Our district has adopted a curriculum that studies genre. I assign this project while we are studying myths and legends. The focus of this assignment is having students develop a simple plot outline before they begin writing. Students in the intermediate grades can either struggle with coming up with an idea to write, or their stories go on for pages and pages without a paragraph break or a place to end them.
I find it helpful for both groups to give them an outline with the elements of the genre we are studying. I also find it helpful to give students a word limit of about 500-750 words for a general writing assignment. I show them stories that are about this long. I find that giving a target length helps all students to focus on what is important to their story. I emphasize that this is a short story, not a novel. Once they understand the elements of story, they can write longer pieces on their own. (I include writing stories as a choice on my “What Do I Do When I’m Done?” chart.)
I have included two original examples of stories that have the elements I expect to see in student stories. These can be used as mentor texts for students to analyze. You may have favorite stories to share in your own collection or from the library.
The writing process on page 3 is what I use in my class. No matter how many times I talk to my students about revising their work, I have students who ask me if it is okay to change their story while they write. Not only is it okay; I celebrate this. I know it is difficult for developing writers to change anything.
On pages 4- 5 you will find an assignment sheet, and a rubric for grading. I devote some class time to going over these documents, so students know what to expect.
I hope you enjoy this project with your students.