Snoopy had the right idea when he wrote, “It was a dark and stormy night." He knew that the right setting is often vital in a good story. Students will learn to recognize the setting and how it plays an important part in most stories. This will also help them as they develop creative writing skills.
Imagine if Ezra Jack Keats tried to write the book The Snowy Day without snow! Or how could we enjoy Eth Clifford’s book Help! I’m a Prisoner in the Library if it weren’t set in the middle of the night in an eerie library. The setting influences a story in several ways: the plot, the characters and the tone.
Sometimes there would be no story without a specific setting and other times the setting is not an essential part. But making children aware of the concept of setting—the where and when of a story—will help to teach them to read with purpose and recall details.
The setting is easy to find and understand. So when a child has questions to answer about the where and when of a story, most students readily find the information. This helps to build the students’ reading confidence.
Objectives: (Common Core Standards)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.
Book: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (optional)
- Several short books that are on reading level for your students
- Magazines that are can be cut up (one per student)
- Writing paper
- Construction paper
- Scissors, glue
Procedure Day One
You may choose a book of your own that has an important setting or use one of my favorites Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.
- Show the book to your students and tell them that it is a fiction book, which means the characters and story are not real.
Tell students that, as they are listening to the book, you want them to pay close attention to where and when the story takes place. This is called the setting of the book.
- You can tell when the story takes place by noticing the weather, plant growth or the clothing people are wearing. Is it a dark night or a sunny day? Use the clues in the pictures and text.
- In the same way you can tell where the story takes place by listening to the clues in the text and looking at the pictures.
After reading the book, discuss the setting. It is a spring day. Mother Duck is looking for a good place to lay eggs and hatch her babies. The setting is in the city park and later on an island in the river. Then ask:
- Why is the setting important in this story?
- Would the story be the same if it happened in the winter?
- Would the story be the same if it happened on a farm?
Place your students in groups of three or four. You may choose to have them assembled according to reading ability. Give each group a book to share. The assignment for each group is to take turns reading the book. Then the students should determine the setting, when and where the story takes place. Finally the group should present the information to the rest of the class.
Procedure Day Two:
Review with the students the concept of the setting of a story. Then provide magazines for every student. The assignment is for the student to search for a picture, which could depict the setting of a story. Cut the picture out and glue it onto some construction paper. Next the student needs to write a short three or four sentence story based on the picture.
You may want to do one yourself as an example. Remind the students that, since every picture is different, every story should be different. As always, remind the students of the rules of writing:
- The writing must be legible.
- Use the correct spelling of age-level words.
- Use phonetic spelling.
- The writing must be in complete sentences.
- Use proper punctuation and capitalization.
Homework: Use the printable worksheet that is provided. Parents may help students with the reading.
Extra Activities: Time for a Vacation! Cut tagboard in the size of a large postcard 4"x6". Use a drawing, photograph or magazine picture on the front of the card. On the back tell the place and the season.
McCloskey, Robert. Make Way for Ducklings. The Viking Press, 1966.