Writing Lesson Plans

January Informational Writing
Informational Writing Lesson Plan
Overview

Approximate Grade Level: 3rd - 12th grades

Approximate Lesson Duration: Research: varies. Creating a book: ~90 minutes

Student Objectives

  • Write informative texts on a topic to convey information
  • Use technology to produce and publish writing
  • Conduct research projects to build knowledge on a topic
  • Write over extended time frames

Standards (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY)

This lesson plan can be used for English Language Arts and Literacy in Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.

  • Grade 3 - W.3.2, W.3.6, W.3.7, W.3.10
  • Grade 4 - W.4.2, W.4.6, W.4.7, W.4.10
  • Grade 5 - W.5.2, W.5.6, W.5.7, W.5.10
  • Grade 6 - W.6.2, W.6.6, W.6.7, W.6.10, WHST.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.6, WHST.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.10
  • Grade 7 - W.7.2, W.7.6, W.7.7, W.7.10, WHST.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.6, WHST.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.10
  • Grade 8 - W.8.2, W.8.6, W.8.7, W.8.10, WHST.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.6, WHST.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.10
  • Grade 9 and 10 - W.9-10.2, W.9-10.6, W.9-10.7, W.9-10.10, WHST.9-10.2, WHST.9-10.6, WHST.9-10.7, WHST.9-10.10
  • Grade 11 and 12 - W.11-12.2, W.11-12.6, W.11-12.7, W.11-12.10, WHST.11-12.2, WHST.11-12.6, WHST.11-12.7, WHST.11-12.10

Preparation & Materials

  • Know, Want To Know, Learned (KWL) Chart. 1 copy for each student. Download it.
  • Fact Research Questions/Topics. You will need to provide students with a list of facts/topics they need to research. Alternatively, this can be used after instruction of a given lesson. It can be a way for students to demonstrate mastery of the content of that lesson.

This lesson is flexible can be used for a variety of grade level and subject areas. The lesson plan is focused around how to introduce, present, organize, and publish a research project or demonstrate mastery of a skill/subject/topic taught.

Into

Opening Activity: Know, Want To Know, Learned (KWL)

  • This activity is a great way to get students engaged in the topic at hand and start thinking about what they know and what to know more about.
  • Explain the activity to students. Distribute the “KWL Chart” resource to each student.
    • K (Know) - Instruct students to record what they already know about the topic (either the one about be to be taught or the one they will be researching) on their KWL chart in the K column.
    • W (Want to Know) - As a class, discuss things you want to know more about the topic. As students share what they want to know, record it on the board for them to easily see. Students should record the things they want to know or things another student shared that they also want to know on their chart in the W column. This will get students thinking more deeply about the topic as they head into the lesson or research.
    • L (Learned) - Tell students that they will come back to this column after the lesson or research. Here they will be recording some of the things they learned.

Instruction

  • Explain to students that they will be demonstrating their understanding of the skill/topic by creating an Informational Writing book.
  • Explain the project to students.
    • Create a book to present what you have learned. A list of topics/questions will be provided for the students to include in their book.
    • Think about how you will illustrate it.
    • Think about how you will narrate it. Will you simply read the facts? Will you add sound effects? Will you use voices for each character? Will each section begin with a musical clip?
    • Publish your story on StoryJumper.com
Through

Guided Practice

  • Provide students with a list of questions or topics that must be included in their fact book. For example:
    • Lesson Mastery Fact Book - after a lesson in which the students learned about the water cycle, students would need to show understanding by answering given questions. Questions might include: what are the 4 stages in the water cycle, what happens at each stage, how can we protect the water cycle, why is the water cycle important to us, etc...
    • Research Fact Book - if each student is researching a state, they might have a list of topics they need to include in their fact book. Topics could be things like: The Early Years, Geography, People, Things to See and Do, State Symbols, Economy, etc. Students would be responsible for researching information within these topics (and subtopics if provided).
  • Instruct students to record what they already know about the topic (either the one about be to be taught or the one they will be researching) and what they want to know on their KWL chart.

Independent Practice

  • Students will begin answering the provided questions or researching the topics given. Walk around to ensure students are on track, occasionally calling out a student’s great work and sharing what they put to help others get going.
  • For longer research type fact books, you might consider having the whole class work on a topic at a time. This will allow for common class discussion, sharing of ideas, re-teaching, etc...
  • After students have finished answering the questions or topics, remind them to go back to their KWL chart. Students should review what they knew before this project, what they were hoping to know more about, and then fill in the L column. Here they should record some of the new learnings that really stood out to them. Hopefully students were able to discover answers to the things they wanted to know!

Speaking & Listening

  • Pair students up and have them share their facts with each other. The partner that is listening, should stop the reader whenever something is not clear to them, offering suggestions of how they might change it. The partner reading will consider these changes and make them if desired.

Differentiation

  • While a fact style report is a classic and a great way to check for understanding, you might consider elevating this lesson plan for the whole class or for individual students by having students report the facts in a more creative way. Facts are facts, but below are some grade/subject specific ideas for how to add a little more flair to the reporting of them:
    • Grades 3-5
      • Animal Report: “A Day in the Life of An Elephant”. Give the facts from the animals perspective, ensuring to talk about each topic/question as it relates to your typical day.
      • State Report: “A Tourist’s Guide to California”. Instead of just listing California facts, write it as if it were a tourism brochure.
    • Grades 6-8
      • Explorer: “Magellan’s Diary”. Show what you know through diary entries of a famous explorer.
    • Grades 9-12
      • Interactions of Ecosystems
      • Effects of the Industrial Revolution
    • Math
      • Geometry: “My Life As A Geometric Shape”. Write from the perspective of something that is the shape you are studying (i.e. a stop sign, the great pyramid) and incorporate your knowledge of the shape into your story.
    • Science
      • Water Cycle: “My Journey Through the Water Cycle”. Become a water droplet and explain the water cycle from your perspective.
    • Social Studies
      • American Revolution: “What Happened Here”. Retell the events of a major battle from an inanimate object’s point of view (i.e. the ground (at the battle of Lexington), a building (the Customs House at the Boston Massacre), etc….
    • Language Arts
      • Book Report: “Becoming Harry”. Provide a thorough understanding of a books setting, plot, characters, climax and resolution through the eyes of one of the book characters (major or minor).
Beyond

Create their books

  • Students will access their StoryJumper.com accounts and begin creating their Informational Writing book. They should login using the usernames and password that you set up for them or by joining your class.
  • Students can illustrate their books using the props and scenes provided by StoryJumper or using their own photos.
  • To make their books even more memorable, students can narrate their books, add background music, and add sound effects. Be sure to have a dedicated space or time for students to add their narrations so that it’s not too noisy when they record.

Present their books

  • Share online
    • After students have finished their books, click Share Student Books on your class page, so students can read each others' books.
    • Ask students to read each others' books and to comment on them. This will allow students to provide feedback to their peers. You might consider pairing students ahead of time to ensure each story is read and receives comments. Be sure to discuss examples of appropriate and inappropriate comments.
  • Peer Read Alouds
    • Allow students the opportunity to teach what they learned to someone else, such as:
      • A Peer - this will allow students to have academic discussions around the topic. Students are encouraged to ask each other questions.
      • Younger buddy - this will help to solidify the learning for your student. Require them to understand the content well enough to be able to explain it in a simplified way to a student younger than them.
  • Present to the Class
    • Give students an opportunity to present their completed stories. You could do this with just your class, invite other classes, invite administrators and staff, or even invite their parents.
    • Project the digital book to the class and use the recorded narration to present. Students can introduce/conclude their presentation pointing out what they learned through this research that they didn’t know before.

Order real books!

