“The setting of a story--its location in time and place--helps readers share what the characters see, smell, hear, and touch, as well as makes the characters’ values, actions, and conflicts more understandable. Whether a story takes place in the past, present, or future, its overall credibility may depend on how well the plot, characterizations, and setting support one another.” (from Through the Eyes of a Child by Donna E. Norton, fourth edition)
Different types of literature have their own requirements as far as setting in concerned. When a story is set in an identifiable historical period or geographical location, details should be accurate. Plot and characters also should be consistent with what actually occurred or could have occurred at that time and place. Some settings are so well known that just a few words place readers immediately in the expected location, e.g. “Once upon a time”. In some books, setting is such an important part of the story that the characters and plot cannot be developed without understanding the time and place. In other stories the setting only serves as a backdrop.
The setting helps the reader understand the time and place of the story. There are several things the setting can do for a story:
Suggested Books with a Strong Element of Setting:
Hucke, Johannes and Muller, Danie. Pip in the Grand Hotel. New York: North South, 2009.
Levine, Ellen. Henry’s Freedom Box. New York: Scholastic Press, 2007.
Manushkin, Fran. The Shivers in the Fridge. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2006.
Stryer, Andrea Stenn. Kami and the Yaks. Palo Alto: Bay Otter Press, 2007.
DiCamillo, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2006.
McKissack, Patricia C. A Song for Harlem. New York: Viking, 2007.
Winter, Jonah. Steel Town. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008.
Wiviott, Meg. Benno and the Night of Broken Glass. Minneapolis: Kar-Ben Publishing, 2010.
Frost, Helen. Diamond Willow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Kahohata, Cynthia. Weedflower. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006.
Park, Linda Sue. A Long Walk to Water. New York: Clarion Books, 2010.
Roy, Jennifer. Yellow Star. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2006.
Identifying Elements of Setting - K-2 Students identify the setting of a story and its relationship with the story line.
Identifying Elements of Setting - 3-6 Students identify and compare changes in setting from the beginning to end of a story.
Kristi Harper and Connie McCain
This page was last updated on February 10, 2011.