Common Core Standards: ELA
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.
Breakin’ it Down:
This standard asks students to notice and analyze the structure of the writing and the layout of the story. Students will immediately have perceptions about the structure, but they may not be able to articulate the significance of what they notice. If you hear any of the following complaints or grumblings, it means you have a great starting point for discussing this standard:
- Ummm…what’s going on? This first chapter just starts with this wedding! Who’s even getting married?
- Why does this dude spend the first three pages describing flowers! Like seriously, why is he so obsessed with them?
- Miss, I’m lost. This story keeps jumping from one thing to another. I can’t keep up.
These points of confusion are opportunities to ask students to dig further into the text. Like Standard 3, students will need to think like writers here and determine why the author made these structural choices. What is the effect on the reader? How does the structure impact our understanding of the text’s meaning? Could it be that confusion is exactly what the author wanted you to feel here? What might be the purpose for that? Hmm, we hear their wheels turning already. That “aha” moment is just ahead.
Teach With Shmoop
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Using this Standard
- 1984 Teacher Pass
- A Raisin in the Sun Teacher Pass
- A Rose For Emily Teacher Pass
- A View from the Bridge Teacher Pass
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Teacher Pass
- Animal Farm Teacher Pass
- Beowulf Teacher Pass
- Brave New World Teacher Pass
- Death of a Salesman Teacher Pass
- Fahrenheit 451 Teacher Pass
- Fences Teacher Pass
- Frankenstein Teacher Pass
- Grapes Of Wrath Teacher Pass
- Great Expectations Teacher Pass
- Hamlet Teacher Pass
- Heart of Darkness Teacher Pass
- Julius Caesar Teacher Pass
- King Lear Teacher Pass
- Macbeth Teacher Pass
- Moby Dick Teacher Pass
- Narrative of Frederick Douglass Teacher Pass
- Of Mice and Men Teacher Pass
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Teacher Pass
- Othello Teacher Pass
- Romeo and Juliet Teacher Pass
- Sula Teacher Pass
- The Aeneid Teacher Pass
- The As I Lay Dying Teacher Pass
- The Bluest Eye Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales General Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Cask of Amontillado Teacher Pass
- The Catch-22 Teacher Pass
- The Catcher in the Rye Teacher Pass
- The Crucible Teacher Pass
- The Great Gatsby Teacher Pass
- The Iliad Teacher Pass
- The Lottery Teacher Pass
- The Metamorphosis Teacher Pass
- The Old Man and the Sea Teacher Pass
- The Scarlet Letter Teacher Pass
- The Tell-Tale Heart Teacher Pass
- Their Eyes Were Watching God Teacher Pass
- Things Fall Apart Teacher Pass
- To Kill a Mockingbird Teacher Pass
- Twilight Teacher Pass
- Wide Sargasso Sea Teacher Pass
- Wuthering Heights Teacher Pass
The Daily Grind: Teaching the Standard
NOVICE: Grab those flashcards.
Start by helping students tackle tough plot vocabulary. We recommend this online literary dictionary that gives detailed definitions for a HUGE list of literary terms. For this standard, start students off with these terms:
- stream of consciousness
- in medias res
- tragedy (as in, the dramatic structure, like Shakespearean plays)
- comedy (as in, the dramatic structure, like Shakespearean plays)
Students also need to figure out the focus for each scene or piece of the narrative. Each part of a story is commonly built around one of the following:
- Internal thoughts of a character
- Actions/interactions between characters
The focus will ultimately influence the work as a whole. Get students engaged in a discussion of the effects of one choice over another. What are you missing in a story that’s fast-paced and jumping from scene to scene? What happens if the story is completely controlled by the thoughts and emotional rants of a main character?
INTERMEDIATE: It’s all in the ending.
The ending of a work is perhaps the most important part when it comes to this standard. Does the author leave you hanging, perched on the edge of your seat? Surprise you with a twist? Leave you confused and questioning, ready to tear out your hair? Make you feel sadness or anger for the characters’ situations? The author’s decision on how to conclude the story will affect the theme or message of the work. Students should always be able to discuss what we learn in the final pages and how that influences our understanding and interpretation of the text.
ALL-STAR: Flip It!
A great way to get students to really engage with narrative structure is to give them a section of a text and ask them to flip it to a completely different structure. Have student rewrite the beginning or end of a story and explain how their structural changes would influence major elements like tone or theme.
NOTE: Noticing a pattern that the standards seem to conveniently overlap at the highest levels? There are plenty of ways to cover multiple standards in a single assignment.