If you look up the definition of a story setting, you might see something such as “the time and place of a story” or the “geographic location” and the “historical time” of an event. Yet, setting is so much more. Setting is the breeze rustling through the sycamore trees along a river bank or the solitude of an empty park before sunrise. Here are some activities for teaching the setting of a story to kids.
Draw It First
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Prior to having a child use a setting map or other graphic organizer, you might want to have them draw a picture of their setting(s). Colored pencils are great for drawing details. The point is that they think about the colors, time of day, location and details of their setting. A picture can definitely help bring a setting to life.
It’s important for kids to not only write about time and place but also about the setting’s environment. Thus, here are a few questions kids can answer for a setting pre-writing activity. Where and when does the book take place? What do you see? What do you hear? What time of day is it? Is the setting suburban, rural, city, wilderness, outerspace…etc? Is it crowded or vacant, or somewhere in between? What is the weather like? These ideas don’t have to be packed into one paragraph. However, it’s important for a setting to be fully developed.
To get kids used to describing a setting, you can bring in some vivid pictures and have children write descriptive paragraphs about the pictures. National Geographic for Kids is one magazine that has plenty of colorful, exciting photos. You could also bring in pictures from travel magazines.
Using Picture Books and Novels to Teach Setting
I love using picture books and novels to teach setting. For pre-K, you might try Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. The book has an in-depth description of “the great green room.” For primary grades, Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder has a vivid description of the setting in chapter one. For upper grade students, you might try Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. Novels often have more than one setting and Ryan’s is a great one for comparing and contrasting the different settings where Esperanza lives. As you read these books with your students, you can write down sentences that describe the setting.
Setting is an important part of a story! Teaching setting can help kids start their story on the right track.
More from Melissa:
Using Children’s Books to Teach Descriptive Writing
Teaching Tips: Using Picture Books to Teach Figurative Language
Fun Compare and Contrast Activities for Kids