Comparing and Contrasting Settings

Each year, I try to refine what I have taught in the past to help make it more meaningful or standards-based than the year before.  I find that by making small tweaks to lessons I have taught before, I am able to better reach my students.

Such is the case with a lesson on setting that I did with my class this year.   You can read in full detail how I taught setting to my students here, but in this post, I wanted to share with you a tweak to the writing assignment that I found successful, and just a bit more rigorous.

In the story we are reading, Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1) by Suzanne Collins, there are two main settings that are in stark contrast to each other, New York City and the fictional Regalia.  The author explains in detail the various components of both of these settings to lay out for the reader just how different each are.  She does this to give the reader a sense that the character "isn't in Kansas anymore" when he falls into Regalia.

Just like in previous years, I had the students draw the setting of the story using evidence from the text.  This time, though, I had them draw BOTH settings.  Each and every little thing they put into the drawing needed some back up from the text.  I asked the students to use both direct quotes and paraphrasing, with page numbers from the book to indicate where the information came from.  By drawing both settings, the students could visually see the contrast between them.

Then, instead of just writing about one of the settings, the students wrote a compare and contrast essay on each of the two locations.  This helped the kids to see the motivations of the author in writing such detail about the two locals.  Students could see the one to one comparisons, giving them even more of a contrast in their minds as to where Gregor was and what he was doing in the story.

By really visualizing and writing out the details of the two settings, the students were better able to enter the mind of the author while they were reading.  It helped them to see that there are reasons for everything that the author does when writing, and that nothing is just there for the sake of being there.
Want the organizer I used with the kids for this particular lesson?  You can find it free here.

Want all of the setting lessons I use (so you don't have to plan them!!)?  You can find them here.

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