  • Be sure to share the student books with parents so they can order their child’s book. You can do this from your StoryJumper class page in the Share Student Books section.
  • For those students that retold the facts in a more creative way, this would make a great gift for a family member, sibling, or teacher.
  • You could also purchase a copy of the best student authored book or multiple student authored books on a topic to use as a model for students the following year and keep them in your classroom library.
February Presidents' Day
  Black History Month
Presidents' Day Lesson Plan
Students work together to write a class book, with a few pages dedicated to each president
Prepare

Divide students into groups of 2-3 and have them choose a president to focus on.

You might have students choose from a list you provide.

If possible, spend some time as a class analyzing and annotating other informative texts to pull out key features.

You could also talk about how to work effectively as a group.

Review the StoryJumper platform if students haven't used it before, using the tutorial video.

You can also review how to setup a group book.

Here's an example First Five Presidents book.

Research

Groups should carry out research on their president, selecting the information they will include.

You might include specific requirements such as:

  • Early life
  • Run for presidency
  • Time in office
  • Later life
  • Legacy
  • Images
  • Fun Facts / Quotes
  • Add Your Voice*

* In StoryJumper, students can record their voice saying famous quotes from their president or narrating their book.

Write

After allowing enough time for research, allocate a few pages in the book to each group, based on the chronological order of their president.

Students should then write their pages, thinking about informative writing, appropriate images and a clear layout.

Review

When students have finished, review the different sections as a class to learn about the different presidents and to discuss things that each group has done well on their pages.

If you have a copy of a similar book made by last year’s students, then you could also review that together.

Publish

Publish the class book to keep a copy in your classroom so students can feel & listen to previous classes’ books each year.

The published book will link to any voice recordings that students add to the book.

Knowing their books will be published adds a level of accountability to students' work and encourages higher standards.

Alternative Plan: Write Individual Books

Each student could create their own book based on a president they choose, telling their life story through text and images.

To jump start your students' books, you can create a template book that you preload with text & pictures and then students can build off of it.

After student books are shared by you, parents have the option to publish their child’s book.

Black History Month Lesson Plan
Students write their own story books from the perspective of a member of the civil rights movement
Prepare

Have students choose a member of the civil rights movement they would like to work on.

You might provide a list for them to choose from.

Explain that they will be writing the story of this person, told from the subject’s own point of view.

Review the StoryJumper platform if students have not used it before, using the tutorial video.

To jump start your students' books, you can create a template book that you preload with text & pictures and then students can build off of it.

If you aren’t familiar with how to set up students with their StoryJumper accounts, review the Teachers’ Guide.

Here's an example I Am Rosa Parks book.

Research

Students should carry out research on their subject and choose which information to include in their story.

You might add specific requirements such as:

  • Early life
  • Their impact on the civil rights movement
  • Later life
  • Legacy
  • Images
  • Fun Facts / Quotes
  • Add Your Voice*

* In StoryJumper, students can record their voice saying famous quotes or narrating their story.

Write

After completing their research, students should write their stories using the first person narrative.

Remind them to think about the best structure for their story and the layout for each page.

Review

When students have finished, click “Share Student Books” on your class page so that students can see each other’s books.

Have them read each other’s books to learn about the different members of the civil rights movement and to discuss things that other students have done well.

Publish

Share the student books with parents, too, so they can read the books and choose to publish copies for themselves.

Knowing their books will be published adds a level of accountability to student work and encourages higher standards.

Alternative Plan: Write a Class Book

Students could work together on one class book with each student or small group of students writing a section about their subject as a short story.

Review how to setup a group book.

March Women's History Month
  Irish Heritage Month
Women's History Month Lesson Plan
Students write their own informative books about a famous woman from history
Prepare

Talk as a class about inspirational women in history that students know.

You could brainstorm a list on the board that you later use to select women to write about.

Decide if you want students to create individual books or work in small groups of 2-3.

In StoryJumper, a group of students can collaborate on the same group book while each student works on their own computer.

If you aren’t familiar with how to set up students to start their books, review the Teachers’ Guide.

To help your students get started, you can create a template book with a general outline and share it with them. Then they can add their own content into your template.

Read & Analyze

Have at least one informational text about a famous woman available to read and analyze together.

You could use StoryJumper books such as this book on Amelia Earhart or this book on Harriet Tubman. Also, you could reference hard copy published books about famous women.

As a class, or with students working in groups, make a list of the type of information that is included in the book (e.g. early life, later life, why they are famous, impact, death, etc...)

Review the StoryJumper platform with students if they haven’t used it before, using the tutorial video.

Research

Students carry out research on their famous woman.

Discuss which sources are appropriate based on the grade and research experience of the class.

Students could choose their own famous woman from history or you could assign one. (e.g. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Blackwell, Amelia Earhart, Ada Lovelace, Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks, Sacagawea, Harriet Tubman, and many others.)

Direct students to research and include any/all of the following for their famous woman:

  • Early life
  • Later life
  • Why they are famous
  • Long-term impact
  • Quotations
  • Timeline
  • Bibliography
Write (and Narrate)

After sufficient time for research, ask students to write their books.

Remind students to think about informative writing, appropriate images and a clear layout.

In StoryJumper, students can also record their voice saying famous quotes from the person or narrating their text. They can also add background music and sound effects.

Review

When students have finished, click “Share Student Books” on your class page. Then they can review each other's books to learn about other famous women from history.

You can also use this opportunity for peer feedback and editing.

Publish

Share the student books with parents, so they can read their child’s book and choose to publish it as a hardcover or paperback book.

They could also be published to be kept in the classroom, giving a real purpose to the writing.

Knowing their books will be published adds a level of accountability to student work and encourages higher standards.

Alternative Plan: Write A Class Book

Students could work together as a class to create a "Women in History" book where each student/group takes a few pages to provide information about a different woman.

You could then publish this collective book to keep in the classroom to review with next year’s students.

shamrock Irish Heritage Month Lesson Plan
Students write their own story books based on the real story of St. Patrick (or other Irish person/event)
Prepare

This lesson plan is designed for students to write a fictional story based around the real history of St. Patrick. Alternatively, you could choose a different event/person from Irish history to discuss and then have students write stories from there.

Other possible people/events include:

  • Famous people of Irish descent (but could’ve lived anywhere in the world)
  • The Great Irish Famine
  • The Easter Rising

If you aren’t familiar with how to set up students to start their books, review the Teachers’ Guide.

Learn the History

Discuss what students know about St. Patrick (or other Irish person/event). Chances are most of what they know about St Patrick is not true.

Tell students the real story of St. Patrick. You could use this link to read the story as a class, or have them watch this video. As you watch/read for a second time, pause to make a list of key information or events on the board.

If you are covering another Irish person/event, identify appropriate resources to teach students about this topic.

Explain that students will be writing a story based around the life of St. Patrick (or other Irish person/event). This could be:

  • A story about a real event in his life, fleshed out with imaginative detail
  • A fictitious story about something that could reasonably have happened to him
  • His entire life story, using their imagination to add interesting details or to fill in gaps
  • A version of his story set in modern times

Review the Story Jumper platform with students if they haven’t used it before, using the tutorial video.

Write (and Narrate)

Remind students to use appropriate vocabulary, eye-catching and relevant imagery, and a clear layout.

In StoryJumper, students can also record their voice to narrate their books and add background music and sound effects.

Review

When students have finished, click “Share Student Books” on your class page so that students can read each other’s books.

They could make suggestions for improvements and comment on things that have been done well.

Publish

Share the student books with parents, so they can read their child’s book and choose to publish it as a hardcover or paperback book.

They could also be published to be kept in the classroom, giving a real purpose to the writing.

Knowing their books will be published adds a level of accountability to student work and encourages higher standards.

Alternative Plan: Research Based Writing

This lesson plan is designed so that students do not need to carry out research.

However, if you prefer to cover a variety of historical people/events across the class, students could carry out their own research.

They could also write more informative texts incorporating real facts about these topics.

April Personal Yearbook
  Reflective Journal
Personal Yearbook Lesson Plan
Students write their own personal yearbooks, creatively reflecting on their school year
Introduction

This project is designed to be creative so each student plans the content and structure of their own yearbook.

