Reading to Learn
Joy Gettys

Story Structures Help Comprehension


To improve comprehension, students need to know about the general structure of stories and how to ask themselves questions about stories they are reading.  Once readers know how to use story grammar automatically to facilitate comprehension, they can become skilled readers.  This lesson will help children understand the story structure and how to use the structure to improve comprehension.  They will practice by asking themselves questions during silent reading, and then after reading, they will make story maps.


Enough copies of “Whooz-z-z Snooz-z-zing?” (Ranger Rick, Nov 2000) for everyone, enough copies of “The Secret of Silver Pond” (Ranger Rick, Aug 2000) for everyone, enough story map guideline sheets for everyone, enlarged story map, enough “question” cards for everyone (see procedure #3), extra paper, and pencils


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining how important it is to understand the general structure of many stories.  Once we learn about the story structure, our comprehension and memory will improve.  Today we are going work on improving our comprehension skills by using story grammar so that we can become better readers.  We are going to read several stories and do several activities to improve our reading skills.

2. Review the structure of stories with the children. Remind them of the following:  Most stories have a beginning that can include information about the time of the story, where it took place, and the main characters.  Then usually an event sets the goal or problem, which is followed by several attempts to reach the goal or solve the problem.  Then the goal or problem is finally resolved.  This is called story structure.

3. Tell them now that they know the story structure, they can ask themselves questions while reading.  (Pass out cards with questions to everyone.)  Tell them that the questions they should think about are on the card:  (1) Who is the main character? (2) Where and when did the story take place? (3) What did the main characters do? (4) How did the story end? (5) How did the main character feel?  Tell the class that they are going to silently read “The Secret of Silver Pond” and that while reading, they need to think about the questions on the cards.

4. After they have read the article, model to them how to answer the questions on the card.  Show them how to use their knowledge of story structure to help them answer these questions.  Go through each question:  For example, #1 & #2:  At the beginning of the story, we know we can usually find the setting and characters.  So I will look at the beginning of this story and see that the setting is in the summer, by a pond.  The main characters are Rowen and Mick.  Now, let’s see if you can finish answering the questions.

5. Have a discussion with the whole group about the story.  Talk about the 5 questions and answers.

6. Tell the students the following:  Now we are going to create a story map of “The Secret of Silver Pond.”  A story map consists of recording the setting, problem, goal, action, and outcome information of the story.  Have enlarged story map on board.  Read a familiar article aloud and model how to make the story map.  Tell them they can use their knowledge of story structure to help them make the map.  Go through each part of the map and record each answer.  Tell the students how you got your answers.  Let them make a story map of the story they just read.

7. For assessment, distribute story map guideline sheets and the following article to everyone in the class:  “Whooz-z-z Snooz-z-zing?”  Tell them to read the article silently and to make a story map of what they just read.

Reference:  Pressley, M., Johnson, C. J., Symons, S., McGoldrick, J. A., & Kurity, J. A.  (1989).  Strategies that improve children’s memory and comprehension of text.  The Elementary School Journal, 90, 13.

Story Map Card

Name _____________________   Date _________________

The Setting:




The Problem:

The Goal:


The Outcome:

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