Understanding story structure isn’t something that comes naturally to students. Sure, they can tell you who some of the characters in a story are, but sometimes getting them to think about the setting, problem, and solution can be a little more difficult. Understanding story structure is a key component of reading comprehension, so you better believe I hit this one hard with my students. I am so excited to share with you the process I use for teaching story structure using ANY fiction story with a plot. With some or all of these engaging activities, you and your students will become story structure experts!
Story Structure Vocabulary
Learning vocabulary is the foundation of a student’s success with any new project. By scaffolding learning for your students, you are ensuring they progress through the learning process in a way that makes sense and builds on previous knowledge.
I introduce story structure vocabulary just like I do for any other new skill or concept. Building a routine around introducing new vocabulary helps your students know what to expect from the very beginning of the year.
I love using anchor charts to introduce new vocabulary to my students. I make this as interactive as possible by having the class help me put together our vocabulary anchor chart poster. The students love adding images and ideas to the poster and it really helps them take ownership in the learning process.
For our story structure vocabulary anchor chart, I cut out the squares with the vocabulary words including:
Depending on your class level, it’s possible to complete the story structure vocabulary anchor chart in two ways. One option is to start with the word and have students work with you to define the word and give examples. The second option includes some deeper thinking and more collaborative work. You can give the definitions and words first and have them discuss as a class or in small groups what word they think fits the definition. This is some great higher-level thinking skills practice. No matter which option you choose, introducing vocabulary in this interactive way really helps your students retain the information.
Story Structure Act It Out
After you and your students have decided on the perfect location to display your new story structure vocabulary anchor chart poster in your classroom, its time to jump into the first story you will be focusing on. I love using my adapted story of “The Three Little Pigs” for this activity.
We don’t just read and talk about the story structure, we make it an interactive experience. I prepare headbands for the different story elements and assign each student a part. My students are always so excited to be a part of the “Three Little Pigs” story. As I read through the story, I stop often to ask what part of the story structure we are focusing on. If, for example, we are focusing on the setting which is the first little pig’s straw house, we ask the person with the straw house setting headband to step forward. This continues on throughout the story with students stepping forward and back to represent what section of the story structure we are reading about.
This activity really helps them to listen and think critically to determine if the focus is on a character, the setting, the problem or the solution. There’s sure to be some stepping forward at the wrong time, but that makes the perfect opportunity to talk through the thinking and how to apply the story elements to the story.
Story Structure Activities for the Entire Year
If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you know how important I think using reading comprehension strategies are for my students. I love introducing and reviewing comprehension strategies all year long. I refer back to strategies, concepts, and skills as often as possible with my students. This continuous review really helps them to master the concepts because they are provided with numerous opportunities for putting them into practice.
Teaching story structure is no exception. We come back to story structure over and over during the course of our year together. Any opportunity we have to review story structure with an activity is a win in my book. Here are a few of my favorite story structure activities that I love and when I generally use them. You don’t have to spread them out this way. Instead, you can use them as you progress through your story structure unit.
All of the activities can below can be used for any story that you have read as a class or as a reading response activity for a book students are reading independently. Throughout the year I like to do a combination of both.
Story Structure Activities For The Beginning Of The Year
These story structure activities are great when students are just learning these important concepts. There is a little more support and a little less high level application needed for these beginning activities.
1. Story Structure House Craft
This adorable craft has helped me so much to get those “lightbulb” moments with my students when learning about story structure. I use the Story Structure House as my first craft for story structure because it has a great visual that connects how different parts work together to make a whole.
We begin by discussing all of the elements needed to create a house. The house needs windows, a roof, doors, etc. And just as a house isn’t a house without these parts, a story isn’t a story without each of the story elements.
This craft is also interactive and kids love that! Each “flap” for the door, windows, or roof can be flipped open to reveal the definition of the vocabulary word on the front of the flap or an example from the story.
This story structure house craft can be printed on white paper that the students color, or right onto colored paper. The pieces can then be cut out and glued to a piece of black construction paper. My kids love using white crayon to write the definitions of each part of the story structure under the flaps. After finishing this craft, these colorful houses are so fun to hang around the room! All of the houses put together look like a little village.
2. Story Structure Word Cards
Another great activity to help introduce the concept of story structure at the beginning of the year are story structure word cards. No matter what fiction book you choose, these cards allow your students to review the story structure vocabulary as it relates to the particular story you choose.
