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When A Story
Met A Sandwich

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  • Language Arts


  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

This simple activity drives home to students the importance of writing a complete story -- one that includes detail and substance.


Students will

  • participate in an activity that illustrates the importance of including all necessary elements in a piece of writing.
  • learn about some fundamentals of effective writing.


writing, writing process, detail, paragraph, character, setting, description, dialogue

Materials Needed

  • 2 slices of bread
  • peanut butter and jelly (or other sandwich ingredients)
  • appropriate utensils for the ingredients used
  • paper towels
  • a plate
  • overhead projector or chalk/white board

Lesson Plan

Are you frustrated with your students writing? Are they turning in stories that are sketchy, incomplete, or poorly thought-out? Use this simple activity to remind them about the need to plan their writing, to include strong details about characters and setting, to think about the sequence in which information should be presented, and more.

You are probably familiar with the activity in which making a sandwich is used as a lesson in writing explicit directions and focusing on detail. In this lesson, I took the idea of those lessons and changed the focus to one that examines the basic elements of the writing process.

In this activity, a sandwich serves as a vivid metaphor for good, thoughtful writing. This is an activity you might repeat from time to time -- whenever students need a reminder to take more care with their writing.

Step 1:
Place two slices of bread on a table in plain view of all students. In a slightly exaggerated way, observe the bread while talking casually with the kids at the beginning of the class. Take a bite of the bread as if it were a sandwich. Make awful faces to stress the fact that the "bread" sandwich tastes bland, dry, unexciting. Start a discussion about the structure of the sandwich and what it is missing. List students ideas on an overhead transparency or on the chalkboard. Students initial responses probably will focus on the obvious -- things like meat and mayonnaise and other ingredients that might improve the taste of the sandwich. Gradually steer students to focus on more general ideas about the structure by using such words as "filling" or "substance." List all student ideas.

Step 2:
Introduce a jar of peanut butter as one way to make the sandwich taste better. Spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread and pick up the slice with the peanut butter side facing the class. (You might have some fun here. Handle the slice as if it was a complete sandwich; get your hands sticky and messy to illustrate how messy and ineffective eating a sandwich like this can be.) Steer the discussion to the incomplete-ness of the sandwich and to what might be needed to make it complete. List students ideas.

Step 3:
Introduce a jar of jelly. Spread jelly on the other slice of bread and put the two pieces together, so students see a complete sandwich. Discuss the complete sandwich, its components, and why each element is necessary.

Step 4:
By now, students are wondering what you are up to. Introduce the idea that the sandwich lesson is really a lesson about writing. Review the steps, working in words and terms from the students lists, to drive home the point that the bread alone was pretty bland. Invite students to share their thoughts about how this little sandwich making activity serves as a metaphor for writing a solid story. Students might come up with such ideas as:

  • Like the sandwich, a story is incomplete without a good, solid beginning, a rich and rewarding middle, and an end that brings everything together.
  • By adding something to the bland slice of bread (details, descriptions, dialogue) you can create something a little more appetizing.
  • Adding one thing alone might not be enough (just as adding only peanut butter to the bread still left something to be desired). You might need to add jelly too to make the story complete.
  • More thoughtful ingredients, such as some twists and turns, a lesson or moral, or a surprise character help create a piece of writing of substance and high interest
  • Pull all the pieces together (by putting the slices together to form a sandwich) and do some careful editing to carefully craft a story of thoughtfulness and quality.

Let students run wild with the metaphor

Wrap-Up: After relating sandwich making to the writing process, introduce a new writing assignment.

This activity keeps students attentive and involved. It represents pain-free learning. (Students dont even know they're learning, but they will long remember the lessons they learned through this activity.)

Writing is a part of our daily lives and students do more writing than they realize. Yet when it comes to a story assignment, they have a tendency to freeze. By doing this lesson at the beginning of a writing project, students can think back to the sandwich to be reminded of the many elements they might include.


The story each student writes will provide the assessment and determine the success of the lesson. As students work on their writing, remind them of the elements discussed. When reviewing each student's story, focus on the beginning, middle, and ending elements and refer to each in terms of the parts of a sandwich.

Submitted By

P> Submitted by Kym Rodriguez, Kalles Jr. High in Puyallup, Washington

Originally published 01/30/2003
Last updated 06/16/2008

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