everyone around here, because about 80% of the people with whom I came into contact were grumpy and mean.  Or condescending and mean.  Or annoyed and mean.

high five

If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, then you know that I believe that the most important human trait is kindness and that I practice it every moment.  When people are mean to me, I have to admit,  I get confused.  If I am being polite, friendly, kind… why the hell are people responding to me this way?  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take a lot of guff, and when a situation calls for strength, I find it.  But if the cashier at the gas station stares a hole through me because I’m taking too long to put my change away, am I supposed to stare back?  Attack her, either verbally or physically?  Well, no, the situation calls for none of those things.  I don’t know what’s going on in her life to make her so impatient–I don’t even know her name–so why would I pull out my cranky card?

get well card

After one particular similar situation, I left the store and climbed into my car.  My brain was still trying to assess the event and I was feeling confused and a little hurt and a little offended and a little like, “Why the f— did I come out in public again?”  I put the keys in the ignition and looked down at the console.  There sat my Kindle.  Ready to be turned on, the text-to-speech option almost blinking at me with its serenity.  And I smiled.  And I forgot the meanness inside the store as I remembered I had a beautiful story to listen to on the way home, and I didn’t know that woman.  She didn’t even know my name.  In an hour she will have forgotten me.  In 2 minutes, I would forget her.  I turned on my Kindle, put the car in reverse, and smiled as that wonderful robotic voice began to read to me.

I had a book.  I always have a book.

This.  This is why we want to engender a love of reading in our children.  Sure, there are other reasons–to promote literacy and good speech, to help them learn about the world, to give them knowledge.  But the single best thing about a book is that it takes you away.  I’ve said it before, but I fully believe that teaching our littles to love reading gives them a healthy form of escapism and could save them from trying other, more dangerous ways to escape.  Sure, I could have come straight home and poured a stiff drink to shake off that incident.  It probably would have relaxed me.  But by the time I got home I would have been stewing in it for 15 minutes, blowing it up in my head, letting my feelings hurt even more.  I might have needed 2 drinks at that point. haha

reading escape

 

Instead, I had immediate succor.  Something that relaxed me and made the incident seem as trivial as it really was.  We want that for our kids, don’t we?  Because no matter how much we want to and how hard we try, we can’t protect them from all the mean people in the world or all the temporarily mean moods.

There is nothing more relaxing than falling into a good story and staying there until your brain is ready to deal with your problems.  So read to your littles.  Read in front of your littles.  Have your littles read to you.  Read, read, read.

Some day, when they’re pulling away from the store with an oncoming headache, they will thank you.

Love wins,

KT

Homeschooling through the Tough Times

image provide by contextualfeed.com

image provide by contextualfeed.com

A parent loses a job.  Someone close to the family passes away.  Love strikes a family member like lightning–a flash that is gone quicker than it came, leaving heartache and tears in its wake.  Wind blows the roof off the house.  Illness sneaks in.

Things happen.  Bad things.  But when we choose to homeschool our children, sometimes it is necessary to soldier on.  It is difficult.  Sometimes it feels impossible.  We just want to give up, give in, lay down, and let the world roll over us.  It’s hard to concentrate on teaching a lesson, which makes it hard for the littles to soak that lesson in.  Suddenly, your entire learning experience is in upheaval.  How do you handle it?

Prioritize

The first thing you should do, after an appropriate amount of time off to grieve, handle the stress, or get the job completed, is think about what is most important when you get back to the classroom (or dining table or blanket outside).  If your state has laws about what has to be done throughout your school day, figure out the bare minimum you can get by with and stick to that schedule for a few weeks or even months until you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Adding a bit of structure to your littles’ days will help them deal with the stress, too.  So none of you may be up to 4-8 hours of education right now.  Try to set aside 2 hours of a lighter load.  I’m a firm believer that littles should practice math daily.  Writing practice is also essential.  So if you are just too stressed or sad to teach in-depth lessons, print out some math worksheets for them to work on by themselves.  Find some copywork or notebooking pages for them to do.  Grab a list of writing prompts and give them their head.  Then read together.  Read Anything.  Fiction, nonfiction, comedy, adventure.  A lighter load can make such a difference in your healing process.  It can also take one less stress off your mind.  And remember, you can turn any moment into a teachable moment, so count those as part of your school day, too.  As long as your littles are still learning something, you are doing a fine job.

