Upcoming Readers Workshop Unit – Fantasy

Dear Families,

We are embarking on a 5-6 week study of fantasy. This unit will be broken into two parts, the first will be a fantasy study, students selecting their own just right books, and learning about fantasy-related concepts. The second part will be fantasy book clubs. I’ll be writing about the first part here.

Over the course of this unit, we’ll be drawing from many picture books to analyze elements of fantasy fiction. The planned schedule is below, each bullet point represents a lesson. Some key words are underlined.

  • There are many kinds of fantasy stories…the thing they all have in common is that the events/characters within them are not things that happen in the origins of or current world.
  • Readers think about how the book they are reading fits into the genre they are studying.
  • As you read a fantasy story, you should let your mind wander to all the places it may go, playing a mental movie of all the juicy action as it takes place
  • Fantasy readers understand that their first task is to figure out what kind of setting their story takes place in. Readers look for clues about the time period and the magical elements, in particular, using the covers, blurbs, and details from the beginning of the story for their research. We know that the setting will have physical and psychological implications on the character and the story.
  • As readers move through fantasy books, they will notice some stories have multiple plot lines, many characters, and unresolved conflict. Often readers find it helpful to keep track of all these details using graphic organizers.
  • Readers identify the predictable characters, archetypes, in their fantasy story.
  • “Readers, today I want to teach you that in the stories you are reading, the characters face dragons as well. Not just literal dragons, which some fantasy characters do encounter, but metaphoric dragons—these are the conflicts inside a character’s soul, which haunt that character. Powerful readers learn to think metaphorically about these ‘dragons.’” [Lucy Calkins]
  • Readers lookout for imagery, which is when things we read put pictures into our head and those pictures have all the shading marks, dimensions, lines, etc. included.
  • Personification means giving human qualities to animals or objects.
  • Readers note objects that represent something else (symbolism) because in fantasy nothing is as it seems, so if an author spends time detailing something, that something is important.
  • Readers pay close attention to the plot because the hero’s journey –quest- is an allegory for our own life journeys – they search for theme using work from previous units.

The Indiana academic standards for 4th and 5th grade call for study of character’s motivations, character traits, and setting. Students learn to define and find examples of simile, metaphor, personification, symbolism, and imagery. Students identify the main conflict or problem in a story, they also speculate on the theme. We will cover these concepts as well as other reading and writing standards.

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