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Elements of a Story: Language Arts - Grade 3

Grade 3

Lesson Objective: To understand the motives and responses of a character throughout the story. How do our known elements of Setting, Plot, Character, and Theme contribute to our main character's actions from the beginning of the story to the end of the story?

Common Core Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.3

Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

Materials: Character Driven grade-level reading short story of your choosing.


Ask: Have you ever faced a situation where you had a big reaction to something that happened to you? 

Allow for a short discussion.

Ask: What happened after you reacted that way? Were there consequences? Was there a reward?

Allow for a short discussion.

Say: Today, we will read a story about someone who had a reaction to something and what happened to them as a result. We will be learning about how and what they do affects their story.



Read Story aloud.

Say: Now that we know the whole story let's map it out together. Let's fill in the title bubble together. Can anyone tell me the title of our story and who the author is?

Fill in the center bubble together.

Say: That's great! Now, where does our story take place? Does it have more than one setting?

Allow for open discussion. Guide students to choose the most important settings if the story takes place over a series of locations. Once you have discussed the setting, fill in the bubble with the most critical settings.

Say: And who is our main character? Tell me a little bit about them.

Allow for students to name and describe the protagonist of their story. If the "problem" they face comes up in this discussion, fill that box in with student suggestions as well.

Say: Who are the other characters in our story? Tell me a little bit about them as well.

Allow for students to describe all important side characters.

Say: Now that we understand who our story is about and where our story takes place, what is the challenge or problem our main character faces?

Allow students to discuss the problem your character faced. Once you have the problem named and listed on the chart, discuss how your character felt about the problem. Ask how the characters' feelings play into how they face the problem.

Say: Why is our character facing this problem? What or who has created it?

Let students discuss how the setting or other characters at play contribute to a conflict or problem within the story.

Say: We can now see that everything around our character affected how they felt and responded to their problems. How did that response lead to what happened to our character? If our character had responded to their problem differently, would the story have ended differently?

Allow for free thought and discussion here. Talk about feelings and how when we react to situations around us, it can affect our stories as well. Fill in the chart with student responses about the resolution of the story.

Class Activity: 


Hang a large poster board on the center of your whiteboard. Title it in colorful marker "Our Story."

Say: "We are now going to tell our own story, about our own character! Does anyone have any suggestions about who our main character is going to be?"

Allow for raised hand suggestions. Once your class has reached an agreement about their character and their name, write that on the poster board.

Say: "Now that we know who we are telling the story about, let's decide where and when we'll set our story."

Again, allow for raised hand discussion. Allow for students to be as creative as they feel here.

Say: "Now that we have a character and a setting, what is our character going to face? Is there something wrong with where they are? Are they missing something they have lost?"

Once the class has agreed on the problem, your character faces, list the problem on the poster board as well. Leave space to discuss potential outcomes from different reactions.

Say: "How would you react if that happened to you? How would you feel? Why would you have felt that way? Was there something in the story that would have led to that feeling?"

Choose a student to address what their response would be in that situation. Again, allowing space for another reaction, write down the response on the board.

Say: "What do we think will happen to our character now? What consequences would they face by reacting that way?"

Once students have a short discussion, list the outcome of that story on the board.

Say: "Now, let's go back to the problem. How else could our character have responded at that moment?"

Choose a new student to put forth an idea about how they would have responded in that situation. Write their answer in the space you left blank.

Say: "Now that we have a new storyline, what would have happened differently to our character in this situation?"

Allow for students to discuss. Write a new ending to your story on the board.


Close your lesson by discussing how the actions in your original story and the story you read pushed the story along. Remind them that everything around the character affected the story's conclusion. Much like how everything around us contributes to our feelings, thoughts, and actions in our everyday lives. And how our reactions and responses push our own stories along every single day.


Written by Alynne White

Education World Contributor

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