Why Does the Setting Matter? & TWO Freebies!

After this past week, my kiddos could certainly answer that question with a big YES! This week we learned what the setting is, what makes up a setting, and why on earth it matters so much! My kiddos rocked it, so I’m here to share what we did.

I know that spending an entire week on setting might seem like a lot, but I really want my students to understand (as a reader and a writer) that every aspect of the story matters, so we’ve spent a week on character (here and here), a week on setting, and will be spending a week on problem and solution, and a week on plot before we move into the all important category of non-fiction texts for a while.

You all know I love a good anchor chart! Here’s the one I created for setting.

Setting Anchor Chart

When I taught 1st grade, we said setting was the time and place. Well, in second I knew I had to step it up a notch, so we defined setting as the time, place, and environment. Time is when the story happens. Place is where the story happens. Environment is what the place is like.

We read a different book everyday with a well developed setting, and then charted the setting together.

Here are the books we read.

Owl Moon

This is a GREAT book for teaching setting because of the beautiful descriptive language.

My Little Island

Another great book for setting as it describes a unique, tropical island.

Cactus Hotel

This book details the life of a cactus in a hot, harsh, dry desert. Not only is it great for setting, but students were amazed to learn how long a cactus takes to grow. At the end of the story (spoiler alert) the cactus falls over and dies and lizards and other small animals use it as a home. One of my students said “Aw, that’s sad that it died!” and another said, “Yeah, but at least it’s still useful!” Such smarties!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

This book is a classic and is SUCH a fun way to teach setting.

The Moon Ring

This is a great book to show how setting can change throughout a story.

Everyday, after we read, we discuss the setting and charted the time, place, and environment of each story on a chart.

Setting Chart It

When we read Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I gave my class clip boards and this graphic organizer.

(Click on the picture to download it for free.)

Comparing Settings Freebie

It’s nothing fancy, but it did the trick! They LOVED comparing where they lived to Chewandswallow. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of their awesome work.

When we read The Moon Ring on Friday, we didn’t chart the setting since there were a bunch, but rather we discussed each setting and how the setting can change.

At the end of my lesson on Friday, I simply asked my students why setting matters.

Here are their responses:

“It matters because it changes what will happen in the story. Like if it’s cold and snowy something different will happen than if it was hot and sunny.”

“Characters react (he really used the word react) to what the setting is like.”

“The setting and the characters need to fit and make sense together.”

It was one of those “YES, they get it!” teacher moments!

I then sent my lovelies off to pick a fiction book from their book boxes, and they completed this graphic organizer.

(Click on the picture to download it for free.)

Setting Graphic Organizer

So that’s how we learned about setting! How do you like to teach setting?

Primary Paradise Signature

Primary Paradise

Primary Paradise

I have always had a passion for teaching and sharing with others and look forward to sharing my ideas with you!


  • Susan
    October 6, 2013 8:07 am

    Great post. I did notice, however, in your anchor chart that you need the word “affects,” not ‘effects.’ Thought you’d want to know.

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      October 6, 2013 8:10 am

      Darn! How did I miss that! Thanks for the heads up!

  • Evelyn
    October 6, 2013 9:09 am


  • Dema Blood
    October 6, 2013 10:42 am

    I love this; getting kiddos to understand the concept is hard and you have made it easier. Thank You

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      October 6, 2013 1:30 pm

      Thanks Dema! I am so happy to help 🙂

  • Sara J
    October 6, 2013 1:39 pm

    I love reading your blog every weekend. So many of the things you teach could have been taken directly out of my second grade class. It makes me miss my 2nd graders! I spent a week on setting too including time, place and environment. We even read some of the same books. We also used Thundercake, Pinkie Leaves Home (change in setting) and When I was Young in the Mountains (comparing settings.) I’ve never heard of Cactus Hotel or The Moon Ring. I’ll have to look those up. Thanks for giving me something to look forward to each weekend and a taste of second grade while I’m home raising my babies.

    Have a great week with your kiddos.

    One, Two, Three: Math Time

  • Eva Krause Moore
    January 4, 2014 8:35 pm

    Love the visual anchor chart! Thanks for sharing!

  • Pamela Lewis
    June 19, 2014 1:05 pm

    I read your blog daily and love your ideas. I have taught first grade for several years and this coming school year I will teaching second grade and your anchor charts and graphic organizers will be great to help teach this concept at the second grade level. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      June 19, 2014 3:58 pm

      Thank you so much, Pamela! I really, really enjoyed teaching 2nd (I’m going back to 1st next year). The kids have the same enthusiasm but are much more independent. Good luck! 🙂

  • Steph
    October 31, 2016 8:58 am

    Love the setting poster! However, is it the setting “affects” or “effects”? Would have opted for word #1.
    Thanks for the visuals/pictures, it helped

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      November 4, 2016 2:41 pm

      You are correct! 🙂 This was a poster made with students, and I didn’t want to remake without them later.

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