Posted by: jockmackenzie | October 15, 2018

3I-RACER – Part 2

I’ve been out of the classroom (the school classroom not the classroom of life) for 15 years. About a year and a half ago, I returned to wonderful world of Toastmasters–and was reminded on numerous occasions of the power of “story.” Sooooo, I’m dusting off some of my time-tested exercises from my days teaching Upper Elementary and Middle School Language Arts that assist in the art of weaving words into a credible tale. 

Here are the notes I used to share with my classes. ***These are the “finished product” notes. I would often provide a hand-out that was filled with blank spaces. As I explained the information, I would get the students to fill in the blanks with the pertinent terms or wording. e.g. the Initial Incident section might look like this:

Conflicts are usually one of three types:

  1. Man versus __________________ – examples: a boxing champion and a challenger, or two street gangs, or the cops and the robbers
  2. Man versus __________________ – examples: a lifeboat of survivors from a shipwreck may battle against storms, sharks, starvation, etc. or someone is lost in the desert.
  3. Man versus ___________________ – examples: a person has an inner problem to solve, whether to cheat on an exam or not, or to stand up for a belief.


The Plot Structure of a Short Story – 3I-RACER

The plot of a short story is the order or sequence in which the events occur. Most short stories follow the order that is described in the five steps of 3I–RACER.

INTRODUCTION – in the first part of the story, several things happen:

Introduction of main characters – the reader is usually told the names of the main characters, what they look like and a little bit about their personalities.

Setting – the setting is described. It is made up of three parts:

  1. Time – the reader is told or can assume that the story takes place in either the past, the present, or the future.
  2. Place – where the story takes place is also made clear. Sometimes the reader is simply told the name of the country, sometimes the city, or perhaps, just that everything happens in a specific location e.g. a person’s house or in an alley, etc.
  3. Mood or Atmosphere – as part of the setting, the author tries to put the reader in a certain mood. He attempts to involve the reader in a certain emotion or feeling. He may create a “scary” mood in a ghost story, or describe the unhappiness of being alone in the story about an orphan.

INITIAL INCIDENT– this is the “first event” in the story that tells the reader what the major problem or conflict or struggle is in the story. The reader often unconsciously will put the problem into the form of a question –e.g. Will the good guys beat the bad guys? Will the person survive being lost in the wilderness? Will the lady make the right decision?

Conflicts are usually one of three types:

  1. Man versus Man – examples: a boxing champion and a challenger, or two street gangs, or the cops and the robbers
  2. Man versus Nature – examples: a lifeboat of survivors from a shipwreck may battle against storms, sharks, starvation, etc. or someone is lost in the desert.
  3. Man versus Himself – examples: a person has an inner problem to solve, whether to cheat on an exam or not, or to stand up for a belief.

RISING ACTION– this is usually the largest part of the story.  In this portion, a series of events happen which keep the reader wondering which side will win the struggle that began in the “Initial Incident.”

In a good story, the reader is kept in suspense or doubt as to what will happen in the end. This is done by first making it look like one side will be victorious, then the other, and so on, back and forth.

CLIMAX – at this point in the story, the reader finds out who wins the struggle. The outcome of the conflict is determined. The answer to the question posed in the “Initial Incident” is answered.

examples:    the challenger defeats the boxing champion

sharks eat the survivors of the shipwreck

the person decides not to cheat

EPILOGUE OR RESOLUTION (also known as “Falling Action” or “Denouement.”) – any questions that weren’t answered by the climax are now resolved and made clear. Loose ends are tied up. This is often a very short part of the story.

examples:    the challenger went on to defend his title in a re-match with the ex-champion

the death of the survivors resulted in stricter regulations about equipment put into lifeboats

the honest person passed the exam, but his friend, who cheated, got caught and was expelled.

3I – RACER is an acronym that can be used to remember the five parts to the plot structure of a short story.

I – Introduction

II – Initial Incident

RA – Rising Action

C – Climax

ER – Epilogue or Resolution


Posted by: jockmackenzie | October 13, 2018

How to tell a story with 3I-RACER


Trying to get students to see things in the mind’s eye has always been one of my goals.  Visualizing allows me to better understand a concept and it provides hooks for the memory.

