Lesson Plan

Developing a Rough Draft of a Short Story, Revising


Students write rough drafts of their own stories. They analyze and respond to the stories written by their classmates and receive feedback for their own stories in preparation for a final draft. Students will:

  • recognize and correct vague pronouns.
  • analyze story structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution) and other literary elements in the stories of their classmates.
  • identify techniques used to develop characters and setting in the stories of their classmates.
  • identify examples of showing instead of telling in the stories of their classmates.
  • identify the point of view used in the stories of their classmates.
  • revise the first draft of their own story, taking into consideration the responses of their classmates as well as their own ideas.
  • listen to and respond to the writing of other students.

Essential Questions

How do grammar and the conventions of language influence spoken and written communication?
How do readers know what to believe in what they read, hear and view?
How do readers know what to believe in what they read, hear, and view?
How do readers know what to believe?
How do strategic readers create meaning from informational and literary text?
How does a reader’s purpose influence how text should be read?
How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?
How does what readers read influence how they should read it?
What is the purpose?
What is this text really about?
What makes clear and effective writing?
What will work best for the audience?
Who is the audience?
Why do writers write?
  • Why do writers write? What is the purpose?
  • What makes clear and effective writing?
  • Who is the audience? What will work best for the audience?
  • How do grammar and the conventions of language influence spoken and written communication?


  • Characterization: The method an author uses to reveal characters and their various personalities.
  • Climax: The turning point in a narrative; the moment when the conflict is at its most intense. Typically, the structure of stories, novels, and plays is one of rising action, in which tension builds to the climax.
  • Conflict/Problem: A struggle or clash between opposing characters, forces, or emotions.
  • Exposition: Writing that explains something, often in the beginning of a story.
  • Falling Action: All of the action in a story that follows the turning point or climax. The falling action leads to the resolution or conclusion of the story.
  • Imagery: Language that appeals to any sense or any combination of the senses.
  • Literary Devices: Tools used by the author to enliven and provide voice to the writing (e.g., dialogue, alliteration).
  • Literary Elements: The essential techniques used in literature (e.g., characterization, setting, plot, theme).
  • Plot: The structure of a story. The sequence in which the author arranges events in a story. The structure often includes the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. The plot may have a protagonist who is opposed by an antagonist, creating what is called conflict.
  • Resolution: The portion of a story following the climax, in which the conflict is resolved. The resolution of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is neatly summed up in the following sentence: “Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang and everybody smiled.”
  • Rising Action: The part of a story where the plot becomes increasingly complicated. Rising action leads up to the climax, or turning point.
  • Setting: The time and place in which a story unfolds.
  • Vague Pronoun: A pronoun that has an unclear antecedent.


100–150 minutes/2–3 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

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Formative Assessment

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    • Circulate among the groups as they read and respond to the drafts to identify students who need extra practice with drafting or students who struggle with the revision process.
    • Students who have deficiencies in one or more story elements can work with partners or other group members to brainstorm ways in which they can effectively develop the element.
    • Using a colored coded system of highlighting elements and corresponding evidence will show at a glance both whether the student authors are achieving their goals and whether students are proficient at the peer response process.

Suggested Instructional Supports

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    Scaffolding, Active Engagement, Modeling, Explicit Instruction
    W: Students will work on revising their first story drafts for characterization, plot, conflict, setting, showing instead of telling, and theme. 
    H: Students work on their own stories and have the opportunity to evaluate the stories of their classmates as well as give and receive constructive feedback. 
    E: Students examine the elements of their own short story and practice analyzing them with the rest of the class, in groups, and individually. 
    R: Alternating the analysis and revision of story elements and practicing writing techniques allows students to strengthen their own final drafts. 
    E: Students have the opportunity to discuss and compare their responses and creations to those of their classmates and to determine the revisions necessary in their own stories. 
    T: Students see new activities modeled before working on them in groups, and work in groups before working individually. 
    O: By the end of the lesson, students are prepared to write their own final drafts, benefiting from numerous opportunities to apply what they have learned to a specific story, as a class, as a group, and individually. 

