The first time a student writes a story in our classrooms, the setting is probably one of the last things they consider. Think back to many of the stories they read in Kindergarten through Second Grade as a class. Many of those stories – though great at teaching sharing and friendship and dealing with emotions – fail to put our students in a specific place except for the pictures.
When these students read the stories, they see all the pictures and it allows them to feel like they’re a part of the story. That reflects in their writing. After they write their story, I’m sure you could ask them when and where their stories take place and, most of the time, they could answer fairly quickly and accurately!
However, due to their lack of hearing the settings, they never learned that the setting is supposed to be a part of the writing. And we teachers get frustrated time and again when our students are unable to put that setting into words on the paper.
Rather than getting upset with our students, we should be modeling this for them. As you introduce “setting” as a subject, start with some of those books they’re used to. Give them the images and have them answer questions such as:
- What time of day do you think it is?
- Where are we?
Once they’ve answered these and other simple questions (getting progressively more in-depth as students grow and develop these skills) ask the students: How would you put these answers in sentence form?
Model, model, model. You’re going to have to do this practice with them over and over again! The modeling they’ve received so far is that the pictures tell people where and when we are. They may read on their own at home, but that doesn’t mean they’re picking up the details. So don’t get discouraged if you have to model over and over again. Each modeling of this process brings students closer and closer to doing it automatically on their own.