The setting provides the backdrop for a story. It sets the tone for the reader by establishing the time, the place, and the context. Authors carefully select settings for many reasons, such as a motive, a metaphor, to create conflict, or to create a mood. The purpose of this lesson is to have students analyze the movements of the main character and determine what the text says explicitly about the location visited and make logical inferences from it. They will cite specific textual evidence to support conclusions drawn from the text.
This lesson encourages students to provide an analysis of a character’s movements throughout a story. As students gather clues, it is imperative that they understand that authors make particular setting choices for specific reasons. Settings may seem insignificant to novice readers, however as students develop, they began to understand that settings help to shape the character and the plot of the story. They often symbolize the emotional state of the character. They speak to why a character makes certain decisions and often determine the outcome of the story. In this lesson, students will use the guiding questions as a map to bring them to understand how settings impact the main character’s choices and how those choices work to build the story.
Before students begin reading, provide a passage from a story which the students are familiar and engage them in a discussion about the role and importance of the setting and movements of the main character. Discuss possible ways that setting impacted the character’s journey through the story. The goal is to have students make inferences about why the author may have chosen that particular location. For example, in the book Walk Two Moons (Creech, 1994), the main character Sal embarks on a journey with her grandparents that indirectly uncovers her past. Each stop along the way gives her insight into how her past has molded her present. The opening chapter, “A Face at the Window”, takes Sal from Bybanks, Kentucky, her home of thirteen years, to Euclid, Ohio. Why is this first transition a pivitol move in the story? What is learned about Sal and her family with this move? Questions like these ignite students and engourage them to dig deeper to discover more. After the open discussion, students are ready to begin reading and plotting their adventure.
As students read, they should focus on answering the following questions in order to make connections and demonstrate a strong understanding of the author’s intentions:
When referring to the setting:
• What brought the character to that location?
• What impact did this location have on the character?
• How would the story have changed if the character hadn’t traveled to this location?
As students begin to gather information on the different locations visited by the main character, they will integrate the National Geographic World Atlas application by the National Geographic Society. This application is like an unconventional journal as it serves as a tool to track a characters movement in a very realistic manner. As students encounter a new location in the story, they will use the application to locate the actual place in the world. Students place a pin on the map and record key notes about the location that might play into why the character was drawn there. They also record their response to the guiding questions. When the assignment is complete, students will have an actual road map of their journey through the story. They will also have gained knowledge of different locations around the globe.
Books with Interesting Setting Changes
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
The Great Empty by Anita Melillo
Are We There Yet by David Levithan
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Dove by Robin L. Graham