For the plot of a short story, I have added to the standard plot picture with several additions, additions I feel are helpful because they add important details. The pictures below are a progression from the standard plot outline familiar to most (but perhaps not all), my first adaptation (and this one may be sufficient for early grades), and then my latest version (and even this is only the very basic, no frills short story plot).

Your standard plot picture

The standard plot picture may be sufficient to explain the idea that a story has a beginning (where the reader learns where and when the story takes place, who the main characters are, if any significant events have occurred before the actual beginning of the story), it rises to a climax (a main problem exists that must be solved and in seeking that solution the events build toward the climax), a height of interest and answer to the problem is given, and then loose ends are tied up and/or unanswered questions are answered.

The standard plot picture doesn’t really say most of the specifics I’ve just mentioned but the BIG picture is given. I thought the picture needed to be more focused.

My Original Adaptation to the Standard Plot Picture





My improved and/or more detailed adaptation to the standard plot picture

My first improvement, and this is the one I used throughout most of my career, simply indicates where the Initial Incident occurs and shows it with a Q in a circle. After the information given in the introduction, the reader is met with the story’s BIG problem. I have always asked my students to note that problem as a question. When I introduce the whole notion of the simplest plot structure, I use fairy tales: What will happen to Goldilocks when the three bears return? Will Little Red Riding Hood get safely to her grandma’s house? Will the three little pigs stay safe from the big bag wolf?

The steps rising to the climax are a series of “Good” and “Bad” events – good for the protagonist’s situation or bad. We begin by playing the Good and Bad Game. Situations like this are invented: You and a friend are in a life boat in the middle of the ocean. Students then offer suggestions. Good – the boat has oars. Bad – a shark swims by and bites one of the oars in half. Good – you whack the shark over the head and he swims away. Bad – there is no food in the boat. Good – there is a first aid kit and it contains a fish hook and some line. . . and on we go. Students are quick to catch on to the idea that suspense increases through any series of events that keep the reader in doubt.

The steps are only a generalization as I am quick to point out that most stories do not follow a one good – one bad sequence. More often a number of either good or bad events occur in a row only to be interrupted by an opposite event. In Goldilocks’ case, it’s a “two bad, one good” sequence – this chair is too hard, this chair is too soft, this chair is just right.

For me, the climax has always been the answer to the BIG question, not the point of highest interest, the split second before the reader discovers what happens. In the real world a climax is a climax. I rest my case. A = answer.

The shortest part of the story seems to have been blessed with the most names: epilogue, resolution, falling action, denouement. I use Epilogue/Resolution because it fits my mnemonic. For my students, the plot of a short story is 3I-RACER. That’s 3 I’s, one for Introduction, the next two are for Initial Incident. The RA is Rising Action, C is Climax, ER is Epilogue or Resolution.

Fairy tales offer a perfect epilogue/resolution with the ubiquitous “They all lived happily ever after.”


This more detailed version of the very simple plot structure of a story is my “since I’ve been retired” version. It is not classroom tested . . . but it does appeal to my “let’s not dummy down” philosophy. It only includes a few small additions and I think it makes things a bit more clear. The jagged lines forming the introduction are a series of W’s and perhaps should be shown as such. (I added a picture below that does this.) The introduction, once again as portrayed in fairy tales, is the “Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a far away place, there lived a . . .” part. It tells when, where, who.

Another W in the Introduction could be What if one can make the leap to Antecedent Action being thought of as What important events occurred before the actual beginning of the story. The arrow below the W’s indicates the Antecedent Action.

The labeled version of the above plot picture


As promised above, the slightly altered plot picture with W’s in the Introduction.

Posted by: jockmackenzie | April 9, 2018

The Middle Years Alphabet

Check out this link

This page is under reconstruction but it’s a great concept. The videos still work but my email address (as noted at the end of the overview iMovie is now I’ve also designed a booklet to go along with the alphabet – always looking to make things better!

Posted by: jockmackenzie | April 8, 2018

1000 copies – For Sale?

Hi Language Arts/English teachers everywhere. It’s been just over 10 years since Pembroke Publishers of Markham, Ontario published my book Essay Writing – Teaching the Basics from the Ground Up. I am currently working with the publisher to regain my copyright to the print and eBook editions.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 7.12.51 PM.png

The only hiccup is that I need to purchase the printed copies currently sitting on Pembroke’s shelves. As the author, I get a good deal but I will need to put on a major push to sell my new acquisitions.

