I had big plans to post some back to school activities on this blog. Now it’s October.
But! Here’s an activity that we did as a part of our Truth and Storytelling Unit via “The Things They Carried.”
After reading the chapter “Sweetheart of The Song Tra Bong,” students had figure out the main plot points of the story, but by making it “universal” — no mention of the characters or setting, just some generic titles. We used “Person A” and “Person B” for Mark Fossie and Maryanne.
We then compared notes and made an outline for the class. One of them looked like this:
Is this a war story? No. This is a break-up story.
After we play with that a little bit (movie version: “I’ve grown, you’ve stayed the same” and “It’s not you, it’s me”) it’s time for the next step:
Based on our “universal story” version of “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” discussed in class, it is your task to write a remix of that story. The basic conflicts, events, and resolution must stay the same, but the topical situation (names, places, dates, details) must change.
Start by coming up with a new setting for the story, and decide who or what the characters will be. (Hint: some of the most creative versions will have non-human characters.) Then tell the story of the break-up!
We got a crazy range this year, as always — students being transferred to different schools, a hamburger and ketchup being separated when the meat needs to go in the fridge, and a Nike sneaker upset when it sees its partner with a necklace of shoelaces dangling from its neck. (Love that reference.)
O’Brien’s focus on storytelling makes this activity especially illuminating, but you could do it with any text. Boil it down and then start again from there.
We’re all telling the same story, so how are you going to make yours good?