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HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Writing Alternative Plots for Robert C. O’Brien's Z for Zachariah

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Writing Alternative Plots for Robert C. O’Brien's Z for Zachariah

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 40-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lara Hebert, EdM

Lara Hebert, EdM

Urbana, Illinois

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One: Introduction

Session Two: Prewriting

Session Three: Drafting

Session Four: Editing and Revisions

Session Five: Publication

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • demonstrate understanding of the novel's characters, setting and plot by predicting how characters would react and the plot would change if the characters were to make different choices.

  • engage in all the stages of the writing process (prewriting, draft, edit and revise, publish) while writing alternative endings or plot sequences for the novel.

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Session One: Introduction

  1. Begin by having students brainstorm a list of important and difficult decisions that Ann had to make throughout the story (example: hide or not hide, warn Loomis of radioactive stream or not, ...).

  2. Have students put these decisions in the order in which they occurred.

  3. Ask if any students felt they would have made a different choice from Ann for one of the items on the list (I can't imagine there not being a student who could provide an example, but if this should occur, have an example of your own in mind).

  4. Predict how the story would have been different if Ann had made a different decision.

  5. Show an example of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, and ask students if they are familiar with these types of books. Then read a selection to demonstrate how these books provide multiple plots based on the choices the reader makes.

  6. Share that Z for Zachariah would be a great "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. All you have to do is pick some of the important decisions listed and write new parts based on this changed decision. For example, what if Ann had killed Faro during Chapter 23 instead of his dying later in the story? Have students predict how the story would change.

  7. Introduce the project by telling students that they'll each choose a portion of the new "Choose your Own Adventure" to write based on the list of Ann's decisions.

  8. Allow students to choose the dilemma they wish to write about and whether they will work alone or in groups, but you may choose to limit these choices. Students who work in groups take their plots through more decisions, so each member of the group has a portion to write. For example, a three person group would have one member write the part of the new story line from Ann's different decision until another dilemma arises with two options. The other two group members then write the rest of the story for each of the dilemma options. This is accomplished by having the group work together in the prewriting phase to plan the plot sequences, and then individuals write their portions. During revision, they'll come back together to ensure that transitions fit between the parts. It is also possible, as in "Choose Your Own Adventures" for an alternative plotline to lead back to a later portion of the original plot.

  9. If using the rubric, go through this with students. If you aren't using the rubric, be sure to make expectations clear before students begin working.

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Session Two: Prewriting

  1. Once students have decided on their work groups, they'll need to choose a dilemma to take on. I try to ensure no one is working on the same dilemma.

  2. Before they begin writing, we discuss cause and effect and how so much of Z for Zachariah follows a cause and effect chain.

  3. Students are to plan their writing by making a Cause and Effect Chain, using the Plot Alternatives Designer or Cause and Effect Chain, that begins with their choice and follows a logical path to reach a clear ending or to reach another dilemma that is picked up by someone else or that leads back to the original text.

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Session Three: Drafting

  1. Before students begin writing, discuss the voice, form, and point of view of the original text. Z for Zachariah is written in a journal entry type format written from Ann's point of view.

  2. Students are reminded to maintain this style since they are writing extensions of the same text.

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Session Four: Editing and Revisions

  1. For revision purposes, have students do peer reviews where a classmate either reads the piece or the writer reads the piece to the reviewer.

  2. The reviewer then responds to the following questions about the piece:

    • What parts of this piece do you really like? Why do you like them?

    • Does the chain of events make sense? If not, what is confusing?

    • Are there parts that need more details? Which parts? Which parts, if any, have unnecessary details?

    • Is this written from Ann's point of view?

    • List any additional comments or suggestions you have for the writer.
  3. Students write any revisions they have.

  4. They then proofread their text and use proofreader marks for editing purposes. They are encouraged to also ask a classmate to proofread the piece for them.

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Session Five: Publication

  1. Final drafts are then typed, proofread once more, and then printed.

  2. We then put up a bulletin board display in the shape of a large tree. The trunk of the tree follows the choices made in the original text while the branches follow alternative choices. You could post the printouts from the Plot Alternatives Designer tool as well, drawing connections from one student's printout to the next to create a giant flowchart.

  3. The student's writing is then mounted on clumps of leaves which are placed at appropriate locations on the branches.

  4. An alternative activity could be to actually assemble a class "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

Evaluate the students' writing piece using the rubric.

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