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Storytelling: The Raven

Unit Details

Subjects: English/Language Arts, English/Languages Arts
Learning Level: Middle School
Author(s): Bonnie Frazier & Brian Grisetti
Submitted by:


Our school mascot is the raven, a primary figure in Native American legends and tales. To introduce this fascinating bird to our sixth graders, this unit is designed to have students create a unique narrative using their personal experiences and language effectively. In short, they will use creative language to tell a tale in the tradition of North American story telling.

Invitation/Fundamental Understandings:
Essential Questions:
Knowledge and skills:

Fundamental Understanding:
Storytelling is a personal expression of a unique experience using creative language to involve the listener / reader, and gives insight into the perspective of the author.

Essential Questions:
What emotions are being felt by the character(s)?
What motivations are present for their actions?
What is the difference between a literal and creative telling of the story? What does the story reveal about the author?

Structure - Review story elements -
1. What are the traits of the character(s)
2. Where and when does the story take place?
3. What are the main events of the story?
4. What conflict is present, and how is it solved?
5. How does the dialogue give you insight into the character(s) and plot?

1. What are the characters' feelings about the events of the story?
2. How do the characters' emotions motivate them to act?

Descriptive language, sensory images
1. What words and figures of speech in the story create vivid images in the mind of the reader?
2. Symbolism - What does the raven symbolize? What character traits are present in the raven in these tales that would be desirable in students?

1. What lessons are learned from the tales of the Raven?
2. Does an author's perspective determine the theme of the story?

Research tales and legends of the raven and related literary figures
Writing process (prewriting, first draft, editing, revising, publishing)
Word processing - to write a document using a computer program (i.e., Microsoft Word, Appleworks, etc.).
Listening skills - demonstrate basic elements of active listening.


National Standards

Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint textbooks.

Technology Research Tools: Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.

Technology Productivity Tools: Students use technology tools to enhance learning,increase productivity, and promote creativity.

State Standards

Reading: 3.5.5 Locate and Interpret figurative language, including simile, metaphor, and personification in text. 3.6.1 Analyze the influence of setting on characters and on how the problem or conflict is resolved. 3.6.2 Make logical predictions about characters' actions based on evidence from the text. 3.6.3 Compare works of literature from the same historical period written by authors from different cultural, generational, and gender perspectives. Writing: 5.6.3 - Write narratives or short stories that include relevant and meaningful dialogue. 5.6.4 - Write responses to literary selections that demonstrate an understanding of character motivation and development. 6.6.1 - Generate ideas for writing by responding to a visual stimuli such as objects or photographs. 6.6.2 - Organize ideas through activities such as categorizing and outlining. 6.6.3 - Write paragraphs and compositions with clear transitions between items. 6.6.4 - Revise compositions to improve organization and consistency of ideas. 6.6.5 - Edit for use of standard English 6.6.6 - Produce writing with a voice that shows awareness of an intended audience and purpose. 6.6.7 - Share final draft with designated audience.

Workforce Competencies:

Standard Title: Information Manager (3.1) Students locate, comprehend, interpret, evaluate, maintain, and apply information, concepts, and ideas found in literature, the arts, symbols, recordings, videos and other graphic displays, and computer files in order to perform tasks and/or for enjoyment. Standard Title: Effective Communicator (3.2) Students communicate in English and other languages using information, concepts, prose, symbols, reports, audio and video recordings, speeches, graphic displays, and computer-based programs.

Unit of Practice


Writing has been an essential element of communication since the first word was recorded. Writing is the heart of communication enabling the author to express thoughts, emotions, opinions, and dreams. The art of storytelling can enhance the self confidence and communication skills of an individual within any social environment.


Prior to the unit students have an understanding of the writing process, a rudimentary knowledge of the elements of fiction (i.e. story elements) and the proper use of standard English. After this unit, students can apply their understanding to oral or performance storytelling.


Summative Performance Assessment
Students will write a unique story using creative language to involve the audience / reader and to give insight into themselves as authors and storytellers. Students will be given the option of a variety of verbal, written or technological performances.

Summative Assessment:
Projects (Individual) Hand-written, desktop publishing, or multimedia project presenting a first person narrative from the perspective of one of the characters.

Formative Assessment:
1. Student-created graphic organizers to describe the characters and setting, sequence the plot from introduction, conflict resolution, and conclusion, and illustrate the resolution. Students could use thinking maps, organizers, or multimedia program (i.e., Inspirations).
2. Daily journal entries regarding the characters' perspective, two column notes taken on likenesses and differences on legends, characters, etc.
3. Oral questions focusing on characterization, setting, description, plot, cause and effect, and perspective.
4. Index cards on which students write an understanding on one side and a question on the other side.
5. Student-created graphic organizer describing some characteristics of the author. Students could use Thinking Maps organizers or multimedia program (i.e. Inspirations).
6. Student-created four box cartoon using illustrations and dialogue between the characters of the story .


Lesson 1 Elements of Fiction After the teacher reads a short trade book (i.e. The Raven by Gerald McDermott) the students participate in a whole-class discussion on the elements of fiction, how the elements are used in the trade book, and how the story would be affected if we eliminate one or more of the elements in the trade book. After oral questioning, the students will create a Tree Map branching the elements of fiction and citing examples from the trade book.
Lesson 2 Perspective Class reads a short story. After the story has been read, teacher leads a whole-class discussion on how the experiences of the author affect the way the story is written. In small groups, students will list the elements of a story given to them to read. From the list, each group will compose a short description of the author using the examples from the story. Each small group will present an oral summary of the story and their conclusions about the author.
Lesson 3 Literary Devices (simile, metaphor, personification) Using samples of poetry and other literature, the teacher will introduce the literary devices: simile, metaphor, personification, define each device, and cite examples from previous lesson's stories. Students will define simile, metaphor, personification and list examples of each in their English journal. Students will divide into their small group and create original examples of simile, metaphor, personification. Each group will present one example of each literary device.
Lesson 4 Descriptive Language The teacher will read a selection from a story presented on the overhead highlighting the descriptive language in the selection. After the selection has been read several times, students participate in a whole-class discussion on why descriptive language makes a story more effective due to the images created. The students write a short journal entry on why they think descriptive language makes a story more effective. Teacher divides the class into their small groups and groups participate in a descriptive language scavenger hunt, locating examples from various resources.
Lesson 5 Writing the Elements of Fiction (multi-day lesson) Using the information obtained from the first lesson, review the following elements of fiction: character, setting, plot, conflict resolution, and dialogue. Characterization: As a class, the teacher leads the students create a fictitious character, web the character traits, and using descriptive language write a description of the character. Setting: The students discuss time and place, and use of descriptive language in portraying the setting. As a whole class, the students list descriptive words and as a class create a vivid description of a setting. Plot: The teacher leads the whole class to use a plot line to sequence the events of a previously read story, labeling the introduction, conflict, resolution, and conclusion. Dialogue: The teacher shows a transparency of a four-part cartoon and the whole class discusses the bubbles that show conversation. The whole class rewrites the dialogue, using correct capitalization and punctuation. Finally, students write their own 4 part cartoon, including dialogue as spoken or unspoken conversation.
Lesson 6 Writing the tale: Students review all components of the unit and reread selections. The students choose a main character and write a story about that character, using all the elements of fiction, descriptive language, and literary devices. The students edit and revise the story using peer, adult / parent, and individual's own feedback. The final draft of the story may be published in a variety of ways, including handwritten with drawings, computer generated with drawings, hyperstudio or power point presentation.

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