See the Glamour in Story Grammar

Reading to Learn



By: Sara Warren


Rationale: The number one goal of reading is comprehension. However, 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: copies of Miss Nelson is Missing for each student and teacher; copies of Skippyjon Jones Class Action for each student and teacher; smart board or document camera; pencils; two copies of the story map for each student (one for the group work and one for the individual assessment)


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 is usually more than one setting 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, events (problems), solution and ending. 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, Miss Nelson is Missing. 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: "Miss Nelson is a kind teacher who goes missing one day because the kids in her class are behaving so badly. That is, until their substitute Miss Viola Swamp arrives. She is scary and mean. The kids worry what happened to Miss Nelson and wonder if they will ever find her. Let’s read on and think about story structures like the characters, setting, problems, and solution to help our comprehension.”


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: Miss Nelson is Missing

-Author: James Marshall

-Main characters: Miss Nelson, Miss Viola Swamp,

-Supporting characters: All of the students

-Setting: Room 207

-Problems (Events): Students were misbehaving so badly that their teacher goes missing.

-Solutions: They learn their lesson and Miss Nelson comes back.

-Ending- Miss Nelson WAS Miss Viola Swamp and got her students to behave the correct way!


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 school…. This one is named Skippyjon Jones Class Action! 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.  before you find a spot to read, I'm going to tell you a little bit about the book."


7.  Extended vocabulary review:

Word 1: Confessed. Say: "Confessed means that someone has admitted (or told the truth) that they committed a crime or were wrong in some way. It is past tense so we know that the action already happened. Confessed is not lying or keeping it a secret. Here's an example: The bank robber finally confessed that he was the one that took the $5,000 dollars from the bank. Ask a question like: Who is more likely to confess to a crime: Spongebob or Plankton; a masked robber or a sweet teacher? Open-ended sentence: I confessed to doing something wrong when… Give an example ending to the sentence: “when… I tried to steal my mom’s makeup.”


Teacher would also go over the following vocabulary in the same format: ferocious, accent, boarding, latched. Say: Now, before you find a spot to read, I'm going to tell you a little bit about the book."


8. Give a book talk on Skippyjon Jones Class Action. Say: "Skippyjon Jones really wants to go to school. School is for dogs, his mama tells him. It's where they go to get trained. But nothing can stop Skippy; once inside his closet, he finds himself on the playground of his imagination, surrounded by dogs of all kinds. He bays with the beagles, learns French with the poodles, and checks out a Chihuahua book from the library. And when a bully starts sending bothering the little dogs, Skippy tries to save the day. Will he make it in time to save the day? We will have to read to find out! "


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


10. 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."


11. 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.



12. Assessment: Ask students to fill out a Story Map for a short book of their “just right” choice book from the classroom library and look over for analysis. Teacher will also analyze and interpret the results of students' Skippyjon Jones Class Action story maps, and return them to students to look over before asking students to complete the next assessment. 


Marshall, James. Miss Nelson is Missing. Houghton Mifflin Company. 1977.

Schachner, Judy. Skippyjon Jones Class Action. Scholastic, Inc. 2011.

Story Map.

Sparkle Animation.

Lauren Owens. “Aunt Story Grammar”


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