Here is the writing lesson plan that I created over the course of my 8-week Instructional Practices for Content teachers class at Liberty University. Compared to assignments where I have had to come up with an entire lesson plan in one week, I really like how this assignment broke down lesson-planning into smaller steps and had us look at and practice each step in great detail.
Grade/Subject: Grade 5: English Language Arts (ELA)
Topic: Writing Narratives
Lesson Subtopic: Story settings
MN ELA SOL: 188.8.131.52. “Write narratives and other creative texts to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences: (a) Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally” (http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=059137&RevisionSelectionMethod=latestReleased&Rendition=primary).
National SOL: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3.a. “Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally” (http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/W/5/)
Objective: After reading two sample story introductions, the students will write a one paragraph story setting that gives the reader at least three clues about the main character and three clues about where he or she is located.
Character/Biblical Principle: (See my recent essay on Biblical Integration)
- Main point of the lesson: Leave some intrigue, do not just tell everything all at once. Try to describe the setting from the character’s point of view—what would have stood out to the character if he/she were to view his/her surroundings.
- Biblical principle: Truth is often concealed. God reveals little bits to us and waits for us to search out more and follow the light we have been given before He gives us more.
- Verses: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Prov. 25:2, New King James Version). “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). Disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, and He answered: “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables” (Mark 4:11). The Bible also speaks of “the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages” (1 Cor. 2:7); “the mystery, which from the beginning of ages has been hidden in God” (Eph. 3:9).
- Related worldview question: “How can we know? How is it possible that we know at all?” (MacCullough , 2012, p. 20).
- Biblical worldview answers: We were created with the reasoning abilities that mirror our orderly, logical God, in Whose image we were created.
- Possible worldview discussion questions: Why do you think we like mystery and intrigue in writing? Why is it important that writing be attention-grabbing and interesting? How is it that we can reason and infer meaning when it is not clearly stated?
- If in a Christian school: Could have the students each write a story setting for one of the Bible stories. Often the Bible stories are told is a very factual manner, with very few details or emotions woven in. This actually gives us opportunities to think through what might have happened, to imagine the details that might have fit with the facts (the story between the lines).
1) Materials (to be collected/prepared in advance)
- Approximately 1 minute audio clip from Adventures in Odyssey audio drama (http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/adventures-in-odyssey/) – This will create a mindset for the lesson during Set.
- PowerPoint presentation – I will use this to give students examples of story settings during Instruction. I might also use it to create a lesson plan guide to use throughout the lesson—one slide for each activity w/ specific questions and directions listed out. This would help me as the teacher stay one track with the lesson and remember important information/questions for each stage of the lesson.
- 1 well-written story setting (from James Herriot’s Treasury for Children) – This will give students a visual example to analyze during Instruction.
- 1 poorly-written story setting (rewrite James Herriot’s story setting myself) – This will be another visual example to compare to the well-written example during Instruction.
- Poster paper/markers – I will use this to create a sample story setting during Instruction, and students will use it to create their group story settings during Guided Practice. Poster paper is fast and easy to use and can be easily seen and read by the whole class due its large size (compared to 8.5×11 paper) when written on with bright-colored marker.
- Notepaper/journals/pencils – Students will write individual story settings with this during Independent Practice (if they choose not to use the computer).
- Smart board – Can be doubled as a whiteboard (with the screen off), which I will use to write on throughout the lesson (for guessing game and lists), and a display for my PowerPoint presentation.
- Computer/Word Processing software – Students who choose can write their individual story settings with this if they desire during Independent Practice.
- Ask, “What is a story setting?”
- Ask, “What are some things you think a story setting should tell the reader about the story?”
1) Set: (Anticipatory Set/Warm up/access prior knowledge – Estimated Time: 2-3 minutes)
- Listen to a 1 minute clip from the beginning from an Adventures in Odyssey audio drama (the short, pre-program portion that’s meant to grab the listener’s attention and whet their appetite).
- Ask, “Does that make you want to listen to the rest of the story?”
- Have the class make predictions about what the audio drama might be about based on the setting (if time).
2) Review: (previously learned material – Estimated Time: 5 minutes)
- Play a little guessing game (hangman or one where I give them hints—“It starts with a c”) to help students remember the 5 elements of a story (setting, characters, plot, etc.).
- Remind them of their unit-long story writing project.
- Have two or three students who have chosen what story they want to write tell briefly what their story will be about (if time).
Instruction: (Lecture/Discussion/clarification – Estimated Time: 20 minutes)
1) Analyze two story settings (10 minutes)
- Begin by showing a poorly-written, short story setting on a PowerPoint presentation slide.
- Then show a well-written story setting for the exact same story on the next slide.
- Show a slide with both settings next to each other.
- Brainstorm and discuss with the class what makes each setting good or poor.
- Create a list (“What makes a good story setting”) on the board with the class’s ideas.
2) Model the creation of a story setting—think aloud through the process (10 minutes)
- Start with some facts. Brainstorm and come up with a list of important facts that need to be known about the story/characters (e.g. location, date, appearances, environment, etc.). The students could give me 3-5 random facts from which I will create a story-setting.
- Then, think aloud as I convert/merge/weave each fact into a one-paragraph story-setting.
Guided Practice: (teacher guided/concrete interaction with concept – Estimated Time: 20 minutes)
- Break into small groups or pairs.
