Group Size: Any

Time Required: 60 - 90 minutes

Learning Objective: Students will be able to identify conflict in a passage


Student Worksheet (attached)
Overhead transparency of the text (attached)
Exit Slips (attached)
Sticky Notes for coding the text

Do Now: (Add a Do Now to the Student Worksheet so that students (S) have something to complete upon entering the room. I like to use this opportunity to spiral skills from prior lessons or to ask students to journal about a life experience that might help them to make a connection with today's lesson.)

Connection: T will say: Now that we have built our background knowledge about the 1930s with a few weeks of non-fiction reading and practiced another important strategy for being metacognitive readers, we can get back to discussing literary devices.  Today we're going to begin the transition from talking about summarizing to talking about plot by discussing conflict in our reading.  

Direct Instruction / Guided Practice:What is conflict? (Target response: a struggle or problem.)

Let's note that down in our notes. (T will reveal this line of the overhead; S will record the definition on their worksheets.)

Todays big idea is that all stories need some kind of struggle or problem in order to push the plot forward. Without struggles and problems, stories would be boring, wouldn't they? Who wants to read a story about someone that never encounters a single obstacle?

Harry Potter wouldn't be an interesting book or movie if it weren't for Harry's struggle with his own abilities and his ongoing conflicts with other witches, warlocks and wizards. If Melinda hadn't been raped by Andy Evans in Speak, the novel couldn't have existed as it does. If Mr. Krabs didn't have Plankton as his arch enemy in SpongeBob Squarepants, no one would want to watch the parts of the show that involve Krusty Krab and Chum Bucket.  

As you can see, conflict may come in many different shapes and sizes, but one thing will always remain the same: conflict is what makes stories interesting.  It's what gets us "into" books (and movies and tv shows); it's why we keep reading (or watching).

Let's take a look at a couple of examples. This passage is from Andy Griffith's book, The Day My Butt Went Psycho. Read it with me on your paper or on the overhead.  (T will read aloud from the overhead projector.  Be ready for giggles!)

Zack Freeman woke out of a deep sleep to see his butt perched on the ledge of his bedroom window. It was standing on two pudgy little legs, silhouetted against the moon, its little sticklike arms outstretched in front of it, as if it was about to dive.

Zack sat up in bed.

'No!' he yelled. 'Come back!'

But it was too late. His butt jumped out of the window and landed with a soft thud in the garden bed below.

Zack stared at the window and sighed.

'Oh no,' he said. 'Not again.'

This was not the first time Zack's butt had run away.

We can stop right there, because it's obvious that there is a conflict. What is the struggle or problem in this short passage? (Target: Zack's butt has run away, and he doesn't want it to. We know he doesn't want it to because he says, "No!... Come back!" If students don't explain how we know there is a conflict, probe further.)

Now whenever we talk about conflict, we use the structure something versus something else. If (name your school) is playing (name a rival) in basketball, then we say that the came is (your school) versus (your rival) because (your school) is struggling against or in conflict with (your rival).

If (name a fellow teacher with whom you have a great relationship) and I got into a fist fight, we would state that the conflict as (name the teacher) versus (name yourself).

If (name your principal) ordered a sandwich from (name a local restaurant) for lunch and it never came, we would state the problem as (name your principal) versus (name your restaurant).

So in this passage, how do we state the conflict? (Target: Zack versus his butt)

Let's just jot that down on the line beneath the passage. (Allow time.)

Try the next bunch on your own. (Students will read a passage from Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging and identify a number of conflicts. See below. Allow time.)

Still Sunday

11:35 a.m.

There are six things very wrong with my life:

(1) I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.

(2) It is on my nose.

Georgia versus herself / her zit

(3) I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.

Georgia versus her 3-y-o sister

(4) In fourteen days the summer break will be over and then it will be back to School 14 and Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic "teachers."

Georgia versus school (perhaps)

(5) I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.

Georgia versus herself

(6) I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

(T will facilitate a pair/share.)

Link: Now it's your turn. As you read today, what will you be doing? (Have a student share out the "Links" section of his/her worksheet.)

Independent Practice: (S will read silently.

Since all S should have selected literature circle novels and scheduled meetings with their literature circle groups for this week, small groups of students may be holding their meetings at this time.

T will either hold individual conferences with students to monitor progress and to support individual goal-setting or pull small groups for guided reading / other interventions.)

Share: Our time for today is up. Before we share, however, please take some time to complete your exit slip. (T will distribute exit slips and allow 5 minutes for students to complete them. T will then collect them and review them. If you notice that a few students are struggling with identifying the conflict, make a mental note for tomorrow.)

Now please feel free to turn to your partner and share your work for today.

Closing: Today we discussed conflicts, the problems and struggles that move action forward in our stories.

It's time for million dollar question!

1. What is conflict, and why is conflict an important part of a story?

2. Explain the difference between topic and central idea.

3. Note to the Instructor: Insert a question here that spirals learning from previous units.

4. Make a text-to-world connection based upon what you have read thus far in your literature circle novel.


Gradual release and pair/share during Introduction to New Material/Guided Practice
Literature circle novels are differentiated by reading level and by choice
Opportunity for small-group work at the conclusion of Introduction to New Material/Guided Practice
Active reading strategy: coding the text
One-on-one Reader's Workshop conference to support individual students and to encourage individual goal-setting
Exit slips identify students who would benefit from additional support.


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