Conflict in Literature

Today in ELA I taught a fun and successful lesson on the 4 types of conflict found in literature: man v. man, man v. self, man v. nature, and man v. society.

I opened the lesson with a read aloud of two of my favorite story books, Spoon, and It’s a Book.


Spoon is an adorable story and a great example of a man v. self conflict.  It’s a Book is a great example of person v. society.  It’s a Book ends with a funny, but slightly inappropriate punchline, which opened up a great opportunity to discuss puns and the appropriate use of language with our fifth graders.  (“Bad” words are like knives, they’re not inherently bad, but we can’t use them until we know how to do so appropriately and without hurting others.)  The students really enjoyed both stories and it easily led into a conversation about the four types of conflict.

We then defined the four types of conflicts, and after that, students were broken into four groups.  Each group was given a book to read together (The Lorax, The Story of Ferdinand, The Orange Shoes, and my favorite, You Are Special.)  Each story revolved around a different type of conflict.

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Students then discussed within their groups, identified the main conflict, and also discussed the minor conflicts that arose within the story.  Once students had discussed and recorded in their journals, each group had a few minutes to present to the class.

This was a fun and successful lesson for so many reasons:

the 4 types of conflict, specifically man v. society and man v. self, brought about some great opportunities for SEL.  While presenting the book You Are Special, we had a great conversation about believing what we know to be true about ourselves.  Truth comes from many different places, whether affirmations from parents, friends, teachers, mentors, or foundational beliefs, but either way, kids know that they are unique and special.  Today we were able to proclaim these things.

SEL learning took another unexpected and exciting leap when The Story of Ferdinand led us into a discussion of what society tells us we should be, and what it looks like to be ourselves.  We talked about the pressures society might put upon them as they enter middle school next year.  Through paired talks and class discussion, students identified specific things that they might be pressured to be/feel/do next year, and how they should respond to those things.

Overall, we had some awesome discussions, and students were able to practice multiple skills.  They applied conflict, author’s purpose, and theme, while all the while engaging in deep critical thinking, and practicing fluency, summarizing, paraphrasing, and public speaking skills.


Books used in this lesson:

  • Spoon, Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • It’s a Book, Lane Smith
  • You are Special, Max Lucado
  • The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
  • The Orange Shoes, Trinka Hakes Noble
  • The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf







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