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Lesson Plan

Using Picture Books to Teach Setting Development in Writing Workshop

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Using Picture Books to Teach Setting Development in Writing Workshop

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sharon Roth

Sharon Roth

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



After reading Water Hole Waiting by Jane Kurtz and Christopher Kurtz, or another book that has a well-developed setting, students work as a class to chart the use of the three elements of setting in the story, using specific words and examples from the text. Students then discuss the techniques that the book's author used to develop the setting, making observations and drawing conclusions about how authors make the setting they write about vivid and believable. Next, students work in small groups to analyze the setting in another picture book, using an online graphic organizer. Finally, students apply what they have learned about how authors develop good settings to a piece of their own writing

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Picture Books that Illustrate Well-Developed Settings: Use this booklist to find picture books for use in a small group analysis of setting.

Three Elements of Setting Development: This handout describes the three elements of setting, offers tips for developing setting, and provides a graphic organizer that could be used for analyzing or developing setting.

Story Map: Students can use the Setting Map component of this online tool to either analyze the setting in a story they have read or develop the setting for a story they are writing.

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When they are exposed to multiple texts that illustrate effective writing, students naturally begin to think about how that the techniques can be applied to their own writing. By modeling the process of reading like writers, teachers demonstrate the kind of thinking that will help students improve their own literacy skills. As Katie Wood Ray states, "the inquiry structures in writing workshops do simply this-they slow down and make more deliberate the reading like writers that happens vicariously when any writer reads. Slowing down lets writers apprentice themselves very deliberately to other writers" (16).

Further Reading

Ray, Katie Wood. 1999. Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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