An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix
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This Lesson:

Creating a Second-Person Choice Story

inspiring student creativity using songs that tell stories

This lesson was created by Nothern Nevada teacher Dawn Callahan during the NNWP's
I-Pods Across the Curriculum Workshop for teachers.

This writing prompt is inspired by

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
sung by the Charlie Daniels Band
(as well as several other story-telling songs )

Click here to do a Google search for the lyrics.


Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Background informationFrom Dawn: "The songs I have chosen to use with this lesson tell a story. This allows story analysis on many levels that can later be discussed during the writing process. I have included multiple songs to choose from, but chances are you have a favorite story-telling song or two that would work with this lesson."

It might also be a good idea to have examples of Choose Your Own Adventure, Endless Quest, or Twistaplot Books to use as examples of potential products the students will be creating. If you don’t know what these books are, they start a situation in 2nd person point-of-view (you as narrator) and then the reader gets to make choices of what they want to do in the book by a set of two or three decisions the reader can make which instructs them to turn to various pages in the books to continue their story. Various choices lead to various endings, some good, some bad.

Before beginning this lesson, the students should also already know (at the very least) definitions of some literary plot devices you can challenge them to use in their stories, and students should be familiar with using 2nd-person point of view.

Pre-step…before sharing the song(s)

  1. Review or teach literary elements: Plot structure (exposition, rising action and complication, climax, resolution) flashback, mood, characterization (including character types), point of view (1st, 2nd, 3rd). Certainly more can be added to this list or taken.
  2. Share published examples of choice-based style of writing. Read (or use a DVD version, if available; I bought several from Amazon.com for a low price.) examples of Choose Your Own Adventure stories with the class allowing them to make choices as a group. This should help them see how these stories are put together. Also show the student samples to show how the finished product looks. As you share, have the students identify literary elements.
  3. It may be a good idea to review genres and have the students pick one element before they write their own story. They may want to have some ideas of what they want their story to be about.

Sharing the songs/drafting the story:  From Dawn: "I use four songs with lesson, spreading the listening of them out as students draft parts of their choice-based stories. Be prepared to pass out copies of lyrics as you get to each song: 1st-Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels (The Primus version has a great video that can be easily found on the internet.) 2nd- The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia by Reba McEntire (also has a good video). 3rd- Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks (also has a good video). 4th Love Story by Taylor Swift (has a video as well.)"

Note: Videos for songs 2, 3, and 4 I found easily on CMT.com. The Primus video for song #1 I found on Spike.com (Spike.com may have inappropriate advertisements, so I suggest looking somewhere else, if you can.)

Dawn's recommended story-telling songs:

The Devil Went Down to Georgia
lyrics

The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia
lyrics


Thunder Rolls
lyrics


Love Story
lyrics

The videos add more of a plot than just the lyrics and music give alone. I suggest reading, listening, and analyzing the song before showing the video, if at all possible

  • Pass out graphic organizer. With each song, students should note plot elements on the graphic organizer as they listen, and again after as they analyze individually or with a group.
  • Listen to song #1: The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels. Play music while students follow along with the lyrics. Have students fill in the graphic organizer for song 1. Discuss meaning as a class. For this song, pay close attention to exposition and character development.
  • Have students prepare to write the first scene of a choice-based story in 2nd person point of view. On the student instructions page, there are some genre and setting ideas that may get your reluctant writers started.
  • To help with time restraints, give only about ten minutes or have them write only eight or ten sentences. They should describe the main character in a way that many readers can fit into the roll. Since they are writing exposition, I suggest they start it in the middle of some sort of action to keep it interesting.
  • Here is my teacher model that I show them to ge them started. This story-telling requires a present-tense verb tense, which is important to point out to students and to challenge them to use it consistently:

Teacher Model of a Choice-Based Story in 2nd Person P.O.V.
from Dawn Callahan, Nevada high school teacher

Introduction: It is a cold, dark night and you notice the sky clouding over, blocking out the twinkling of the stars as the wind blows the white mist across the sky. A storm is moving in. Thunder sounds in the distance. Why did you decide to go on this forsaken camping trip in the first place? You look at your reflection in the still pond as it glows before you in the moonlight as you try to catch your breath. The cut above your eye has left a trail of blood down the side of your face. Your tears have left dirty stains on your cheeks. Quickly, you get up once again and begin to run. Something, you weren’t sure if it was human, began chasing you as you made your way back to camp after you hiked. You know it’s still close behind and even hear un-rhythmic footsteps behind you when you come upon a cabin surrounded by thick forest.

You could just break inside the cabin and hope what ever is chasing you can’t get in. If this is what you choose go to section B.

You could continue to run until you come to an area where cell phone service is available and call the authorities. If this is what you choose go to section C.

There are also some posted student models that students can look over and analyze for inspiration.

  • Once the students have written Section A with two possible choices for readers, it is time to analyze song #2:The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia by Reba McEntire. Listen and analyze this song just like song #1. This time focus more on complication. This may be a good place to also review the use of dialogue in a story so they have the option to use it to drive their story onward. Review dialogue punctuation and the fact that two characters can't speak in the same paragraph.
  • Then have students write what will happen next for each of the choices they invented in section #1. Once again limit their writing to 8 or 10 sentences for each choice. They should create different complications for each choice, but they may not end either story. They should give the reader two more choices for the two new sections they write.
  • Here is the next section of my teacher model

Section B: Lucky for you the door to the dilapidated cabin is unlocked and as you push it firmly open you notice that no one has been inside it for some time. It smells of thick dust and musty mold. You close the door behind you quietly, but notice there is no lock. Quickly you stumble around looking for heavy furniture to block the entrance and keep the intruder out. You find what you imagine is a desk and quickly push it in front of the door. Just as you do you hear a loud “Grrrrrrrr” on the other side of the entrance. Something heavy sounding thuds against it pushing the desk away from the door. You are now convinced it is some kind of intelligent animal pursuing you and it will only need to push a couple more times on the door to get to you inside the cabin. You feel around to see what else is in the room. You find a rickety chair. Maybe you can use it as a weapon and scare the beast away. Then again, there is a window high on a wall. You could use the chair to boost yourself out the window and escape while the creature hunts for you inside the room.

