|Books to teach students that stories have struggles.
Check out the special video below to see how to use
these books to help students understand:
No Struggle = No Story.
I am enamored by any person (whether 4 or 44 or 94) who is willing to unfold a story word by word. I know the epic battle it takes to write our stories and share them with others. Because of this, I consider each story I read to be a gift from the writer to me.
I tend to love reading student stories. I’m good at finding the glimmers of writing within each story. I like to celebrate alongside young writers (and grown up writers too) about the powerful parts of their stories. I’ve read more than my share of student stories. As a former 7th grade language arts teacher (with 100 + students each year) and a district instructional writing coach, student stories are as much a part of my day as breathing air.
To say I’ve read a lot of student stories is an understatement.
So this next line is brutal truth.
There are some days when I don’t love reading student stories.
Please tell me I’m not alone. It’s not because I don’t love young writers. Rather, it’s because too often student stories are not very much fun to read. They can be boring, confusing, and frustrating.
Rather than dreading student stories, I think it’s important to learn to embrace student writing by giving kids the knowledge they need to write strong stories.
Here is the best game changer for turning student stories from boring to brilliant.
No Struggle. No Story.
This one rule has a remarkable positive effect on student stories. It is a truth of all strong narratives. Every story has a struggle. It’s true for life and it’s true for the stories we write.
No Struggle. No Story.
If every story a student writes (whether it is a true life story or a fiction story) has a struggle and at the end the struggle is overcome, then the story becomes more enjoyable to read.
This is true for most stories. They have struggles. Think about your favorite narrative books. They have struggles. Consider the stories you read to your class today. I bet they had struggles.
It’s a concept our youngest writers can understand. Ask them.
Hold up a book you’ve just read aloud and ask them, “What’s the struggle?” They’ll know.
Then teach them that all stories have a struggle. If there’s no struggle, then there’s no story. They’ll be able to remember this concept. I often make it a chant. The teacher says “No struggle,” and students respond with “No story!”
It’s a concept we can expand and deepen for older students. There are different kinds of struggles. There are external struggles. (Man vs. Man and Man vs. Nature for secondary students.) These are struggles that are happening outside the character. There are also internal struggles. (Man vs. Self for secondary students.) These are struggles that characters face within their own hearts. Often characters face more than one struggle in a story. As students recognize this, they can begin applying different struggles to the stories they are writing.
It’s time to add this key lesson to your writing instruction. The enjoyment student have for writing skyrockets when they know this. This makes the stories more fun to read, too!
No Struggle. No Story.
Trust me, you will see instant improvement in student stories. If you’d like to know a little bit more about teaching students that all stories have struggle, I created a little video training for you. Just fill out the form below and you’ll get access to the video + links to 3 minilesson videos that help students develop craft strategies to improve their story writing.
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I really enjoyed the No Struggle=No Story lesson ideas and book ideas. I also discovered the collection of other videos you have! I am so excited to dig into those! Thank you Ruth!
Thank you! I had a lot of fun making the video, so I'm super happy to know it was useful!
Love this video, I will be showing it to my teachers. I know it will lift the level of their work with their students. Thanks, Ruth!
Yay! I was thinking of you & the teachers you work with when I made it.