How to Teach the Elements of Fiction (2023)

How to Teach the Elements of Fiction (1)

Here in Colorado, we go back to school within the first week or two of August. Summer vibes are still in full swing, and it takes a concentrated effort to get students (and teachers?) back into learning mode. One of my favorite ways to do that is through stations! Our first unit in 6th grade is on the literary elements, so I’m going to share with you how I facilitate teaching the elements of fiction using a station rotation model.

Elements of Fiction: The Basics

Because I teach 6th grade ELA in a middle school setting, this is students’ first formal Language Arts course. I work to bridge the gap between what they learned and practiced in elementary with what they will need to know as they prepare for higher-level English courses. I am a licensed elementary teacher, so I actually LOVE this part!

My goal with this first unit is to lay a solid framework for literary elements in an engaging, hands-on, and interactive way so students feel more confident with literary analysis and narrative writing later in the school year. I want students to understand the plot, conflict, characters, setting, point of view, and theme. I also want them to eventually see how these elements interact and influence/rely on one another!

Launching the Unit

I launch this unit whole-class to make sure everyone is on the same page with the basics. We start the unit with an interactive lecture/presentation using sketch notes. Sketch notes (like Doodle Notes) are a great way to spice up the note-taking process (read more about my love for sketch notes here).

For the first two days of the unit, I front-load information about the essential elements of a story, and we fill out our note-takers together. The key to helping students be successful with sketch notes is to model the process and set boundaries. Always add the essential content first. Adding color, bubble letters, doodles, etc., can only come once the content is down.

(Video) Elements of Fiction~GM Lectures

Next, set a timer and work alongside the kids. Five minutes per section of notes is plenty of time! This also helps break up the lecture portion because it keeps students involved.

Digging Deeper Through Stations

After students have built their sketch notes with the fundamental concepts for the unit, I give them movement, choice, and low-pressure activities to build familiarity with each element. Over the next few days, students rotate through four station activities. I’ve facilitated this where I’ve set up physical stations around the room and had students rotate every 20-30 minutes, and I’ve also assigned them on Google Classroom and let students rotate on their own time. I encourage you to find a method that works for you!

Station 1: The Components of a Setting

At this station, I provided three cups of strips. The first cup contained a variety of places in which a story can be told. The second cup contained a variety of times in which a story can take place. The third cup contained a variety of moods a reader can feel when reading the story. I instructed students to draw three random slips and write a scene that established that particular setting.

This activity is a hoot! If you want to see 6th-grade boys squirm, watch them draw the “romantic” mood strip. My students actually added a “PG” requirement on this slip. So many students loved what they started during this activity and later chose it as their story seed they wanted to turn into a complete narrative later in the year!

If you’d like to try this lesson, you can grab it for free by subscribing to my newsletter.

Station 2: Types of Conflict in Literature

At this station, students have a series of task cards posted around the room. They grab a recording sheet and start anywhere they want. After reading a short passage, students determine the main type of conflict present. Students record their answers, then move on to a new card. In 20 minutes, most students might get through 15 cards. My faster students might finish all 28, but my slower students need support to get through around 10. That’s okay! The point is to get practice, so I don’t sweat it, and neither do they.

(Video) Elements of Fiction - Middle School Reading Comprehension

How to Teach the Elements of Fiction (3)

Station 3: Character Analysis & Character Development

Elementary students are quite used to describing a character’s traits, but they have a hard time moving into the next standard, analyzing a character’s development. So I first have them review a presentation on static vs. dynamic characters and flat vs. round characters. Then, I have students do a graphing activity that I learned about at a Gifted Ed conference with Ian Byrd.

In a nutshell, here’s what they do: given a list of famous characters and a graph, students must evaluate each character on the x-and y-axes and place them on the graph accordingly. For this activity, the x-axis is labeled Flat & Round. The y-axis is labeled Static & Dynamic. Students consider a character from the list, say Cruella Deville, and they place her somewhere on the graph according to how well she is developed. You really can make quite a case for many characters. For example, Matilda is a round character, but one could also argue that her changes are minimal. So she’s not totally static, but she’s also not very dynamic. After plotting the characters, students must choose three and explain their placement on the back using evidence and reasoning.

