Story Maps

A story map is graphic representation of the structure of a story. The graphic makes clear the language elements of the story and helps students comprehend. Story maps refine and visually illustrate major components of simple stories including: setting, characters, problem, resolution, and conclusion. Story maps give students a structure for understanding and for retelling stories.

Story maps serve as mental organizers for the reader to sort important information from less important information. Students can use story structure to help them organize their own comprehension


  1. The teacher chooses an appropriate story map organizer depending on the complexity of the story and the proficiency level of the students (see samples below).

  2. After reading the story, the teacher presents each element of the story map, making sure that students understand the instructions and perhaps modeling responses with a different example story. The teacher may choose to do a "talk-aloud" with the students to answer the questions about the story map elements before turning them loose to work:

    - What is the setting?

    - Who is the main character?

    - What does/did the main character want (goals)?

    - What is/was the problem?

    - What does/did the main character do

  3. The teacher may choose to work on a projected story map as a class, or to have students work in groups, pairs or as individuals to complete story maps for the text.

  4. Optional: The teacher brings the class back together to share answers on a class story map (and optionally could hang this on a wall for reference later in the unit).

Helpful Tips

  1. The story should align with the students’ age and proficiency level.

    The teacher decides how and at what point in the lesson to use the story mapping strategy. For example:

    - Using a map as a pre-reading organizer

    - Asking the students to complete the map as they are reading

    - Creating post-reading story map as a group activity

  2. Variation:  Story Mapping as a Pre-writing Strategy

    1. Students, after reading an assigned story, fill in a story map, either as a group or individually. Students use the model to write a summary of the story.

    2. Students, after reading the story, change it slightly and write an adaptation, For example: Students could use the same character and change one or more of the problems or use the same setting and change the other elements.

    3. Students, individually or in groups, develop a story map and then use it to write an original story.


  3. Variation:
    Students can work on a “Character’s Point of View” map as in the example.


  1. The complexity of the story map will depend on the length and complexity of the story students have read and the complexity of the information in the map. Students could:

    - Summarize the beginning, middle and end of a story.

    - List the 5 W’s: who, when, where, what, and why of a story.

    - List the title, setting, characters, the problem, the solution and the moral or theme of the story.

    - List a complex chain of events that summarize all key elements of the story, in chronological order.

    - Use pictures to illustrate the major events of a story in chronological order.

  2. Depending on the age and proficiency level of the students, this activity can be used as a “You do together” or “You do alone” activity later in a lesson sequence/unit.

  3. The teacher should make an intentional decision to have students fill out a story map in English vs. the target language depending on the focus of the activity and the proficiency level of students (i.e. for novice learners focused on interpreting a text, they could either copy down key words and/or names from the text in the target language, or they might summarize the text in English; for higher proficiency level students, they may fill out the story map in the target language instead). 


  1. A blank story map graphic organizer (electronic or on paper), possibly one copy per student. 

  2. An authentic text to listen to, read, or view.

Sample Materials

Click a thumbnail to see a larger version.