Signposts.ppt - allenlanguagearts

STOP, Notice, and Note
Signposts in Literature
Signpost 1: Contrasts and
• There are two parts to this signpost. Let’s
start with contrasts.
• A contrast is when two elements
(characters, settings, etc.) appear to be
opposites of one another. For example:
• A contrast between the behavior of one group of
characters and that of another group.
• Foils – Tybalt vs. Benvolio.
• A winter setting vs. a summer setting
Signpost 1: Contrasts and
• The next part to this signpost is
contradictions. This is one of the
techniques that an author uses to show us
how a character is changing and
• Consider this: what would you think if a
friend who normally sits with you at
lunch came in one day and sat in the
far corner of the cafeteria?
Signpost 1: Contrasts and
• It would make us wonder what’s going on
because that’s not a part of our friend’s
personality. That change in behavior
contradicts what we’ve come to expect.
• So in stories, there might be a
contradiction between how a single
character acted at an earlier point and
how he or she now acts.
Signpost 1: Contrasts and
• Definition of Contrasts and Contradictions:
– When you’re reading and two elements of the
story appear to stand in contrast to one
– When you’re reading and a character says or
does something that contradicts (is the
opposite of) what we would expect them
to do based on previous behavior
patterns or expected human behavior.
• Basically, you’re noticing differences.
Signpost 1: Contrasts and
• When authors show us something that
doesn’t fit with what we expect, when they
present us with a contrast or contradiction,
then we want to pause and ask ourselves
one question:
– Why is the character doing that?
– Why is the author doing that?
Signpost 1: Contrasts and
• As you answer that question, you will learn
more about the character and sometimes
more about the problems he or she faces.
• Sometimes you might even gain some
insight into a theme – the important life
lesson the author is trying to share.
• Overall, the answers could help you
make a prediction or make an
inference about the plot and conflict.
Signpost 1: Contrasts and
• If we think about the answer to the
question “Why is the character doing
that?” or “Why is the author doing that?,” it
can help us understand the following
literary elements:
– Character development
– Internal conflict
– Theme
– The relationship between the plot and the
• Let’s try finding some contrast and
contradiction clues in the story “Thank You
Ma’am,” about a boy who tries to steal a
purse from a woman.
Signpost 2: Aha Moment
• This is an easy signpost to learn because you’ve
had many Aha Moments yourself. For example:
– Have you ever walked into a class, seen people
looking through their class notes, and suddenly
remembered what it was you were supposed to do
the night before – study for that big test?
– Or have you ever been looking around your room,
peering over yet another stack of dishes or clothes on
the floor or papers on your bed and realized that your
room really had turned into a disaster? You suddenly
are aware that your room has crossed that line from
messy to downright disgusting, and whether you want
to or not, you just must clean it up.
• That’s an Aha Moment.
Signpost 2: Aha Moment
• Aha Moments are those moments when
we realize something, and that realization,
in some way, changes our actions.
• Definition of Aha Moments:
– When you’re reading and suddenly a
character realizes, understands, or finally
figures something out, and that realization will
probably change his or her actions in some
Signpost 2: Aha Moment
• When you’re reading, the author often gives you clues
that the character has come to an important
understanding by having the character say something
“Suddenly I realized”
“In an instant I saw”
“It came to me in a flash”
“I now knew”
“I finally understood that”
• There are many other possibilities, but they will all point
to some understanding that the character has finally
reached. Those clues are there to tell you that this
moment is important, and you need to stop and
give it some thought.
Signpost 2: Aha Moment
• Once we’ve spotted the text clue to the
Aha Moment, we have to pause and do
something with it. There is a question we
can ask that will help us understand what’s
going to happen:
– How might this change things?
Signpost 2: Aha Moment
• Thinking about possible answers to the
question “How might this change things?”
will let us see why the Aha Moment is
important and how it affects the story. It
can help us understand the following
literary elements:
– Character development
– Internal Conflict (If the character figured out a
problem, you probably just learned about the
– Plot (If the character understood a life lesson, you
probably just learned the theme).