So here’s the deal. I’m planning to sell the books for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20 Canadian (a substantial reduction from the current $24.95) AND include a copy of my unpublished book, Poetry and Song, AND include my services (for expenses only) to workshop ideas from either book or my blog.

Further planning is required but that’s the essence. A work in progress. Nothing definite as yet. More soon.

Posted by: jockmackenzie | November 15, 2017

Toastmasters – Tuesday, November 14

Tuesday, November 14 It was a “National Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day” themed session

at Sunrise Toastmasters. Jock’s speech was titled “A Road Trip” and was Speech #7 (Research Your Topic). He described a journey down a road less travelled from Red Deer to Lake Louise. Kendra’s speech was titled “Ayurveda: What It Is And How You Can Use It.” It was Speech #3 (Get to the Point). Having been to India, Kendra shared her thoughts (some times breathtaking) about how Ayurveda affects wellness.

Posted by: jockmackenzie | August 5, 2017

Return to Toastmasters

In March, I returned to Toastmasters; I joined the Sunrise Toastmasters Club. They meet every Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. It’s a great group and I am thoroughly enjoying my return after over 30 years away. I will record my progress and my content for those who may care to follow along. My second speech is on YouTube and now (I hope) is here.

Posted by: jockmackenzie | March 22, 2017

New words to existing poems

One of the easiest ways to get students excited about poetry is to share the best (in this case, a personal favourite: The Cremation of Sam McGee) and then have them write new words. Here’s my attempt: Version 2

There Are Strange Things Done On the Golf Course, Son

By Jock Mackenzie


There are strange things done on the golf course, son

By the hacks who haunt the links.

The tees and the greens and the in-betweens

Could tell some tales methinks.

The summer days have seen displays

Of the famous and of the renowned,

But this tale of strife is about my wife

When she asked to play a round.

To “play a round” is a welcome sound

But “golfing” is what she meant.

She loved me dearly and showed it clearly –

What could I do? We went!

Now my blushing bride and my manly pride

Were truly in for a test

They call it a “game” but what’s in a name?

I never have been so stressed.

On the fateful day when we made our way

To the course where I belong,

She was dressed to the nines and lookin’ so fine

I guessed that I had been wrong.

What could possibly mar this quest for a par?

What tragedy could ensue?

A husband and wife should share in their life

And be more like one than two.

I gave her a peck as she waited on deck,

And wondered if it would do

If she wouldn’t mind or could be resigned

To a helpful hint or two.

She turned to me and, “No,” said she,

“Just trust me in this, my love.

I saved and I paid for some teaching aides –

I bought Butch Harmon’s gloves.

And this Speed Stick thing from Vijay Singh,

Well it works just like a charm.

Then to help my stroke, they’ve invented this yoke

That I strap to my waist and my arm.

My putting machine, my workout routine, the bracelet for my wrist

They’re all guaranteed; I know I’ll succeed – so no advice, I insist.”

A wife’s request, as you may have guessed,

Is something you don’t ignore

So my wife and me, we stepped to the tee,

I couldn’t resist any more.

I silently cursed cuz I had to hit first; I wrestled to solve the riddle.

Was it protocol to hit the ball long and down the middle?

I stood at address, then gave it my best,

My drive went straight and true

I peeked at my bride; she was beaming with pride.

She said, “Now for my debut.”

My sweet little lass knelt down in the grass,

And jammed in her tee with a twist

Then over the ball she tried to recall all of the things on her list.

Her muscles went taut as she mentally fought

To remember just what to do.

The tension was clear; the moment was here

And then right out of the blue

Like a gong to a bell, her three wood just fell

She really had given her all

Yet still on the tee was that shiny Pro V

Oh no! She had missed the ball.

With unshattered pride she stepped back and sighed

(Ever the consummate actress)

“Don’t look so concerned; there’s one thing I learned –

Always start with a practice.

One waggle, one wiggle, one little hip jiggle,

She drew back her club low and steady

Then just like a pro, so smoothly and slow,

She hit it just like she was Freddie.

