5 Tips for Story Structure- Anchor Charts, Worksheets, and More!

This week, I’m going to discuss 5 tips for teaching story structure. We will learn how to dive deeper into the beginning, middle, and ending of fiction texts. Text structure focuses on beginning, middle, and end and is taught in 2nd and 3rd grades. Although 1st graders should definitely learn about the beginning, middle, and end of the story, they focus on that more during retelling and story elements. This standard focuses explicitly on referring to the text and is not a standard for first grade, just 2nd and 3rd. Here are the three common core standards we will be discussing.

The Standards of Story Structure

  • RL.2.5- Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
  • RL.3.5- Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.
  • RL.4.5- Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.

Buzz Words:

  • describe
  • structure
  • successive
  • beginning, middle, end
  • introduce story
  • concludes action
  • refer to text
  • stories/chapters/drama/scene/poem/stanza

Five Key Tasks for Teachers

1. Teach the overall structure of a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Start by simply teaching what types of things happen in the beginning, middle, and end. Teach students how to find them and what to look for!

Try a class anchor chart to kick off your story structure unit. On this anchor chart, write about what happens in the beginning, middle, and end. Then, take three very popular and well-known stories from the class and write a quick BME explanation of each on Post-it notes. That way, the students can associate a story from prior knowledge to the BME. Or read one story a day and as a class, fill out the BME, and put them on the Post-it notes. This can also carry over and help with student writing when it comes to narratives!

2. Focus on the beginning, middle, and ending in isolation and the events that happen within them.

Teach the events that happen in the beginning, middle, and end in isolation. Play hypothetical situations out for each story you read during this unit where the beginning, middle, or end never happened.

One way to isolate the beginning, middle, and end events is to have students read a text and follow up with writing what three main events happen in each specific part.

Printable Lessons and activities for teaching story structure

(Resources: RL2.5 Unit)

If you’re working with less advanced writers, try a simple flip book. Students will need one piece of paper and a pair of scissors. They will fold the paper in half, cut one side of the paper into three pieces, and label them as beginning, middle, and end. Then, they will lift each flap, illustrate on the top piece, and write about it on the bottom.

(Resources: RL2.5 Unit)

Shown in the pictures above are printable activities that students can use with any passage, read-aloud, or independent reading text. You can use interactive notebook pages, task cards, or graphic organizers. These printables have students focus only on the beginning, middle, or end at one time. A great book to use with some of these activities would be Memoirs of a Parrot by David Scillian. Here is my affiliate link to the book on Amazon.

3. Teach different types of text.

The 3rd-grade standard suggests using stories, poems and plays. Use a variety of these things when teaching how to find the beginning, middle, and end and the events that happen within them. This is very important when it comes to referring to the text because Common Core wants students to refer to specific stanzas, scenes, and chapters.

(Resources: RL2.5RL3.5, RL.4.5 Units)

Included in my RL3.5 and RL.4.5 units, you’ll find plays, poems, and stories. On the left is a two-page play with three characters that students read about and answer questions on. On the right is a mini-lesson activity for a chapter book excerpt. There are task card questions that follow.

(Resources: RL3.5, RL.4.5 Units)

These are also included in my RL3.5 pack. On the left, there is a poem, followed up with task card questions. On the right is another poem sample with questions.

4. Use books and passages that they can practice with.

My favorite tip for teaching story structure is to load up on text! Let students use lots of books and passages for practice. Focus on the events that happen in the beginning and how the middle builds onto the beginning. Then, focus on how the end builds onto the middle. Most of the time, students will also be looking for a problem and a solution.

These are my affiliate links on Amazon! (Find more mentor texts for RL here!)

Printable Lessons and activities for teaching story structure

(Resources: RL3.5)

Students also need explicit practice with answering skill-specific questions with on-level text. Use reading passages that fall within your students’ reading levels, and provide them with questions that specifically reference text structure. Students will begin to think about how stories are organized and formatted, and eventually be able to recognize how that impacts them.

5. Let them practice in many different ways.

Give students ample ways to practice this skill. Build it into a small group or make it an independent center activity. I always like using interactive notebooks, printables, and task cards in centers or workstations. Here are a few different ways to build these into your ELA block.

Printable Lessons and activities for teaching story structure

(Resources: RL2.5RL3.5)
Give students task cards to use with texts that they will read during independent reading time. During their read-to-self-time, students can have these task cards to self-assess, or they could buddy up with a partner after they read and answer questions. These can be used with any text, whether a printable passage, online story or even a picture book. One of my favorites is Weird Parents by Audrey Wood. Here is an affiliate link to that story if you’re interested in using it with this unit.

Another idea is to stick a few read-alouds and printables in a tub labeled “Early Finishers” and when students finish an assignment, they can grab the tub to work. This will allow them to feel successful and not waste any downtime during the day. Here is my affiliate link for the book One Fine Day by Nonny Hogrogian.

Story Structure Suggested Resources:

The resources that were spotlighted in this blog post are:

If you are looking for COMPLETE resources for teaching story structure in your classroom, look no further. Each of the Story Elements CCSS units below includes lessons and materials, graphic organizers, comprehension passages and questions, interactive notebook elements, task cards, and an assessment! Click your grade level to get a closer look.

Do you need a good way to organize your mentor texts?

Want to read more about teaching specific ELA Standards?

Click here for a list of other Exploring ELA blog posts.


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