Story Maps

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

  1. Discuss the main components of a story (e.g., characters, setting, plot and theme OR beginning, middle, end).
  2. Provide each student with a blank story map organizer and model how to complete it.
  3. 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 video is published with permission from the Balanced Literacy Diet. See many more related how-to videos with lesson plans in the Reading Comprehension Strategies section.

Collect resources

This chart shows how the story mapping strategy can be used in language arts, history, and science. See cross-disciplinary story mapping chart >

Language Arts

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 >


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.

Social Studies

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.


Differentiated instruction

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.

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

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

By: James Marshall
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This inventive telling of a familiar tale will enchant readers, young and old.

Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood

By: James Marshall
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Marshall's humorous illustrations add personality and action to familiar tales.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

By: Jon Scieszka
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The "real" story started when Alexander Wolf sneezed when he tried to borrow a cup of sugar from his neighbor in the straw house.


Brilliant, I can adapt this to suit my student's needs. Great website for resources.

This website has been such a huge help to me and my students in Elementary, Middle, and High School during speech therapy.
Thank you so much!

What a great site. It is always worth coming to the site when looking for some assistance.

I am very happy to have found this website. The information provided is very pertinent to my ELA class. Strategies are great and the tools such as graphic organizers are neat. Thank you!

It's a great website! Thanks so much for this wonderful ideas! :) Very useful

I was looking for a good story map to go in my listening center for the students to recall their information and I found one that is simple and precise. This is awsome!

I took the story mapping and simplified it for a kindergarten cooperative learning lesson. After reading a story and discussing the story elements, I split the students into groups and assign each group a story element- characters, setting , problems , and solutions. Each group has a leader and they draw and write in a circle map the components of the story they are assigned. Each student shares with the class the part they contributed. We have a class made rubric to follow to make sure the pictures and writing are from the text. Then we post the maps in the classroom and they write from those maps the rest of the week.

Research shows that graphic organizers help students understand what they read. They also help students at all levels write about what they read and write original stories. A sequence graphic organizer, for example, gives students a guide or blueprint on which to outline their ideas. With that as a starting point, students can begin to write and tell their stories

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Malala Yousafzei