If you prefer to be more prescriptive, you can specify the sections they should all include.

You can also create a template book that outlines the basic structure and then share it with your students.

Brainstorming

Tell students they will each be creating their own personal yearbook reflecting on their year.

They can keep the book forever to remind them of their highlights from this school year.

You can use the following brainstorming method to get students thinking about what they could include in their personal yearbook:

  • Each student should have a piece of paper. Fold it in half four times so you end up with 16 boxes. Number the boxes 1-16.
  • Each student writes an idea for a section of their yearbook in box 1. (e.g. “group photo and list of class members”)
  • Each student writes their name on the back of their paper.
  • They then pass their paper to another student who reads their idea and writes a new idea in box 2. Continue this process until all 16 boxes are filled. Students can repeat ideas they see on different papers if they like.
  • Finally, return the sheet to its original owner.

If students need help thinking of ideas, you can use the list below to offer suggestions.

You could wrap up with a discussion of some of the suggested ideas, as a class or in small groups.

Section Planning

Now that students have some ideas, they should decide on the sections they will include in their own personal yearbook.

There should be at least 6-8 sections, although they can have more. Encourage them to get creative!

Suggestions include:

  • School field trips
  • What they learned from key projects
  • Personal achievements
  • Best memories. Proudest/Funniest moments
  • Class members. Who they are and quotes from them
  • News events during the year
Book Creation (and Narration)

Review the Story Jumper platform with students if they haven’t used it before, using the tutorial video

Make sure students know they can upload their own photos.

They can also record voices to narrate different sections or allow their classmates to say their quotes.

Give students time to write their books. You might also build in time for peer feedback sessions.

Sharing & Publication

When students have finished, click “Share Student Books” on your class page so that students can read each other’s books.

After students are happy with their books, share the books with parents, so they can read their child’s book and publish the memories as a hardcover or paperback book.

When students know their books will be published and kept forever, they are encouraged to do their best work.

Alternative Plan: Class Yearbook

Alternatively, you can also create one collaborative class yearbook where each student is assigned one section to complete.

All students can collaborate and work on the same group book at the same time. To do so, go to your class page, click “Create a group book”, and invite all the students to the book.

Reflective Journal Lesson Plan
Students write journals reflecting on their learning and achievements during the school year
Introduction

This project uses questioning to get students to reflect deeply on their year.

Encourage students to always explain their answers with details to promote this reflective behavior.

Display the following question on the board or read it out loud:

What is something you learned this year that you think you'll remember forever?

Ask students to "think-pair-share" their answers, which should remind students what was covered this school year.

Start a list on the board to remind students of what they've done over the past school year.

Remind them of projects, trips, topics, skills learned, etc...

You could also allow them to look through some of their work and books.

Focusing on Reflections

Explain to students that they will be reflecting on their year across all the work they have completed.

They will record their reflections in a StoryJumper book using text, photos, illustrations, and voice.

Choose reflective questions from the list below for students to focus on.

Remind them that these reflections are about their experiences in school only.

Discussing their questions and answers with a partner can help students develop their reflections.

  • What is one thing you learned this year that you will remember forever?
  • What are the two most useful things you learned this year?
  • What are the two most interesting things you learned this year?
  • What is your proudest achievement this year?
  • What was your best piece of work this year?
  • What was the most challenging part of this year?
  • If you could change one thing that happened this year, what would it be?
  • What is something that you could have done better this year?
  • What do you think you've improved at most this year?
  • What advice would you like to have given yourself at the start of the year?
  • What is something that you are going to try to do differently next year?

Student answers should cover a range of different experiences and subjects.

Students could show their questions and brief answers for you to review before they start writing their books.

Book Creation (and Narration)

Review the Story Jumper platform with students if they haven’t used it before, using the tutorial video.

Make sure students know they can upload their own photos and record voices to narrate different sections.

Students can then start creating their reflective journals on StoryJumper.


Suggest to students that they take 2-4 pages per reflection question.

Allow as much freedom (as appropriate) on how students structure their journals.

Here's an example structure:

  • Section header. Include the question.
  • Answer. Provide enough detail so someone outside of the class would understand it.
  • Images/Photos. Visually support their answer.
  • Reasons for their answer. Again students should include sufficient details. You could spend some time reviewing reasoning conjunctions to ensure a variety of language.

Give students time to write their books. You might also build in time for peer feedback sessions.

These journals serve as a culmination of the year’s work, so make sure students carefully check their spelling, punctuation and grammar.

While students are writing, check in with them to discuss their chosen questions and answers.

Ensure that each student covers a range of experiences in their book, and that they are writing clear and detailed reasons.

Sharing & Publication

When students have finished, click “Share Student Books” on your class page so that students can read each other’s books.

It’s helpful for students to read others' reflections. They might want to go back and improve their own books.

When students are happy with their books, share the books with parents, so they can read their child’s book and publish the memories as a hardcover or paperback book.

Knowing their books will be published and kept forever encourages higher standards.

May Mother's Day
Mother's Day Lesson Plan
Students create a special keepsake book all about their mom to celebrate Mother’s Day
Introduction

It’s nice to start this lesson with a general celebration of moms.

Encourage students to share their favorite memories of their moms, why they are grateful for their mom, what they love about their mom, etc...

They can discuss as a class, in small groups, or with a partner.


Keep the conversations positive and be sensitive to students in the class who have alternative family situations. You may decide to include fathers or other family members.

Planning Books

Tell students they will each be creating a special book to celebrate their own mom.

You can tell them that they will be able to print copies or send digital copies for Mother’s Day, so they create their books with their moms as an audience from the start.

Each book will include several sections, covering different aspects about their own mom.

Students can plan their own books by coming up with the sections they want to include, or by choosing from a list of possible sections (see below).

Alternatively, if you want to be more prescriptive, create a template book with sections prepared for students to fill in.

Depending on available time and the grade level of the class, students could include 4-8 different sections in their book.


However you decide to have students structure their books, have them spend time planning what to include in each section.

Suggested sections:

  • How It All Started - list background facts about their moms, including birthplace, date of birth, family, etc... Students should think about how to lay out the facts in an eye-catching way.
  • Mom’s Life Story So Far - chronological biography with interesting details. This could cover several pages telling different periods of her life with illustrations.
  • All About My Mom - facts and details about who she is now, including where she lives, job, hobbies, family, friends, etc... Students should think about how to lay out the pages in an eye-catching way.
  • My Favorite Mom Story - recall a favorite anecdote from their mom’s life. This could be illustrated over several pages.
  • My Favorite Memory with my Mom - an illustrated scene with a text explanation. Students could include a description of the memory as well as details about why it is their favorite and what it meant to them.
  • A Poem About My Mom - a poem using a set format like a Haiku or acrostic poem. You could spend a whole lesson on this section learning how to write the poems as a class.
  • If My Mom Were an Animal - a page with an illustration of the animal and an explanation.
  • What Makes My Mom Special - a page explaining their thoughts and opinions with accompanying illustrations.
  • Why I Am Grateful For My Mom - a nice page to close the book with, listing things students are grateful for.

Students may not know all the facts and information they need, so have them investigate for homework.

They can make a list of the information they need to find out and create a series of interview questions, or just have informal conversations with their moms.

Decide how much time you want to spend on this information gathering process.

Note: If students want their books to remain a secret, they can tell their moms that these conversations are for a school project.

Book Creation

Students should use their plans to create their individual books.

As students create their books, encourage them to include visuals such as props and characters from the StoryJumper art library to illustrate each section.

Students can experiment with the different backgrounds, props, and characters available in the art library.

If students are able to bring in photographs, they could be included, as well.

Students should also choose a title for their books or choose one as a class.

When students have finished, you can click “Share Student Books” on your class page so that students can read each other’s books.

You could allow for peer feedback so students can make improvements.

