Toxic Lava & Radioactive Cookies: Lesson Two Debrief

Macaroni fantasy maps are the greatest thing.

I’m not much of an artist, and using the dry macaroni to create the land mass outlines of a fantasy world made it so easy. The students liked it too, and they were amazingly agreeable about keeping the macaroni on the paper and not getting it all over the classroom.

Within twenty minutes they had full color fantasy worlds that they were filling up with things like toxic lava, planet-splitting meteors, and a radioactive cookie-bot named Chips. The last one was inspired by their snack. Ahoy, Chips.

Before we made maps, I brought in a special guest presenter to talk to them about different kinds of real world maps (topographic, political, shaded relief maps, etc) and the sorts of things one might find on a map, including scale, legends, and navigation tools. I was impressed by how well some of the students could read the example maps, already. They weren’t always sure HOW they knew things (like how far it is from The Shire to Mordor, for example) but they knew them. Hint: It’s the scale.

After learning about maps they were turned loose with pasta to create their own worlds, with specific instructions to think about how the things they were putting on their maps would affect their characters. Prior to making maps of their worlds, they were asked to fill in the plot fish with the plot of their story, to the best of their ability. One thing they struggled with were complications that would get in the way of their characters reaching their goals.

This was mostly my fault, as I got caught up in their enthusiasm and chatter and completely forgot to go through a well known story with them, to give them a sense of what can be obstacles. We’ll do that in the next session, probably with a fairy tale they’re familiar with, when we revisit the plot fish after they finish their maps. A couple of students were missing from the second meeting, so they’ll need to create their plot fish as well.

Overall, the map lesson was fairly successful, and I’m a big fan of macaroni maps. I can’t recommend them enough. Next up, we’ll continue thinking about complications in the form of conflict between characters. Secrets and lies and unreliable narrators, oh my!



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