Many students are terrified by the thought of writing one paragraph, let alone an entire short story. This lesson offers a pressure-free and fun introduction to the elements of short story writing (introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution).
I use it with my freshmen and sophomores, but it can be applied for any grade/level between 7-12. The finished products are absolutely amazing! I use them as the basis for additional lessons on grammar, theme, setting, tone, perspective, and characterization.
With this lesson, students will create a short story chain. They will each write for five minutes on a selected topic. When time is called, they will stop writing no matter where they are (yes, even if it is mid-sentence!) and pass their papers to the person behind them. (The person in the last seat of each row will pass their paper to the person in the first seat.)
This continues until all students have had a chance to write one element of a short story (Because of absences, some students might write twice.)
This activity takes place for 35 minutes with students switching papers every five minutes. (They have 1-2 minutes to read the developing story before they start writing).
As they are writing, tell them which part of the story they are responsible for (i.e., introduction, rising conflict/action, climax, conclusion).
1. Before class begins, you will need to create 5 or 6 story topics. I usually create a wide variety to choose from, such as: Aliens Invade Earth, Murder in the Mall, Stranded on a Desert Island, and Forbidden Love.
2. Have the first person from each row come up to your desk and choose a topic. What they choose is the topic the entire row will be writing on. I usually have my sheets folded so they have no idea what they will be getting.
3. Explain to them the idea of a short story chain. There will be some confusion at first, but they will quickly catch on.
4. Introduction (5 minutes). Have every student write an introduction in the first five minutes.
5. Switch and Read (2 minutes). They switch papers and read what has developed so far.
6. Rising Action (5 minutes). Have every student add on to the story in front of them, being sure to create conflict/action.
7. Switch and Read (2 minutes).
8. Climax (5 minutes).
9. Switch and Read (2 minutes).
10. Falling Action (5 minutes).
11. Switch and Read (2 minutes).
12. Conclusion/Resolution (5 minutes).