Tips for Introducing Setting in the Upper Grades

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This simple, yet effective strategy will get your students thinking about setting at a more complex level.

One of the first genres I teach are narratives.  We read them and write about them and one of my first lessons is centered around introducing setting in a common text.  The questions I have my students think about while we are reading are: Where and when does the story take place?  Teaching my students to annotate the text with symbols helps them to locate evidence that supports their assertion as to where and when the story takes place.  I also mention that in longer texts and novels there will often be more than one setting.

Annotate Text to Use Symbols to Represent Evidence of Setting


These are the two symbols I use to denote time and place:

This simple strategy will help your child gather evidence that supports their ideas about when and where the story takes place.
These symbols will then be used and added to a collection of annotations that we will begin to use with every text and stored on an ever-growing anchor chart for narratives.  I include these photographs as my examples in my PowerPoint, but in the text I would translate these to something easy to draw like this watch and binoculars:
This simple strategy will help your child gather evidence that supports their ideas about when and where the story takes place.
As the child is reading, they are looking for clues, evidence, of where and when the story takes place.  Setting is often established in the first chapter of a novel or the first few pages of a shorter text.  When looking for clues, you are looking for places and evidence of time period.  Here is an example of what this would look like.
This simple strategy will help your child gather evidence that supports their ideas about when and where the story takes place.

Clues of time in this example include: spring, sunshine, this afternoon.
Clues of place include: outside the burrow.

Why is it important for students to take note of setting?

Setting in a fictional text is important because it helps them answer deeper questions such as:

  • Why does a character act the way that it does?  Is it typical or atypical of that time period?
  • How does where this story takes place impact the way the characters act, how they think, and what they say?

 You can find this presentation and student handouts here.
Effective and efficient way to introduce setting to 5th graders.

What books do you use to introduce setting to the older kiddos? 

 Holes by Louis Sachar is my favorite!  Comment below with your favorite.

by Lisa Prins

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