Each card includes on of the vocabulary words for story structure including:
Students will draw a picture of each of the story structure vocabulary words as it relates to the story. Then, I pair up students or put them in small groups for a fun flash card activity. Each student takes a turns describing each of their cards.
For a more challenging activity for your higher level students, this can also be a guessing game activity. Students will describe their drawing without showing the card while other students try to guess the story structure vocabulary word. This is such a fun and engaging way for students to practice identifying parts of the story structure.
Mid Year Story Structure Activities
Now that your students have had some practice with story structure, it’s time to bring in some higher level activities to get them using those important critical thinking strategies.
Because these mid year story structure activities require more independent work, I like to use them as quick informal assessments. It’s important for me to identify those students who may need some individual workshop practice with me, or those that are really getting it and could do something a little more challenging. The activities below are perfect once your students have a good understanding of story structure and how to apply it.
1. Story Structure In Pictures
This is a great activity to use for literacy centers. Choose a story from one of the worksheets to have students read in their small group or as a quick read aloud.
The Story Structure In Pictures worksheets correlate to stories the students may already be familiar with or that provide a quick read opportunity. The stories are:
- The Princess and the Pea
- The Three Little Pigs
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Ugly Duckling
Students will cut out the visual clues and paste them to the corresponding story structure vocabulary box. This is such a useful way for me to quickly assess if my students are “getting it”. I can walk around while they are completing the activity and have students explain their placement as a second way of assessing their understanding.
2. Interactive Story Structure Journal Pages
I love using these interactive journal pages as often as possible in my classroom. Having students create a year long interactive reading strategies journal gives them a resource to refer back to when needed. For our Interactive Story Structure Journal Page, students will be creating an interactive flip page using the story structure vocabulary words.
Print these on brightly colored paper, or print them on white paper and have students color them with crayons, markers, or colored pencils. Under each flap, students can write a definition and/or an example from their story.
End Of Year Story Stucture Activities
Now that your students have had almost a full year to practice identifying story structure, it’s time for them to show their overall understanding with some fun activities.
1. Story Structure Flower
This is the perfect activity to assign in the spring when all of the flowers are starting to bloom again. It’s a perfect reading response activity to use with a class read aloud or any book that students are reading independently. I like to print them out on bright colored paper. Students will write and draw the different parts of story structure on the petals.
I love hanging these colorful story structure flowers around my room in the spring or creating a colorful Reading Garden bulletin board.
2. Story Structure Frog
This is my favorite story structure craft to do at the end of the year. It’s more complex than the other story structure crafts, but also gives students the opportunity to show their firm understanding of problem and solution with story structure. This activity has students putting all of their story structure descriptions in words.
You can use this activity for a story you have read as a class or one students have read on their own. I change this up but my decision really connects to the purpose. If I am going to use this activity to assess students understanding of these concepts then I always have them choose a book we have read together. Why? This way I know that I am also familiar with all the story elements. When I let students respond based on a book they are reading independently there are often some books I am not familiar with so I look more to make sure that the answers make sense.
Finishing Strong With Comprehension
I always try to end my units with some kind of comprehension activity. I find comprehension tri-folds to be a great final assessment for my students.
The Story Structure Tri-Fold activity requires students to demonstrate their understanding by writing and illustrating their answers:
- What happens at the beginning, middle, and end of the story?
- Describe the setting and draw a picture
- List the characters from the story and draw their picture
- What was the problem and what was the solution?
- Describe your favorite part of the story
Not only is this the perfect way for students to show their understanding of story structure, but they also take these home to share with their families. It helps them to describe their learning and show their comprehension in a fun way.
These tri-folds can be used as a reading response activity instead of a traditional reading log. Students love that they can create a book brochure and parents love that they don’t have to sign a daily reading log. Win-win!
A Story Structure Freebie for You
I want to help you teach story structure in a fun and engaging way in your classroom. This Story Structure Mini-Book is perfect to use with any book. Your students will love writing and illustrating their story structure book and they won’t realize all the concepts they are reviewing in the process.
You can find this free story structure activity in the Emily Education store.
Story Structure SuperstarsIf you are ready to add some story structure fun to your lesson plans, you can grab all of these story structure activities, and more, in the store. In addition to the printable activities and crafts, you also get digital story structure activities that are ready to be used in SeeSaw and with Google apps. No matter your purpose or style of teaching, there is a wide variety of story structure activities to help you reach the needs of all your students.
Save these Story Structure Activities
Don’t lose these fun and engaging story structure activities. Pin them to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can quickly come back when you need to fill your reading lesson plans.