Putting It Down On Paper

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman

Time: 5 days
15 minutes to read lesson plan
Materials: Access to a computer lab for writing of short story


Students will take all of their brainstorming notes from the previous lesson and pull their ideas together to write a science fiction short story. This story will have major and minor characters, a futuristic setting in which a clean form of energy production fuels the civilization and eliminates specific environmental health problems caused by previous energy production, a plot which unfolds in a logical manner, and a positive theme which emphasizes the ability of humankind to solve the problems of society in a way that does not cause harm to human beings or the environment. Students will write in two stages. First they will write out their stories paying attention to the above concerns. Second, they will refine their stories by improving the mechanics and the level of sophistication with which they were written.

Purpose – In this lesson students will write a science fiction short story in which all the elements of a short story are employed appropriately, plus an environmental health aspect and a clean form of energy production have been incorporated into the plot.

Students will be able to:
Write a short story in which:

1. Events are presented in a logical order
2. The point of view is clear
3. The theme is developed
4. Sensory language, concrete language and/or dialogue are used appropriately
5. There are major and minor characters
6. The setting is some time in the future
7. Capitalization, grammar, spelling, and punctuation have been used correctly

Students will use some of the following to enhance the quality of their prose:

1. Transitions
2. Varied sentence structure
3. Parallel sentence structure
4. Active voice

English Education Standard
W-P6. Write a story that develops complex characters, plot structure, point of view and setting; organizes ideas in meaningful sequence; and includes sensory details and concrete language to advance the story line.
PO 1. Write a first- or third-person story
- develop a point of view
- present events in a logical order
- develop events that convey a unifying theme or tone
- include sensory details, concrete language and/or dialogue
- use literary elements (e.g., plot, setting, character, theme)

W-P1. Use transitional devices; varied sentence structures; the active voice; parallel structures; supporting details, phrases and clauses; and correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar and usage to sharpen the focus and clarify the meaning of their writing
PO 1. Use transitions (e.g., conjunctive adverbs, coordinating conjunctions, subordinating
Conjunctions) where appropriate
PO 2. Vary sentence structure (e.g., compound, complex, compound-complex)
PO 3. Use active voice as appropriate to purpose (e.g., creative writing)
PO 4. Use parallel structure appropriately
PO 5. Sharpen the focus and clarify the meaning of their writing through the appropriate
use of:
- capitalization
- standard grammar and usage (e.g., subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement and consistency of verb tense)
- spelling, with the use of a dictionary/thesaurus (as needed)
- punctuation (e.g., comma, ellipsis, apostrophe, semicolon, colon)

Teacher Background
An appreciation of science fiction and a delight in the writing process

Resource Websites

List URL and title of page



In the previous lesson students brainstormed about and wrote their ideas down about the characters, setting, plot, and themes of their stories. Each student should therefore have a bare bones structure of his or her story.

1. Ask the students to write the first draft of their stories paying attention to getting the plot down correctly, the setting described well with sensory details, the characters developed, and the theme established. The students should write their stories using double-spacing or even triple-spacing to make editing by their peers easier.

2. The students should then look at their stories and make sure that the clean form of energy production is well integrated into the plot and explained with much scientific detail. There also needs to be a flashback in which the characters remember the unhealthy conditions of the bad old days and recollect the final straw that was the impetus for a change in public policy that brought about the implementation of a new form of energy production.

3. On a third run-through students should check (with the aid of spell check and grammar check if you hopefully are in the computer lab) their spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.

4. Lastly, ask the students to read through their stories to see if they are able to improve the stylistic sophistication of their writing. For example, they should try to use transitions that help their stories to flow more naturalistically, and they should vary their sentence types. The excitement of a scene can be enhanced by short sentences. Descriptive passages often sound better with long, complex sentences. Even in the description of a character, the type of sentence employed can be very revealing about personality in a subtle way.

This lesson’s natural closure is the completion of the science fiction short story for each student.

Embedded Assessment
The five-day period of this lesson has been a writing workshop. It is suggested that the stories not yet be evaluated, but the amount of time spent on a task should be an indication of how seriously the student is pursuing this assignment. When students come to you to ask questions you can assess how closely they are following the short story format and verify that the setting is in the future and that an environmental health aspect and a clean form of energy production have been incorporated into the plot. As suggested in the activity section, divide your time between students coming to you for consultation on their writing and you going around the room to check on all your students, especially those who may be reluctant to ask for assistance.

If any student has not completed writing the rough draft of his or her short story within the five days of this lesson he or she needs to complete the story for homework. The next lesson uses the finished first drafts for peer editing.

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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