A Fred Couple’s swing is a beautiful thing

She’d hit it on the screws!

A speck was all you could see of the ball

As it climbed into the blue

It fell from the sky and it rolled right by my drive

(My ego was jarred)

She was tickled pink, then she gave me a wink,

and said, “Golf’s not so hard.”

So the round began – a woman, her man –

In truth I feared the worst.

I was thunderstruck. Was her drive just luck

Or was my bubble to burst?

But the game we play seems to have a way

At revenge, as if by design

It’s a slippery slope, give and take of hope,

It gives both ‘rain’ and ‘shine’

My bride and I had some lows and some highs

Flashes of glory and fame

Some time at the beach (golf’s figure of speech)

Shots ranging from awesome to lame.

It became quite clear my initial fear

That my wife would clean my clock

Was the silly thought of a man distraught

I relaxed and enjoyed the walk.

And since that day, I look back and say

I’m amazed at the prize I found

On the course of life, with my love, my wife

When she asked to play a ‘round.’

A chance to go and a chance to grow

To golf with the one meant for me

On the tees and the greens and the in-betweens

It’s the way that it should be.

There are strange things done on the golf course, son

By the hacks who haunt the links

Your mom and your dad will always be glad

To share the tale, methinks.

Of the summer day we went to play

Together as husband and wife

We’re the twosome who grew some

And now we’re a pairing

As we walk down the fairway of life.

Posted by: jockmackenzie | October 31, 2016

CARETAKING at Purcell Mountain Lodge


My bride and I had been to Purcell Mountain Lodge about 8 or 10 years ago. We LOVED our winter weekend. At the time, we heard that the lodge used caretakers in the off-season to – you guessed it – take care of the lodge. Now we’re here, all by ourselves, and we still LOVE it.

Arrival Day: Monday, October 17


Mark Adams was our pilot. He gave excellent instructions about how to safely get into the helicopter, how to open and close the doors, how to put on and put away the safety belt, told us about the head sets, and reminded us to keep anything we carried below waist level. As you can see from the picture above, skis go in the carry box but so do soft-sided carry bags. We are asked to leave the coolers and hard suitcases at home.

The “banana box” is the carrying container of choice. (So popular – because of the numerous lodges in the area – that Golden grocery stores are often ‘out of stock.’ There’s a side compartment on the side of the helicopter that can handle 5 such boxes. A number can be found at the lodge – some in the tool room and some under the lodge near the wood storage area.

Purcell people know what’s is going to the lodge and what is leaving the lodge – no flight is ever left empty. e.g. supplies coming up, garbage and recycling going down. Alpine staff have no idea which is which SO a labeling system has been devised. Anything going out should be tagged with orange flagging tape – and labeled.


Friday, October 21, 2016

  • Minus 4.2 and clear
  • caretaking-at-purcell-026
  • Our three favourites were Scrabble (the Deluxe set with a cool scoring book in the drawer), cribbage and the harder and more challenging than it looks Chinese checkers. (Chinese Checkers was invented in the USA)
  •  Baked bread and energy bars for our stay here

Saturday, October 22, 2016

  • Minus 2.9, very light snow at 8:00 a.m., overcast but became sunny for the rest of the day
  • caretaking-at-purcell-042  caretaking-at-purcell-041 caretaking-at-purcell-046
  •   caretaking-at-purcell-045   caretaking-at-purcell-044
  • caretaking-at-purcell-067
  • I would highly recommend a look at these two books in particular as they give a history of the area. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Minus 5.8, overcast, very light snow for a bit in the morning, flat light til early p.m. then got brighter

Monday, October 24, 2016

Minus 2.3, clear

  • Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    • 0 degrees

    Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    • caretaking-at-purcell-066

    Thursday, October 27, 2016

    • Minus 0.4

    Friday, October 28, 2016

    • Minus 1.7

    Saturday, October 29, 2016

    • Minus 3.7
    • Worked on knitting and wood carving

    Monday, October 31, 2016

    • minus 2.7
    • monday-oct-31-001monday-oct-31-002

    Tuesday, November 1, 2016

    • Minus 4 degrees and snowing. It blew a lot during the night and continued to snow for much of the day

    Wednesday, November 2, 2016

    • minus 1.5 degrees

    Thursday, November 3, 2016

    • 0.8 degrees

    Friday, November 4, 2016

    • minus2.0
Posted by: jockmackenzie | August 10, 2016

House Concert

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 7.52.18 PM

13 spots remaining

Hello relative, friend, neighbour

We’re doing it again . . . and this time with a major artist: WiL. The WiL Mimnaugh Trio will perform in our living room (seating for up to 50) on the evening of Tuesday, September 13. They’ll do two sets (all one performance), 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. and 8:40 – 10 p.m.

