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Adventures in Fantasy: Lessons and Activities in Narrative and Descriptive Writing, Grades 5-9

ISBN: 978-0-470-63986-3
272 pages
February 2010, Jossey-Bass
Adventures in Fantasy: Lessons and Activities in Narrative and Descriptive Writing, Grades 5-9 (0470639865) cover image


Adventures in Fantasy offers an exciting approach to teaching narrative and descriptive writing that stimulates a student’s creativity and imagination. Filled with mini-lessons, reading projects, and hands-on writing activities, the book shows teachers step-by-step how to introduce students to the “magic” of creating a complete story in the fantasy/adventure genre.

Before fleshing out their stories, however, students are asked to construct actual maps of their ‘fantasyland’ – and then to write a travelogue describing the setting in vivid detail. This initial fantasizing encourages students to be wildly inventive in creating the drama, ogres, villains, heroes and heroines featured in their story, and on the way they learn about the mythic journey.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: A Hero’s Quest, a Writer’s Journey 7

How to Use This Book 9

An Adventure in Fantasy 10

Genres of Fantasy 11

Epic, High, or Heroic Fantasy 11

Adventure Fantasy 12

Dark Fantasy 12

Fairy Tales 12

Magical Realism 12

Magic 13

The Hidden Force 13

Magic’s Moral Component 13

Magical Words 14

Magical Tools 14

Practitioners of Magic 14

Chapter 2: Threading the Theme 15

Thinking About the Theme 16

Understanding Basic Themes 16

Theme Thread: What Do You Have to Say? 16

Additional Theme Threads 17

Chapter 3: Forming the Fantasyland 23

The Fertile Crescent, from Book Two in The Taylor Thomas Trilogy: The Rock of Jerusalem, by Mr. Gust 24

Map-Making Assignment 25

Map-Making Prompt 26

Forming the Land 26

Character Domains 26

Determining the Terrain 26

Villages and Places 26

Embellishing the Map 27

Chapter 4: Setting the Surroundings 41

Riding Horseback Through a Storm on the Grasslands, from Eragon, by Christopher Paolini 42

Landing in a Valley near the Great River, from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew, by C. S.
Lewis 43

Daybreak on a Mountain and in a Meadow at Noon, from The Temple of Light, by Mr. Gust 43

The Travelogue Assignment 45

Travelogue Prompt 46

Travelogue Guiding Outline 46

Travelogue Rubric 46

Travelogue Reader Response 46

Using Sensory Words 47

Creating Sensory Phrases 47

Setting the Mood 47

Traveling the Transition Trail 47

Keeping the Action Moving 48

Setting Description Practice 48

Chapter 5: Crafting the Characters 65

Contrasting Gandalf and Bilbo in The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien 66

Introducing Zanadar from The Temple of Light, by Mr. Gust 66

Crafting a Cast of Characters Assignment 69

Character Description Prompt 69

Character Description Guiding Outline 70

Character Description Rubric 70

Character Description Reader Response 70

Types of Characters 70

Fantasy Characters and Creatures 70

Character Illustrations 71

Naming Characters 71

Character Qualities 71

Character Description Graphic Organizer 71

Personality Traits 72

Character Actions: How Do They Move? 72

Character History 72

Character Voices 72

Theme Thread: Contrasting Characters 72

Chapter 6: Plotting the Path 121

James Henry Trotter’s Trip Across the Atlantic, in James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl 122

Taylor Thomas’s Trip Around the Fertile Crescent, in The Rock of Jerusalem, by Mr. Gust 123

Plot Line Assignment 124

Plot Line Prompt 125

Plot Line Rubric 125

Plot Line Listener Response 125

The Linear Path 125

Linear Plot Line Graphic Organizer 126

Mission in Motion: The Complication 126

The Circular Path 126

Theme Thread: Traveling Inward 126

Theme Thread: The Resolution 126

Chapter 7: Wording the Wonders 151

Before Beginning 152

Point of View 152

Transitions and Transitions of Time 152

Story Showing 152

Show, Don’t Tell: What Did They Do? 153

Can You Fantasize? Prove It. Show It! 153

Dynamic Dialogue 153

Speaker Tags 153

Tagging Your Speakers 154

Quotations and Indents 154

Say Do . . . Do Say . . . Say Do Say . . . Talk and Feel . . . Think and Talk 154

Figurative Language 154

Personification 155

Similes 155

Be a Master of Metaphor 155

The Sounds of Words 156

How About a Little Alliteration? 156

The Land of Assonance 156

Whack! Bang! Ping! Onomatopoeia 156

Chapter 8: Sketching the Scene 185

On Camazotz, in A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle 186

In the Subterranean City Telos, in The Temple of Light, by Mr. Gust 191

Sketching the Scene Assignment 193

Get the Whiteout Out! 193

Scene Sketch 193

Scene Summary 193

Scene Summary Rubric 193

Chapter 9: Starting the Story 203

Starting the Story Assignment 204

Chapter 10: Trimming the Tale 227

Writers’ Workshop 227

Readers Respond 228

Conferencing and Connecting with Students 229

Revising 231

The Mechanics of Revision 231

Proofreading 231

Chapter 11: Booking the Boon 235

Booking the Boon Workshop 236

Bookmaking 236

Bibliography 243

Index 245

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Author Information

John Gust teaches fifth grade at a magnet school in the Los Angeles Unified School District and serves as adjunct lecturer/teacher trainer at various local universities. He has published numerous books on topics ranging from self-esteem enhancement, to character development, to systems thinking, to communication skills and multicultural education. Gust's first attempt at storytelling was a personal narrative titled Round Peg, Square Hole: A Teacher Lives and Learns in Watts. Currently, Gust is writing a fantasy trilogy for young adults. For more information about John Gust, his writing workshops, and his other books, please visit www.johngust.org.
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The Wiley Advantage

  • Uses fantasy genre to ‘hook’ students in writing, reading, and literature.
  • Supports standards in both writing and literary analysis.
  • Filled with prompts, rubrics, mini-lessons, and reproducible worksheets.
  • Fosters imagination, creativity, and excitement in learning.
  • Works well with both advanced and struggling students and is very appropriate for boys.
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Using this book's framework parents or teachers can create story writing projects that could take up a number of weeks and actually be fun for an entire class or family. (RoundTableReviews, 05/01/08)

"Follow step-by-step, or pick and choose from Gust's exhaustive strategies for teaching setting, characterization, plot, dialogue, figurative language, and mechanics. A treasury of information and imagination for middle-grade writing teachers whose goal is to provide students with a means to discover the joy and accomplishment of good story writing."
—David Gifaldi, Vermont College faculty member;fifth-grade teacher, Vancouver, WA School District;and author of Listening to Crickets

"Gust describes how he engages his students in order for them to achieve the creation of their own highly skilled, adventurous fantasy writing journey. Humorous, thoughtful, engaging and practical, Gust provides hope that our children can experience this same educational transformation on the road to becoming real writers. More than mere strategies and activities, he has drawn the secret map and all we need to do is follow."
—J. Cynthia McDermott, Ed.D., program chair, Teacher Education, Antioch University, Los Angeles

"Teachers, students, writers, prepare yourselves! John Gust's Adventures in Fantasy will propel you into a world like no other: your imagination and the wonderful power that lies within it. This mage of fantasy, constructivist teaching, and creative writing leads you on a heroic journey that surpasses the noble quest to be stronger, more confident writers."—Bruce Frost, children's author and fourth-grade teacher at South River School, Marshfield, Massachusetts

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