Odyssey of the Mind Curriculum Activity: Story Structure

Objective: Students will learn about the literary elements of stories and improve their creative writing and storytelling skills.
Students will learn:
interpreting fiction improvisational skills
increased awareness when viewing films public speaking
Prep Time
30 minutes

-- Class
-- Individual

Have the students tell a story. In order of where they sit in the classroom, tell the first person that he/she will start and the last person that he/she will end the story. You should provide a topic or a beginning sentence such as, "At the circus last night . . . ." Have the first student finish that sentence, then the next student will add to the story by saying a sentence and this will continue in order until the last student ends the story with a sentence. Take notes to keep track of the topics and changes that were integrated into the story.

As a class, discuss the story and ask several students how they thought of what to add to the story. Discuss free association, improvisation, ad-libbing, and spontaneity, and how one thing can cause us to think of something else that appears to be totally unrelated.

Discuss literary elements of stories: foreshadowing, conflict, climax, plot points, character development, point of view, denouement, hyperbole, etc.

Have the students think of a popular movie that most of them may have seen recently and ask them to talk about some of the same elements found in written stories. For example, now that they know about foreshadowing, they can think back to clues that led them to predict what would happen. Discuss plot points in the same movie and how they changed the course of the story.

Show a video of a short fictional story to the class telling them to pay close attention to how the personalities of the characters evolve throughout the film. Have them discuss qualities of the main characters and what they feel to be the motivation for their actions. Have each student write down a list of what they felt were the plot points in the story. Compare and discuss until the class reaches a consensus.

Now that the students have studied literary elements, have them tell another story. This time, they should make an effort to structure the story by incorporating some of the literary elements. Take notes for discussion later on. Stress that free association and ad libbing are still important, but they should try to stay focused on the original theme.

Discuss the story and compare it to the first one as far as the elements and structure are concerned. Ask questions such as: Is it a more interesting story? Does it make more sense? Have them tell if they liked story 1 or story 2 best and why.