Setting the Setting for your Writing

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SWBAT...evaluate and identify the four parts found in strong settings by reading and annotating an excerpt from Avi by Poppy.

Big Idea

The setting offers readers a flashback into the background of a story. We can learn from others writing by identifying the parts of a good setting.

Creating the Purpose

5 minutes

I divide this lesson into two separate days because I want to first have them identify the description of the place, time and senses and then build a description of the characters in the story. This is where my students struggled so I wanted them to read and evaluate a great writer's piece that they were familiar with to see how she gave description to each component. Comparing the final pictures helps them come to the realization (on their own) that writing with a lot of description ensures that their own readers will create the "correct" pictures of the place, people and events they are writing about in their own stories. 

In this lesson I have them begin by writing on their white boards a vivid description of a place at school (I need it to be one others can recognize for the lesson to be effective) and review the options of places such as the playground, classroom, bathroom, office, hallway, parking lot, etc. to give them a variety of ideas (W 5.3d). I share that they may use any time of day and any season of the year in their description. I also instruct that they may not use the name of their place in their description but need to make it vivid enough using descriptive sentences and words for their partners to be able to know where they were explaining.

I set the timer for 5 minutes and have them begin. Keep it secret and go!

At the signal they are partnered and share their writing. The other partner tries to guess the location and then the roles change (SL 5.1d). I want them to begin realizing the importance of good descriptive settings and how misconceptions can be made if their are not enough details added in sentences. I just want curiosity and interest started at this point because I want them to reflect more deeply in the next section of the lesson.

I have them come together to share that today we are going to identify and write the setting components of time, environment, place and characters in stories (W 5.3d).   

Guiding the Lesson

10 minutes

I now ask students how many guessed correctly? What made it easy for them to guess the locations? And who did not guess correctly? What was missing from the description that would have helped you to understand the area described? Students share responses and discuss reasons. (SL 5.1c)  

I share my Elements of setting chart and say that good writers think about describing four things in their writing: first time, environment, place and then characters so that readers can build accurate pictures of the what, where and who of the story (W 5.5).

I ask what each component includes and take student answers and add it to complete the sections of the chart (SL 5.1c).

I share that they are now going to get the opportunity to identify each of these components of a setting using colored pencils –first together and then with a helpful partner. I project the Identifying Setting Example Passage on the board and review how we will use colors to underline how the author demonstrated each of the components. (I have these same colors on the chart for reference) – time = red, environment = green, place = blue, character = purple.

I model and question and complete the example projected on the board first showing the correct thinking and identification, and then having students give answers to the four areas of a setting (W 5.5, SL 5.1c)). 

Independent Learning

20 minutes

I now tell students that they will work with their elbow partners to complete the same steps in a passage from Poppy, by Avi . I pass out their worksheets and leave my example and the chart up for reference (RL 5.1, W 5.3)

I watch and listen to see that each person in the group is equally participating – if not participating in the team discussions, I question why not? – some of mine had lower understanding, some identified too much and a third group relied on the smarter student to do the work and just copied. 

When they are done I ask them to signal so that I can do a quick check of their work before they begin drawing their illustration (RL 5.7)

Here's examples of two student's worksheets: sample worksheet 1 and sample worksheet 2

Closing the Loop

5 minutes

I project the excerpt from Avi, by Poppy on the board and call random groups to meet and compare their pictures created from the setting description (SL 5.1d). I videoed one group which was a good example of giving better instructions. They checked each other's work but didn't take the time to compare them as a whole to come to the conclusion that good settings create similar pictures for readers. I like to have students realize this on their own to make it a more personal understanding because it helps them to refer back to it as an intrinsic motivator in the next lessons and later writing projects.  

Groups lead a class discussion of what they identified and how their answers are supported in the text.

I ask students to reveal how similar all the pictures at the table were? Why? What effective strategies did the author use to ensure the readers could build an accurate picture of his story setting? (SL 5.1d) This prompt is what gets them to finally realize that they are really similar and that most in class also have similar pictures - awha! Finally I get them to where I want them to explain the importance of a good setting that includes all components so that their readers have the visual pictures of their texts that they want as authors. Here is a video review of some random sample pictures to demonstrate this fact.