What do students need to include when writing a short story?

short story writing
Nicole at Apple Tree Resources
What do students need to include when writing a short story?

To help our students write a successful short story, we first need to teach them what core elements to include! Otherwise, our students just blindly create a story hoping it meets our expectations. To demystify the process it's up to us to provide a clear framework that guides our students through the writing process. In this episode, I share the five core elements that students need to include when writing a short story.

Be sure to join me!



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Hey there, fellow educators! Welcome back to another exciting episode of "Let's Chat Teaching," your go-to resource for all things teaching in the fifth through eighth grade classroom. I'm Nicole Sanders, your host, and today, we're diving into the world of creative writing. Specifically, we'll explore the five essential elements that every student should include when crafting their own short stories.

When we ask our students to write short stories, it's crucial that we set them up for success. To achieve this, we need to provide them with a clear framework and show them the key elements that make a well-written short story. This approach demystifies the writing process and empowers students to create captivating narratives.

I can relate to the confusion that students often feel when asked to write a short story. I remember my own experiences as a student where I felt like I was wandering in the dark without a clear path. The writing process seemed shrouded in mystery, with no notes or guidelines to follow. As educators, our goal is to ensure that our students are not left in the dark but instead have all the lights on, making them feel confident and capable of producing successful stories.

By teaching students the foundational elements of storytelling, we not only guide them to create great short stories but also deepen their understanding of story structure and literary elements. It's a win-win situation.


The Five Must-Have Elements


Let's jump into the five basic elements that every student should include when writing a short story. These elements are not universally agreed upon, and there are variations, but for the sake of simplicity, we'll stick to the core five.


1. Plot: Plot is the backbone of a story, the series of events that drive the narrative forward. It includes the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. To help students understand plot structure, we often use a plot mountain as a visual aid. It's a crucial element because it provides the structure for the story, allowing all other elements to develop within its framework.


2. Setting: A well-developed setting engages the reader's senses and helps them immerse themselves in the story world. It includes descriptions of what things look, feel, smell, and sound like, creating a vivid mental picture for the reader. Setting encompasses not only the physical location but also the time period, season, and time of day, all of which influence the story's atmosphere.


3. Characters: Characters are the heart of any story. There are three primary character types to consider: the protagonist (the main character), the antagonist (the character causing the most conflict for the protagonist), and foils (characters providing a contrast to the protagonist but not necessarily the antagonists). Using these character types, students can create rich, dynamic characters that drive the story forward.


4. Conflict: Conflict is what makes a story interesting. There are four main types of conflict: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, and man vs. self. By choosing an overarching conflict, students can maintain clarity and coherence in their storytelling. A strong conflict theme keeps the story on track and ensures that the reader remains engaged.


5. Point of View: The point of view (POV) in a story tells the reader who is narrating the story and to whom. There are three primary points of view: first person, second person, and third person. Third person can be further divided into limited and omniscient. It's essential to maintain a clear and consistent POV throughout the story to keep it coherent and easily understood.


To help your students grasp these elements, I've created some useful resources that you can use in your classroom:

  • Free Plot Mountain Activity: If you'd like to teach plot structure to your students using a plot mountain, you can get a free copy of the activity at www.appletreeresources.com/plotmountainactivity.

  • Free Point of View Information Page: To aid in teaching point of view, I've created an information page that you can share with your students. It explains each point of view type and its characteristics. You can access it for free at www.appletreeresources.com/pointofview.

When it comes to crafting compelling short stories, these five basic elements—plot, setting, characters, conflict, and point of view—provide a strong foundation for student writers. By teaching and reinforcing these elements, we can empower our students to create stories that are not only enjoyable to read but also deepen their understanding of storytelling and literary elements.

I hope you found this episode helpful and informative. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to get weekly updates. And if you have any questions or topics you'd like us to cover in future episodes, feel free to reach out.

Have a wonderful week,




Resources Mentioned:  

Click here for a Free Plot Mountain Activity                     


Click here for a Free Point of View Notes




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