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Teaching Your Students to Use Graphic Organizers: Story Maps

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/17/2012

Story maps can help students identify key events in a story that lead to the climax, pinpoint the main problem and solution, and find main characters. This graphic organizers helps your students organize their ideas about a book, and it can be a useful tool for comprehension.

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    Introduction Through Eyes of A Story

    The best way to introduce the graphic organizers story map is to fill one out as a shared writing activity with your students after you read them a favorite book. Using a familiar book will make it easier to understand the parts of the story map because they can focus on the graphic organizer instead of trying to understand a new story. Once students comprehend how to fill out a story map and why it's helpful, children can use new stories and work in small groups or individually to fill out their own story map.

    For example, let's say you teach students to fill out graphic organizers story map with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Ask students who is the main character of the story? Write the main character in the correct box in the story map. You can also ask a student to write it on your class story map to encourage more participation. Then ask students: "What is the problem in the story?" After they answer, write the correct response on the class story map. Continue in this way until you and the students have filled out the entire story map.

    If you think students have a basic understanding of how to use this graphic organizer, put them in small groups or pairs and assign them to fill out their own story maps on a favorite story.

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    Lots Of Choices

    There are many different types of graphic organizers. Story maps have several different versions, too. Some story maps focus mostly on events in the story. Others focus on all story elements such as characters, setting, events, climax, problem, solution, and conclusion. You can find graphic organizers story maps that are free on the Internet, or create your own with a wordprocessing program. You can also pass out a blank sheet of paper and show students how to make their own story maps. Here's how:

    1. On a blank sheet of paper, students start at the upper left hand corner and draw a picture of the first important event in the story. They write a short sentence under the illustration.
    2. They draw a small arrow that points to the right.
    3. After the arrow, students draw another picture of the next important event, and they include a sentence.
    4. They continue in this way--drawing arrows and important events. When they get to the edge of the paper, they draw an arrow down, and then they start moving left across their page with illustrations and sentences.
    5. When students draw the event that they think is the climax of the story, they place a star above it, and then continue with pictures and sentences to tell about the conclusion of the story.

    This graphic organizer story map is perfect for organizing longer works such as chapter books or middle grade novels. Teachers can adapt it to work with their curriculum by adding directions to write or draw about main characters and setting.