How to Write a Short Story
This lesson plan is a great way to engage pupils aged 7-11 with our short story writing activity, whilst encouraging imagination and expression as well as planning their work too.
Use language to imagine and recreate roles and experiences
To develop character through description, action and dialogue
Learn and understand the structure of a story using interactive resources
Use knowledge to plan, draft and compose their own story for our Let’s Get Writing competition
Photocopy pupil entry form and pupil planning sheet (one copy per pupil).
Prepare the interactive slide show for use during the lesson (can be downloaded at: www.youngwriters.co.uk/primary-school-competitions.php)
En1 2c, 8a, 9a, 10b, EN2 4c, EN3 1a, 1e, 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 2e, 2f
The idea of this lesson plan is to teach pupils about the structure of a story and how to compose their own. This lesson plan encourages and promotes creativity, imagination and expression. Hand out a copy of the planning sheet / entry form to each pupil. Explain that today pupils will be writing their own story (slide 1).
Ask your pupils to tell you their favourite stories. Pick one of their suggestions (or use slide 11) and write this on the board. Ask pupils to tell you in as few words as possible what happens in the story – explain this is the plot, a summary of what the story is about. Now explain the setting is where the story happens, characters are who the story is about and events move the story along. Ask pupils to identify the setting, characters and key events used in the story you have chosen. Now ask pupils to identify the beginning (exposition), the middle (climax) and the end (conclusion) of your story example.
Briefly discuss genres; ask pupils to suggest any genres they know of (sci-fi, mystery, romance, adventure, fairy tale, ghost, western etc) and ask them to think about what kind of story they are going to write.
Hand out the planning sheet to each pupil. Explain that next they will be discussing ideas as a class for their individual stories.
Firstly, show slide 3 (Setting Ideas) – Ask pupils to suggest additional settings. Discuss adjectives they could use to describe the settings and how important the description is to setting the scene in the readers’ mind. For example, a forest in the sunshine and a forest in the dark might be the same place, but the setting is very different depending on the time of day / the season / the weather. Ask pupils to note their setting choice on their planning sheet.
Now show Slide 4 (Character Ideas) – Ask pupils to suggest their own characters. These can be real or imaginary. Ask pupils to think about what characters they’d like to use in their story – what are these characters like, friendly - bad, mysterious? Where are they from? What are they dressed like? How do they speak? What do they do? What could they be called? (Some writers use names that describe their characters, e.g. Mrs Moody.) What is their purpose in their story? Ensure pupils consider the last question – some stories can become confusing with too many characters and dialogue that doesn’t move the story along. Ask pupils to note their character ideas on their planning sheet.
Now show Slide 5 (Exposition – Beginnings) – Read out (or ask pupils to) the 3 ways to start a story. Discuss how the same story has been started using the different techniques. Which technique do the pupils prefer to start their story? Ask pupils to write ‘Action’, ‘Dialogue’ or ‘Description’ in the ‘At the beginning’ section of their planning sheet.
Now show Slide 6 (Event Ideas – Rising Action) – Ask pupils to suggest additional events. Now pupils need to decide what happens next? What event happens to make the story move along? Does the setting change? Does the event change how the characters act or speak or how they feel? Suggest to pupils they build in excitement, mystery, suspense or tension into this section to engage the readers’ interest and that they can do this by using dialogue, action or descriptive writing. Ask pupils to make notes in the ‘At the beginning’ section of their planning sheet.
Now show Slide 7 (Conflict) – What could happen in the story to cause a problem or dilemma? – Ask pupils for their suggestions. Ask them to write their conflict idea in the ‘At the beginning’ section of their planning sheet.
Now show Slide 8 (Middle – Climax) – Explain this is the peak of the story where the conflict has happened and the reader is on the edge of their seat wanting to know what will happen next! For example danger could be imminent, or someone may have just disappeared ... Ask pupils to make notes in the ‘In the middle’ section of their planning sheet.
Now show Slide 9 (Falling Action) – Explain that pupils now need to think about how the conflict will be solved. Pick an example from earlier that pupils suggested for conflict (or use one of ours) and ask them how they’d solve the problem? E.g. If something had been stolen, what would they do? Would they get it back? How? Ask pupils if they have any examples they can suggest. Ask pupils to make notes in the ‘In the middle’ section of their planning sheet.
Now show Slide 10 (Conclusion) – Explain this is the ending of the story. The conflict needs to be have been solved, all loose ends tied up and the reader should understand how the story ends and have enjoyed it! Was it all a dream? Did they live happily ever after? Were they ever seen again? Ask pupils whether they will end their story with the way it opened (action, description or dialogue) or opt for a different style to close their story. Ask pupils to make notes in the ‘At the end’ section of their planning sheet.
Finally, ask your pupils to think of a title and write this on the reverse of their planning sheet.
Your pupils will now have a completed planning sheet with all the required elements to write their own story.
Now pupils have completed their planning sheet they are ready to get writing their own story. Remind pupils to re-read over their story once written and to check it makes sense. This is their opportunity to re-draft their work. Their final story can be written up neatly on to the Let’s Get Writing entry form.
Select a few stories, and then ask different children (not the authors) to read out the opening paragraph to the rest of the class. Peers are to feedback something they like about the story and something they think could be improved.
Challenge more advanced pupils by asking them to include dialogue and to write their story in either first or third person.
Prepare an adverb sheet and an adjective sheet for the class to assist with vocabulary variety in their writing.
Younger or less able children can work in pairs to compose their story, and be given a setting, character, event etc to assist them with their story-telling. Or narrate their story to an adult scribe.
Ask pupils to practise reading their story and then ask them to read it out to the rest of the class.
To extend the activity, ask pupils to research stories and authors who have written stories in the same genre as theirs.
To extend the activity, ask pupils to illustrate their story.
This activity may take up to 1 hour 10 minutes. Alternatively, the introductory work can be done in class (40 minutes) and the story can be written as homework.
Plot summary: Good triumphs over evil.
Setting: Stepmother’s house and garden. The prince’s palace.
Characters: Cinderella, Stepmother, Stepsisters, Fairy Godmother, Prince.
Beginning (Exposition): Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters treat her like a slave. She is very unhappy.
Middle (Climax): The fairy godmother sends Cinderella to the ball, but she must be back before midnight as the magic runs out then.
End (Conclusion): The glass slipper fits Cinderella and she marries the Prince. They live happily ever after.