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Getting Real Real Characters, Real Messes An inquiry into teaching the craft of realistic fiction to upper elementary writers Kalen Barkholtz.

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Presentation on theme: "Getting Real Real Characters, Real Messes An inquiry into teaching the craft of realistic fiction to upper elementary writers Kalen Barkholtz."— Presentation transcript:

1 Getting Real Real Characters, Real Messes An inquiry into teaching the craft of realistic fiction to upper elementary writers Kalen Barkholtz

2 My Question How can I help writers develop believable characters and cohesive plots without stifling whatever it is about the open door of “Write a Story,” that propels the hands of eleven-year- olds to fill entire notebooks?

3 How I Arrived Here Story writing creates energy and endless ideas Writing fiction motivates students to produce massive volume—has to be good! The amusement I experienced reading student fiction The car sickness I experienced reading student fiction The dread I felt as I contemplated how to assess it The feeling I could do much more to teach the craft, but the decision I made to let that slide, for fear of ruining the magic, and my own feelings of overwhelmed-ness

4 Standards literacy/w/4/3/ Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences literacy/w/4/3/ literacy/w/4/3/b Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally literacy/w/4/3/b

5 Benefits of Fiction Writing for Developing Writers Motivation Painless writing practice producing VOLUME in which writers take much pride Making events understandable to readers is technical and challenging Interplay between reading and writing fiction develops both reading and writing skills

6 Importance of Story Every good leader (teacher, manager, president, pastor, parent) is a good storyteller and all engaging stories, fiction and non- fiction, contain fiction elements Story infuses everyday life Fiction enriches life and helps us to understand ourselves and our neighbors

7 Research that Grounds My Work Teaching Realistic Fiction in Writer’s Workshop: Lucy Calkins, Carolyn Piazza, Karen Jorgensen Drama: Polly Erion, Pam Prince Walker Writer’s Workshop at my house





12 “Fiction is really about character. It is about showing characters wanting things, having aspirations they hope will be fulfilled, or wanting a different life from the one they are living in the moment. Of course, it isn’t long before all this ‘wanting’ produces tough choices, and negative and positive reactions from others. Usually the main character learns something about life itself.” -Donald Graves

13 Books I Wish Existed in the World A girl whose desk is always messy, is always losing things and doing her homework for the next class while the teacher isn’t looking and is terrified of getting in trouble A kid who visits his cousin in the country. The boy thinks his cousin is really cool and wants to be his friend, but his cousin is always doing stupid, wild things like catching squirrels in garbage cans and letting them go in the house. Sometimes the kid gets worried because the adventures get out of hand, and he feels like he has to go along with it. A girl who wants the lead in the play more than anything. She gets it, but having the lead makes her life complicated.

14 Books My Writers Wished Existed in the World A girl wants to plan a sleepover party, but something doesn’t work out right A girl who has trouble reading and the story starts with her counting which paragraph she is going to have to read

15 Other Story Idea Starters My Writing Territories (Gallagher) Story Walk (Calkins) Mining writer’s notebook, journal entries, or write ins (Calkins)

16 Developing My Character ________ Outside (External traits)Inside (Internal traits)

17 Characterization Check to see that the character make senses, fits together as a whole person Make sure character traits are listed for a reason Is the character too good to be true? Include the shadow of the character’s strength. Provide examples for traits like “kind” such as “sets up the go fish game so the his little brother can win.” (adapted from Calkins list, Advice for Developing a Character, pg. 49.)


19 Longings and Yearnings

20 What Gets in the Way Other people Physical limitations Feelings The downsides of your character’s strengths The way the world is (society) Lack of resources

21 Conflicts of Interest Imagine one small moment (scene) where your character wants something that will help them, but someone gets in the way because they also want something Notecard: Setting: Character 1 wants: Character 2 wants:

22 Drama Characters React Characters in Conflict Characters Interact Counter Objectives

23 Objective: What the character really wants Counter Objective: What the character is acting like he/she wants

24 Plot Building Collaboration How might the story go? What would be the stomachache moment? How would the story get there? How? Why? Story Mountain


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