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We read Island of the Blue Dolphins together and talked every week about what was important. You have a page in your reading binder that gives you ideas about how to tell.
For example, if it disappeared from the book, does it "crash" the story? Or is it about how a character is changing? Or is it about the motives of the characters? Is it something that inspires you? Is it something you could have a great conversation about?
You should ask these same questions no matter what book you are reading.
So far, for How to Steal a Dog, important things were:
1. Georgina's desperation about living in a car which motivates her to steal a dog for a reward.
2. Luanne breaking up with Georgina because she lives in a car.
3. Georgina blaming her mom for their tough situation when it actually is her dad's fault for leaving them.
4. Georgina not appreciating how hard her mom is trying to get back into a house - even working 2 jobs!
5. Georgina finally seeing the "sadness swirling" around her mom - the first sign that she is feeling some compassion.
6. Georgina actually steals Willy but she knows in her heart it is wrong - she starts feeling the tapping of guilt.
Sometimes something is interesting or funny. Or it creates suspense. Or it helps you feel like you are "in the story." Or it add details that make you care and understand. These help to make the story something you want to read and makes the book much better. However, they don't count as something which is the MOST important.
Here are some not SUPER importnat examples so far in How to Steal a Dog:
1. Georgina tells Toby her plan about stealing a dog for the reward.
2. Luanne's mom clearly thinks Georgina isn't a good friend for Luanne because she is poor.
3. Mr. White, Georgina's teacher, sends a note home to tell her mom that he is worried about her grades.
4. Georgina writes a careful list about how to choose and actually steal a dog.
5. Georgina feels jealous of Luanne's "perfect" life.
6. Georgina does an awful job on her volcano report and everyone laughs at her.
So the question is, how do you choose the Top 4? It's not like the second list didn't matter to the story. The point is that those events were not as important as the first list.
HERE IS THE BEST WAY TO DO IT:
For each chapter, write a brief jot dot of the 2 things that stand out as being important. Don't try to make a final decision.
By Thursday you should have 8 to 10 ideas (2 per chapter).
So the question is, how do you choose the Top 4?
You have narrowed down the ideas throughout the week.
It's great if you have someone to brainstorm with - this helps a lot.
You can start with asking what absolutely HAS to happen. For example, Georgina's friend rejecting her is super awful. But Luanne's mom not liking Georgina because she is poor is not kind but that could disappear from the story and it would be okay. It is an extra detail.
Then start crossing off the things that are not as important. It is like you are ranking them. Don't forget to ask yourself if it is something that would crash the story if it disappeared. If your answer is yes, you should not cross it off.
Finally, ask yourself what is the number one "can't skip" thing in the chunk. This is often something that changes a character or is an "ah ha" moment the character has.