Aunt Story Grammar

Reading to Learn

Lauren Owens


Rationale: In order for students to understand a story as a whole, they must understand the parts of the story. There are many "parts" of a story--characters, settings, problems, solutions, etc. But without the knowledge of what these terms mean, students cannot fully understand how these parts work together to form one complete story. While students are reading, they should be asking themselves questions about the story grammar so that they understand characters, settings, and other parts that make up the whole story. To become skilled readers, students must also learn how to recognize and understand story grammar automatically. By having students fill in the story map of what they have read, they will gain understanding of the terms and improve their comprehension.


Materials: Truman's Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan; My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston; copies of the Story Map [two for each student, see image below]; Smart Board; pencils.


1. Introduce lesson by starting a conversation about reading grammar. Say: "How many of you think you are good readers? [allow time for response]. Well, you are all good readers. And all of you use different strategies, or things to help you, while reading. Something that helps me as I read is to think about the different characters, settings, problems, and solutions in the book. Every book has at least one character, every book has at least one setting, and every book has at least one problem and solution. Asking questions like this allow us as readers to remember the different parts of the story while we read, and also when we are recalling the events of the story."


2. Review what the different story grammar terms mean. Say: "Let's start out by reviewing what these terms mean. What is a character? [Wait for a response.] A character is a person/animal in a story who carries special meaning. There are two types of characters: main characters, and supporting characters. Main characters are the main people/animals in the book. The supporting characters are the ones that aren't as important in the story, but  still are worth remembering. What is a setting? [Wait for response.] A setting is a place where a story is taking place. There are usually more than one settings in a story. What is the problem? [Wait for response.] The problem is something that happens in a story that needs resolving. What is a solution? [Wait for response.] As you could probably guess, the solution is the thing that happens in the story that fixes the problem. You know what the title and author of a story are. The title is the name of the story, and the author is the person who wrote the story. Those are really easy to find, you just look at the cover of the book!


3. Introduce the first book. Say: "Now, I'm going to read this book and I want you to listen to it carefully. But first, let me show you this Story Map. [Pull up the Story Map on the Smart Board.] As you can see, as I read, I want you to look for the title, author, main/supporting characters, setting, problem, and solution. But instead of reading the whole book and then trying to remember all of this story grammar, we're going to fill this out as we read. This is the book I'm going to read to you, Truman's Aunt Farm. We can go ahead and fill out the title and author, so let's do that before we even start reading. [Fill in Title and Author on Story Map.]


4. Do a book talk. Say: "Truman is a little boy who loves getting birthday presents from his Aunt Fran. But this year, he gets a very strange gift. Instead of getting a fun gift, he gets his very own "Aunt Farm"…but not the insects, the family members! Truman's aunts all start showing up at his house, and he doesn't know what to do! You'll have to listen closely to find out if he ever gets rid of all his aunts!"


5. Read the book, filling out the Story Map as the different parts show up in the story (asking for students' participation). As a problem comes up, talk about the problem, and fill it in the story map. Explain that you can't fill out the problems in the story until they occur (usually by the middle of the book, at least one problem has occurred). By the end of the story, the whole Story Map should be filled out. Explain that usually the solutions are obvious until the end of a story, and there should be a solution to every presented problem (usually).  After the Story Map is filled out, talk about the different parts and how it helped to think about the different parts as we read (instead of waiting until the end to fill everything out).

Truman's Aunt Farm Story Map Examples:

-Title: Truman's Aunt Farm

-Author: Jama Kim Rattigan

-Main characters: Truman, Aunt Fran

-Supporting characters: all the aunts (examples: Aunt Lulu, Aunt Jodie, Aunt Ramona, etc.)

-Setting: Truman's House (including backyard)

-Problems: Truman doesn't know what to feed the aunts; Truman doesn't have room for all the aunts

-Solutions: He feeds them "aunt food"; They eventually go home


6. Introduce the students' opportunity to fill out the Story Map. Say: "Now it's your turn! I am going to give you another book about aunts…. This one is named My Great Aunt Arizona! I think you will all really like this book, and it won't take you very long to read! But as you read, I want you to stop and fill out this Story Map as you read. Remember that it is much easier to think about this story grammar AS you read, instead of just AFTER you read. I am going to give you each a copy of the book, and a copy of the Story Map. Now before you find a spot to read, I'm going to tell you a little bit about the book."


7. Give a book talk on My Great Aunt Arizona. Say: "Aunt Arizona was an amazing woman. She grew up in a log cabin, and eventually became a great teacher. She taught children just like you! She had dreams to go different parts of the world. Did she ever go to those different parts of the world? Maybe, maybe not, but she had an incredible life, for sure. You'll have to read to find out why!"


8. Go around the room, watching students' progress and reminding them to fill out the Story Map as they read.


9. After they read, pair them up (pre-determined) and tell the partners to discuss what they wrote on their Story Map. Say: "Get with your partner and discuss the chart you just filled in. I want you to discuss what you liked about the book, maybe what you didn't like so much, and everything you wrote down on your Map."


10. After everyone is done discussing, call everyone back together to discuss the Story Map. Fill out one on the Smart Board that reflects the ones that the students have been working on.


11. Extended vocabulary review:

Word 1: Porcelain. Say: "Porcelain is a type of glass. It is very fragile, or easily breakable. It is used as an adjective, like a 'porcelain dish'. Here's an example: I wish my mom hadn't carried that hot porcelain plate in the kitchen, because it is very hot!". Ask a question like: Which is more likely to be porcelain, a cup or a plastic bag?

Word 2: Homemade. Say: "Homemade means someone MADE something, and it wasn't not bought from a store. It is used as an adjective, like a homemade project. Here's an example: I made my mom a homemade card for Valentine's Day. She loved it more than the one I bought from Walgreen's last year!". Ask a question like: Which is more likely to be homemade, a car or a bracelet?

Word 3: Postman. Say: "A postman is a person who delivers mail. Here's an example: I saw the postman delivering a special letter to my mailbox today!" Ask a question like: Does a postman deliver letters or write letters?

Word 4: Aunt. Say: "An Aunt is a relative who is a sister of your mom or dad. Here's an example: Aunt Tammy came to our Christmas party because she is my mom's sister." Ask a question like: Is your Aunt related to your mom or your grandmother?

Then play this game. Say: "I am going to say some sentences, and I want you to tell me which vocabulary word fits in each sentence." Use these sentences:

The ________ came to deliver my mail today. I was so excited! (postman)

I hope I don't break my mom's ________ vase. It is a family heirloom! (porcelain)

The shoes were obviously _____, since they were made from yarn and paper. (homemade)

My ________ loves to come visit me. Since she's my mom's sister, she usually tells me funny stories of the two of them growing up! (Aunt)


12. Assessment: Ask students to fill out a Story Map for a short book of their choice (preferably one the teacher has read), and look over for analysis. Teacher will also analyze and interpret the results of students' Great Aunt Arizona story maps, and return them to students to look over before asking students to complete the next assessment.




DeGuenther, Kate. "Reading Detectives Remember".


Houst, Gloria. My Great-Aunt Arizona. (1992). USA: Harper Collins Publishers.


Rattigan, Jama Kim. Truman's Aunt Farm. (1994). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.


Story Map Chart.


Return to Doorways Index