One of the first strategies I use to help students focus their reading is The Five Facts of Fiction. Throughout the year, it's a strategy I expose my students to several times over to analyze works of fiction.
With The Five Facts of Fiction, students can follow how an author develops a character over the course of a text. This strategy allows students to keep track of a character's physical and emotional traits, what his/her motivations are, and whether or not this character's motivations allow him/her to change. We also use it to pay close attention to plot, theme, and setting.
Reading Strategy and Prewriting Tool
Before I introduce my students to this stragey, they must read about a quarter of their books (or more) to be able to answer the first two Facts of Fiction. Somewhere between pages 25 and 30 it's time to start putting this strategy to work for us.
I model how The Five Facts of Fiction (The 5 F.O.F) works with the current book I'm reading Breathing Under Water by Alex Flinn (see picture). In a Think-Aloud, I explain that The Five Facts of Fiction will allows us to more closely examine the protagonist in the books we're reading. This will not only provide us with a focus for our reading, it will allow us to monitor our comprehension as well. After we've finished our novels and completed The 5 F.O.F., we'll use this as a prewriting tool for a character analysis essay.
The Five Facts of Fiction include:
1. Fiction is all about character. (Main Character)
2. Fiction is all about what this character wants. (Motivation)
3. Fiction is all about how this character gets or does not get what he or she wants. (Plot)
4. Fiction is all about how this character changes. (Main Idea)
5. Fiction is all about how A world the author creates. (Setting) Non-fiction is all about THE world.
Answers to these questions can be written in lists or in sentences. I like to tell my students the more information they write down about a character, the deeper they're thinking about who this character is and how he/she develops over the course of the novel.
Once I've modeled how this strategy works, I ask my students to begin working on theirs with the
current novel they're reading. I like to give them work time after each fact so that if they have questions about what to include, we can address their concerns right away.
We also do a lot of sharing so that students can hear the different things each person is noticing about the main characters in our books. By the time my students finish this book, they will have a great deal of information to work with for our character analysis essay (typically, my students finish novels every 2-3 weeks).
Taking the Five Facts of Fiction to the Next Level
Once we've had an opportunity to finish our novels and complete The Five Facts of Fiction, we're ready to begin drafting a character analysis essay. In our beginning paragraphs, I like to have my students include the word "protagonist" along with the title and author of the book. This provides for a thesis statement, which gives our essays a clear main idea.
From here, each fact is allowed it's own paragraph. So our lead paragraph includes physical and emotional traits plus a thesis statement (organized in a way that makes sense to the writer).
Our second paragraph includes what motivates the character to think and act as he/she does throughout the novel. I've found that this is one place where I may need to have an individual conference with my students. When I first introduce the 5 F.O.F., sometimes they quickly jot something down without giving it much thought. As we're drafting our essays, I want them to be absolutely certain they know exactly what motivates this character.
Then we move into our third paragraph, which focuses on whether or not the charcter gets/does not get what he/she wants. Most students want to simply want to say "yes" or "no" without giving much explanation. As we're drafting, this is a perfect time to remind them that adding "showing" details to give their readers a clear picture of how the author uses the main character to build the plot of the novel.
Our fourth paragraph is about whether or not a character changes and the lesson the character learns. This is a perfect time to have a quick discussion about static vs. dynamic characters and round vs. flat characters. I can even have students include these literary terms in this paragraph should I see a real need to do so.
Finally, we end our essays with the last Fact of Fiction, which focuses on setting. In this paragraph, I typically have students include characters, places, or things that are extremely important to understanding the protagonist. In some novels, these parts are more relevant than in others. Our last sentence usually ends with:
This is a world where... and/or The message author wants me (or readers) to know is...
Flexibility that Shows Results
The Five Facts of Fiction is a strategy that meets students at their reading level and allows room for growth as they become familiar with how it works. My students and I have used it to closely analyze classic and contemporary works. With some minor adjustments, we can even analyze works of non-fiction as well. If I want to introduce it at the beginning of the year with picture books or short works of fiction, I can do that, too.
The Five Facts of Fiction:
- allows for focused reading.
- is an easy way to check comprehension while students are reading novels and after they've finished.
- is a great way to engage students in conversations about the books they're reading.
- is useful as a reading strategy and prewriting tool.
- is individualized to a student's reading level and can be used in any grade.
To learn more about this strategy see: The Five Facts of Fiction.
Portions of this article are © Copyright 1995-2012 by Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., and are used by permission. For more information, and free teaching materials, visit www.ttms.org or contact Margot Lester at email@example.com.