Using “Seventeen Syllables” it is possible also to practice number six that always appears on the Language Arts section of the CAPT, that is, “Give your definition of good literature and then evaluate whether, given your definition, the story you just read is good literature.”
Working with our at-risk high school students at the Cross Annex, we have come up with a basic definition of good literature which, in combination with the Graphic Organizer, students can use to assess most stories. This definition is: a story that is considered good literature must have:
a conflict that gets resolved (not always to the satisfaction of the reader),
a character who develops or changes in some way, and
a universal theme or lesson
Lesson Plan I addresses the second part of this definition, having to do with characters changing or developing in some way. Students will learn to identify the conflict in stories and to identify the universal theme or lesson, making observations and gathering evidence on Graphic Organizers.
As for the issue of conflict, it is easy to make a Graphic Organizer that allows students to identify what they see as the conflict. On the left side of the Organizer students would write, in their own words, their observations of how the conflict they have identified unfolds as the story progresses, and on the right side of the Organizer they would copy evidence from the story to support their observations.
This same system can be used once students have identified the universal theme or lesson. On the left side of the Organizer students would write, in their own words, how the story conveys the universal theme or lesson, and on the right side of the Organizer they would copy evidence from the story to support their observations.
From the observations and evidence on these Organizers, students can write a five-paragraph essay discussing whether the story they have read is good literature:
Paragraph one would contain their thesis and one sentence for each criterion.
Paragraphs two, three, and four would discuss the three criteria.
Paragraph five would contain the conclusion.