It’s important to check that students feel comfortable having others read their personal books.


When students are happy with their books, they can be shared with parents.

If students want to have hardcover or paperback books published for Mother’s Day, you can order books on behalf of parents 2-3 weeks before Mother’s Day. Delivery times depend on your location.

Alternatively, they can give the eBook version to their mom. The eBook can be downloaded immediately as a .pdf file and printed on any color printer.

Alternative Plan: Class Book

Another option is for the entire class to write one class book with each student contributing a page about their own mom.

You could define what should be included on each page or allow students to design their own page dedicated to their mom.

September All About Me
All About Me Lesson Plan
Students Get to Know Each Other
Overview

Approximate Grade Level: 2nd - 6th grades

Objectives

  • Students share facts and details about themselves
  • Students learn what they have in common with other students, fostering new relationships

Resources to help you prepare

  • All About Me Graphic Organizer. Download it and customize it.
  • All About Me Template Book. To add it to your class and customize it, follow the directions for Template Books.
Into

Opening Activity - Two Truths and a Lie

  • To get students excited about sharing facts about themselves, start off with a quick game of Two Truths and a Lie.
  • Share with the class two things about yourself that are true and one that is a lie. Let the students guess which one is the lie.
  • Invite a few other students up to the front to provide their own two truths and a lie.

Instruction

  • Tell students they will be creating their own All About Me book that will be shared with the class.
  • Distribute the All About Me Graphic Organizer. Explain that students will provide facts about themselves by answering each question. Space has been provided on the graphic organizer for students to plan their illustrations and narration. This is just meant for planning (bullet point list of pictures to include, background options, props, sound effects, etc) and not meant to actually be drawn out now.
  • Watch the tutorial video together as a class if this is their first time creating a StoryJumper book. Be sure to point out that students can upload their own photos. This will be very useful for facts they might have photos for already (ie. sports, pets, family members, etc...). Also, review with the class the video about adding narrations. Students will be narrating their books and might also choose to add sound effects or background music provided in StoryJumper.
Through

Guided Practice

  • Choose one question to do together as a class. For example, “What is your favorite subject?” Have students answer the question on their graphic organizer.
  • Next, ask students what they might do for the illustration/narration of that page. Collect several ideas so that students are inspired for ideas on other pages as well. For example, if their favorite subject is science, possible ideas might be: planets, a beaker, chemical equation, photo of student at last year’s science fair, magnets, or rocket ship sound effect.

Independent Practice

  • Students will complete their All About Me facts and illustration ideas on the Graphic Organizer.
  • When ready, they will log into StoryJumper to create their digital book.
  • Students will access the All About Me template book that you set up and they will begin filling in the pages.
  • To make their books even more special, students can narrate their books, add background music, and add sound effects. Be sure to have a dedicated space or time for students to add their narrations so that it's not too noisy when they record.
Beyond

Peer Review

  • When students have finished their books, click "Students Finished their Books" at the bottom of your class page.
  • Scroll down to "Share Books with Parents & Students". After you enter some info and click Share Student Books, students can read their classmates' books.
  • Ask students to read and comment on 3 other students’ All About Me books. This will allow students to get to know each other better and provide feedback to their peers. You might consider discussing examples of appropriate comments ahead of time.

Story Time

  • Give students an opportunity to present their completed books. You could do this with just your class, invite other classes, invite administrators and staff, or even invite their parents. Students will take turns reading their All About Me books and showing the illustrations. This can be done using the digital book or the published version (if purchased).
  • The All About Me book could also be used for sharing during a Student of the Week type activity.

Order published copies of student books

Teachers

  • Consider ordering published (hardcover / paperback ) copies of your students' books as a reward for students or to provide examples for future classes.
  • Knowing that their books will be published adds a level of accountability and importance to their work, encouraging higher standards and a greater sense of pride in their work.

Parents

  • Parents might be interested in purchasing a copy of their child’s All About Me book as a keepsake. After you click Share Student Books, you'll see the ordering instructions that you can email to parents or give to them when you see them in person (e.g. open house or parent/teacher conference)
October Halloween Haiku
Haunted Halloween Haiku Poems
Students learn about poetry through a Halloween theme
Overview

Halloween is a great time to learn about poetry.

This lesson plan focuses on haiku poems, but you could customize it to teach limerick, lyrical, or acrostic poems.

Approximate Grade Level: 3rd - 6th grades

Approximate Lesson Duration: 1.5 - 2 hours

Student Objectives

  • Understand what a haiku is (or other poetry type that you choose)
  • Be able to correctly identify the number of syllables in a word
  • Be able to write and publish their own haiku (or other poetry type that you choose)

Resources to help you prepare

  • Haunted Halloween Haiku Graphic Organizer. Download it and customize it.
  • Create a StoryJumper group book and share it with your class. This way each student can contribute their haiku to the same class book. Enter each student's name on a separate page to make it easier for students to go right to their page and begin.
  • Use our Halloween props/scenes like the ones shown above. Search for "Halloween" in the "Props" and "Scenes" panels on the left side of the editor.
Into

Opening Activity - Clap it out!

  • Ask students to raise their hand to give you a Halloween word (eg. pumpkin, ghost, skeleton, etc...). When they share the word, write it on the board.
  • After a word is written on the board, ask the students how many syllables it has. Have the class clap out the syllables of the word together. (eg. skel-e-ton = 3). Write the number of syllables next to the word.
  • Continue doing this until you have developed a sizable list of words and syllables on the board.

Instruction

  • Tell students they will be creating their own Haunted Halloween Haiku that will be published and shared with the class.
  • A haiku is a type of poem from Japan that only has 3 lines. The first and last lines have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables.
  • Because a haiku is so short, it's sometimes easier to focus on a single theme or item. For example, Halloween (in general) or skeletons.
  • Share this animal haiku with the class and confirm together that all haiku rules were followed (# of lines and # of syllables):
  • Green and speckled frog

    Hopping on a lily pad

    Ribbit, ribbit, jump

  • Watch the "How to Create a StoryJumper Book" video with the class if this is their first time creating a StoryJumper book. Be sure to mention that they can upload their own art or use the StoryJumper art. Also, review the "How to Narrate Your Book" video with the class. Students will be narrating their books and might also choose to add sound effects or background music.
Through

Guided Practice

  • Model writing a haiku on the board for students to see. You might want to have this haiku written ahead of time. Be sure to use some of the words from the list on the board or add some of your own before starting your haiku.
  • Remind students they have a word bank on the board to help them with their writing, but they may also use words that aren't on the list.
  • As you write, stop and check each line with the students, clapping out the number of syllables. If it's too long, talk through how you might rework it by choosing shorter words.
  • After your haiku is finished, go back and underline the words that came from the word bank.

Independent Practice

  • Distribute the Haunted Halloween Haiku Graphic Organizer.
  • Students will first create their own Haunted Halloween Haiku on paper.

Speaking and Listening

  • Students will pair up and read their haiku to their partner. The partner will listen carefully. Then they'll also read the haiku and clap out the syllables to help ensure the number of syllables is correct.
  • Then students will switch roles.
  • If changes need to be made, students will make them now to complete their haiku.

Creating the Class Book

  • When they're ready, each student will log into StoryJumper and will see the class book that you set up earlier. They will click on the book, "edit" it, and add their haiku to page that you designated for them.
  • After they add their text, they can decorate their poems with props, colors, scenes, and different fonts.
  • To make their poems even more special, students can narrate their poems, add background music, and add sound effects. Be sure to have a dedicated space or time for students to add their narrations so that it’s not too noisy when they record their voices.
Beyond

Peer Review

  • Because haiku poems are so short, after every student has finished their page in the book, ask students to read the entire class book.
  • Students can add online comments on other students’ haiku poems. This will allow students to continue to practice haiku poetry and provide feedback to their peers. You might consider discussing examples of appropriate comments ahead of time.

