Developing Story Arcs with Sarah Weeks

One of the key and most practical take aways I had this summer from the Teachers College Writing Institute was during my session with author, Sarah Weeks. I attended her class on writing children’s books. She shared with us the importance of a balanced story arc in children’s stories. We examined how the best children’s books out there had really strong story arcs. She had story arcs written out for various well known children’s books. We looked at the story arc of the action in the story, which showed what was happening in the beginning, middle and end. Then, she had us also examine the emotional story that the character went through.

The next step was to start creating our own story arcs for the picture books we would write that week. She shared with us how some teachers, actually had a piece of string that they used to represent the arc. Another method was to use post-its. One color post-it would represent the action of the story, and another color post-it would represent the emotional story arc of my main character. I really loved using the post-its verses just writing it down in my notebook, because I could move around the post-its, add more details, and I could clearly distinguish between the two different arcs. After many hours, I finally had a story arc for my children’s book (still a work in progress).

Last week, I found myself whipping out the story arc I created this past summer, during one of my mini-lessons for our fantasy unit. My students were collecting ideas for their fantasy stories and we had just gone over the story arc of The Paper Bag Princess. I modeled for them creating a story arc of the action and then the emotions of the princess. Then, I showed them the story arc that I created for my children’s book as another model.

IMG_1022

Then, I had them create their own story arcs. I gave them post-it notes, bigger sized white paper, and let them go. I encouraged them to be creative and manipulate the size of the post-its as they needed. I had a few students add another arc, of the setting, with another post-it color. Another student included small drawings on her post-its along with the description. I even had some students layering the post-its on top of each other as they added more details. As the students worked on their story arcs, I kept emphasizing the importance of how having a strong story arc would help them write a better story. Plus, it would make the drafting process a lot easier.  And this was a lesson I definitely learned after spending many hours writing and revising my own story arc this past summer.

storyarc3 storyarc4

storyarc storyarc1
photo 1 (4) signature

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Developing Story Arcs with Sarah Weeks

  1. Awesomeness – I use this process in my digital storytelling workshops but have not had the AHA of having teachers use the two color post-it note process. I would like to ask permission to use the photo of blue and pink post-it notes in an upcoming keynote and workshops in Finland and Quatar. I have also founded a special interest group within the international organization called ISTE [International Society of Technology Education]. We now have 3000-ish members world wide conducting 5-6 webinars a year and hosting a playground at the national conference of 22,000.

    Our mission statement is focused on helping teachers understand and coach the storyarc BEFORE using technology tools – there is not even bells and whistles to decorate up thin, superficial content – that includes flat stories! I will certainly make sure our SIG group gets this link no matter what your answer about using the photo WITH credit!

    Thank you
    bernajean@digitales.us

    • Hi! Sure, you are welcome to use the photo of my story arc ini yoru presentation as long as you give us the credit. Hope your presentation goes well. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s