As an alternative, I’ve also had success with having students develop flat/round and static/dynamic characters by creating fake social media profiles. Using images, captions, comments, and messages, students can show who a character really is. So speak their language and give it a try!

This activity is also quite fun to do with text messages, emails, and more. I keep these organizers on hand and reuse them with short stories!

How to Teach the Elements of Fiction (4)

Station 4: Point of View Scavenger Hunt

This station is fun & requires little prep (my favorite). Students are challenged to go on a scavenger hunt through the class library and find books narrated from three different point of views. Getting a book written in 1st Person or 3rd Person Limited is the easy part. Finding a book written in 3rd Person Limited is a little more difficult, and finding a book written in 2nd person is the hardest, but it’s not impossible. I offered my kids a candy jar reward if they found one, and I could tell they’d done it when the whispers started! I ran out of candy after that, ha!

(Video) Elements of Fiction

On their recording sheet, students must identify the book, the author’s name, the point of view, and they must use evidence to support their answer. This activity usually goes quickly, so I follow up with an extension task in which students have to rewrite a scene from a different point of view.

I’ve also had groups that need to be challenged a bit more, so I’ve had them watch a short clip (“The Ridge” featuring Danny Macaskill is my FAVORITE), and have to describe the point of view the clip is told from, what is revealed through that point of view, and why the author may have chosen it.

Jumping Into Plot Structure

I usually pause after students have made it through the first four elements of literature (setting, characters, conflict, and point of view). We review the plot elements as a whole class, and then we complete a couple of diagrams together. We watch a Pixar short like “For the Birds” or “Partly Cloudy,” and I model how to watch the first time for the gist and the second time to identify the different elements of the plot.

Then, we try diagramming the plot of something a bit more complex: a Greek Myth podcast. I LOVE these Greeking Out podcasts by NatGeo, and they make the perfect “next-level” challenge for students.

At this point, I allow students to practice diagramming another plot either with a partner or on their own. They can choose a Pixar short, a Greeking Out podcast, or a Greek Myth. I love using Greek myths because they have clear inciting incidents, and they don’t always end happily-ever-after, so students have to think carefully about the resolution.

How to Teach the Elements of Fiction (5)

Wrapping It Up With Theme

The final piece of the pie is one that 6th-grade students have worked on so many times before that I almost feel bad reviewing it. However, it is completely necessary. This is another activity that I’ve found just works best whole group – and that’s because reviewing themes through skits is the. way. to. go. What do I mean?

Elementary kiddos work really hard with morals and lessons. But taking those concepts a step further and thinking about the author’s message can be tough. It’s not so cut and dry (nor, dare I say… canned). So I give students dozens of examples – and they have to pick one and work backward to create a skit that conveys that theme!

(Video) 5 Basic Elements of Fiction

Middle school students are so quirky – God bless them – and the skits are a hit. After groups create theme skits, they work on a theme comic or theme story. They choose another theme and work backward to convey it through a comic or a short story. I’ve seen some really incredible work with this activity!

How to Teach the Elements of Fiction (6)

Once we’ve finished diving into all of the elements, the real work begins! We spend a couple of weeks reading several short stories, discussing the literary elements and how they are developed, how they impact one another, and so on. We usually finish our unit at the end of September or Early October. It ends up being perfect timing for a culminating activity and escape room using Roald Dahl’s ‘The Landlady,’ which is a post for another day!

I hope you have found new and invigorating ways to teach the elements of literature or with and without stations. If you’d like to make your teaching life easier, you can all of the resources mentioned in this blog by clicking the link below or by finding them on TPT here.

How to Teach the Elements of Fiction (8)

FAQs

How do you teach the elements of a story? ›

How to Teach Story Elements? The best way to teach story elements is through your daily read alouds. During this time you can introduce the terms with a story elements anchor chart and discuss them with your students. Typically it is best to introduce one component at a time.