Order published copies of the class book

  • Consider ordering published (hardcover / paperback) copies of the class book as a reward for students or to provide examples for future classes.
  • The published StoryJumper books will also include a link to the students' narrations, so readers can listen to your students reading to them.
  • When students know that their books will be published, they'll feel a greater level of accountability and importance to their work, encouraging higher standards and a greater sense of pride in their work.
  • Parents will also be interested in purchasing a copy of your Haunted Halloween Haiku class book as a keepsake. On your StoryJumper class page, after you click Share Student Books, you'll see the ordering instructions that you can email to parents or give to them when you see them in person (e.g. open house or parent/teacher conference)

Story Time

  • Give students an opportunity to share their completed haiku poems. You could do this with just your class or invite other classes, administrators, and parents. Students will take turns reading their Haunted Halloween Haiku poems and showing the illustrations they created. This can be done using the StoryJumper published hardcover / paperback books or the online version of the book.
  • Alternatively, you could project the digital book to the class and play the recorded narrations.
Nov/Dec Holiday Traditions
Holiday Traditions Lesson Plan
Overview

Approximate Grade Level: 1st - 6th grades

Approximate Lesson Duration: 45 min. lesson + 90 min. writing and creating a book

Student Objectives

  • Understand what a tradition is
  • Write a narrative story about their favorite holiday traditions
  • Publish a book, including narration

Standards (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY)

Preparation & Materials

This lesson plan is flexible and can be used for any holiday, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, etc...

Into

Opening Activity - Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up!

  • This activity is a great way to get students moving, but also helpful in generating ideas.
  • Give students about 30 seconds to silently think about the word "tradition" and what they think it means.
  • Ask your students to stand up and put their hand in the air. When you say go, they will find another student with their hand in the air, give them a high five, drop their hand, and tell them what they think "tradition" means.
  • After both partners have had a chance to share their definition of "tradition", they raise their hand again and find a new partner, high fiving them and sharing with them. They'll continue this process, finding a new partner each time, until you say stop or the timer goes off.
  • When students return to their seats, ask for 3 volunteers to share what they think "tradition" means.

Instruction for students

  • Define "tradition": Something that your family has done for many years, typically around a holiday. Maybe this is something your parents did because their parents did it and now you do it, too.
  • Create a story about your holiday traditions
    • Students should write about their traditions as a story, not simply answering the questions on the graphic organizer.
    • If you have other academic goals (i.e. sequence of events, introductions, moral, etc...) be sure to review them now and let students know they need to be included in their story.
  • Think about how you'll illustrate the story
  • Write and illustrate your story on StoryJumper
Through

Guided Practice

Independent Practice

  • Students will begin thinking more about their holiday traditions and completing the graphic organizer. Walk around to ensure students are on track, occasionally calling out a student’s great work and sharing what they wrote to help others along.
  • After students complete their Graphic Organizer, they should draft their Holiday Traditions story on paper. Remind students that this is a story, not just a list of answers.

Speaking & Listening

  • Pair students up and have them share their stories with each other. The partner that is listening should stop the reader whenever something isn't clear to them and offer suggestions on possible changes. The partner reading will consider these changes and make them if desired.

Differentiation

  • As a challenge option, you could have students write about their holiday traditions through the eyes of a fictional character. This allows students to write about non-fiction events in a more creative and fictional way. Some ideas include:
    • An alien came to visit you for the holidays. What did they observe? What did they do? How did you make them feel at home?
    • A family pet (real or make believe) is telling us about your holiday traditions. What would they say? Is any part of the story a little different because a pet is telling it?
    • A made up family (human or animal) is celebrating the holidays like you. Write about your holiday traditions as if that family was doing the same thing.
    • Holiday traditions in the future. Talk about your holiday traditions as if they were happening in the distant future. How would things change?
  • As a remedial option, if creating a full narrative is too much at this time, you could have students simply enter their answers from the graphic organizer into the pages of their StoryJumper books. This still allows students to think about, write about, and share their holiday traditions.
Beyond

Create their books

  • Students will access their StoryJumper accounts and begin creating their Holiday Traditions book.
  • Students can illustrate their books using the props and scenes provided by StoryJumper or using their own photos.
  • To make their books even more special, students can narrate their books, add background music, and add sound effects. Be sure to have a dedicated space or time for students to add their narrations so that it’s not too noisy when they record.

Peer Review

  • After students have finished their books, click Share Student Books on your class page, so students can read each others' books.
  • Ask students to read each others' books and to comment on them. This will allow students to provide feedback to their peers. You might consider pairing students ahead of time to ensure each story is read and receives comments. Be sure to discuss examples of appropriate and inappropriate comments.

Story Time

  • Give students an opportunity to share their completed stories. You could do this with just your class, invite other classes, invite administrators and staff, or even invite their parents. This could be done as:
    • a read aloud to their buddies in a different grade
    • a "Star of the Week" activity
    • a start of the day story
    • a group story time where you have 5 or so students present their books
  • Alternatively, you could project the digital books onto a screen and use the recorded narration to present.

Order real books!

  • These completed stories will make excellent gifts for the holidays. Be sure to give parents the Parent Order Handout from the Share Student Books section.
  • You could also purchase copies of the best student books to use as models for next year's students and keep them in your classroom library.
  • When students understand their work will be published as real books from the start of the lesson, they'll have a greater sense of pride in their work.
More: Narrative Writing
  StoryStarter Guide
Narrative Writing Lesson Plan
Overview

Approximate Grade Level: 4th - 5th grades

Approximate Duration: 4+ sessions

Summary: This plan takes students through the planning, writing and editing stages of creating their own narrative story.

Standards (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY)

  • Grade 4 - W.4.3, W.4.3.A, W.4.3.B, W.4.3.D, W.4.3.E, W.4.5, W.4.6. Optional: W.4.3.C
  • Grade 5 - W.5.3, W.5.3.A, W.5.3.B, W.5.3.D, W.5.3.E, W.5.5, W.5.6. Optional: W.5.3.C

Resources

  • Character Planning Handout
  • Setting Planning Handout
  • Plot Planning Handout
  • Story Checklist
  • Rubric

To save on printing, you can double-sided print or have students use scratch paper instead of using the three planning handouts. The Story Checklist could be laminated and reused and you could fill in the Rubric digitally.

Into
Introduction
  • Tell students they will be writing story books called A Holiday to Remember.
  • Ask students to share memories from their own Holidays. Share some of your own memorable ones or refer to stories students might know such as Home Alone.
  • Ask what might make something memorable (something going wrong, something special happening, something unusual happening, etc...).
  • Explain that the stories they will write can be fictitious or based on a real Holiday memory.
  • Show example StoryJumper books to generate engagement with the task.
A. Character Planning

Emphasize to students the importance of planning their writing before they begin.

Use the Character Planning Handout or scratch paper for students to brainstorm their main character. You can model this with a character of your own first.

Note: students should produce a quick and rough sketch of their character for brainstorming only. They will create their character’s final look on the StoryJumper platform.


 Ask prompt questions such as:
  • Who is your character? What is their gender/age/appearance?
  • What does your character like doing during the Holidays?
  • How does your character feel about the Holidays? (Mood)
  • How does your character feel when he/she sees someone who is sad? (Empathy)
  • How does your character respond when things go wrong? (Response to situations)
 Differentiation
  • Decrease difficulty: Provide sentence structures such as “The character…....when he/she sees someone who is sad” and allow students to use key words and pictures to build up their character.
  • Increase difficulty: Plan two or three characters in this way.
B. Setting Planning

Now use the Setting Planning Handout or scratch paper for students to plan their main setting. There may be multiple settings, so they should brainstorm their main or first setting. Again you can model this with a setting of your own first. Consider displaying some Holiday scenes for inspiration.

Note: students should produce a quick and rough sketch of their setting for brainstorming only. They will create the final look of their setting on the StoryJumper platform.