Instructional Procedures

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    Focus Question: How do you revise a short story draft in order to have a polished final draft?

    Part 1

    Students write a rough draft of their story in class, based on their completed graphic organizer and student feedback from Lesson 2. (Alternatively, the rough draft may be assigned as homework.) Tell students that later in the lesson they will read and respond to the short story drafts of their classmates as well as receive feedback on their own drafts, in preparation for writing a final draft of the story. Collect students’ drafts and make copies of the drafts before beginning Part 3 of this lesson.

    Part 2

    “You will soon be revising your drafts. I will show you a sample short story and we will talk through how to revise it. Let’s read it together first.” Give all students a copy of a sample of student writing (LW-6-2-3_Sample Student Writing.docx). Read it aloud to them. (Note: This sample is not meant to be a model piece of writing, but an authentic student sample that has strengths and weaknesses so that it can be critiqued. It has elemental omissions, grammar and usage errors, etc.) “What do you like best about this writing—a character, a sentence, a description, the theme?” Ask students to identify the strengths and weaknesses in the writing. Start by identifying the
    5 Ws. Then evaluate the characters, setting, plot, theme, descriptions/details, and figurative language. Guide this process by talking through your thoughts to model for students, but invite them to be involved as much as possible. Make a list of the strengths on one side of the board, and if you run across a weakness in this process, jot down a reminder on the other side that you can discuss further later. (Explain that corrections to grammar and mechanics should be taken care of after major revisions are finished.) Highlight the strengths on the projected copy of the writing sample.

    “What does the writer need to work on for the final draft?” Highlight these responses in a different color on the projected copy. Guide students to offer helpful and constructive feedback. Flesh out the notes you may have jotted down when you were working on identifying the strengths. “If this writer were in your group, he or she would have the opportunity to make changes and turn in a polished rough draft.”

    Language Skills Mini-Lesson

    “Since we are focusing on areas in which this writer can improve, let’s take a few minutes to look at the pronouns in this story. We have previously practiced identifying and using pronouns in the proper case—subjective, objective, possessive—and we have identified and used intensive pronouns that end in ‘-self’ or ‘-selves.’ Now let’s talk about vague pronouns. Vague pronouns are those that have unclear antecedents. The antecedent is the noun that the pronoun refers to or replaces. Good writers make sure that their writing is free of vague pronouns because vagueness confuses the reader. Let’s look at an example of vague pronouns in the sample story that we just read.”

    Reread the second paragraph aloud to students. “Is there a place in the paragraph where the writer uses a pronoun and you are unsure to what the pronoun is referring?” (“Even though he gave me great tips and pointers, I still missed it all the time.”) “Yes, it is unclear what the word ‘it’ refers to in this sentence. We can make a guess, but as readers, we shouldn’t have to guess. The author should be clear. If you were to guess, what do you think is the ‘it’ that the author misses?” (the basketball hoop) “How can the sentence be improved to fix the vague antecedent, ‘it?’ How can the author be clearer?” (“Even though he gave me great tips and pointers, I still missed the basket all the time.”)

    Ask students to put their heads down and listen carefully as you reread the fifth paragraph. “There are two vague pronouns in this paragraph. When you hear each one, raise your hand. Remember, you are listening for a pronoun whose antecedent is unclear.” Read the fifth paragraph aloud slowly. Watch for student hands to go up when you read the following words that are italicized. (“When I got to Clarissa’s house, she and her mom had made sandwiches for lunch. She said I could have one. After lunch, we started practicing shooting hoops over and over. We practiced the tips and pointers he had given us.”) Have students raise their heads and ask them to tell a partner when they raised their hands while you read. Write the two sentences with vague pronouns on the board. Discuss why they are vague and how to fix them to make the antecedent clear. (Who is she? Who is he?)

