Writing realistic fiction is a unit of study that fourth graders will be excited to write and will take off writing long pieces. Even though this sounds great, it might be wise to hold on to that enthusiasm with reigns of structure. Students, many times, create long stories that lack details and meaning. It just gets out of hand.
By keeping that in mind as this unit is started, the area of planning should be focused on far more time than normal. Students might be better off having a few guidelines as they begin. As they are thinking of characters, it is best to have their main characters be the same age as the writer. Using only two to three characters helps focus, too. It is also best to have no characters names be the same as anyone in their classroom. It might help to have the place and events be things the students have actually experienced.
In order to plan this piece of fiction it might help for them to draw out their story in their notebooks as a storyboard. Several possible stories could be planned out this way. After doing this for a couple days, students would then be able to choose the one that would fit best for them.
Next comes the characters. Since the story plan has been developed in their storyboard, choosing characters to fit the plot can now happen. Knowing their character will help the development of details in this piece. It might help to sketch their character in the notebook and then list external and internal characteristics. Another list could be possible problems due to those characteristics.
The planning stage also takes time to develop the story arc. As the students develop their plot, there will be a turning point where the story changes. This is the top of the arc. Talking our the story helps this plan. Having the fourth graders have the story planned out in great detail will help the actual drafting. Again, once they start writing, they will have energy to put into this work. This piece will be longer than other writing they have done. It will be in the area of four to five pages and so they need stamina to finish the project.