Diorama Project for Literature

Setting is an indispensable literary element in every story. It is the time and place in which a story happens and it often affects the mood or atmosphere of a specific scene.

Exploring the setting and discovering its impact in the story can be quite challenging for middle school students, especially for those whose native language is not English. However, letting them create a visual representation of the setting is a thousand times more effective than boring them out with lectures or teacher’s talk.


This activity is one of my students’ favorites not only because it’s fun but also because it facilitates their learning. I tried this project on two literature readings I had before (The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe) and both achieved the same fantastic end.

The Task

diorama project

Time: 2-3 periods (40 mins/period)


1 shoe box or similar type, construction or crepe papers, color papers, scissors, glue, easy-to-sculpt clay (and other decorative materials that students want to use)

In this project, students are tasked to illustrate the setting or a specific part of the book in the form of a three-dimensional miniature scene. Students will pick a favorite scene from the story they are reading and decide how they want to represent it using the materials given (above) and a variety of design strategies.

Here are some examples of my students’ output:


Victorian England. Students take into consideration the time period in making the project.


Offal Court. An illustration of a poor English street where the pauper lives.


Prince Edward as a baby with the King and Queen.


Prince Edward playing outside the palace garden.

3D Illustration

Sans molding clay, students can also illustrate the setting in 3D or 2D using card boards or cartons. This one is much easier and faster to do and only requires at least 2 periods but can achieve the same objectives.

Here is an example:


Robinson Crusoe, with friend Xury, tries to escape from the Turkish pirate who keeps them slaves for many years.

Students will present the projects by describing the scene and/or summarizing the chapter. The illustrations will surely give them a clearer picture of the story.

What do you think about this activity? Let’s hear them in the comments!

Author: Melchor Bernardo

Students call me Teacher Mel. After quitting law school, I moved to Vietnam to be with my first love – teaching English! This website is a bit of a copy of my teaching styles and philosophy. I live by the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

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2 comments on “Diorama Project: Exploring the Setting of Short Story or a Novel

  1. Kelly Jones on said:

    What grade did these above? Thanks.

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