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Setting Analysis


In most narratives, the setting is more than just an arbitrary backdrop. Instead, the setting functions almost as a character in the story.  The setting interacts with characters and events, shaping opinions, roles, and motivations, and creating mood.  Setting critically informs the meaning of a narrative, and students who fail to appreciate a setting are compromised in their ability to comprehend a story.  Setting analysis describes the process of identifying the key features of time and place, and determining how they interact to create meaning


Many students lack the background knowledge to recognize and understand the significance of differences in time, place, and culture, and they may attempt to interpret narratives as if they were occurring in the present day, in the students’ own familiar environment.   Through setting analysis, students gain an appreciation for the time, culture, and place in which a story occurs, which enables them to understand the unique circumstances under which the characters operate.   Through such analysis they gain a richer understanding of the logic and meaning of the story as a whole, and the context they need to interpret it.


Content Area Adaptations 

Setting analysis is important whenever the context of a body of information is important.  It is critical whenever students are studying documents, ideas, artifacts, people, or events that come from a place, time, or culture different from the their own.

Learning Strategies 

  • Inferring
  • Visualizing

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Map Maker

Through this activity, students create a map of a text’s physical setting.  This activity helps them to develop, refine, and visualize the physical space in which a story is occurring.  

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content

Travel Brochure

Through this creative activity, students create a travel brochure advertising the key features of the physical setting of a story they are writing or reading.  It encourages them to isolate the most important distinguishing features of the physical setting.