Though most of our relationships with stories are based on entertainment (movies, novels, video games), stories can be--and are--much more powerful and meaningful than simple entertainment. Stories can do more than simply distract us from day-to-day stresses: they can shape the way we think and alter the way see the world. Stories come from myriad places and fulfill diverse purposes.
Sometimes stories arise from a personal experience; the author shares a episode in his or her life that illustrates personal growth or the realization of a personal or universal truth. Sometimes the author shares this because she or he thinks it may help others. Sometimes an author simply can't help but share his or her powerful story.
Religions and cultures throughout history have used stories to alter people's behaviors and attitudes: to demonstrate what is good and bad, effective and ineffective, praise- and shame-worthy.
Stories help family members focus on a particular value or characteristic of a loved one; they may inform or inspire future generations about what meaningful about a particular person or experience.
Sometimes stories are true (non-fiction), and sometimes they're totally made-up (non-fiction), but most often, they're a bit of a mix. Authors oftentimes will use something real that happened to them or another real situation and then change the names, setting, or make up some of the story's details to make it more understandable or enjoyable to the reader--while preserving the most important truths or elements of the real-life scenario. There are also stories (even whole novels) that begin not with a real-word situation, but rather just an idea that the author wants to get across to readers. In those cases, the events and the characters of the stories aren't necessarily based on real people and events; they're just tools that the author uses to help readers understand the idea.
So, over the next week, we will read a number of stories that help us understand how stories are told and why people tell them. Then, we will move into writing our own stories: stories based on actual people and events or stories that help us communicate an important idea or value.
Please see the class calendar for this week's specific assignments. You can also find the class calendar by double-clicking the "Eighth Graders" tab above.
Last week, you paid special attention to the way that stories communicate certain messages (themes) that teach, inform, or work to change a reader's perspective.
Our first, story, "The Four Dragons," was a myth that made its audience think of the four main rivers of China as helpful spirits that aided people in growing food and staying healthy. Thinking of their water sources this way, citizens would be more likely to take care of those rivers and not pollute or otherwise hurt them. Of course, being mindful and taking care of natural resources helps everyone, so this story would likely benefit everyone: those who understood it as simply a story and those who believed the story was literally true. All cultures have stories like this.
Our second story, "All Summer in a Day," was of a different genre: science fiction. In this story, readers were taught about the danger of envy and arrogance and how those personal feelings can hurt others. Because Margot is different than the rest of the boys and girls, and because they are envious of her having seen the sun, they ridicule her and lock her in a closet; the don't want to believe that she knows something that they don't, and instead of confronting the fact of those differences and Margot's knowledge, they lash out at her and punish her, even though she has done nothing wrong. Because they do this, Margot misses out on her only chance to see the sun, and considering how sick and pale Margot is already, perhaps her final chance to see the sun, ever. In this story, the author, Ray Bradbury, uses emotion to help communicate his theme. We know that what the children do is wrong, and we feel very sorry for Margot. In making the reader feel this, Bradbury doesn't have to come right out and say, "You shouldn't be envious and arrogant and cruel" to get this theme across. Instead, he makes the reader feel the painful consequences of arrogance and envy and thereby communicates his theme even more effectively than if he just came right out and said it.
This week, while still paying attention to the themes of the stories you read, you will also consider how authors use perspective or point-of-view. To begin, page through this guide that helpfully explains what point-of-view is and how to figure out what type of point-of-view is being used in any particular story.
Then, will read two stories that use two different points-of-view: "The Golden Touch" and "The War of the Wall." Besides answering your daily guided reading and assessment questions for each story, also consider which point-of-view each story is told from.
Finally, you will read a chapter selection--the first chapter, actually--of the wonderful book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "Down the Rabbit Hole." We will not read the whole novel, only this first chapter. However, if you like this first chapter, I would enthusiastically recommend that you read the whole book; it was one of my favorites when I was about your age. If you'd like to do so, you can download it for free on most readers like iBooks or Kindle. If you don't have an e-reader (I don't, either), here is a free copy that you can read right on your computer: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. If you do read the book, I'd love to hear what you thought of it!
And that will be it for this week. Next week, we will cover our final unit before moving into your writing YOUR story: plot. In the meantime, enjoy your weekend and time with your family!