EL Support Lesson

Problems and Solutions in Fiction

Every story has a problem and every problem has a solution! Use this lesson to help students identify the problem and solution in fiction texts. Use it as a stand-alone lesson or as support to the lesson Compare and Contrast Short Stories.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theCompare and Contrast Short StoriesLesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theCompare and Contrast Short StoriesLesson plan.

Students will be able to identify similarities and differences between two short stories with similar themes.


Students will be able to identify the problem and solution in short stories using strategic partnering and graphic organizers.

(5 minutes)
Reading Comprehension: Problem and Solution 1Teach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceVocabulary Cards: Problems and Solutions in FictionGlossary: Problems and Solutions in Fiction
  • Tell students to think of a problem they've had recently and share it with a partner. Show the definition of ProblemAnd provide the meaning in students' home language if applicable. Explain that it could be a problem with a friend, family, or any other challenging situation they have experienced.
  • Give them an example from your life, such as getting lost on a hike in the woods. Inform students that problems are a part of real life and also an important part of fiction stories. Characters in stories must experience problems in order for the story to have meaning and so that the reader can experience the satisfaction and joy of discovering a solution to solve the problem. Read aloud the definition of Solution.
  • Ask a few students to share the problems their partner spoke of. Record these on a piece of chart paper with a T-chart labeled "problem" and "solution." Choose one or two of the students' problems and brainstorm possible solutions as a whole class. Jot these down as bullet points under SolutionOn the chart paper.
  • Tell students that today they will focus on identifying problems and solutions in short stories.
(7 minutes)
  • Inform students that they will encounter some new words in the stories they read in today's lesson. Therefore, they will first spend time exploring the meaning of these vocabulary words.
  • Place students into partnerships that work well. Distribute a Glossary to each student and have them write the word "sentence" in the empty column on the right of the page.
  • Display a copy of the Glossary worksheet on the document camera and model how you read aloud the word and its definition, and describe the image that accompanies it. Show students how to write a sentence in the column on the right, circling the vocabulary word.
  • Tell students to work with their partner to complete the Glossary by adding images and sentences to the chart.
  • Ask non-volunteers to share some sentences and describe the images they added on their worksheet. Clarify any misconceptions.
(10 minutes)
  • Ask students to think of a story or movie that everyone knows such as "Cinderella" or "Finding Nemo." Explain to students that fiction stories often have more than one problem in them. Characters usually face multiple problems in one story.
  • Add the following examples to the problem section of the T-chart you started earlier in the lesson: In the story "Cinderella," the main character faces the problem of wanting to go to the ball but not being able to because her stepmother gave her a lot of chores to do. Later, the prince faces the problem of finding the owner of a glass slipper. Ask students to state the solution to the problems you wrote on the chart.
  • On a separate chart paper, brainstorm with students a list of other stories or movies they know well (Note: you can also include a fiction text you have read as a class recently. Make sure it is one that has a clear problem and solution.)
  • Place students into partnerships and hand out an index card to each student. Have them work together to discuss and write down one problem and solution on their index card using the following sentence stems: "The problem in the story is...and the solution is..."
  • Invite a few students to read aloud their completed sentences. Instruct students to listen actively and give a thumbs up if they agree with their classmates' sentences.
(10 minutes)
  • Display and distribute a copy of the Reading Comprehension: Problems and Solutions 1 worksheet to students.
  • Ask a student to read the directions aloud. Then, model how to identify the problem and solution for the first short story. Use one colour to highlight the problem and another for the solution. Fill out the graphic organizer with complete sentences.
  • Instruct students to work independently to identify, highlight, and write out the problems and solutions for the remaining two stories.
  • Have a few non-volunteers read their work aloud to the class.


  • Beginning ELs can write the definition of the vocabulary words in their home language (L1) if applicable.
  • Pair beginning ELs with advanced ELs for the partner activities.
  • Allow beginning ELs to complete the discourse level focus section with a partner.


  • Provide bilingual resources such as glossaries and dictionaries for students to use throughout the lesson.
  • Advanced ELs are encouraged to name other problems and solutions in the exploration of stories and movies during the sentence level focus section.
(5 minutes)
  • Read aloud this short story to students:
    • "Mrs. Costello looked at Kaya with a disappointed look on her face. Kaya was late to school for the third time that week and her teacher was getting worried. Mrs. Costello asked Kaya why she kept arriving tardy. She explained that new neighbors had moved in next door and they often played loud music at night, keeping her up past her bedtime. As a result of this, she kept sleeping through the alarm clock."
  • Explain to students that in this story the character, Kaya, has a problem. Invite students to turn to an elbow partner and orally identify the problem and come up with some possible solutions to the problem. Ask a few students to share out with the whole class the conversations they had with their partner. Tell students to give a thumbs-up if they agree with the problem/solution and a thumbs-down if they disagree. Monitor students' responses to gauge their understanding.
(3 minutes)
  • Explain to students that soon they will be asked to compare the elements, or parts, of a story, including the characters, the setting, and the problem and solution. It is important for them to master the skill of identifying the problem and solution in fiction stories to be able to compare and contrast them in the future.
  • Have students conduct a brief self-assessment of undertstanding of this EL pre-lesson by showing you on their fingers how well they feel they met the objective (one finger for limited understanding and five fingers for mastery).

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