Fantasy Unit in Writers Workshop


The fantasy fiction unit in Writer’s Workshop will ask students to use the workshop format to draft multiple story ideas, choose one draft for further development, revise, conference, edit and publish a finished piece of fantasy fiction.  Students will learn about sub-genres of fantasy fiction including science fiction, sword & sorcery, magical worlds, horror, dystopian, and anthropomorphic. The focus of the writing is develop rich detail in characters, settings, problems and solutions.  We ask students to incorporate the Origins throughlines in their stories to fully explore the origins of their fiction world and characters.

Teaching points in this lesson will include, but are not limited to:

  • Writers use tools to generate ideas.
  • Story starters help us get the origin of character, setting and plot.
  • All elements follow the rules of the fantastic world/origins are the author’s choice.
  • Writers create fantasy characters that are a mix of realistic and fantasy characteristics.
  • Writers create fantasy settings and problems that are a mix of realistic and fantasy characteristics.
  • While collecting entries, writers need to play with describing this place, including details about the setting.
  • Writers make sure that by the end of the story you know about the character, flaws and strengths.
  • Writers choose one possibility and list out all the possible problems and solutions in regards to this larger context.
  • Writers may solve one problem but the big enemies are still undefeated to be dealt with another day.
  • Writers think about the land and sky, weather, people, transportation, and homes and other buildings.
  • Writers make sure every character has a purpose: Allies, Antagonist, Bystander
  • Writers ask: Does my reader know exactly what the character has to accomplish in order for the problem to be solved?
  • Writers are reminded that solutions do not come out of nowhere.  They need to fit with the  rest of story.


The Indiana Academic Standards include expectations that students write clear sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea.  Students should create interesting sentences by using words that describe, explain, or provide additional details and connections.  Students need to make varied word choices to make writing interesting. Students should be able to write narratives that establish a plot, point of view, setting, and conflict and those stories show, rather than tell, the events of the story. Students should be able to progress through the stages of the writing process, including prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing multiple drafts. That students review, evaluate, and revise writing for meaning and clarity.

Student stories will be evaluated on the following rubric:

Level 4 Level 3 Level 2 Level 1
Characters Clear protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). Motivations, appearances, personalities fully described. Characters are described briefly.  Motivations, thoughts, or personality not described fully. Characters exist but are not described in detail. Protagonist and/or antagonist characters are missing.
Elements of Fantasy The world created has clear,vivid, elements of fantasy writing that are consistent within that world.  The elements are central to the story. The world has some elements of fantasy but they are secondary to the story. The world has few elements of fantasy writing.  The elements are inconsistent.  The story would be unchanged if elements were missing. The world does not include elements of fantasy writing.


The problems/conflict is central to the story. The problem/conflict the main characters face and why it is a problem is clear. The problems/conflict is secondary to the story or not fully developed. The problem does not drive the story. It is difficult for the reader to understand the problem the main characters face and it is not clear why it is a problem. There is no problem or It is unclear what problem the main character faces.
Solution/ Resolution The solution to the character’s problem is easy to understand, and is logical. There are no loose ends. The solution to the character’s problem is easy to understand, and is somewhat logical. The solution to the character’s problem is a little hard to understand. No solution is attempted or it is impossible to understand.
Setting Many vivid, descriptive words are used to tell when and where the story took place. Some vivid, descriptive words are used to tell the audience when and where the story took place. The reader can figure out when and where the story took place, but the author didn’t supply much detail. The reader has trouble figuring out when and where the story took place.
Organization The story is very well organized. One idea or scene follows another in a logical sequence with clear transitions. The story is pretty well organized. One idea or scene may seem out of place. Clear transitions are used. The story is a little hard to follow. The transitions are sometimes not clear. Ideas and scenes seem to be randomly arranged.
Mechanics Writing contains correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, complete complex sentences and correct use of capitalization. Writing contains few spelling and grammar errors; and has correct punctuation and complete sentences. Writing contains some spelling and grammar errors; most sentences have correct punctuation and are complete.  I used simple sentences. Writing is hard to read and contains many spelling and grammatical errors.

Engineering & Science Unit

Dear Families, We are starting a unit on Engineering and Science. The origin of this unit comes from both a need of students to engage in some habits of a scientist and engineer, and the very real scientific concepts that both fourth and fifth graders need to learn. This unit of study will be focused on making prototypes, coming up with problem solving strategies, and learning content about the human musculoskeletal system. 61qEmnn-MCL The major objective of the unit is for students to understand that engineers work through a process of revision and redesign to meet a need or desire. Some of our essential questions for the unit are:

  • What are the habits of an engineer/scientist?
  • How do you solve problems you are presented with?
  • How do parts of a system relate to the function of a whole system?

We began with a pre-assessment which you can see here. 

Next we’ll move into a series of experiments that require students to design an initial structure and then re-design it depending on the degree to which they met the stated goal.

Then, we’ll move toward a focus of presenting problems and asking students to model prototypes for how to solve these problems. The second section of our unit will focus specifically on the relationship engineers have to solving problems – specifically within the human body. We will start with the major functions of the skeletal systems and where problems can happen (i.e. broken bones). We’ll have students build structures to support these problems – designing prototypes just like engineers do. As we work through these lessons, inevitably, like an engineer, what we work to do will change with student need and input. We’ll keep you updated with our changes.

Upcoming Readers Workshop Unit – Fantasy

Dear Families,

We are embarking on a 5-6 week study of fantasy. This unit will be broken into two parts, the first will be a fantasy study, students selecting their own just right books, and learning about fantasy-related concepts. The second part will be fantasy book clubs. I’ll be writing about the first part here.

Over the course of this unit, we’ll be drawing from many picture books to analyze elements of fantasy fiction. The planned schedule is below, each bullet point represents a lesson. Some key words are underlined.

  • There are many kinds of fantasy stories…the thing they all have in common is that the events/characters within them are not things that happen in the origins of or current world.
  • Readers think about how the book they are reading fits into the genre they are studying.
  • As you read a fantasy story, you should let your mind wander to all the places it may go, playing a mental movie of all the juicy action as it takes place
  • Fantasy readers understand that their first task is to figure out what kind of setting their story takes place in. Readers look for clues about the time period and the magical elements, in particular, using the covers, blurbs, and details from the beginning of the story for their research. We know that the setting will have physical and psychological implications on the character and the story.
  • As readers move through fantasy books, they will notice some stories have multiple plot lines, many characters, and unresolved conflict. Often readers find it helpful to keep track of all these details using graphic organizers.
  • Readers identify the predictable characters, archetypes, in their fantasy story.
  • “Readers, today I want to teach you that in the stories you are reading, the characters face dragons as well. Not just literal dragons, which some fantasy characters do encounter, but metaphoric dragons—these are the conflicts inside a character’s soul, which haunt that character. Powerful readers learn to think metaphorically about these ‘dragons.’” [Lucy Calkins]
  • Readers lookout for imagery, which is when things we read put pictures into our head and those pictures have all the shading marks, dimensions, lines, etc. included.
  • Personification means giving human qualities to animals or objects.
  • Readers note objects that represent something else (symbolism) because in fantasy nothing is as it seems, so if an author spends time detailing something, that something is important.
  • Readers pay close attention to the plot because the hero’s journey –quest- is an allegory for our own life journeys – they search for theme using work from previous units.

The Indiana academic standards for 4th and 5th grade call for study of character’s motivations, character traits, and setting. Students learn to define and find examples of simile, metaphor, personification, symbolism, and imagery. Students identify the main conflict or problem in a story, they also speculate on the theme. We will cover these concepts as well as other reading and writing standards.