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Planning around a text. examples. Crispin: The Cross of Lead brief overview/description.

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crispin the cross of lead brief overview description
Crispin: The Cross of Leadbrief overview/description

Set in the 1300s, in England, Avi’s Newbery Award winning novel, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, is narrated in the first person, by Crispin, and tells of his adventures, which are, indeed, adventurous. The book opens with his mom having just died, and Crispin (who at that point did not even have a name, he was considered so inconsequential in the community) finding himself pretty much alone and bereft.

overview continued
Overview continued…

He soon discovers that not only is he alone and bereft because he has lost his mom (there’s no dad to speak of, at this point in the story), but he is alone and bereft because it turns out the town leaders want to kill him and consequently have falsely accused him of a crime and put a bounty on this head. Even though he is terrified, Crispin realizes his only chance of survival is fleeing, even though he really has no idea how he’ll survive. So, he takes off, and the book chronicles what happens to him along the way, his slow discoveries about himself (discoveries of a factual nature as well as of a personal/character nature…), as well as descriptions of the different people and problems he encounters.

overview continued1
Overview continued…

Suspense, action, and foreshadowing, as well as compassion for the main character all help to drive the story and keep the reader engaged.

shakespeare bats cleanup brief overview description
Shakespeare Bats Cleanupbrief overview/description

In Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, our main character, Kevin Boland, has been confined to his bed, due to a case of mono. He’s missing both his mom, recently deceased, and baseball: both playing and being with his friends from the baseball team. He has a decent relationship with his dad, a writer, though the fact that the dad is a writer makes Kevin not want to appear too outwardly engaged in or interested in writing.

overview continued2
Overview continued…

Nevertheless, as is the case with a number of books I have read recently (Dairy Queen, The Rules of Survival), the story is not just being told in the first person (as is the case of Crispin), but is actually being written by the first person narrator as it is being told (for some reason, right now, I think this is a cool feature…). Furthermore, the writing is an element of the story that is important to pay attention to.


In this case, growing out of his boredom, his dad casually handing him a composition book, and his sneaking up and grabbing one of his dad’s books on poetry (just as a kid might furtively squirrel away a Penthouse magazine, Kevin observes), he decides to experiment with writing poetry. The writing (story) that follows is a series of poems, and, as Kevin experiments with poetry, he also reflects on his world: grieving (in a very low level and not mushy way) for his mom, missing baseball and his friends while he convalesces, and providing alternately poignant and funny commentary on adolescence.

overview cont
Overview, cont.

This is an easy read, in terms of density, as there is not that much text, basically, a short poem per page, with a few extending over more than one page. While it has some heavy stuff – his dead mom, for one, and his sort of loneliness at being excluded from the team while he recovers from mono – it is, at the same time, a really sweet book, especially when Kevin’s efforts to have some success in the girl department begin to be rewarded.

elements of the language arts that i ll consider
Elements of the language arts that I’ll consider
  • Literary reading strategy
    • Noticing foreshadowing
  • Literary concept
    • Point of view (esp. first person POV)
  • Genre in writing
    • Historical fiction
  • Literary reading strategy
    • Piecing together the plot
  • Literary concept
    • Voice
  • Genre in writing
    • poetry

Crispin: The Cross of Lead

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup

definition point of view
Definition: Point of View

Point of view is the angle, or perspective from which a story is told.

Point of view is a larger category, which asks us to think about who is telling the story, what role they have in the story.

There are a number of different types of point of view: first person, third person limited, and omniscient. These are the standard ways a story is told, though, of course there are variations on these, and in a given story, the point of view could shift.

definition point of view1
Definition: Point of View

First person point of view. In “first person point of view”, one of the characters – often the main character – tells the story. What this means is that we, as the reader, experience the exact same thing as the narrator, but no more. That is to say, we do not learn about what other characters think or feel, because we are busy learning about the feelings of the person who we are viewing the story action from. We are necessarily just getting a portion of the story, if the character in question is interacting with more people and events.

rationale why should students learn about point of view and particularly first person point of view
Rationale: why should students learn about point of view, and, particularly, first person point of view?
  • Students need to learn about point of view because it will help them understand how much of a story they are hearing, and how to make sense of what they are hearing.
  • Students need to be able to infer and fill in the gaps in texts, because it helps them get a fuller reading experience, it helps them really understand what is happening in a story. Paying attention to point of view can be a tool to support that other work. While noticing point of view, you learn what is happening in one sector of the story, or, what is happening with or to one character. Meanwhile, you can imagine what is happening in other places, with other people. And, those combined efforts – “reading” what is both told and not told – can lead to a fuller picture of the story as a whole.