We will provide the snacks but ask that you bring the beverage of your choice. Tickets are $25 per person. We’re expecting this concert to sell out quickly and experience has shown that it’s best to ask for payment up front, sooooo use PayPal or an e-transfer (or a cheque or cash if that doesn’t work for you. Last time we had a few last minute cancellations which was unfortunate for the performers who do this for a living) I will keep a running account on the number of seats sold and post it on my blog (

Feel free to bring friends or neighbours – just provide names when you get back to me.

Here’s some info on WiL:

William Mimnaugh (aka WiL) is known by many for his guitar-string-breaking, adrenalin packed, live performances but the Quebec born, Calgary raised singer-songwriter is also garnering international attention from a string of songs including ‘Roam’ that feature in Travel Alberta’s award winning media campaign called ‘Remember To Breathe’. His diverse style of writing blends elements of country, rock, folk, blues and straight up pop to create songs that are catchy but not overstated; songs that span a wider musical landscape like those found on his latest album ‘El Paseo’, an album which garnered a nod for Solo Roots Album of the Year at 2015’s WCMA’s. The live arena, however, is where WiL elevates his artistry to a whole other level. As such, his concerts have been coined ‘legendary’, affording him the opportunity to share the stage with such musically diverse artists as Feist, Matt Andersen, Burton Cummings, Ray LaMontagne to name a few. Whether speaking to his masterful passionate string breaking live performance or writing music for film, WiL is in his element – he was simply born to make music.


Janet and I look forward to hearing from you.

Jock and Janet

Jock at 403-357-4895, Janet at 403-358-8837

Youtube Selections

  1. Look Around Live In Studio:
  2. A Whoo Hoo – Official Video:
  3. Make Make – Lyric Video:
  4. Honey Pie Live at Duke Saloon:
Posted by: jockmackenzie | April 19, 2016


Sig - profile pic

Sigmund Brouwer

Reader of the Day #73 Sigmund Brouwer

Sigmund is a Red Deer native and a true inspiration – especially to the Reading College students every July (where he donates his time). I love his books. Every one I’ve read (and I think he’s written over 130) has been a memorable read – from his kids’ books to the adult novels; he has a unique way of capturing one’s interest from the very beginning and adding lots of clever twists and turns.

When I asked him to comment for READER OF THE DAY, Sig said, “I’m an ebook convert. I use the Kindle app to read on my iPhone while waiting in line, on my mini iPad on the couch, and my Kindle reader in bed. I love that my reading progress is synced on all the devices. I read incessantly and omnivorously. Probably 4 books a week, often more. My reading list over the last two weeks has jumped from non-fiction on Vimy Ridge to historical fiction to spy fiction back to non-fiction about Cro-Magnons versus Neanderthals. Currently reading I AM PILGRIM, and it’s on my top ten list for the last year.”

Sigmund’s books on Amazon:

Sigmund’s Rock and Roll Literacy site:

Wikipedia says: Sigmund Brouwer (born 1959) is an author with books published by mainstream and evangelical publishers. He has written books across many genres, from children’s picture books to scientific thrillers, and more.

One of six children born to a family with Dutch heritage, Brouwer is a native of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. He is married to a Christian singer Cindy Morgan and has two daughters.

Brouwer is perhaps most noted for his work with Hank Hanegraaff in the controversial Last Disciple series, released in 2005 and 2006. It is a fictional series set in the “end times” of the 1st century AD, narrated from a Partial-Preterist viewpoint. Brouwer is also the author of the Mars Diaries science fiction series for young adults.

Sigmund Brouwer has nearly 3 million copies of his books in print.[1]


Thief of Glory

Justine McQueen

Dead Man's Switch

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