ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.
Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.
Teacher Resources by Grade
|1st - 2nd||3rd - 4th|
|5th - 6th||7th - 8th|
|9th - 10th||11th - 12th|
Exploring Setting: Constructing Character, Point of View, Atmosphere, and Theme
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Five 50-minute sessions|
Typical lists of literary elements include the concept of setting somewhere near the end, subordinate to the more central concepts of character, plot, conflict, and theme. Though many texts do not rely heavily on setting for meaning, students need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to read for setting, especially as it relates to the construction of other elements of a short story or novel. After an in-depth discussion of how setting works at different levels, they read, discuss, and compare and contrast elements of setting in Stuart Dybek’s "Blight," Dickens' Great Expectations, the lyrics for "The Town Is Lit," from Toni Morrison, and Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." Finally, students sketch the two settings for "The Cask of Amontillado," before a closing discussion in which students reflect on the ways they have seeing setting function in all four texts.
Calling attention to the crucial interplay between reader and text, Brian Moon and Bronwyn Mellor note that "character and other narrative elements [including setting] are highly selective constructions" that readers need to interpret actively (86). Moon and Mellor stress that the life-like appearance of some fiction is just that-an appearance. An author creates a fictional world from the blank page, and students need instruction, modeling, and applied practice in "analyzing and explaining how texts construct character (and other narrative elements), and with what effect" (86). Examining the language an author uses to create a setting not only allows students to situate themselves in the world of the text but also facilitates a study of the way setting constructs many other elements in the narrative as well.
Moon, Brian, and Bronwyn Mellor. 2001. "Writing about Character and Setting." Writing Critical Essays: A Practical Guide. Perth, Western Australia: Chalkface Press.
Lesesne, Teri. "Finding the Thread: Character, Setting, and Theme." Voices from the Middle 8.1 (September 2000):78-84.