Teaching Realistic Fiction – Genre Study That’s Proven with Kids

Teaching realistic fiction genre study? Take three steps. (1) Start with the elements. (2) Read short stories. This gets kids hooked! (3) Ask them to write their own narrative pieces.

Ms. Sneed Teaches Another Genre Study

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat in the teachers’ lounge with her grade level partner. “I have some ideas for our next genre study,” she said.

“If I recall, we’re teaching realistic fiction, right?” said Mr. Frank.

“Yes, and I found some great resources for it!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed.

Teaching Realistic Fiction Elements

“First,” she said, “we’ll explore the elements. Kids need to know what realistic fiction is. We can use this anchor chart to explain characters, setting, plot, and theme.” She pushed a paper across the table to her co-teacher.

Start your realistic fiction genre study with an anchor chart that explains the elements.
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Analyzing Short Realistic Fiction

“Next, the kiddos will read and analyze some short stories. This is my favorite step. Sharing and discussing let me enjoy teaching realistic fiction.

“We’ll use five passages to immerse students in the genre. They will also use graphic organizers to list story elements and answer comprehension questions. Since these stories were written especially for fourth and fifth grade students, they’ll also serve as great mentor texts for their writing.”

Ms. Sneed slid a page across the table. As you can see, these stories offer some high-interest topics:

  • “Field Day” (2 pages) – Mario and Priah’s class plan the annual field day for the last day of school. But then it rains. What will they do?
  • “The Giant Bone” (2 pages) – Jay and Sergio spot a large, gray bone at a construction site and snap a picture. Discovering that it’s from a mastodon, they work with a member of the historical society to preserve the bones.
  • “The Invitation” (2 pages) – Antoine hands out birthday invitations, but Simon doesn’t get one. Why didn’t his friend invite him to his party. In this story, kids explore misunderstandings between friends.
  • “Orienteering” (3 pages) – Kids at Camp Goodly participate in an orienteering challenge. The story follows Jana and Cicely as they navigate the course. Will they lose when they stop to help an injured camper?
  • “How to Train a Squirrel” (3 pages) – Inspired by a YouTube video, Delilah trains a squirrel to run a short obstacle course.
When teaching realistic fiction, include lots of age-appropriate short stories.

“They sure do,” said Mr. Frank. He chuckled. “After reading about the squirrel, I’ll bet a bunch of them will try it at home.”

Writing Realistic Fiction

Ms. Sneed smiled. “I thought about that when planning the next part of the genre study. You know how some kids struggle with what to write about? We could use the stories we read as springboards when teaching realistic fiction writing. For example, they could choose another animal to train.”

“That would be fun,” said Mr. Frank.

Next, Ms. Sneed pulled more pages from her bag. “Look at how this set of resources move kids through the writing process. First, they develop a situation. The main character must have a realistic problem or goal. Second, they create characters and a setting. Finally, our students will organize their narratives on a story arc. After that, it pretty much writes itself!”

When teaching a realistic fiction genre study, ask kids to write!

Shuffling the pages, she added, “After their drafts are written, students will make revisions. “First, they’ll improve sentences by varying beginnings, types, and lengths. Second, they’ll improve word choice. To make writing flow, they’ll add transitions.”

When kids finish writing, ask them to use proven strategies to improve.

Enjoy Teaching Realistic Fiction

“I can see that you’re really excited about this realistic fiction genre study,” said Mr. Frank. “It’s a thorough ELA unit – and the kids will love it.”

Ms. Sneed’s eyes twinkled. Yes, they’d love it – and she would too.

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