• Let’s try finding some Aha Moments in a
scene pulled from the book Crash by Jerry
Spinelli. It’s about a middle-school kid
nicknamed Crash who bullies another kid.
The kid he bullies is names Penn Webb,
and Crash often calls him by his last
name. This first scene is from the
beginning of the book when the main
character, Crash, is outside and sees
Penn walking down the sidewalk.
Signpost 3: Tough Questions
• We all ask questions such as “What’s for
dinner?” or “Where are my shoes?” or “Do
I really have to do my homework?” all the
time. Those are questions to which we
certainly want answers, but they aren’t
what we’d call really tough questions.
Signpost 3: Tough Questions
• Tough questions are those questions we
sometimes ask ourselves, or someone
else, that seem, at least for a while, not to
have an answer. For example:
– “How will I get over this?” when we hear that a loved
one has died.
– “What should I do?” when we have a difficult, almost
impossible, choice to make.
– “Am I brave enough to say no?” when we’re
asked to do something we know we shouldn’t do.
– “Why?” when someone breaks up with you.
Signpost 3: Tough Questions
• Definition of Tough Questions:
– When you’re reading and the character asks
himself/herself a really difficult question that
reveals his or her inner struggles.
• When you share a tough question with a friend –
or just think it to yourself – you’re really sharing
something that bothers you. In a novel, we call
that internal conflict, and if you can spot in a
novel the tough questions a character asks
of himself or to a friend, then you’ll have
found the internal conflict.
Signpost 3: Tough Questions
• Authors often show us these Tough
Questions in fairly straightforward ways: The
main character either asks a trusted person
or him- or herself a question that obviously
doesn’t have an easy answer.
• Often, Tough Questions show up in pairs:
“Why won’t they talk to me anymore? Why is
everyone treating me this way?”
• Occasionally, the character might not ask
a question, but might say something
like “I wonder if…”
Signpost 3: Tough Questions
• Once you notice the Tough Question (or the
statement that begins with “I wonder”), it’s important
to stop and ask yourself,
– “What does this question make me wonder
• For example, if you hear there’s a party and you’re
not invited, you might ask yourself, “Why’d I get left
out?” And from that question, you might wonder if
you had done something to hurt someone’s feelings
or if it’s really with a group you don’t know well
so no one figured you’d want to go. One
tough question usually makes us wonder about
other things.
Signpost 3: Tough Questions
• Thinking about possible answers to the
question “What does this question make
me wonder about?” can help us
understand the following literary elements:
– Internal Conflict
– Theme
– Character Development
• Let’s take a look at how this works in the
book A Long Walk to Water. This is a
book about what happens to an 11-yearold who lives in Sudan during a time in
which rebels are raiding villages. In a
scene early in the novel, 11-year-old Salva
has become separated from the rest of
his family after rebels have attacked
his small Sudanese village, and he’s
now alone and scared and running.
Signpost 4: Words of the Wiser
• When I was growing up, my family always
believed that tragedy + time = comedy.
My parents were always telling me “You’ll
laugh about this later” when I thought my
world was coming to an end.
• My parents words were, indeed, wise
words. I just wasn’t wise enough to listen
to them until time proved them right.
• For example: the limo we rented for
my senior prom.
Signpost 4: Words of the Wiser
• Authors are, in some ways, like a mom or a dad or a
grandparent. They include scenes in which wise words
are shared. So, when I’m reading, I am always on the
lookout for a place where the main character has a
quiet and serious talk with a wiser character.
• That wiser character might be a friend, a brother or
sister, a teacher, a parent, or the kindly neighbor down
the street.
• When I find that scene, I want to read it carefully
because the wiser character is probably offering
the main character some good advice. This
advice is probably a life lesson, and if I pay
attention to it, I’ll see an important idea the author
wants me to think about.
Signpost 4: Words of the Wiser
• Definition of Words of the Wiser:
– When you’re reading and a character (who is
probably older or wiser) takes the main
character aside and gives serious advice.
• This advice is helpful at this moment in the
story but could also be helpful throughout
Signpost 4: Words of the Wiser
• After we notice it, we want to ask
ourselves one question:
– “What’s the life lesson, and how might this
affect the character?”
