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Garden City School Library: Story Elements

Essential Question

How can I identify a text as a "story"?

Lesson 1: It's Elemental

  • Introduction: Explain that "elements" are things that make up other things; for example, the foods on a plate are the elements of the meal. Can they give any other examples?
  • Discussion: Tell the students that all stories have certain elements in common. Can they figure out what they are? We're looking for: characters, setting, problem, solution. Point out the last two make up the "plot."

  • Readaloud: Read Lou by Brenda Carzoo and write down the plot elements on the board as the students identify them.

    Then read Wonder Walkers or Outside In (both Caldecott Honor books) and ask the students to identify the plot elements. Neither actually has a plot per se ... they are lovely picture books, but not STORIES.  

  • Follow-up: The next week before checkout, read Flubby is Not a Good Pet and have the students identify the plot elements. 

Lesson 2: Hat Problems

  • Introduction: Ask the students to list the four main elements of a story. Explain that today we will compare two stories, which means figuring out how they are similar.
  • Readaloud: Read This is Not My Hat and I Want My Hat Back, both by Jon Klassen.

  • Assignment: Go over this graphic organizer, filling in the details that are different as a class. See if the students can fill in the middle section on their own. Use setting, which is not included on the assignment, as an example: the ocean and the forest are both nature / outdoor / animal habitats. 

  • Assessment:

    1 = Only one or two details written down.

    2 = Only three or four details written down.

    3 = All details written down.

    4 = All details written down AND comparisons are made


Lesson 3 - Fortunately ...

  • Introduction: Draw a basic plot diagram on the board: rising action = problem and falling action = resolution. Note that most stories have one main problem, although there may also be what is called a B plot (point out that TV shows usually do this). Tell them we are going to read a book that rises and falls constantly.
  • Readaloud: Read Fortunately by Remy Charlip. I must credit David Theriault for introducing me to this book and lesson idea.
  • Activity: Work as a class to create a similarly-structured story; type as the kids come up with action. I post the stories on my blog along with illustrations ... this year I used AI for the first time to generate two of the images
  • Assignment: Tell the students that during our next lesson week, they will write their own story to be put into a binder that they can check out as a library book. 

    When it is time to write, students can work by themselves or in groups of 2 or 3 using this template. They can finish up during the following checkout week.

  • Assessment:

    1 = Only one page completed (if that)

    2 = Almost two full pages, although they may be missing a couple of sentences or an illustration; OR their fortunately / unfortunately sentences don't fit the pattern

    3 = Two pages completed, including two illustrations (one in B&W, one in color), and the pattern fits

    4 = More than two pages completed, and the pattern fits

Standards Addressed

AASL: I.B.3 - Generating products that illustrate learning; III.D.1 - Actively contributing to group discussions; IV.B.4 - Organizing information by priority, topic, or other systematic scheme; V.A.1 - Reading widely and deeply in multiple formats and write and create for a variety of purposes

RI Core: RL.2.7 - Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot; SL.2.1 - Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups;  SL.2.2 Ask and answer questions about/recount or describe key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media; W.2.3 - Write narratives in prose or poem form that recount a well-elaborated event or experience, or a set of events or experiences; L.2.1 - Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking; NBT.2.A.2 - Identify patterns

Rhode Island Cross-Curricular Proficiencies: Communication - Identify relevant information; Use a method of communication (e.g., written, oral, visual, graphic, audio, and/or interactive) to present ideas; Present information and ideas coherently, with logical sequence; Problem Solving and Critical Thinking - Identify relevant information/data from resources and analyze patterns and trends to identify relationships

Rhode Island School Library Curriculum Priority Skills: 1.1 - Uses writing process, emergent writing, and drawing to develop expression of new understandings; 2.1 - Deconstructs and learns from texts in multiple formats through comprehension, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation; Participates in discussions about stories and other texts that have been read aloud; Compares characters in two different stories, or plots in two stories by same author; 3.2 - Participates in collaborative conversations with peers and adults to share ideas and information