Digital Age Teaching and Learning

5 Fun Ways to Teach Story Elements

5 Fun Ways to Teach Story Elements

No matter what set of standards you need to teach to, story elements are going to be part of it.  Here are five fun ways to teach five different story elements for you to put to use today.


Kids love watching movies, but most teachers know that spending an entire class on a film rarely ends up being a productive use of time.  But when you use short films, things fall more easily into place.

Using short films is an excellent way to reach out to various learning styles while still hitting on all the elements of plot that you would study in a story.  It also helps to ensure that the students will recognize elements of plot across various mediums.

A good resource to start with is this Pixar Short Films Study.  Even older students love Pixar, which means it is a great way to generate interest in the topic.  It hits on all the elements of plot that you need to teach to meet standard, and does it in a way that everyone will enjoy.


Theme is a pretty complex concept, so the key to making it both accessible and fun is to break in down into small chunks.  For this, start with picture books where there are no words to muddle the student’s thinking.  Students love getting the chance to guess about the story in picture books, and this really appeals to your visual learners.

From there, try working with short children’s books, even with older grades.  It tends to be easier for students to identify theme in short and simple literature, allowing you to graduate to more complex pieces.  Before you tackle anything larger, try looking at theme with short films, like the Pixar films in the study above, giving the students the ideal amount of scaffolding while having plenty of fun.


Before you get into looking at characterization with books, try having your students work with it for themselves or their friends.  While they might struggle if they jump right into characterization with stories or novels, it is much easier to think about their own character traits and those of their friends.  This post from Scholastic has a great idea for a characterization art project using Wordle that makes for an excellent introduction.


When it comes to setting, never miss the opportunity to teach it and sensory details simultaneously.  The two are deeply intertwined, and teaching them together makes it easier for students to make connections.

Kids love getting out of their classrooms, so help teach setting by going on sensory detail walks.  Have them write down what they are experiencing that appeals to their senses.  And if a sensory walk outside the classroom is out of the question, create sensory stations inside your room.


The best way to teach perspective is to compare stories written from at least two different perspectives.  Now, this isn’t easy, because there aren’t all that many stories written that way.  However, options such as the classic fairy-tale Cinderella and modern twists on it, like Seriously, Cinderella is So Annoying! allow you to accomplish this with ease.  This also helps you get into lessons regarding conflicts in real life, which always helps to draw kids in.

Do you have some fun ways to teach story elements?  Share them with us!