    Finally, have students read the sixth paragraph on their own. They should underline the two vague pronouns in the paragraph and replace them with words that make the antecedent clear. (“Clarissa gave me a high-five. My other friend Marie cheered me on. I was nervous and I missed all of my first few shots. She told me to keep trying. I didn’t give up. On my last shot I just threw it in and SWISH I made it!” Who is she? What is it?) Have students share their answers with a partner; then go over the answers as a class.

    “We have identified vague pronouns in the sample writing. Watch for vague pronouns in your writing as you revise, and watch for vague pronouns in your classmates’ writing as you give them feedback.”

    Part 3

    Divide students into groups of 3 or 4. Make copies of each student’s draft, enough for each member of the group. Have students watch this video to model common mistakes that peer reviewers often make: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBuq4qgRhCc As students watch, have them jot down a bulleted list of the top ten mistakes. (highlighted by Picky Patty, Whatever William, Social Sammy, Joan the Generalizer, Mean Margaret, Loud Larry, Pushy Paula, Off-Task Oliver, Speedy Sandy, and Defensive Dave) Discuss these pitfalls, and how to avoid them.

    Project a blank copy of the Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer
    (LW-6-2-1_Narrative Writing Graphic Organizer- Blank.doc) so that students have a visual reminder of what they should be looking for in each draft. Give each student a set of colored highlighters or markers. Make a chart for class viewing that assigns a different colored marker for each story element (e.g., red for character, blue for setting, green for plot, etc.) At the same time, distribute the peer review checklist (LW-6-2-3_Peer Review Checklist.docx). “First, read the entire rough draft. Write down one or two quick responses to the story. For example, what pleased you? What emotions do you feel?

    “Read the entire draft several times, each time using the colors assigned in the chart to highlight the evidence the author used to develop a story element from the graphic organizer. For example, read through the story with the (____) marker in your hand and only look for character development. Then read it again, but this time, use the (_____) marker to highlight setting details, and so on. You will be much more focused and thorough if you use this method. Plus, this color coding will help the author see anything important that might be missing from their story.” If you feel that your students need guidance to stay on task, walk them through each color for each draft, to ensure that they are using their time well.

    “Revisit the peer review checklist. Place an X in the box for each element or quality that you noted was complete in the draft. There is also room to write any comments or suggestions. For example, if you highlighted some setting details, but you think there should be more, explain that in the comments section under ‘Setting’ and give the author some suggestions as to how to do this. You might say, ‘I know this story takes place on a weekend, but I think it would help the reader to know what time of the year it is. Isn’t it summer in your story? Telling your readers that would help them understand how determined and committed Jeff is because he is practicing ice skating even though it isn’t even hockey season.’ Your goal is to help each other improve, so be as helpful as possible.”

    Explain that evidence might include dialogue, figurative language, or descriptive words and phrases the author uses to develop setting, character, conflict, etc.

    Allow enough time for the groups to read and respond to all of the drafts in their group. Then give students time to offer specific comments on each other’s drafts.

    Collect the highlighted rough drafts for each student along with the completed graphic organizers, to ensure that students are prepared to write final drafts of their story. Collect the peer edits to verify the comments before students incorporate the feedback into their stories.

    Explain that once they make major revisions to their rough drafts, students will need to proofread for grammar and mechanics before turning in final drafts of their stories.

    Have students complete their final drafts. They may be assigned as homework, or completed in class as time allows.


    • If students need extra practice in creating a plot, help them create a plot line using a graphic organizer (such as the one at:http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson223/plot_mountain.pdf) so that they can visualize whether they have included all plot elements.
    • Students who need more work in developing character can work with a partner to create a dialogue between characters that reveals character traits.
    • Students whose drafts need more descriptive language can work in pairs or small groups to practice showing instead of telling. Give them a list of vague sentences such as “The man walked down the street,” or “The noise had a strong effect on them,” and challenge them to use more vivid verbs or imagery to convey the idea.

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Final 05/17/2013
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