How do you identify elements of fiction? ›

The Seven Key Elements of Fiction:
  1. CHARACTER. There are two meanings for the word character: 1) The person in a work of fiction. ...
  2. THEME. What exactly is this elusive thing called theme? ...
  3. PLOT. ...
  4. Resolution is the set of events that bring the story to a close. ...
  5. POINT OF VIEW. ...
  6. SETTING. ...
  7. CONFLICT. ...
  8. TONE.

What are the 5 basic elements of fiction? ›

  • The Five Elements. of. Fiction.
  • Characters.
  • Setting.
  • Point of View.
  • Theme.
  • Plot.
  • Plot.

What are the elements of fiction explain each element? ›

Characters, setting, plot, conflict, point of view, and theme are six key elements for writing fiction. Characters are the people, animals, or aliens in the story. Readers come to know the characters through what they say, what they think, and how they act. E. M.

Why is it important to teach story elements? ›

Why is this an important concept? When students can describe literary elements such as character and plot, they are better able to interpret and respond to a text. Focusing on and discussing key details of literary elements supports the understanding of the author's message and purpose.

What is the most important element in fiction? ›

Character is perhaps the most important element of fiction, as things must happen to someone or something in order for a story to progress. Not only is this crucial for story development, but as human beings, we read stories and enjoy stories because we can see ourselves in them, often through the characters.

What are elements of fiction used for? ›

It provides a unifying point around which the plot, characters, setting, point of view, symbols, and other elements of a story are organized. Be careful to distinguish theme from plot – the story's sequence of actions – and from subject – what the story is generally about.

What is the main characteristics of fiction? ›

What Are the Characteristics of Literary Fiction?
  • Character-focused narratives.
  • Ample symbolism, metaphor, and allegory.
  • Advanced vocabulary infused with imagery.
  • Ambiguous plot points, including even the work's conclusion.
  • Exploration of larger philosophical themes regarding the human condition and the will of nature.
20 Aug 2021

What are the four main components of fiction? ›

The Four Elements of Fiction: Character, Setting, Situation, and Theme is a detailed discussion about the importance of how the four elements of fiction must relate to one another in order to produce a page-turner.

What are the 10 features of fiction? ›

  • The Elements of Fiction.
  • PLOT.
  • SETTING.
  • CHARACTER.
  • CONFLICT.
  • SYMBOL.
  • First Person Narrator.
  • Protagonist.

What makes a good fiction story? ›

In fiction, the writer's job is to entertain, to draw an emotional response from the reader. The reader is often looking for suspense, action, and to go on a journey they have not been on before, one they will not easily forget.

How do these elements of fiction help in creating effective stories? ›

Contents
  • Give your story strong dramatic content.
  • Vary rhythm and structure in your prose.
  • Create believable, memorable characters.
  • Make the important story sections effective.
  • Deepen your plot with subplots.
  • Make every line of dialogue count.
  • Add what makes a good story (immersive setting)
  • Create conflict and tension.

How do you explain an element to a child? ›

An element is a pure substance that is made from a single type of atom. Elements are the building blocks for all the rest of the matter in the world. Examples of elements include iron, oxygen, hydrogen, gold, and helium.

How do you introduce an element? ›

An Element is one of a limited class of substances composed entirely of atoms that have an invariant nuclear charge and which cannot be further divided by ordinary chemical methods. Atoms having the same nuclear charge have the same number of protons in the nucleus.

What are the three 3 most important story elements? ›

You can use endlessly different story structures and styles, but each story or novel is going to boil down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.

What is the most important element of storytelling? ›

Plot. The plot is the most important part of any story. It defines what story is all about. What the audience will experience.

What element makes a good story? ›

A story has five basic but important elements. These five components are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

How many elements are in a fiction story? ›

Elements of Fiction: Definition

There are seven elements of fiction that can be found in any story, regardless of the form the narrative takes. These elements are character, plot, setting, theme, point of view, conflict, and tone. All seven elements work together to create a coherent story.

