Short Story Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about short stories. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Short Story. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Review with your children that a short story is a short piece of fiction that has a beginning, middle, and end. Fiction is writing that comes from the imagination, and not just from facts. Fiction can feature imaginary characters and settings, such as a fairy tale about three pigs living in houses made of straw, wood, and bricks. It can also feature imaginary characters living in a real-world setting, such as a short story about a child living in an ancient civilization. Short stories can even feature real characters in fantastic situations, such as a story where Abraham Lincoln travels in time or to a different planet. Short stories are only limited by the imagination and there are many different genres of fiction such as historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. Short stories can be very short and be only a few sentences, or they can be much longer. Review that short stories can often be read in one sitting, while a novel or a chapter book takes longer to read. Explain to your children that no matter the length, all short stories tell a complete story.

Explain to your children that ideas for short stories can come anywhere and any time. Encourage your children to carry small notebooks with them so they can write down story ideas easily. They can look at old diaries and journals for ideas, or get inspired by articles in newspapers and magazines. Poems, songs, and pieces of art can also inspire ideas. After your children find an idea for a story, the next step is to brainstorm characters and events that will happen in the story. Your children may want to take notes, create outlines, conduct character studies, or create a story map. A story map is a graphic organizer that tells the character, setting, and major events that happen in a story. You may want to display or distribute different graphic organizers and story maps for your children to copy and use.

Your children should understand that details are very important in short story. They help the story come to life. How do the characters look? How do they feel? Where is the story taking place? What are some important information the reader needs to understand about the characters and the setting? Pose different questions for your children to answer as they prepare to write. Explain that in many short stories, the characters face a conflict, or problem, and must solve it. Conflicts can be external, such as a knight battling a dragon, or they can be internal, such as a monkey overcoming a fear of heights. Remind your children that in short stories, characters change and grow. Encourage them to think of ways how their characters can change.

After they compose their short stories, they must go back and revise. Remind children that when they revise, they go back and make changes. They may want to add more sensory details or information to help the reader understand the story. We recommend watching the Writing with the Senses movie together as a review. They may want to strengthen their sentences by using stronger words and more vivid adjectives. They may want to add dialogue to help readers get a sense of the characters. Children may want to “workshop” their work with peers and find different ways to improve and revise their stories. After they revise, they should proofread their work. Explain that when they proofread, they look for errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics. They should look for misspellings and errors in capitalization and punctuation. Students may wish to proofread each other’s work and if possible, you should distribute a checklist that lists common mistakes to look for when proofreading.

Remind children to print or handwrite neatly. If readers cannot understand the writing, they will not understand the story. The last step of writing a short story is to publish it and share it with people.