The short story, Dragon, Dragon, by John Gardner is a traditional-style dragon tale with an added dose of humor. Because of the humor, middle grade kids easily get into the story. It’s a fun one to read together in class.
There are plenty of twists and turns of the plot as the first two sons get eaten by the dragon because they didn’t follow their father’s advice (unhelpful as it sounded!) Despite the humorous situations and unlikely events, it all works out in the end – the young hero saves the day when he (more or less) slays the dragon, rescues his brothers, and wins the hand of the fair princess.
Dragon, Dragon is a favorite of mine for starting the year because it’s a sure-fire success with the kids, and because it’s great for teaching basic story elements, especially plot, which I like to start with.
Since Dragon, Dragon is an old favorite, you can probably find the text online as well as various supplemental materials like Prezis and PowerPoints. Dragon Dragon could easily be paired with a non-fiction reading about Kimodo dragons for an introduction to both fiction and non-fiction texts.
For one of my follow-up activities, I liked to use a plot map. This early in the year, I give the students blank plot map and a strip of cut-and-paste plot events. Then the students glue the events onto their plot map in the correct sequence. This eliminates the inclusion of details that are not really main events.
Dragon, Dragon is also the story that I chose to illustrate both plot map and story map in my Story Elements PowerPoint, which is for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Classroom in the Middle, along with a set of story elements printables.