Why is the plot the most important element of fiction? ›

Readers are more likely to suspend their disbelief if they like the characters. In other words: If readers can connect with the characters and see them as relatable people, they're more willing to accept the events of the story, even if they're far-fetched. This is one of the reasons why plot is so important.

What are techniques of fiction? ›

Common techniques relevant to style, or the language chosen to tell a story, include metaphors, similes, personification, imagery, hyperbole, and alliteration. Techniques relevant to plot, which are the sequence of events that make up a narrative, include backstory,flashback, flash-forward, and foreshadowing.

What is the concept of fiction? ›

fiction, literature created from the imagination, not presented as fact, though it may be based on a true story or situation. Types of literature in the fiction genre include the novel, short story, and novella. The word is from the Latin fictiō, “the act of making, fashioning, or molding.”

What are 5 facts about fiction? ›

It's a set of five ideas that, when applied to any novel, help the reviewer develop a complex critical interpretation.
  • Fact #1: Fiction is all about a character. ...
  • Fact #3: Fiction is all about how your character gets or does not get what he or she wants. ...
  • Fact #5: Fiction is all about a world an author creates.

What is the basis of fiction? ›

Fiction writing is narrative writing that involves elements of plot and character created entirely by the author, as opposed to nonfiction, which is based on real world events and real people.

What is the 8 elements of fiction? ›

What are the Elements of a Story? There are eight elements of a story: theme, plot, characters, setting, conflict, point-of-view, tone and style.

What are the 9 Elements of fiction? ›

So, keep in mind that you need a main theme, characters, setting, tension, climax, resolution, plot, purpose and chronology for a powerful story.

What are the 7 elements of a story and their meaning? ›

You can turn the slightest concept into a gripping tale by mastering the seven essential elements of a story — theme, characters, setting, plot, conflict, point of view, and style.

What are the 3 major form of fiction? ›

There are three main types of fiction, also known as forms: short story, novella, and novel. The form of a fictional work is determined primarily by the work's length.

What is style in elements of fiction? ›

Style in literature is the literary element that describes the ways that the author uses words — the author's word choice, sentence structure, figurative language, and sentence arrangement all work together to establish mood, images, and meaning in the text.

What are the 5 types of fiction? ›

One of the most popular genres of literature, fiction, features imaginary characters and events. This genre is often broken up into five subgenres: fantasy, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, mystery, and science fiction.

What are the structure of fiction? ›

Exposition – the beginning of the story, where the scene is set and the characters are introduced. Conflict – a conflict or problem occurs which the character has to overcome. Climax – the conflict or problem hits its peak. Resolution – the problem is solved – either happily or sadly.

How can I make my story more interesting? ›

By adding unexpected elements or plot twists you keep your story exciting. You can achieve this by working towards something and then, out of nowhere, taking your story into another direction. You can also introduce an unexpected event that blows your audience out of the water.

How can I improve my fiction writing? ›

70+ Small Tweaks to Improve Your Fiction
  1. Write what you know. ...
  2. Write about what you don't know. ...
  3. Read more. ...
  4. Write every day, whether you feel like it or not. ...
  5. Read other genres. ...
  6. Outline your stories before you start writing. ...
  7. Write from the seat of your pants, especially if you're accustomed to outlining.

What is the importance of elements in literature? ›

One of the benefits of knowing the literary elements and then calling attention to them with your kids is that these elements help writers become intentional about how they craft their thoughts into words. Too often, mothers and educators focus on improving writing through better punctuation, grammar or format.

Why is it important for a writer to consider the different elements in writing a fiction Brainly? ›

Literary devices highlight important concepts in a text, strengthen the narrative, and help readers connect to the characters and themes. These devices serve a wide range of purposes in literature.