 Ask prompt questions such as:
  • Where does the story start?
  • What does this place look like during the Holidays?
  • What can you smell?
  • What can you see?
  • What can you hear?

Encourage students to use adjectives and multiple adjectives where appropriate.

 Differentiation
  • Decrease difficulty: Provide sentence structures such as “I can hear...” and allow students to use key words and pictures to build up their setting.
  • Increase difficulty: Provide a thesaurus for descriptive words and details and require complex multi-adjective phrases.
C. Plot Planning

Use the Plot Planning Handout or scratch paper to have students sketch out their narrative arc. You might model this with a well known story such as Red Riding Hood so students understand how to use the four sections of the handout.


Talk through conflict and resolution in their stories and engage the reader with these.


Spend a little more time on this for students to fill out details and description in each section and think about how their character(s) will react.


Students may need some help in developing their plots, so consider class/group discussions to flesh out different conflict and resolution ideas. Plots need to be completed and checked before students move on to writing their books.

 Differentiation
  • Decrease difficulty: Have students talk through their plot with a partner, adult or small group and then use key words and phrases in each box.
  • Increase difficulty: Require descriptive details in each section or have students create their own planning sheets.
Through

Before this step, click on “Create a Class” on your homepage to set up your class if you haven’t done so already. On the class page, click on “Edit Class” and make sure your class is set up correctly. For more information on setting up your class, read through the Teacher’s Guide.

Using StoryJumper

 Help your students learn how to use StoryJumper
  • If your students are new to StoryJumper, start by watching the StoryJumper Tutorial as a class to learn the basics of writing a book on the platform.
  • To reinforce how to use the platform, walk through some of the steps, such as uploading an image or adding a text box. As you carry out each of these actions on the whiteboard or using a projector, have each student perform the same steps on their own computer.
  • Students can find more "How To" information in the Author's Guide.
Creating Your Book

After students log into StoryJumper, have them click “Create a Book” using the “Blank” book template.


Students should first create their cover page, change the cover color and pattern, add the title (A Holiday to Remember), and add their name. They can come back to add an image later.


Students can then add text and images to each page as they write their stories. They may prefer to either write all of the text or create all of their images first. Allow flexibility as to how each student prefers to work, ensuring they are making sufficient progress in the allocated time.


For images, give guidance as to how to source these online or use the props and scenes provided. Remind students that their images should help the reader to understand the story. Images can used on either side of each double page and also include text. Students can look at some example books from the StoryJumper library to see how text and images can be integrated.


Ensure that students are referring to their planning as they write and are structuring their books carefully. For example, they should use the Character and Setting Planning Handouts for their first pages, as well as the first box from the Plot Planning Handout.


If you want to provide extra support or structure, you could walk through the detailed guidance below and display it on the board:


Beginning

  • 2 double pages
  • Introduce the setting with sensory details
  • Introduce the character with descriptive details
  • Explain what is happening

What Goes Wrong

  • 2-3 double pages
  • Explain what happens
  • Give details and clear descriptions
  • Include how the character reacts

Who/What Helps

  • 2-3 double pages
  • Explain what happens
  • Give details and clear descriptions
  • Include how the character reacts

Ending

  • 1-2 double pages
  • Explain how the story ends
  • Use clear descriptions
  • Include how the character feels

You can also include:

  • Dialogue in speech bubbles
  • Dialogue in your writing (indirect speech)
  • Transitional words (e.g. later on, next, suddenly)

You could also give out the Story Checklist at this point for students to use as they work through their books. Alternatively, hand out this checklist in the next step when they review their stories.


Provide support as students work.


 Differentiation
  • All students: Require different lengths of writing on each page or a different number of pages, depending on student ability.
  • English Learning or struggling students: Consider using the “Add Voice” feature so they can orally narrate their stories before they start writing. Then they can add text afterwards.
 Extensions
  • If time is available, or just with the advanced students, you could require the inclusion of dialogue. This could be added through speech bubbles as well as using indirect speech in the text.
  • Additionally, you could require examples of transitional words and phrases to be included. Provide examples as necessary.
Finish Books

Students should finalize their text and images in order to complete their books.

They may also have time to adjust the layout to make their books more visually appealing. Books from the StoryJumper Library can be used as examples.

Beyond
Final Review

Students can use the first column of the Story Checklist to carry out a final review of their own book. Read through each item so that students understand what they are looking for. You could give examples or work through a review for one student as a class.


Students can then peer review other's books. Pair up students to carry out these reviews. Students should click “Invite” in the editor to invite another student to collaborate on their book. The invited student will see the book on their “Home” page. They can then carry out a review using the right-hand column of the Story Checklist. They can add checkmarks and also write notes of things for the author to improve. Students should then sit down in their pairs to share their feedback.


After the peer review is completed, the original author can remove the collaborator from their book and make any changes and improvements.


When students are finished, they should click the “Finished” button below their book on their home page. You will then see the “Finished” label under their book on your class page.

Assessment

Perform a final review of each student’s book, perhaps sitting down with the student during an appropriate time.

You can then use the Rubric to grade students’ books if required.

Publish

Consider publishing the students' stories as hardcover or paperback books for students to keep.
Knowing their books will be published adds a level of accountability to their work and encourages higher standards of writing.

More information about publishing student books can be found in the Teacher’s Guide.

Narrate

Students can narrate their books to demonstrate reading fluency.

The tutorial video in the Author's Guide shows you how to narrate a book.

Share

Books can be shared with parents online so they can purchase their child's book themselves - a perfect holiday gift!

More information about sharing student books with parents can be found in the Teacher’s Guide.

You could even hold an Author Open House for students to showcase their published books to their parents.

StoryStarter Guide
Tell a Story in 7 Steps
Overview

Ready to start your story? Whether you have an idea already, or need some help, the StoryStarter™ workbook is designed to help you get going.

  • First, click Download worksheet and print it out so that you can write down your story notes and ideas as you go along.
  • As you complete each of the 7 steps, you may find that you want to go back and change an idea you had earlier. That's okay - the best writers usually change their ideas over and over again until they have something they really like.
  • If you get stuck on a step, try thinking about a different one for a while, and then come back later. Sometimes you'll find that filling in other parts of your idea will help you get unstuck.
  • When you're finished with your worksheet, you're ready for some real fun - creating a book on the StoryJumper.com website.
For Teachers

The StoryStarter™ workbook is a tool for teaching students the creative writing process. The goal of the workbook is to coach students in building the 7 primary components of a story (Characters, Challenges, Motivation, Setting, Obstacles, Climax, and Closing). Finishing the 7 steps will give students complete story arcs that they can then develop into rich, detailed stories. You can also adjust the material to fit the needs of your class. Here are just a few ideas you can use to mix things up:

  • Group Story I: Split the class into small groups and have them work on each step in teams and brainstorming ideas together. After each step, have the class share the results and vote on which team's idea to use.
  • Group Story II: Split the class into two groups. After each step, have the teams trade worksheets, and then have them continue, building on the other team's progress.
  • Character Building: Have your students create trading cards using their characters. Use the questions in the Character section to develop attributes. Collect all the cards and mix them in a hat/bag. Have students select a card(s) at random from bag. Take it a step further by dividing the cards between Hero/Villain groups.
  • When the students have completed their worksheets, they are ready to begin building their books on the StoryJumper website. Follow the steps in the Author's Guide for creating a free online version of their story that they can share with friends and family.
1. Characters

Let's get started! First, your story needs a character. Who is this story about? Here are some things to think about when creating your main character:

  • Your character doesn't have to be human. It can be an animal or a fantastic spirit. It could also be a rock, a computer circuit board, or a puff of smoke. Use your imagination - sometimes the simplest objects in our everyday lives have stories to tell. Like that pencil eraser over there... Did you see how it was looking at the sharpener?
  • Once you've created one character, you probably want to create more characters -- friends, enemies, heroes, villains, and so on.
  • Perfect characters are boring. To create tension in the story, give your characters weaknesses and flaws. If you use the character's weaknesses to get the character into even more trouble, the tension will build, and you'll have a better story. We'll cover the importance of story tension more in the next step.
  • Remember, to keep your story believable, your character should react to events in the story according to the personality you've given them. For example, if a tiger is running loose through the neighborhood, we'd expect a curious character to have a very different reaction than a lazy one.