- Give each group a piece of poster paper and markers/pens.
- Read aloud (and write on the whiteboard), one at a time, a list of 3 setting facts from a Bible story, such as the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9) (e.g. 1. This story happened a little while after the flood. 2. The people all lived together in the open plain of Babylon. 3. They all spoke the same language).
- Give each group/pair about 3 minutes after reading each fact to collaboratively come up with a sentence for their setting that incorporates the fact a little more subtly into an action-geared statement (something a character says or does).
- At the end, have different groups/pairs read their story settings. Each group’s/pair’s will be different, but more attention-getting then just the bare facts.
Independent Practice: (Deepen understanding/Independent Practice-activity – Estimated Time: 20-30 minutes)
1) Brainstorm the facts (5-10 minutes)
- Have each student return to his desk.
- Have each one begin by writing a list of facts about his story, at least 3 describing the main character and at least 3 about where he or she is located.
- When a student has finished this, he will raise his hand to let me approve the list.
2) Write the setting (15-20 minutes)
Once the list is approved, the student will convert the facts into a one-paragraph setting that does not explicitly state the facts, but weaves clues that allude to the facts into the story introduction.
Closure: Estimated Time: (5-10 minutes)
- Read some of the story settings.
- Have the class try to guess what the facts are that are subtly woven in.
- Ask and discuss the worldview questions listed in the Biblical Integration section.
- Take-away thought: “Story settings give us clues about the main character and the location of the story in an interesting, action-geared, attention-grabbing way.”
Diversity/Differentiation: (Special needs, diversity, learning styles, etc.)
Gifted. This lesson is already very challenging and includes many higher-order thinking questions. It will probably already be on the level of the gifted learners. However, if there are gifted learners who are still not challenged enough by this lesson, they could be allowed to meet together during guided practice or after independent practice and critique each other’s story settings. Or, a gifted learner could write more than one story setting during Independent Practice, each one different, yet equally action-oriented. I would take a moment to talk with him or her about how the same facts can be made into a story setting in such varied ways, and we could discuss the merits and weaknesses of each of his/her settings. Or he/she could write an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each one himself/herself in an email to me (another technology incorporation).
Limited English Proficiency. On my PowerPoint presentation, I would include little pictures with each direction and question during Instruction for a good visual aid. During guided practice, I could pair an advanced ELL who speaks the same native language with a struggling ELL and allow them to discuss in their native language, so long as the advanced ELL can translate the work and write it out in English. During independent work, the struggling ELLs can be allowed to write their story-settings in their native language, and I will have it translated. Also, ELLs could have the option of orally telling me their story setting if it’s easier than writing and/or they could draw their story setting with a sequence of drawings (like a story board), one little picture for each line in their setting.
Learning Disabilities, Emotional Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder. Just as with ELLs, struggling learners will benefit from the visual nature of the Instruction stage of my lesson. If those with learning or emotional disabilities find the lesson too challenging, I will meet one-on-one with them to explain and assist them during Guided Practice and Independent Practice. I will also allow them to complete the activities orally or with drawings during Guided Practice, while encouraging them to move to writing during Independent Practice. This way those with learning difficulties will feel that their learning is more scaffolded, and those with emotional disabilities will not become anxious by the complexity of the requirements. Those with ADD should find the short stages and periodic changes to new activities easier to handle than if my segments were long and drawn-out. If they still struggle, I could allow them to act out or role play their story settings at the end for some physical involvement in the lesson.
Multicultural Connections. During my modeling and think-aloud of how to write a story setting during Instruction, I could base my story setting example in one of the countries represented in my room, including little facts about the culture and the location into the setting. I would first have to make sure I am knowledgeable about the culture before trying to do so, but I could also ask the student(s) representing that culture to provide me with some of the facts to include, which will acknowledge their knowledgeableness about the culture and our willingness to learn about it from them.
Learning Styles (Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic). I believe that the visual example of a poor- and well-written story setting, as well me modeling how to write a story setting on poster paper, will be beneficial to the visual learners. The audio clip during the Set, my verbal think-aloud while showing how to write a story setting, and the group/pair work where discussion is allowed will keep auditory learners involved. Also, the hands-on work with writing story settings on poster paper in groups/pairs, and later individually on paper or the computer, will help the lesson to hit home for the kinesthetic learners.
Multiple Intelligences. The nature of this lesson plan is already differentiated for multiple intelligences. Those who are linguistically intelligent will thrive with the opportunity to play with language and wordings. Those with logical intelligence will enjoy the deep reasoning and thinking processes this lesson calls for. Those with spatial and kinesthetic intelligences will love that I allow art, music, drama, recitation, and other creative and hands-on ways to approach this lesson and the activities (as detailed above). Those with interpersonal intelligence will enjoy working in groups or pairs, and those with intrapersonal intelligence will be able to process their personal thoughts and feelings through the probing worldview questions. Those with naturalist intelligence will enjoy finding the similarities and differences between different students’ story settings. The only intelligence this story setting is not catered to is musical intelligence. I could differentiate this lesson to appeal to those with musical intelligence by encouraging them to research how music (as in the Adventures in Odyssey drama) affects the mood of a story setting. They could find a music clip that matches the mood of their story setting, to play in the background when they read their setting to the class.
Herriot, J. (1992). James Herriot’s Treasurey for Children. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.
**Stay tuned! My next post will be an assessment I created to go along with this lesson plan.**