How do you teach students to write stories? ›

Helping your child structure their story from beginning to end is a great way to make the writing process a whole lot easier.
  1. Step 1: Think of an idea. ...
  2. Step 2: Create a character and a setting. ...
  3. Step 3: The Beginning. ...
  4. Step 4: The Conflict. ...
  5. Step 5: The Turning Point. ...
  6. Step 6: The Resolution. ...
  7. Step 7: The End.
19 Jun 2015

How do you teach a story to ESL students? ›

Here are some possibilities on how you can use stories in your classroom:
  1. Teach Vocabulary. Before you use a story in the ESL preschool classroom, you'll need to teach the students the key vocabulary words so they are able to follow the story. ...
  2. Varying Classroom Activities. ...
  3. Be Creative. ...
  4. Introduce Other Activities.
1 Apr 2022

How do you explain setting? ›

The setting of a story is the context in a scene or story that describes the elements in which a story is taking place, including time, place, and environment. Each component in story setting helps to build the narrative's mood, plot, and character development.

What are the 7 aspects of setting? ›

Together, these broad categories encompass geographic region, climate, date, time, and architecture, as well as facets of culture and society like language, politics, fashion, and cuisine.

What are the 12 fundamental elements of setting? ›

The Fundamental Elements of Setting
  • Locale. This relates to broad categories such as a country, state, region, city, and town, as well as to more specific locales, such as a neighborhood, street, house or school. ...
  • Time of year. ...
  • Time of day. ...
  • Elapsed time. ...
  • Mood and atmosphere. ...
  • Climate. ...
  • Geography. ...
  • Man-made geography.
2 May 2012

How do you teach characters in literature? ›

While reading a novel, I often ask students to pick a character to analyze and really explore as we read. Using the acronym S.T.E.A.L, students look for what the character SAYS, what they THINK, their EFFECT on others, their ACTIONS, and their LOOKS. It's an easy way to keep track of the ways we learn about characters.

How do you teach good character? ›

How to Teach Children Integrity & Good Character
  1. Lead by example by acting with integrity. ...
  2. Be specific with your reasoning. ...
  3. Offer examples of positive moral behaviors. ...
  4. Understand that outside influences will affect character development.
15 Aug 2020

What is story teaching method? ›

Storytelling is a teaching method which helps young learners solve given problems and tasks in a playful way and creates constructive and creative comprehension of the given matter. Presented with a storyline, children perceive the learning process more easily and effortlessly.

How can students improve storytelling skills? ›

6 Ways to Teach the Art of Storytelling to Kids
  1. Get Excited About Storytelling. ...
  2. Attend Storytelling Events Together. ...
  3. Teach Children the Power of Body Language and Expressions. ...
  4. Practice Practice Practice! ...
  5. Hobby Classes. ...
  6. Play Storytelling Games.
22 Mar 2021

How do you teach short stories lesson plans? ›

OBJECTIVES
  1. Identify key points in stories.
  2. Summarize the events of a story in a concise manner.
  3. Organize key points of stories into chronological action categories.
  4. Develop an original narrative in a collaborative manner.
  5. Compare the plot structures of multiple stories.
22 Nov 2019

How do English teachers teach grammar using stories? ›

A story provides a realistic context for presenting grammar points and holds and focuses students' attention in a way that no other technique can. Although some teachers are better at telling stories than others, almost any of us can tell stories with energy and interest.

How can I improve my English storytelling skills? ›

Photos courtesy of the individual members.
  1. Observe Established Communications Pros.
  2. Put Yourself In Someone Else's Shoes.
  3. Start Using Stories In Everyday Life.
  4. Lower Your Chin And Speak From The Heart.
  5. Don't Shy Away From Conflict.
  6. Write For A Diverse Audience.
  7. Find The Story Behind The Story.
21 Dec 2020

Videos

1. The elements of a story | Reading | Khan Academy
(Khan Academy)
2. Story Elements Part 1: Characters, Setting, and Events | English For Kids | Mind Blooming
(Mind Blooming)
3. Grade 9 | Lesson 21 - Elements of Fiction | Teacher Adam Concepcion
(Teacher Adam)
4. Elements of Fiction
(Teaching Library)
5. Elements of Fiction Quick Lesson
(Icess Fernandez Rojas)
6. Elements of Fiction: 1- Setting
(Brief Presentations)
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