Teaching Story Setting in Elementary Grades

One of my favorite things to teach at the beginning of the year, when we start to really dive into our read alouds and novel studies, is setting.  Teaching the setting of a story is something that the kids can easily grasp and really feel successful doing.

Usually, I just point out the time and the place, we talk about it orally, and that is enough.  But now, with Common Core and the push to find evidence for everything (since they will have to write about it on the state test at the end of the year), I have taken my lessons on setting up a notch.

Setting anchor chart
We start with a basic anchor chart.  This serves as our introduction and also as a handy reference for later on, when the going gets a bit tougher ;)  The students take notes in their journals and we discuss.  No big deal and the kids seem to get the idea that setting is the time and place the story action occurs.  They also understand that it can be the landscape or environment of a story, and that weather and other features can play a part.

The next day, once that has sunk in, I ask the kids to read a short excerpt from a story containing some key elements of setting.  There are SO many picture books that are good for this, but we used a short excerpt from Coraline .  It had a lot of elements of setting and the kids could easily identify them.  I created a little chart for them to fill in with evidence from the text, answering our setting questions.  You can grab the story and chart here to use in your own classroom.


Drawing the setting of a story based upon the evidence in the text

The next day was when the real fun began.  We are currently reading Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1) by Suzanne Collins as our novel study.  (on a side note, this is a GREAT story for teaching basic story elements.  There are just so many used!)  Chapter five focuses heavily on the Underland city of Regalia, describing it very vividly.  So I asked the students to draw a picture of that city.  What did they visualize while reading?  I gave them a blank template and the same setting questions chart, and they were off drawing and answering the questions in the chart with evidence from the text.

Citing evidence from the text while drawing about the setting of a story. 

Then, the students had to actually cite the text with direct quotes or paraphrasing, justifying WHY they included every portion of the picture.  Why is there a grey building?  Why are there living things on every square inch of the drawing?  Why is the palace so sharp looking?

Next, it came time to write about it all.  First the students did a little prewriting organizer to get evidence from the text and their own ideas about where and when the story was taking place.  I then  gave the students a nice paragraph frame (just like Paragraph of the Week...this thing is coming in SO handy!!)  and the students set to work constructing a paragraph, using evidence and direct quotes, to describe the setting of the book.

Informational writing about the setting of a story or novel

It all just worked out really well.  Not only did the students learn about setting (something they will need to know as we read many more novels and stories in the future) but they were able to WRITE about it!  I love that.
Displaying evidence of setting from the text of a story

Direct quotes are hard....and we are still working on it.  But it is a start and I am loving how it is coming out.

If you would like a copy of all of my Setting in 5 Days lessons and graphic organizers, they are available in my TpT store

1 comment

  1. These are great ideas - They even could be used in Junior High!


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