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Ultimate Spider-Man
Using Ultimate Spider-Man to Teach Plot Development

Rationale: As part of a lesson on plot development, using selected portions of Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 1 can help the student’s understanding of the various aspects of plot structure including exposition, narrative hook, rising action, climax, and resolution. Additionally, this lesson will require a brief introduction on how to read a comic, which engages the student in a different kind of higher-level thinking.

Grade Levels: Middle School

Objective: After reading selections from Ultimate Spider-Man, the student will be able to read, comprehend, and critique the work; identify text organization and structure; identify main and supporting ideas; make predictions, draw inferences, and connect prior knowledge to support reading comprehension.

Time Alloted: Depending on class length. One 90 minute class or two 45 minute classes.

Vocabulary: plot, exposition, narrative, rising action, climax, resolution. panels, word balloons, sequential art, protagonist, antagonist     

Anticipatory Set: In order to tell a story, it must have a plot, that is, a series or pattern of events strung together in a narrative. All stories have plots. What are some different mediums to tell a story? [Books, television shows, plays, movies.] A comic book is another medium used to tell a story. It is unique in that it combines words like a traditional novel with pictures and art. While we read Ultimate Spider-Man, pay attention to the ways the writer and artist formulate their plot about how Peter Parker receives his super powers.

Direct Teaching: Before reading, place on the overhead projector an example of one of the pages from the comic. Demonstrate the correct order in which to read the captions, text balloons, and panels. This may seem obvious to you or even some of your students, but for someone inexperienced with sequential art, it is required knowledge.

Be sure to review the definitions of vocabulary terms.

Give the students time to read the first part of the book independently (roughly 20 - 40 pages). At this point, some may speed past while others may lag behind.

After the initial silent reading, go back and read the opening panels aloud with the students, making sure to ask which characters are central to the story. At this point, you should stop periodically during the story to check for comprehension.

Lead students in a discussion in which you have them identify the various aspects of plot development as it pertains to this story: exposition [Osborn Industries is experimenting on spiders, Peter Parker is not a popular student in school, etc.]; narrative hook [Peter is bitten by the spider]; rising action [aftermath after the lab incident, Peter’s slowly realizing his powers, etc.]; climax [Peter’s confrontation with Osborn’s assassin]; and resolution [there isn’t one yet].

At this point, they will be intrigued as to what happens next. Take this opportunity to discuss the importance of resolution and how it is important to the plot of a story. For the remainder of the period, allow the student to pair up and brainstorm possible resolutions to the events without looking ahead in their books (collect their books first if necessary) to be presented in class the next day.