Writing Where We Are: Crafting Effective Setting Paragraphs

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SWBAT...write effective setting paragraphs by describing to readers who, what, where, why and when

Big Idea

Our settings help our readers "see" our story locations.

Developing Our Writing

15 minutes

I start with a short video clip from transformers (love the way this movie uses flashbacks to advance the audiences understanding) to show how movie producers give flashes of information to build understanding of story events. I share that settings are flashbacks and frozen pictures that introduce the readers to the characters and scenes – like in a play or movie. I turn off the volume and ask students to describe some scenes I freeze on the scene asking them to use words that describe all the senses and characters thoughts (W 5.5, SL 5.5). 

I open by reading two setting examples and asking which one created a more vivid picture in their minds? I ask for student input as to what made one better than another because I want them to think about what they will need to add to their own writing later in the lesson (W 5.5, SL 5.2). 

I then ask students to identify the areas of a setting we should write about in our next paragraph. I’m checking in with students for their recollection of the three parts of a setting (time, place, environment - character is added later in the lesson) we discussed in the previous lesson. I take responses from students until I have them all stated and then take out our narrative diamond chart (SL 5.1d, W 5.3d)).

I share the objective that we are going to write narrative settings with a place, time, environment descriptions using our class theme we started in the previous lesson (Mr. Nibbles, our class hamster, takes over the world) (W 5.3d)  

I give students the blank charts for setting components and ask them to think about a place where the story would take place (school was their suggestion), a time/ season (school year, winter), environment (lunch room) and I add these to our chart.

Now I think aloud and model how we can write this into a detailed setting (W 5.5). I call on students to contribute answers and then again model how to write these into effective sentences asking questions such as how could we make this a stronger sentence? where could we add more description to this passage? Have we used all five senses in our writing? etc. (SL 5.1c)

Now their favorite part – describing their ideas. To support their thinking I scripted their sheets with question prompts that help them to think about what they should be adding to their settings (the three components) and share that we also need to add a character description. I want them to use their own character description in their own writing so they can have practice on editing and revising their writing. You could also have them write these on the Drawing a Person, Place or Thing Worksheet. (W 5.3d)

This is an area where you need to remind them that settings are not “shopping lists” and that they need to practice adding adjectives to their sentences to create vivid images for their readers, and that they should paint the entire picture of what their character looks like (hair, clothing, eyes, height, age, etc.) and sounds like (voice, personality, interests, etc.)

Students stand and share their writing with their table groups (SL 5.4, SL 5.6). Table groups debate which setting was their favorite and why (SL 5.3, W 5.3d). Table winners stand and share their writing with the whole class and the class debates their favorite and why (SL 5.3, W 5.3d). I add this idea to the chart and ask what else we should add to the character description? I model how to add details to make it an even stronger descriptive passage (W 5.5). 

Independent Writing

30 minutes

I pass back their great opener paragraphs and give students time to reread them and recollect where their story ideas were going (RL 5.5).

Students are instructed to use what we created in class as a model for their own setting paragraphs. They are told that they will be first responding to the prompt questions on their worksheets to outline their thoughts and then write their first copies on the bottom or on their whiteboards. They are instructed that they will edit twice before transferring them to their final draft cards (large index cards).

I will share that they they will use our same class story characters and theme but can make adaptations as they like to fit their styles.

I give them about 15 minutes to write and then ask them to share their writing with a partner and to give a compliment and advice for improvement (first one I pull sticks to make groups so that there are more differentiated partnerships) (W 5.3d, SL 5.3) They read each other's setting white boards and peer edit with a partner and add details and make changes that are suggested. They find another partner and do the same routine. 

When done with their final edit they write their first paragraph on the large size index card. (W 5.5)

I have some students share their settings to help others who are struggling (SL 5.4, SL 5.6)


Sharing Our Writing

10 minutes

I signal the time and gather students together. I call on volunteers to share their setting with the class and then collect their cards (SL 5.4, SL 5.6). (I return these after I assess their abilities and needs so that I can keep a running record of who needs more/less help in this and other areas and to adapt my peer partnering groups. Students staple each section together to create their story outline. Here's an example of a completed packet) Those that struggled or need more editing meet in a small group with me after the next lesson

I then read them a good setting example and ask them to identify the four parts of a setting in the passage. I ask students why is a setting important to a story? what is the purpose of a setting? how does a setting help the readers understand the story? (W 5.5, SL 5.1c)

In that we are moving on to the second component of narrative writing, suspense, I wanted to close with another good examples from a book. This encourages them to identify and connect with settings in books as they complete other reading in class. I have also seen that the more repetition in varied formats, the deeper the learning becomes for my students...so I'm just getting one more example in before we end the unit. Those who struggled I will meet with in small groups to help revise and improve their writing.