If you choose to use the chair as a weapon and scare the beast away go to section D.

If you choose to climb out the window go to section E.


Section C: Finding a steady jogging pace, you make your way through the dark forest. You continue to check your cell phone frequently, but have no luck finding a signal. Finally you come to a dirt road and just ahead you see a pair of headlights coming toward you. You flag an old rusty pick-up truck down. “Help me!” you say, “Something is out there and it’s chasing me.”

“Oh dear,” says a grizzled old man, “you better hop in the truck here and come with me. I’ll take you to a police station.” You aren’t sure if you trust him. There is something strange about him, however it’s been a scary night. You aren’t sure what to do.

Do you get in the truck with the man? If so go to section F.

Do you tell the man no and let him drive away? If so go to section G.

  • Once the students have written Sections B and C with new choices, listen to song #3 Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks. Listen and analyze this song just like songs #1 and #2. This time focus more on climax. This may be a good place to review the use of word choice.
  • Now you have a couple of choices. You can listen to Song #4 at this time, Love Story by Taylor Swift, and analyze it for resolution and then have the students write their four ending choices. You can choose to analyze song #3 for climax and resolution, skipping song #4 altogether and then have the students write their four endings, or you can have the students write two endings and then listen to Song #4 for resolution analysis and then have them write the last two endings.
  • Here is my example continued:

Section D: You grab the chair holding it firmly above your head. The creature rams into the door again and again until finally it gives way. You can hardly believe your eyes. Standing there in a strip of pale moonlight is something that looks half man and half wolf. You shake your head in disbelief. It steps into the room staring at you. You start to laugh maniacally. “Bill,” you say, “you scared the crap out of me.” Your friend takes off his mask and you both have a good laugh over the prank. Just wait till next year, you think, I’ll show him scared, and you plot your revenge all the way back to camp.

The End.


Section E: The beast crashes carelessly into the door again. You quickly put the chair under the window and climb up. Luckily there is no glass in the ancient frame. Another crash at the front door pushes it open further. This time you see what looks like furry arms and legs trying to reach inside the room. The word werewolf pops into your brain. How ridiculous, you think and make it the rest of the way out the window. You drop hard onto the ground several feet below the window. You feel a sharp pain in your ankle as you struggle to your feet. It’s hard to run and you are now much slower, but you know you can’t stop now. Unfortunately, the wolf man is on to your scheme and quickly finds you. You stumble crashing to the forest floor. The werewolf crouches just above you. You scream. With one quick swipe of the beast’s hand your existence has been wiped out. No one ever finds your remains.

The End.


Section F: You hear the familiar growling behind you and without hesitation you leap into the strange man’s truck. Just as you shut the door a large bear rushes out from the trees into the street leaping at the passenger window. The truck speeds away leaving the bear in the dust. “That was a close one,” the man wipes his brow mechanically and smiles. You may be away from the bear, but you aren’t sure you are safe yet. “Uh, thanks,” you say,” I think you can just drop me off here and I’ll find my camp. ” He doesn’t respond instead he continues to drive into the night all through the next day. When he finally stops, you jump out of the car and run. You have no idea where you are. You wander lost through wilderness. After some time you realize it will soon be night. You wonder if another bear will be waiting for you, if not a bear you will surely freeze to death in the cold night air.

The End.


Section G: “Uh, that’s alright,” you say and run into the forest on the other side of the dirt road away from the strange man. You find an old tree and climb as high into it as you can. As the truck drives on into the distance, you see the figure that’s been hunting you walk into the middle of the road. It’s a tall man. He’s carrying a hunting rifle. He shines a flashlight on the ground looking around in the pool of light. You realize he is looking for your trail. As he notices your tracks he begins walking directly to the tree you’re hiding in. He stops just in front of it and slowly looks up. Your eyes meet. He laughs loud and points his rifle up the tree.

“Stop right there,” an authoritive voice suddenly shouts from a tree nearby. The crazy man is caught off guard and looks around. “I said, freeze. This is the police.” Several policemen come out from all around. You use this moment, while the man is distracted, to jump out of the tree, landing on the man and knocking him unconscious. Police run to your aide and soon you are considered a hero. People all over the country learn about your heroism.

The End.


Revising with specific trait language:
   To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach WritingFix's Revision and Response Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts.  Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-it® Note-sized templates, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5."
   Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings.  For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-it® Note-sized templates, click here.


Editing for conventions:  After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor.   If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers.  With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post-it.  The "Community of Editors" idea is just one of dozens and dozens of inspiring ideas that is talked about in detail in the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Workbook for Teachers.

Publishing for the portfolio:   Students will obviously enjoy sharing their final pieces with each other, leading their reader through the adventures they have created.

Interested in publishing student work on-line?  See our Publishing Page for an invitation to send us samples from your classroom for posting at WritingFix.

Search Google for other songs that tell stories by clicking here.


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