All About SETTING- Story Elements Study

In this Story Elements Study, we are going to take a look at teaching setting. Keep reading for lesson ideas, activities, mentor texts, and more!

When teaching setting, your focus will build at each grade level. Starting in the younger grades, students are going to be identifying the setting and its components. Later, students will be describing and even analyzing the setting. Specifically, students will need to be able to figure out how the setting affects the story.

Common Core Standards:

  • Kinder RL.K.3: With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.
  • 1st Grade RL.1.3: Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
  • 2nd Grade RL.2.3: Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
  • 3rd Grade RL.3.3: Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
  • 4th Grade RL.4.3: Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

As you can see in the standards, there is not explicit verbiage in the 2nd and 3rd grade for setting skills. However, understanding a story will require a strong focus on all of the story elements. Keeping setting in your instruction will greatly benefit your students’ story comprehension skills.

Stock Up On Mentor Texts With Strong Settings

Setting Mentor Texts

First, when teaching setting, a mentor text is going to be your best tool. Choose mentor texts that have clear, strong setting details. Settings should span a variety of places in the world, periods of time, climates, historic or current social issues, etc. You will want to introduce students to settings that truly affect the story.

Here are a collection of affiliate links to Amazon that I think would help your students while learning about settings!

Start With Simply Identifying Setting

Setting Anchor Chart

Another thing to remember when teaching setting: provide clear, explicit instruction that defines setting. Start with an anchor chart and examples. Students will need to start thinking about when and where their story is happening. This will be especially helpful for students in the younger grades. Simple when and where practice is going to be your best place to start!

Setting activity for kindergarten

When teaching setting in Kindergarten, teachers will need to provide prompting and support. Use simple activities that show clear setting details. For example, you can use a picture or story card that shows where a story might be set, while delivering details out loud. This will allow students to “see” what is being described. Simple picture books will be good for this, too. Just, be sure that the setting is clear.

Shift Into Describing The Setting

Setting student activity

Once students have had ample opportunity with identifying the setting of a story, they will need to start describing the setting. Again, provide your students with examples and prompting questions. The anchor chart above shows “where, when and environment” examples.

Each time you read a new story or revisit a previous story, describe the setting. Students will develop a habit of thinking about the setting if you are continuously describing these elements. For example, when you are reading a story in whole group or small group, stop and ask prompting questions. “Where is this story taking place? When is this happening? What is happening around the characters? What is the weather like?”…etc. Keep your prompting questions on display in your classroom so that students can practice this skill when they are reading n their own or with a partner.

Setting Student Activity, graphic organizer

Graphic organizers are also going to be helpful when teaching setting. Students will be able to describe settings both orally and in written form, strengthening the skill. Provide your students with graphic organizers to use during independent and buddy reading. They can keep these in a folder or you can keep them in a central location in your classroom. As long as they have access to the graphic organizers for use while reading on their own.

Dive Deeper Into How the Setting Affects the Story

Setting matching activity

When teaching setting in upper grades, students will need to dive deeper. Now, the focus will be on how that setting affects the story. Of course, students will still need to identify and describe the setting. But, the analysis of that setting will be more important at this stage.

So, your question prompts will need additions. “What if the events were to happen somewhere else? What if it were another time in history? How does this place/time/these surroundings affect the events? How would the events/outcomes be affected if…” You will want your students to start really thinking about the surroundings in your story.

Story Elements Setting Anchor Chart

A simple anchor chart, like the one above, is a good way to start your practice. It will allow students to separate identification from the analysis. First, identify/describe the setting. Then, think about how it affects the story.

Graphic organizers and task cards will be strong supports at this level, too. They will need to be more focused, though. Make sure any supporting elements include explicit prompting or direction for how the setting is affecting the story.

Try a Digital Setting Activity

Digital Activities for Story elements and settings

Specifically, there are 2-3 setting-focused activities in my new digital story elements set. These activities range from simply identifying the setting based off of a picture or paragraph to explaining how the setting gives detail to the story. These come ready-made in Google Slides and Seesaw.

Suggested Resources to Help Teach Character Study

If you are looking for COMPLETE resources for teaching setting (and all story elements) in your classroom, look no further. Each of the Story Elements CCSS units below includes: Lessons and materials, graphic organizers, comprehension passages and questions, interactive notebook elements, task cards and an assessment! Click your grade level to get a closer look.

Want to dive even deeper into story elements?

Check out this YouTube video I created about 3 tips for engaging activities.

Thank you so much for reading! Hope you found some helpful tips for teaching setting in your elementary classroom!

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