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Grab a Story


Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts



Brief Description

Grab a setting, character, event, and thing -- then write a unique story.


Students will

  • pick random slips of paper from bags labeled Setting, Main Character, Event, and Thing.
  • write a story employing the randomly drawn setting, character, event, and thing slips.
  • evaluate classmates stories. Who did the best job of working those randomly drawn story elements into a cohesive story?


setting, place, character, event, story, evaluate

Materials Needed

  • four containers (paper lunch bags or coffee cans will work well)
  • four sets of 30 slips: Setting, Main Character, Event, and Thing. (master list provided)

Lesson Plan

This activity will result in some fun stories written by students!

The chart below includes 30 Settings, Main Characters, Events, and Things. Print out the chart and cut into four columns/strips (one strip of Settings, one of Characters, one of Events, and one of Things). Then

  • cut the Setting strip into 30 slips, each slip with a different Setting on it. Place the Setting slips into a bag or can.
  • cut the Main Character strip into 30 slips, each slip with a different Main Character on it. Place the Main Character slips into a second bag or can.
  • cut the Event strip into 30 slips, each slip with a different Event on it. Place the Event slips into a third bag or can.
  • cut the Things strip into 30 slips, each slip with a different Thing on it. Place the Thing slips into a fourth bag or can.
If you teach younger students you might use just three strips for this activity -- the Setting, Main Character, and Event strips. The fourth strip Thing -- is intended to complicate things by throwing another element (perhaps a plot twist) into the mix.

Explain to students that the chances are very good that the slips they selected at random from the bags/cans are truly odd combinations. Their job, however, is to try to weave those unusual story elements together into a story that makes sense and has a thoughtful beginning, middle, and end. Not an easy task!

List of Story/Plot Elements
Cut this list into four columns/strips. Then cut each column/strip into 30 slips and place each strips slips into a different bag or can. Students will randomly select one slip from each of the four bags/cans labeled Setting, Main Character, Event, and Thing.

Setting Main Character     Include This Event Include This Thing
7-11 accountant a big decision a $10,000 reward
airport actor or actress a manicure a big sneeze
amusement park archeologist a new discovery a riddle
antique store architect airplane crash ATM machine
arcade author ambulance ride bucket of paint
bank auto mechanic an apology cactus
beauty parlor carpenter an argument cement truck
cemetery dancer bank robbery chewing gum
computer store doctor beauty contest diamond ring
cruise ship electrician big race dictionary
day care center farmer big test glue
delicatessen governor blizzard hand grenade
farm grandfather brain surgery harmonica
fast food restaurant librarian broken ankle helicopter
grocery store magician childs first haircut hot-air balloon
hospital mailman computer crash lasagna
hotel minister earthquake leaky pipe
jail musician fire lipstick
junkyard news reporter fishing trip lottery ticket
library nurse flood mosquito bite
museum photographer hockey game moustache
parking garage pilot hurricane pajamas
pet store plumber lost key perfume
principals office policeman Oscar-winning performance  pizza
repair shop politician prisoner on the loose shampoo
retirement home priest surprise birthday party stomach ache
shoe store professor toothache stopwatch
shopping mall shoemaker tornado swarm of bees
state capitol building  soldier traffic jam umbrella
taxicab waitress trip to the gym vacuum cleaner


You might let students know in advance that they will share their completed stories with their classmates. Their classmates will be responsible for choosing the best stories. For example, they might choose

  • the student whose story best employs the four elements in a cohesive story that makes sense.
  • the story that is most humorous.
  • the story that is most creative.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

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