Using Blueprints in the classroom

learningWhat a lot Rebecca and I  learned today and we were leading the course!  We had been inspired by Christopher Booker’s
Seven Basic Plots for some time but it was the first time that we had a chance to share it with teachers.

So what did we learn?

In order for children to work with blueprints there are some ways of working that need to be in place and they are

  • Book talk to allow children to respond personally to a text.  If you keep going for long enough and value all responses so much more comes out than you might expect
  • Comparing and contrasting texts which can be simply achieved by asking the question – have you come across anything else like this?  This opens up the discussion for the links that children might make.
  • Sharing other texts that are like the particular blueprint that you are using which will allow you to collect and categorise.  This helps to show children that blueprints are common patterns regardless of genre and culture.

In writing we found the blueprints helped children to invent stories.  We started the inventing session as in this post but  once people had decided what their characters were we asked them to attach what they had developed so far to a blueprint.  We all had the same characters a woman who was selling shark burgers on the beach and a shark who wanted this to stop (don’t ask how we came up with this). People chose either the quest, tragedy or rags to riches and briefly worked out what would happen at each stage of the story.

  1. The shark (sharky) saw the shark burgers being sold and decides he wants to stop it.
  2. He sets off to do this by rounding up all the other sharks and convincing them to follow him to a safe place so they set off.
  3. Things start to go wrong.  It’s hard to find a safe place and shark burgers have become a world wide favourite and everyone wants them.
  4. Shark hunting becomes a necessity to feed this hunger and because the sharks are all in one place they are easy to kill
  5. Sharky and all of the other sharks are hunted to extinction

In fact I have paraphrased this last part.  What was actually said (and please remember this was teachers)  ‘They were all killed and the sea turned red with their blood’.   So, what sort of blueprint do you think this group followed?

This is an oral activity.  Once the story is agreed it is very easy to map it.

What this type of activity helped us to see is that very often when children  invent their own text they frequently start off with a character and something happening to them but find it very difficult to work this through to a resolution.  By starting with anchoring in a blueprint we can now begin to layer up with detail.  We can think about how we want our readers to feel at each point of the story, we can think about how we reveal character through out the story, we can add clues as to what is going to happen because we are clear about the whole story, we can add a motif to run through the story, we can decide where the cliff hangers and hooks need to be.  And we can start to elaborate at each point to our retelling.

One of the things that teachers wanted in order to continue their thinking about this was a place where they could start to collect books and their blueprints so I have set up two places.  I am slowly writing posts that exemplify each blueprint and you can leave a comment sharing the title and author.  Or you can go to our website and fill in a very simple form that will collate suggestions.