One of the things that first person point of view does is force us to think about what else is happening in the story (infer, fill in gaps). Because we are only getting one perspective, but usually more is going on, we have to do some extra work to figure out what else is going on, as well as to decide what we think of the first person narrator (is he or she reliable? how is his or her own experience affecting how the or she tells the story and what we end up learning?) and his or her position or role in the story.

rationale why should students learn about point of view in this story
Rationale: Why should students learn about point of view in THIS story?
  • The story is told through Crispin’s eyes. He is a young kid, innocent, ignorant in ways, timid and unsure. He does not appear to understand everything that is happening, and so, as readers, we need to think about what we are learning that he does not get, how he is making sense of what he is understanding. He is very fearful and that affects how he sees things, and so, again, as readers, we need to make sense of his fear and reconcile it with the story as he tells it.
  • It may be that by thinking about point of view here, we can also connect to Crispin more as a character, we may feel more sympathetic, or more aware of how he is feeling, because we are seeing everything through his eyes.
  • I want students to learn what point of view is, (definition)
  • I want students to learn how to determine whose point of view the story is being told through. (process)
    • They will need to learn what clues to look for (usually early in the story) to tell them who is telling the story, or, how the story is being narrated.
objectives cont
Objectives, cont….
  • Once students understand who the narrator is, I want them to learn to identify what they gain and lose because of the point of view through which the story is told. I want them to be able to consider the role that the point of view contributes to their understanding of the larger story and the meaning they can draw from it.
shakespeare bats cleanup
Shakespeare bats cleanup

Let’s return to…

definition piecing together the plot
Definition: piecing together the plot
  • If you dig around, you can find quite a lot of interesting definitions about plot, different plot structures, importance of plot, how to look at it. Plot typically includes the following: exposition, inciting incident, development, climax, denouement, and resolution (classic textbook definitions/list), with different pacing and emphasis, depending on the actual story. For me, in this context, “piecing together the plot” is a skill or strategy that goes beyond those definitions, and does not even have to include full understanding of what each of those terms actually means.
definition piecing together the plot1
Definition: piecing together the plot
  • Piecing together the plot means being able to figure out the different important events in a story and when they happen(ed), what are the conflicts and who are the people and how does it all come together. Efforts to piece together the plot will necessarily involve other reading strategies, such as “being able to figure out a story’s timeline” and “filling in the gaps” and “making inferences”.
rationale why should students learn about piecing together the plot in the text in particular
Rationale: why should students learn about “piecing together the plot” in the text in particular?
  • What makes Shakespeare Bats Cleanup interesting to me, in terms of plot, is that it is told “in medias res” (in the middle of things). When we meet our protagonist, his mom has already died, he already has mono, he is already stuck all by himself. So, in terms of larger plot issues, we have to situate the current events in a larger plot context. At the same time, we have to fill in many of these events as the story (poems) unfold – that is to say, we do not begin the story right off knowing that these things have all “happened”. Furthermore, Kevin does not tell us exactly what happened, we have to guess at it based on what he says – so this demands other reading strategies, as we try to determine and think about what is going on in terms of plot.
  • In addition to the fact that we enter the story in the middle, so to speak, and so that asks that we actively work to get a sense of the larger plot structure and events, Kevin only tells us so much, so, we are given the opportunity to figure certain things out on our own, because he is not explicit.
  • Students will learn to identify different elements of plot within the specific story.
  • Students will learn to use the existing written text as a springboard for coming to understand the larger plot structure as well as the specific events that comprise the overall plot.
  • Google: terms -> literary elements, concepts, strategies, etc
  • ReadWriteThink
  • Textbooks