Creating Details in Reading Lessons
Details are everywhere in writing and in communication. What makes a novel a “good read” is all about the quality of the details. The details can set the tone of a story or the mood of its characters. Details can create escapism in the storyline or character bonding. In this lesson plan, the teacher can use an original story to introduce a lesson on “details” and their importance in writing and everyday conversation.
Anticipatory Set: When was the last time you had a conversation with your best friend that ended with you both hanging up or walking away from each other? The reason usually boils down to the details of who said what and when. For each of you, the details that you said in that conversation helped to accelerate the ultimate outcome or the lack of details you didn’t provide acted as an accelerator to each of you going your separate ways. Today we will have a lesson that shows you how important the details are in presenting information that you will to recall in saving a main character’s life.
Lesson Objective: Today, I will present a short reading – Part A and Part B from an original story entitled, “A Night Spent in the Woods.” Listen for the details in the story for a short class question and answer period session afterwards. This lesson can be modified for special needs students in your classroom by using this modified lesson plan: “Modified Lesson Plan: Creating Details in Reading for Special Needs Students“.
An Original Story, “A Night Spent in the Woods”
Story: "A Night Spend in the Woods" (An original story by the author of this article, 2009)
Teacher: Part A – The dusk settled in on the crimson edge of a fiery sunset flattened against a windless evening. Driving into the Olympic Rainforest in Olympia, Washington against the backdrop of tall pine trees creating green coats of branches against the sunset, the escaping light of dusk was soon becoming the encroaching darkness of night. Stacy’s 78′ Chevy Sedan’s forest green paint job blended with the array of forest growth. The thick foliage almost blocked out the dusk as slivers of sunset peeked around the tall fir trees. Stacy was thinking about Mack’s detailed conversation on why she should take the shortcut through the Olympic Rainforest. He was adamant that as a shortcut to Highway 2, the 20 minute drive through the forest would save her at least 2 hours of driving time to her home in Vancouver, Washington. Leaving the University of Washington and final exam behinds, Stacy was eager to spend the winter break with her family and friends.
Teacher: Part B – Her headlights illuminated the dirt road carved through the Rainforest as she drove slowing down to 20mph to avoid any sudden deer or other animals darting across the road ahead. As Stacy came to a turn in the road, her engine sputtered and died. The whispers of the Rainforest closed in as she sat in her car in the middle of a two lane road with headlights now black on black with the sudden settling of night. The cold quickly replaced the heat in her car as she tried frantically to place a 911 call on her Blackberry. The no service icon illuminated a battery light that was already half over when she heard the distinct sound of heavy footprints coming towards her. Thoughts of bears, Bigfoot or some other large animal dragging her out of the car started the screaming that permeated the forest. She was so hysterically that the knock on the driver’s window drowned out the stranger’s voice outside shouting, "Ma’am, ma’am can I help you!" as he gently placed his toolkit on the road next to her door. Stacy turned toward the friendly face of an older man smiling and signaling for her to roll down her window. She started to hyperventilated and began vacillating between wanting to trust her benefactor and wanting to trust her instincts that kept her hand away from the lever that would open the window and her to whatever would come next.
Discussion Questions and Closure
Discussion Questions: Start with easy recall detail questions and move to more complicated detail questions.
1. What was the name of the main character in this story? Answer – Stacy
2. Where make and model was Stacy’s car? Answer – 78′ Chevy Sedan
3. Where is the tone of Part A in the story? Part B? Answer – happy, excited and relieved Answer: apprehensive, scared, fearful, distrustful
4. Why did Stacy drive through the Olympic Rainforest? Answer – She took a shortcut to get home sooner.
5. Why do you think Stacy’s car engine died? Answers will vary – She had engine problems. She ran out of gas. Her car was old.
6. If you were Stacy would you trust the stranger who knocked on the window? Why or Why not?
7. Why do you think the stranger was carrying a toolbox? Answer- He worked in the forest. He was a tree cutter. He was an ax murderer.
8. What details can you find in the story- Part B that will help you understand what the main character was feeling in deciding whether to trust the stranger or not? (Answers may vary, so teachers can encourage students to look at the details and use them in supporting their answer to this question).
The questions could go on and on, but what you’re trying to help students learn is that the details of a story are important in setting the location, providing context to the storyline and creating the tone of the story.
Closure: Teachers can have students write an ending to the story as to what happened next or have them create additional questions that would continue to probe the details in the story. Students will begin to see how the details can make or break a story line and have fun in the process.