Lesson plan

Pacing Strategies

Teach young writers some commonly used strategies to pace their narrative writing. Students will learn to use formatting, dialogue, and description to speed up or slow down their piece.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to name and identify strategies that narrative writers use to modify the pacing of their stories.

(10 minutes)
  • Tell students the story of your day, or a part of your day, in two different ways.
  • First tell it giving each part equal time. For example, I woke up, showered, got dressed, ate breakfast, drove to school, prepped for the day, and started teaching.
  • Tell the story again. This time choose one part to slow down and give more detail through imagery or dialogue. Perhaps you slow down the story to tell how you got cut off at an intersection, or stopped at the gas station and had an interesting interaction with someone.
  • Discuss the difference between the two tellings of the story. Ensure that students note the slowed-down pacing of the second story and begin to think about how you slowed the story and why you chose that part.
(15 minutes)
  • Explain that there are several strategies that authors use to speed up or slow down the pace of a story.
  • Explain that slowing down a story means to pause in a certain moment of the action and give more information or description. Sometimes this is called exploding the moment.
  • Tell students that they will be learning three different strategies used to slow the pace of their narratives: formatting, description, and dialogue.
  • Project the worksheet Using Formatting to Pace your Piece.
  • Go over the three kinds of breaks together, finding examples in your class read aloud or another text.
  • Discuss the reasons for the breaks that you find in your demonstration.
(20 minutes)
  • Project the worksheet Using Inside and Outside Details to Pace Your Piece.
  • Go over the worksheet and examples together. Then find examples in your class read aloud or another text.
  • Discuss the examples that you find in your demonstration and discuss whether they are inside or outside details.
  • Have students provide examples of each kind of detail.
  • Distribute the worksheet Using Dialogue to Pace Your Piece.
  • Go over the example in italics and answer the questions together as a class.
(30 minutes)
  • Distribute the worksheet Using Formatting to Pace your Piece.
  • Distribute the worksheet Using Inside and Outside Details to Pace Your Piece.
  • Instruct students to select a novel to use to complete these two exercises.
  • Review the instructions.
  • Instruct students to complete the activities on both sheets.
  • Review and discuss student work.


  • Read a chapter or short story in a small group or as a shared reading. Point out and discuss the places where the author uses strategies to adjust the pace of the story.


  • Photocopy a short story or chapter from a book. Distribute it and instruct students to highlight the sections where the author slows the pace using one of these strategies.
  • Challenge students to identify additional strategies or twists on any of these strategies.
(5 minutes)
  • Instruct students to take out a piece of paper.
  • Explain that they are going to listen to a story and that they are to write down one example of when the author uses one of the strategies identified in the lesson.
  • Have students note the part of the story and what strategy was used.
  • Read the story Eleven by Sandra Cisneros.
(5 minutes)
  • Discuss: What would stories be like if every part moved at the same pace and there were no moments where it slowed?

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