Here are some great sites to find those things:

Math worksheets

Reading comprehension

Writing prompts

Notebooking

Be Flexible

Especially if you’re grieving, it can be hard to make yourself get out of bed and do things.  On those days, take the day off.  If you have a bad Wednesday, make up for it on Saturday.  If you have a bad morning, make it up in the evening.  If you have a bad week, tack a week on to the end of your scheduled year.  I have actually done this, and it worked out just fine.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  We work around it.  The glorious thing about homeschooling is that we don’t have to do it from 8-3, Monday through Friday, August through June.  We can do it whenever we want.  Be flexible With Yourself.  Allow yourself to work through the crisis without adding more to it.

But Be Consistent

Your littles, as I said before, need a sense of normalcy and a certain amount of structure will help with that.  If you let things drift too much or for too long, you are leaving your littles without an anchor.  Math every day.  Not too hard to accomplish.  Even when your patience is at an end, you can put together a basket of busywork and tell them to get to work.  Explain to them how you’re feeling (don’t try to hide it; kids are so much smarter than we think they are, and they See Everything), let them know it’s going to be a work-by-yourself day, whatever you have to do.  Just don’t leave them dangling for too long, wondering if they will ever have ‘school’ again.

Practice Patience

And I do mean practice.  Especially when we’re dealing with financial crises, our patience seems to have run out before we wake in the mornings.  It becomes easier to snap at people who have done nothing wrong.  Everything makes us angry.  This is the time when we have to learn to leave the room before we use our voices.  Walk away, take a breath, allow yourself a minute to think about what’s really bothering you.  Then take another breath.  Decide if what just made your temper snap really deserved the tongue-lashing that wanted to leap from your mouth.  Remember, they’re just little.  They have no intention of trying your patience during this difficult time.  Also, be patient with yourself.  We are so hard on ourselves.  We want to hurry up and get over this so we can move on.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Hard times have their own timetable and our desire to make them end sooner doesn’t change it one whit.  So don’t be disappointed when you are still sad after a couple of weeks, still stressed even after the roof has been fixed, still wondering where you’re going to come up with the money.  Be patient.  As my neighbor says, they can’t eat you.  It really will work out in its own time.

Seek Inspiration

Whether it be spiritual or just support from other homeschoolers.  Connect with peers, with blogs you love, your pastor, whoever will make you feel that spark again that got you homeschooling in the first place.  When I’m feeling blah, I like to go to my favorite craft sites and find something new to try with the Littles.  Whatever works for you, find that inspiration and soak it up.  You don’t even have to do anything with it.  Just reading about it might help you be better prepared to face tomorrow.  For spiritual inspiration, try Alive to Grace.  For spiritual homeschool inspiration, try A Homeschool Mom. To remember why you love being a parent, check out Mom Life Now. For a good belly laugh about parenting and homeschooling, go to Stories of Our Boys.  For really awesome craft ideas, look at The Crafty Classroom.  Come here.  Email me.  I promise to be here for you.  You never know when I might need you in return.

Take a break

At a homeschooling seminar I spoke at this year, a lovely young woman approached me and asked what to do about her preschool-age daughter, who seemed to balk at all of her lessons.  After sitting down with her for a while, I learned they had lost two very close loved ones that year, and there had been an inordinate amount of upheaval in their lives.  My advice to her was to stop pushing.  Her daughter was grieving.  She was grieving.  She needed to give them space to do that.  No one would expect that sweet little girl to care about learning her ABCs or handwriting just them.  The mother was worried she was failing in some way.  I told her to take a break.  Don’t push her daughter to do ‘schoolwork.’ Read with her, sing the alphabet with her, buy some of those great bath paints and let her make letters with her fingers.  I told her she would be surprised at the end of a couple of months how much her daughter had learned without scheduled, paper schoolwork.  If you have older littles and you decide to take a break, set some parameters.  Tell your kids you’re going to take a break, when you will be picking back up, and what you expect from them during the break.  That way they still have that sense of consistency.

Sometimes whatever the tough times are, they are just too tough.  Don’t push yourself or your littles to achieve a grand school year during those times.  Do what you can.  Give your family a break.  But do soldier on.  Don’t give up.  Don’t let the world roll over you.  There will be sunshine again, and you will be glad you didn’t send your kids back to school or shut down completely.  Because

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  My series 25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool will pick up Monday with Day Four: Insects. 🙂