The setting of a story includes the time and location in which the story takes place. Most students can easily say this story takes place at the beach or the moon or Alaska or wherever. Many students can also pinpoint the time: the past, present, or future. However, often students do not realize that the setting also provides important clues to the plot.
Information to Use in Classroom Discussions
Setting and Attitude
Where characters live often contributes to their personalities. Different settings influence a character’s values or attitude.
Think of these examples:
- Would The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963 be the same story if it had been set anywhere but the 1960s American South?
- Could Sweep: The Girl and her Monster be set at any time other than Victorian England where children were allowed to climb inside chimneys to clean?
- Would Jonah from The Giver be made the receiver of memories in any setting except for a dystopian future?
Add examples from the novels your students have read.
The setting of a Story and Conflict
In many novels, the setting causes the conflict of the story.
Think of these examples:
- If Brian had reached his father in the oil fields instead of crash landing in the middle of the Canadian wilderness in the novel Hatchet, would Gary Paulsen be telling the reader a survival story?
- Would Sadako from Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes be faced with leukemia if she didn’t live in 1955 Hiroshima, Japan?
- If Naya from A Long Walk to Water didn’t live in Southern Sudan, would she spend her days traveling back and forth to the water hole?
- Add examples from the novels your students have read.
FREE Teaching Ideas and Printables for Teaching Setting
Activity #1 Anchor Charts for Setting of a Story
Grab these free “Printable Charts for Setting” in the blog post handout. Print the charts on standard 11 by 8.5-inch paper or poster size for classroom display. On the charts, students list the location, time, importance, and mood of the setting. The chart may be used for any story. Printing instructions are included in the handout.
This blank setting anchor chart is editable. It will download as a PowerPoint. If you would like to keep the same font that says, “Setting,” click anywhere next to the word setting in the text box and just start typing. Delete the old text AFTER you have your new text completed.
Activity #2 – Setting and Time
The time is when the story happens. It may be in the past, present, or future. The time may also be an event such as during the Great War. Time greatly influences the plot of the story.
Use this link to get this activity. Students match definitions to terms related to the setting. Both printable and digital versions are included.
- The Clock…Waiting – When characters must wait for an event to take place several things can happen. Suspense has the reader on edge if the event is something such as the police locating a bomb. Anticipation can build if the character is waiting for something exciting to happen such as the big game or contest.
- Seasons – Little Willy’s race in Stone Fox could only take place in the winter when the ground was snow-covered. Novels such as Because of Mr. Terupt, Schooled, Wonder, and There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom could only take place during the school year. Evan and Jessie from The Lemonade War would not have successful lemonade stands if it was not the hot part of the summer.
- Historical Time – Authors writing historical fiction must set the stories not only where and when the historical event took place but must remember the other differences of the era. Time has changed the way people speak and think. Authors incorporate slang, social behaviors, and practices of the time when writing historical fiction.
Activity #3 – Video Lessons for Setting of a Story
Activity #4 – Setting and Place
The setting doesn’t have to be real-time and place. It can be imaginary…a magical kingdom, the mythical city of Atlantis, or inhabited planets in distant universes.
The place may include the geographic location such as the Ozark Mountains and specific sites such as Billy’s house.
Good authors use vivid imagery to describe the setting including the “Show, Don’t Tell” concept. Use a chart like this to have students locate and write sensory details.
Activity #5 – Setting and Genre
The genre of a story often dictates the setting. Look at these examples.
Science Fiction >> Outer Space >> Future
Fairy Tales >> Magical Kingdom >> Usually Past
Realistic Fiction >> Real Locations >> Usually Present
Myth >> Heaven and Earth >> Past
Historical Fiction >> Real Location >> Past
Activity #6 – Clues to the Setting
Ways the setting is revealed include:
- by dialogue between characters
- with descriptive passages
- through action
- by how the characters speak or act