Setting Definition: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

A haunted house. A battlefield during the Revolutionary War. A massive snowstorm. These may not seem related, but they are all settings. In this lesson, you will learn all about a setting.

What is a Setting?

'It was a dark and stormy night. The wind was howling as the Headless Horseman rode his horse through the dirt roads of colonial New England.'

Yikes! This sentence describes a scene from the tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and definitely makes you think twice about walking on a dirt road at night! It also describes the setting for a very creepy tale.

A setting is where a story or event takes place. Stories can have one setting or multiple settings. A story might take you on a journey through seven continents or never leave a bedroom. Additionally, settings can be very specific or common. For example, an author could describe the setting very specifically, like the sentence about the Headless Horseman, or very simply such as: 'The Headless Horseman rode on the dirt roads.'

Setting Traits

There are many different characteristics that can be included by an author to describe a setting:

Characteristics of a Setting

  • Geographic location - the continent, region, state, city, or imaginary world where the setting is located
    • Examples: New England; Paris, France; Narnia
  • Time - the place in time when the setting occurs
    • Examples: Ancient Egypt; World War II; January 14, 1956; the year 2157
  • Weather - the weather conditions of a setting
    • Examples: dark and stormy; inside a tornado; 103 degree heat and humidity in a cotton field
  • Environment - the natural and manmade surroundings of a setting
    • Examples: mountains; the twilight zone of the ocean; a toy store; a cloud above the Earth

Using what you know about setting, how would you describe the setting of a story if it took place in the picture?

Example of a Setting

You could describe the setting in a number of ways including:

  • The city of Manhattan, New York, on a summer night
  • A city in the dark
  • Superman's enemy's building glowing with green kryptonite in Metropolis

Why is Setting Important?

The setting is a narrative element, which means it is an important part of the story that is necessary for the story to exist. For example, no matter what you are writing, there has to be a place where what you are writing is happening.

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