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Story Maps are used for teaching students to work with story structure for better comprehension. This technique uses visual representations to help students organize important elements of a story. Students learn to summarize the main ideas, characters, setting, and plot of an assigned reading.


Story Maps can be used with the entire class, small groups, or for individual work. This strategy helps students examine the different components of an assigned text or story. Story Maps can be used with both fiction (i.e., defining characters; events) and nonfiction (i.e., main ideas; details). The use of Story Maps as a comprehension strategy can be beneficial for all students, and are especially helpful for students needing the additional support of a graphic organizer.

Create and use the strategy

The teacher decides upon that text to be read and determines the key elements that the students should identify. Teachers choose (or create) a Story Map that is most appropriate for the type of assigned reading (i.e., fiction or non-fiction). As with all strategy instruction, teachers should model the procedure to ensure that students understand why and how to use the strategy. Teachers should monitor and support students as they work. 

Story ElementExamples


  • Who are the people who were involved?
  • Which ones played major roles?
  • Which ones were minor?


  • Where and when did this event take place? Over what period of time?


  • Problem/Goal: What set events in motion? What problem arose, or what were the key players after?
  • Events/Episodes: the key steps or events that capture the progress of the situation.
  • Resolution/Outcome: How was the problem solved? Was the goal attained? 


  • The larger meaning or importance, the moral, the “so what?”
  1. Teachers should introduce the text/story to be read and provide each student with a blank Story Map.
  2. Students begin by recording the title of the assigned text on the Story Map. 
  3. The other components of the story may be mapped out during the reading process. Examples of such key elements are listed below:
  4. After the students have completed their Story Maps, they may discuss why each element was recorded.
  5. A class Story Map may be created by putting the information on a large sheet of paper. The map is discussed and students are encouraged to add items to the categories or even to suggest new categories. 


Block, C., & Pressley, M. (2002). Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices. Guilford Press: New York, NY.

Reutzel, D.R. (1985). Story maps improve comprehension. Reading Teacher, 38(4), 400-404.