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Common Core Writing Lesson: Sugar Zombies Attack!


English Language Arts

  • Writing
  • Narratives
  • Text Types and Purposes
  • Critical Thinking




Brief Description

Students use critical thinking and creativity to form a complete story arc for a fictional narrative. Then they add dialogue and details to enhance the story.


Students will:

  • Use critical thinking and creativity to imagine how a fictional narrative unfolds.
  • Learn about and identify the parts of a story arc.
  • Organize events into a logical sequence.
  • Use dialogue, description and other effective techniques to advance a story plot.
  • Use temporal words (first, next, last, so, then, etc.) to signal event order.


Writing, creative, fiction, story, arc, plot, narrative, temporal, dialogue, details, critical thinking, Halloween, zombies

Materials Needed

  • Pencils or pens, highlighters, paper
  • For each student, a printable copy of the story Sugar Zombies Attack!
  • (If desired) For each small group of students: editable version of Sugar Zombies Attack! with paragraphs cut apart
  • (If desired) Student access to editable version of Sugar Zombies Attack! on computer, for story expansion and editing

Lesson Plan

1. Introduce Story Arcs and Other Elements

Introduce to students the concept of a story arc. Daily Writing Tips’ How to Structure a Story: The Eight Point Arc provides a helpful guide.

Here is a summary:

  1. Stasis:  This is the “everyday life” in which the story is set. “Business as usual” would best describe this part.
  2. Trigger:  Something beyond the control of the story’s hero(es) or heroine(s) happens to spark the story.
  3. The Quest:  The hero(es) or heroine(s) begin an adventure where they try to get things to go back like they were before the trigger.
  4. Surprise:  Obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble get in the way of the hero(es)’ or heroine(s)’ quest.
  5. Critical Choice:  Faced with a challenge, the hero(es) or heroine(s) make a decision to take a particular path.
  6. Climax:  This is the highest peak of tension in the story. Readers wonder: Did the hero(es) or heroine(s) make the right decision? Will the problem be solved?
  7. Reversal:  This is what happens as a result of the critical choice, and the hero(es) or heroine(s) are changed as a result.
  8. Resolution:  The story returns to a new stasis. The situation and the hero(es) or heroine(s) might be different, but the story has ended and there is now a “new normal.”

For a simpler model, use the 5-point story arc noted below:

  1. Exposition
  2. Rising Action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling Action
  5. Resolution

NOTE: The Rising Action portion of this structure would contain the Trigger, Quest, Surprise, and Critical Choice of the eight-point arc described above. The Falling Action would be the equivalent of the eight-point arc’s Reversal.

Explain to students that the arc helps give stories a logical sequence of events, where things happen in the right order, and one thing leads to the next.

Next, discuss with student the importance of the following story elements:

  • Temporal (time-related) words and phrases (first, next, last, so, then, etc.) that indicate the order in which things happen
  • Dialogue (see a related EducationWorld lesson here)
  • Details including characters’ actions, thoughts and feelings

Use the class’ favorite story books to point out these elements. Ask students for help in identifying them. How do these elements make for a better story?

2. Complete the Story Arc

Let students know that they’ll be reading a story that is missing one or more parts of its arc. It will be their job to identify what is missing.

After students read Sugar Zombies Attack!, have them map the story paragraphs onto either the 8-point or 5-point story arc. Have them label the parts of the arc on the story itself, perhaps also highlighting textual clues.

Alternate activity: Break students into small groups and give each group an editable copy of Sugar Zombies Attack! with the paragraphs cut apart into separate pieces. Have each group reassemble the paragraphs in the correct order, using the 8-point or 5-point story arc as a guide. Then ask them to label each paragraph according to the part of the arc it represents.

In terms of what parts of the arc are missing, suggested answers (there is no single correct answer) include:

8-Point Story Arc

Stasis:  Paragraph 1 (People eat too much sugar.)
Trigger:  Paragraph 2 (People turn into Sugar Zombies.)
Quest:  Paragraph 3 (The Goodbites decide to help and set out for Cavity City.)
Critical Choice:  Missing
Climax Missing
Reversal:  Paragraph 4 (Sugar Zombies turn back to normal people.)
Resolution:  Paragraph 5 (People maintain healthy eating habits.)

5-Point Story Arc

Exposition:  Paragraph 1
Rising Action:  Paragraphs 2-3
Falling Action:  Paragraph 4
Resolution:  Paragraph 5

While they could certainly point out where existing parts of the arc could be better developed (e.g., by adding a second paragraph to the existing Quest paragraph), students should realize that the middle portion(s) of the story is/are missing.

For example, what was Sam and Stacy’s idea, and how did they implement it in order to turn the Sugar Zombies back to normal? The possibilities are endless. For example, did they set up a bunch of candy on the far side of a huge lake of vegetable soup (nutritious smoothie, etc.), then set up a trick bridge, so that when the zombies tried to cross it to get to the candy, they fell into the "healthy" lake below, curing their brain rot through sudden vitamin intake?

3. Expand and Edit the Story

As a class, orally sketch out a Surprise, Critical Choice and Climax (or simply Climax, or whatever parts students indentified as underdeveloped or missing). Or, have students do this individually (on paper) by writing the missing paragraphs as homework.

Alternate activity: Provide an editable version of the story on computer. Students type whatever material they feel is necessary to give the story a complete, logical arc. (Kids can work either in groups or individually.)

Take things a step further by having kids add temporal (time-related) words and phrases (first, next, last, so, then, etc.) that indicate the order in which things happen. Also, since the story contains hardly any dialogue (see a related EducationWorld lesson here), students can add in characters’ lines as needed. Finally, help students identify where details can be added to better communicate characters’ actions, thoughts and feelings.

If desired, publish completed student stories online.



Assess student writing with a grade-appropriate Common Core-aligned rubric for narrative writing.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted by

Celine Provini

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
--Grade 3
---Text Types and Purposes

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3  Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3a  Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3b  Use dialogue and descriptions of actions, thoughts, and feelings to develop experiences and events or show the response of characters to situations.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3c  Use temporal words and phrases to signal event order.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.3d  Provide a sense of closure.


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Last updated: 9/30/2016