Is your character usually happy, or gloomy? Polite or rude? Clever or arrogant? Punctual or late? Careless? Generous? Sleepy? Irritable? Spacey? Try writing down 5 words that describe your character on your worksheet.

The more you develop your character's biography -- or back story -- the more believable the character will be.

Imagine if you were to interview your character. What kinds of questions would you ask? What kinds of questions might you not ask? Write down your questions and see how your character begins to develop.

If you're stuck, look at the next page for some sample questions. You can also try changing these questions slightly and see how your character's reaction might say something different about his or her personality.

If you were interviewing your character, how would he or she answer the following questions?

  • What is the scariest thing in the world?
  • What is a secret you wouldn't want anyone to know?
  • Why do you believe that broccoli has magical powers?
  • What are you really good at?
  • Why do you always sign your mail with the letters "S.U.R."?
  • What are you really bad at?
  • What is something you wear that is important? How does it help you?
  • Who is your best friend? How did you meet?
  • Who is your arch enemy? How did this come to be?
  • What is your special power? When were you were afraid to use it?
  • What is a funny expression you like to say? What does it mean?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Why do dogs run away when they see you?
  • Have you ever wished you could be someone else? Who?
  • What is something you always forget?
  • Why are you unable to spell your own name?
  • What makes you nervous? How do you react when this happens?
  • Why are enchiladas your favorite food?
  • Who would you never want to be stuck in an elevator with?
  • What is something you think about all the time?
  • What is the biggest lie you ever told? To whom?
  • What is the best present you ever received?
  • If you could go anywhere, where would it be?
  • What one word would you use to describe yourself?
  • Why does your front tooth wiggle?
2. Challenges

Every great story involves a problem or challenge to be solved by the characters. An interesting challenge is what turns a boring list of everyday events into an interesting and exciting story for your readers. The challenge creates tension.

No matter how interesting your character and settings are -- you need an interesting problem to solve or your story will be B-O-R-I-N-G. For example:

  • Boring: "Captain Fantastico woke up one morning, got dressed, brushed his teeth and went to school."
  • Better: "Captain Fantastico woke up one morning, got dressed, and brushed his teeth. On his way to school, he realized he'd left his lunch money on the kitchen table. His stomach was already grumbling. How was he going to eat lunch?"
  • Awesome: "Captain Fantastico woke up one morning with a terrible headache and found that his arms had been tied into knots. No doubt this was the work of his arch enemy Dr. Futzengrapz. To make things worse, his lunch money had disappeared from kitchen table... again."

Challenges can be general or specific.

  • In Cinderella, the heroine has the general challenge of survival with her evil stepsisters, and then a very specific challenge of figuring out how she'll get to the Prince's dance.
  • In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker has a general challenge of escaping his boring life and then a specific challenge of finding Princes Leia. Then as soon as he's escaped with the Princess, he learns he has another specific challenge: Blow up the Death Star to save the rebel alliance.

Try coming up with a few challenges that your characters might struggle with, and write these down on your worksheet. If you need some ideas to get started, try asking some "What if...?" questions.

For example, what if your character...

  • discovers suddenly that vegetables can talk.
  • all the water in the ocean has disappeared.
  • finds that all clocks have stopped.
  • discovers a tree that grows money.
  • has something stuck up their nose and can't get it out
  • best friend is wearing a really embarrassing hat, but nobody will say anything
  • ate way too much for lunch and now cannot get off the couch.
  • has to fly to Paris, but is freaked out about getting on a plane.
  • is convinced that the manhole cover in front of the supermarket is a teleporter.
  • discovers a phone that can call every person in the world at the same time.
  • is given the power to become an animal for one day.
  • wakes up and can magically speak fluent German
  • gets stuck on a deserted island with only a knife, a book and a box of matches.
  • friend gets very sick, and must find the only cure -- the root of a magic jungle plant.
  • finds a time-machine with three 'time-jumps' left in it.
  • must give a speech to the citizens of _____ about the importance of honesty.
  • wakes up to find him/herself floating on a boat in the middle of the ocean
  • finds a cave in the backyard that leads to an ancient Mayan ruin.
  • learns that walking a certain way on the sidewalk can bend time.
  • is invited to tea with the Queen of England but loses the invitation.
  • is walking down a city street and sees a tiger on the loose.
  • is at the mall and sees ______ stealing a pair of sunglasses from a store.
  • opens an old library book to discover a treasure map.
  • receives a mysterious message claiming that stop signs are actually sleeping aliens that will soon wake up to begin an invasion of earth.
  • invents a machine that turns clouds into cotton candy
  • meets a gnome in the forest that can talk with trees and rocks.
  • brand new cell phone falls into the toilet.
  • gets in a huge argument with _____ over which pizza toppings they should order.
  • discovers that a great uncle has left $10,000 in his will, on one condition:
  • finds a light switch that turns out all the lights in the world.
  • accidentally receives an ancient coin from a vending machine. Rubbing it sends your character back in time.
  • discovers that certain parts of the Yellow Pages contain magic spells.
  • comes home and realizes that everything in the house has been replaced with an exact copy of the original.
  • finds a sinister message scrawled on the border of a $1 bill.
  • discovers that the most valuable _______ from his vast collection is missing
  • believes that his dentist is actually a foreign spy.
  • finds a strange pair of shoes beneath the tree in the field.
  • tries to write a birthday poem for ______ that includes the word 'orange".
  • draws a picture that is mistakenly sold at auction for $1,000,000.
  • discovers that the neighborhood bully is extremely scared of _______
  • wakes up to find s/he can no longer talk normally, but can only sing in a loud voice.
  • accepts a dare to spend a night in a haunted house.
  • goes searching around the world to learn why donuts have holes.
  • finds a dark tunnel under the kitchen sink that leads to a world of white infinity.
  • gets lost in the desert with only a shovel and an ice cream cone.
  • dares someone to eat an entire plate of sushi
  • is asked to rescue the Golden Phoenix statue from a hideous blob monster.
  • gets lost in the jungle trying to find an Aztec ruin.
3. Motivation

Your character needs motivation to solve the problem. Why must your character confront this challenge? What is the outcome your character hopes for?

Sometimes this is obvious, sometimes not. For example, if your main character is a fox, and his challenge is to help some chickens get across the river, the reader needs to understand why the fox wouldn't just eat the chickens instead, since that's how a fox would naturally behave. Perhaps the chickens have promised the fox something in return for helping them? Or maybe the fox is afraid that the farmer will catch him if he eats the chickens.

Making your characters act against their nature can build great tension, but it has to be believable to your reader. Here are some ideas that might motivate your character:

Perhaps your character...

  • is bored with life on the farm.
  • doesn't want parents to discover _____.
  • doesn't want to be picked on anymore
  • needs medicine to cure an illness
  • wants someone to like him/her
  • wants to sleep really badly
  • is stuck living with a dreadful aunt
  • wants to protect the magic spell book
  • can't stand injustice
  • wants to know more about...
  • doesn't like chicken.
  • is in love with the monster
  • wants to eat candy
  • wants to be famous
  • likes sapphires
  • is super hungry
  • is tired of the rain
  • wants to destroy the planet
  • just wants to be happy
  • feels like something is missing
4. Setting

Your story needs a setting. Where and when does this story take place?

