About This Lesson Plan


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Hands-On Lessons

Fanciful Story Hats

Help students identify the key elements of a story and then turn them loose to create a colorful story hat to demonstrate their learning.


Students will:

  • Identify the main character, supporting characters, setting, and key plot elements of a story.
  • Demonstrate their understanding of these elements of a story by creating visual representations of each based on a fairy tale, myth, legend, or other story of their own choosing.
  • Summarize and retell a story orally to a friend, using the story hat as a prop.

Common Core Standards
L.2.3., L.3.3., L.4.3. Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.

SL.2.4. Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audibly in coherent sentences.

SL.3.4. Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

Elmer's® Disappearing Purple Glue Sticks, colored and white paper, colored pencils, scissors, and "Elements of a Story" student page


Content Overview: All stories share several key elements: characters, setting, and plot.

  • The main character is the focus of the story—in some cases, this is the narrator.
  • Supporting or minor characters are other characters who interact with the main character and help move the story along.
  • The setting is where or when a story takes place. The setting could be a place like the local playground or a time like Victorian England.
  • The plot is what happens in a story; it's the series of events that make up the story line.  

Cut 3" by 12" (or as long as sheet of paper allows) strips of colorful construction paper that will later be glued together to create the base of the story hats. If desired, select short fairy tales, myths, and legends to serve as the literary focus for this lesson. Students can otherwise use books they have read recently. Distribute Elements of a Story printable.

Fiction, character, narrator, setting, plot


Introduction (10 minutes)
Explain to students that all works of fiction share some important elements: characters, setting, and plot. Characters are the "who" of the story. Mention several books the class has recently read and ask students to identify the main character of the story as well as other supporting characters. The setting is the "where" and "when" of the story. Again, mention books your students have read and ask them to identify the setting. The action of a story is called the story line or plot; this is the "what happens" of the story. Select a simple and familiar story such as "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and ask students to define the key moments of the plot. Have students consider what makes an important event in the plot versus something that just happens in the story. Help students distill the story down to the four most important events.

Identifying Story Elements (25 minutes)
Display the printable, Elements of a Story, on the whiteboard or distribute individual copies to students. If using short fairy tales, myths, or legends as the subject for students' analysis of character, setting, and plot, distribute these materials. Otherwise, ask students to select a book they recently read to be the subject of their investigation into the elements of a story. Have students write the title and author of the book they selected at the top of the page and then proceed to answer the questions about characters, setting, and plot.

Story Hat Creation (25 minutes)
Once students have successfully completed their analysis of their story, supply each student with one sheet of thick white paper or drawing paper, colored pencils, two strips of paper (previously cut to 3" by 12"), scissors, and an Elmer's Disappearing Purple Glue Stick. Have students create an image representing each element of the story they selected. This means that each hat should have at least seven images, representing the following elements: 1) the main character, 2) at least one supporting character, 3) the setting, 4) an important event from the beginning of the story, 5) an important event from the middle of the story, 6) another important event from the story, and 7) an important event from the end of the story. Have students use their notes from the Elements of a Story printable as a guide for creating their drawings. Remind students that in order for all of their drawings to fit on their hats, they will need to fit on the single sheet of white paper. Some students may find it helpful to create size guidelines for their drawings by folding their paper in half lengthwise, then in half widthwise, and again in half widthwise to create creases outlining eight boxes on the page.

To create the base of the hat, have students glue the end of one 3-inch-wide strip of paper to the end of the other using a 1-inch line of glue from an Elmer's Disappearing Purple Glue Stick. Next, have each student hold the long strip of paper to his or her forehead, while a friend wraps the loose ends around to the back and marks the point where the top strip should overlap the bottom strip in order to create a snug "crown style" hat. Using Elmer's Disappearing Purple Glue Sticks, have students glue the ends of the strip together to create a ring.

To finish their hats, invite students to add a couple of words below each drawing to indicate the character's name or a brief description of the important event before carefully cutting around each image. Have students glue each image to the base of their hats, paying particular attention to glue the images representing the four important events in their stories in the order they occur, as read from left to right. Once everything is glued on tight, the hats are ready to put on and show off!

(Elmer's 1st Day® Connection: Take a picture of each student wearing his or her story hat and then email or provide these to parents to include on the Elmer's 1st Day website.)

Wrap-up (15 minutes)
Divide students into pairs and invite each student to take turns telling a classmate about the features of his or her story hat. Remind students to say a little about each character, to describe the setting of the story, and to retell the story, being sure to highlight the plot points on their story hats.


Whiteboard Extension Activities

  • Story Splice: What would happen if the class's favorite stories got all mixed up? On the whiteboard draw three boxes and label them "characters," "setting," and "plot." Next, invite students to list characters from the work of fiction they used in creating their story hat and write them inside of the "characters" box. In the "setting" box, write settings the students identified in the activity and in the "plot" box, write important plots identified by the students. Once all three boxes are full of ideas, ask students to compose a short story including at least one element from each box, being careful not to use any combination that occurred in the original story!
  • Story Starter: On a sheet of lined paper, have each student write a brief description of a character including name and personality characteristics, a setting including time and place, and one plot element, such as "The character received a surprising birthday present," or "It was the character's first day at a new school." Next, ask students to swap papers with a friend and write out a story based on the elements on their sheets.

Extension Activity

  • Wandering Storytellers: In ancient times, many stories were told or sung by storytellers who traveled from town to town. Take a page from history and have your students visit other classrooms to retell the story depicted on their story hats. This activity can be a great way for older students to inspire younger students to read more and discover for themselves the magic of books!
  • Wearing Different Hats: Have your students ever heard the phrase "wearing different hats" or "wearing many hats?" Explain that a person who "wears many hats" is someone who has many different tasks or roles that they perform in his or her daily life. Give students paper, pencils, and art supplies and invite them to draw themselves and then draw and label all of the "hats" they wear as a student, friend, and as a member of their family and community.

Literature Extension

  • A Study in Similarities: Divide students into small groups and give each group a different "Cinderella" story to analyze in terms of characters, setting, and plot. Some good titles include Sootface by Robert San Souci, Yeh-Shen by Ai-Ling Louie, Estrellita de oro/Little Gold Star by Joe Hayes, and Bubba the Cowboy Prince by Helen Ketteman, among others. Once students have completed their analysis create a master grid with a column for each story and rows for characters, setting, and significant events in the plot. Have each team fill in the column pertaining to the group their team studied. Next, lead a discussion inviting students to compare and contrast the stories.

Technology Extension
Visit http://the1stday.com and download the Elmer's 1st Day app to capture and share the first day of school and beyond. You can create slideshows, personalize photos, share "first day" albums, and more.

Encourage students to take their story hats home and host a storytelling performance in their living rooms. To create the full experience, have students draw a poster advertising their upcoming performance and design tickets to give to family members.

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