A story map is a strategy that uses a graphic organizer to help students learn the elements of a book or story. By identifying story characters, plot, setting, problem and solution, students read carefully to learn the details. There are many different types of story map graphic organizers. The most basic focus on the beginning, middle, and end of the story. More advanced organizers focus more on plot or character traits.
|When to use:||Before reading||During reading||After reading|
|How to use:||Individually||With small groups||Whole class setting|
More comprehension strategies
Why use story maps?
- They improve students' comprehension
- They provide students with a framework for identifying the elements of a story.
- They help students of varying abilities organize information and ideas efficiently.
How to use story maps
- Discuss the main components of a story (e.g., characters, setting, plot and theme OR beginning, middle, end).
- Provide each student with a blank story map organizer and model how to complete it.
- As students read, have them complete the story map. After reading, they should fill in any missing parts.
Download simple story map templates (beginning–middle–end)
Download more complex story map templates (characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution
Watch: Retelling Glove: The Five Elements of a Good Story Retell
A visual reminder of the key elements that should be included in a story retell. This teacher uses a story retell glove, which includes where the story takes place, the problem in the story, the characters etc. See the lesson plan.
This example demonstrates how story maps are used with an Arthur story. Students identify the setting, characters, the problem, and the solution in the story.
See example > (20K PDF)*
Story maps can be used to help students solve open-ended math problems. Or students can use the story map to create their own math problems.
Using the format of the story map, students can create their own map by taking a walk around the playground or school. Encourage students to include positional words in their story map writing.
for Second Language Learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners
- Scaffold your instruction by providing prompts for each section on your map. For example, in the "Beginning" box of your map, write in prompts such as: Who are the main characters? Where does the story take place?
- Differentiate which story map to give to which students. The beginning-middle-end format is the simplest; other more complex maps can be used with more advanced students.
- Model this strategy using a book with very clear components to help students understand each component.
- Students can extend their understanding of story maps into their own writing. Students can use story maps to plan, summarize, and write their own main ideas, characters, setting, and plot for a story.
See the research that supports this strategy
Adler, C. (2004). Seven Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension.
Armbruster, B. B., Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2001) Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read kindergarten through grade three. Washington, DC: The U.S. Department of Education.
Santa, C., Havens, L., & Valdes, B. (2004). Project CRISS: Creating independence through student owned strategies 3rd Edition. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
Adlit.org. (2008). Story Maps.
Trabasso, T., & Bouchard, E. (2002) Teaching readers how to comprehend text strategically. In C. Block and M. Pressley, (Eds.) Comprehension instruction: Research-based practices (PP. 176-200). NY: Guilford Press.
Children's books to use with this strategy
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
This inventive telling of a familiar tale will enchant readers, young and old.
Red Riding Hood
Marshall's humorous illustrations add personality and action to familiar tales.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
The "real" story started when Alexander Wolf sneezed when he tried to borrow a cup of sugar from his neighbor in the straw house.