  • Is the setting important to the story? If not, don't spend too much time on it. For example, if the story is about two rocks in a shoe box, you probably don't need to spend a great deal of time describing the box, since your reader can easily imagine what that looks like.
  • If the setting is important, you want to show the reader what it would be like. For example, if you're setting your scene in the back alleys of Paris in July of 1777, you should help the reader understand what this would be like (hint: hot, stinky, dangerous).
  • Sometimes the setting is so important that it resembles another character in your story. For example, in a story about a penguin trying to cross Antarctica, the bird might encounter 'angry winds' and 'desperate loneliness' of never-ending nights. In other words, the reader would sense that the setting itself has emotions just like the characters.

Here are some different ideas for settings:

  • The palm of your hand
  • The lake at the city park
  • An enchanted swamp
  • The top of the Empire State Building
  • The crypt of the Pharaoh Scorpiones
  • Deep space
  • An underground ant hive
  • The Sea of Tranquility
  • The school playground
  • Ed's Fortress of Doom
  • Your backyard
  • The refrigerator
  • The ice planet Krasternok
  • A table top
  • Albatross Island
  • The secret lair of Dr. Fugenzatz
  • Inside a rainbow
  • A haunted house
  • Pookaberry Junction
  • Ancient Greece
5. Obstacles

So now you have your character, the setting, and the problem, and the motivation to solve that problem. These parts are usually told in the first section of your story, sometimes in just a few pages. Until the climax, the rest of your story is detailing the obstacles - the things that get in your character's way. This will make up most of the pages in your story.

Imagine the following:

  • Character: Mouse
  • Setting: House
  • Problem: Find Cheese
  • Motivation: Hungry

It's simple and boring. But what happens when you add obstacles?

  • Obstacles: Giant Mouse Trap, Three-legged Cat, Turbo Vacuum

Now it's getting interesting! Obstacles create tension and make the story fun for your reader.

Obstacles often come in sets of three. Try including at least this many in your story to start. For example:

  • Using our Star Wars example again, Luke has three main obstacles:
    • Find Ben Kenobi and figure out what R2D2 is squawking about.
    • Rescue the Princess from the Darth Vader.
    • Blow up the Death Star and save the Rebels.
  • In the final scenes of Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, to gain access to the cave of the Holy Grail, Indy must:
    • Kneel at the entrance of the cave so he doesn't get sliced in half.
    • Step on the correct letters to spell "the name of God" so that he doesn't fall into a bottomless pit.
    • Take a leap of faith onto the invisible bridge that crosses a chasm to the cave.

Did you notice that both of these examples use 3 obstacles? This is a nice number that allows your story to develop, but also keeps the reader interested. Try using 3 for your story idea, and then add more if you think you need them.

Also, remember the character flaws that made the Challenge more interesting? Your character should be transforming as the story progresses, getting a bit stronger, braver, luckier, smarter, etc. By the end of the story, the reader should feel that the character has grown or changed into a better person. Obstacles present your character with a chance to grow.

Here are just a few different ideas from which you can create obstacles. What happens if your character...?

  • gets a hand stuck in a jar?
  • gets amnesia?
  • gets locked in a closet?
  • gets stuck in a tree?
  • loses all the money?
  • is double-crossed?
  • falls into a well?
  • gets chased into a cave?
  • runs out of time?
  • can't swim?
  • runs out of batteries?
  • gets lost in a maze?
  • is too cold to move?
  • steps on a gnome?
  • sneezes loudly?
  • must climb Mt. Terror?
  • is chased by a giant eyeball monster?
  • encounters a slippery banana peel?
  • hands are stained blue?
  • horse runs away?
  • slips on the ice?
  • must eat sushi?
  • there's no electricity?
  • can't turn off alarm clock?
  • does not like eggplant lasagna?
  • drops cell phone in the toilet?
  • can not find x-ray goggles?
  • parachute has a hole in it?
  • falls in a river?
  • rips a big hole in pants?
  • crab pinches toe and won't let go?
  • awakens a giant?
  • is questioned by the police?
  • spills hot coffee?
  • breaks a tooth?
  • is harassed by birds?
  • has song stuck in head?
  • eats the last power biscuit?
  • can't wake up?
  • gets a speeding ticket?
6. Climax

After getting past the last obstacle, your character finally reaches the climax of the story. The tension you have been building in your story is released.

The climax is the point at which your characters also confront their own weaknesses. If they are naturally timid, then they may become very courageous at the climax. If they tend to lie, then they will need to tell an important truth. The climax of the story is the proof that your character has really transformed.

The climax is also a great time to reveal an unexpected twist in your story. Just make sure it's believable. If a giant bird suddenly swoops out of nowhere to carry away your villain, your ending will suffer. The best endings often have predictable results, but are achieved in an unpredictable way.

For example, you may remember that in the climax of The Incredibles, the family battles with the evil character Syndrome. Though the Incredibles all have super powers, it is Syndrome's own cape that does him in. Earlier in the story, we learn that Mr. Incredible's costume designer refuses to use capes because they are too dangerous. So, while the ending is unpredictable, it's satisfying because we were introduced to the idea of capes long before the climax. It also reinforces the dangers of vanity - a theme that is repeated throughout the story, and a weakness that gets Mr. Incredible into trouble in the first place.

The climax generally follows one of these patterns:

  • Realization: Your character has put together the clues in the story and has figured out what happened. This type of climax works well for mysteries.
  • Resolution: Your character is up against the very last obstacle and -- through the confrontation -- a transformation takes place. (The Incredibles example above fits this pattern.)
  • Choice: The character is faced with making a difficult decision. Should he capture the villain or escape with the gold? Should he tell the truth and face the consequences or lie and escape unharmed?

If you want to test whether your climax is successful, read your story aloud to a friend, and then stop just before the resolution and put the story down. If they demand to hear the ending, you have a good story!

7. Closing

You're almost there! Finally, your story needs an ending. After the climax, there are usually some loose ends to tie up. Here are some questions you might try to answer:

  • Has everything been resolved? Is it clear what will happen to your important characters after the story ends? For example, do they live happily ever after?
  • How does your main character feel about the result?
  • How have your characters transformed? Here are some examples:
    • The Dr. Seuss's greedy Grinch becomes generous and loving when he realizes there's more to Christmas than just presents.
    • In the final scenes of Pinocchio, the puppet transforms physically into a boy, while his character also makes the final transformation from being a liar, and into someone that is trustworthy and brave.
    • Across all seven of the Harry Potter books, we see Harry, Hermione and Ron grow-up -- from small children into young adults. In each book, they learn life lessons about trust, honesty and friendship.

You should also think about a theme for your story. Is there a message or special point? Stories are often more interesting and memorable if we learn something from them. Because the theme depends heavily on the outcome of the story, it's usually much easier to decide on a theme after you've completed the 7 steps, and then go back and work the theme into the other parts of your story.

Here is a list of themes you might try to include in your story:

  • good vs. evil
  • the importance of friendship
  • the problems with selfishness
  • the rewards of sharing
  • the danger of revenge
  • the consequences of bullying
  • the importance of honesty
  • achieving one's goals
  • respecting authority
  • travelling and journeys
  • following the rules
  • peer pressure
  • the value of taking risks
  • man vs. nature
  • man vs. machine

Another way to work on including a theme is to consider proverbs and their meanings. Proverbs can be helpful because they communicate important life lessons and themes very concisely. Here's a short list:

  • The grass is always greener.
  • Look before you leap.
  • A stitch in time saves nine.
  • If it's not broken, don't fix it.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
  • The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.
  • Many hands make light work.
  • Barking dogs seldom bite.
  • It's darkest just before the dawn.
  • Don't cross a bridge until you come to it.
  • Don't burn your bridges.
  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • Don't change horses mid-stream.
  • All good things must come to an end.
  • Don't judge a book by its cover.
  • Don't cut of your nose to spite your face.
  • Rome was not built in a day.
  • Birds of a feather flock together.

Do any of these sound like a theme in your story?

Next Steps

Now it's time to start writing. If you've filled out the worksheet (download here), congratulations! You already have your entire story line (or story arc) ready to go!



to use a lesson plan with your class
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