• As you answer this question, you’ll learn
more about the character, the conflict he
or she faces, the plot, and perhaps the
message or theme the author wants you to
Signpost 4: Words of the Wiser
• Thinking about possible answers to the
question “What’s the life lesson, and how
might this affect the character?” can help
us understand the following literary
– Theme
– Internal conflict
– Relationship between character and plot
• We’re going to read a few scenes from a book titled
Riding Freedom, which is about a young girl named
Charlotte who lives during the mid-1800s. Her parents
are dead and she lives in an orphanage. She loves
horses, but the overseer of the orphanage where she
lives forbids her to work with them simply because she’s
a girl. Life there is hard, and at some point she realizes
she cannot stay there, so she decides to run away from
the orphanage. We’re going to look at a scene where
Charlotte tells a trusted older and wiser adult at the
orphanage that she must escape. The friend’s
name is Vern, and his job at the orphanage is to
take care of the horses. One of the horses is named
Signpost 5: Again and Again
• Much of what we learn about our friends –
enemies, too, probably – we learn by noticing
patterns. Patterns = repetition.
• When something happens over and over again,
that repetition begins to tell us something if we
notice it and give it some thought.
– For example, one day you might be sitting with a few
friends when another one joins you. One of the
original group grows quiet and after a few minutes
gets up and leaves. You may not think anything
of it at that moment, but if it happens again
the next day and then again the next week, you’ll
probably notice it.
Signpost 5: Again and Again
• It’s the pattern, the repetition, the event that occurs
again and again, that lets you know something is up
– if you notice it. And if you think about it.
• Obviously, noticing isn’t enough. You have to do
something with what you’ve noticed or it’s lost. You
have to wonder about it, speculate about what it
might mean, and perhaps compare it with other
incidents, or it won’t help you understand what’s
going on.
• So you make some mental notes about that
repetition and what it might mean. Ultimately,
you’ll figure it out.
Signpost 5: Again and Again
• Definition of Again and Again:
– When you’re reading and you notice a word,
phrase, object, image, or situation mentioned
over and over.
Signpost 5: Again and Again
• When authors repeat something – a word
or an image or an event – it means
something, and when we see those words
or images or events again and again, we
ought to stop and ask ourselves:
– Why does this keep showing up again
and again?
• The answer will generally tell us
something about the character or the
plot or perhaps even the theme.
Signpost 5: Again and Again
• Thinking about possible answers to the
question “Why does this keep showing up
again and again?” can help us understand
the following literary elements:
Character development
• Let’s look for this signpost in a book you
might have read, Hatchet, by Gary
Paulsen. This excerpt is from the opening
chapter. Brian, the main character, is
seated next to the pilot in a small plane
flying over the forests in the far north.
Signpost 6: Memory Moment
• This one is pretty straightforward.
• Definition of Memory Moment:
– When you’re reading and the author interrupts
the action to tell you a memory.
Signpost 6: Memory Moment
• Sometimes the clue to the Memory Moment is
very obvious. The character will say something
like “I remembered the first time I met him” or “In
that very moment the memory came flooding
• Other times, the clue is more subtle. The
character might say, “my dad liked to tell the
story about…” or “This picture always
reminded me of…”
• Often those moments are highlighted with
words such as remember or memory or
Signpost 6: Memory Moment
• We want to be on the alert for times when
a character shares a moment from the
past because it’s likely to tell us something
important, either about the character or
about the plot.
• But we’re going to have to figure out what
it might tell us, and so, when we find this
moment in the novel, we want to ask
ourselves one question:
– “Why might this memory be important?”
Signpost 6: Memory Moment
• Thinking about possible answers to the
question “Why might this memory be
important?” can help us understand the
following literary elements:
Character development
Relationship between character and plot
• Let’s take a look at how this works in a few
passages from a book called Hope Was
Here, by Joan Bauer, while you follow
along in your handout. This book is about
a girl named Hope who, once again, must
leave a place she’s called home to move.
We pick up in the novel as she and her
aunt are getting in the car to begin
their latest move.
Works Cited
Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. Notice
and Note: Strategies for Close
Reading. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
2013. Print.

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