A Story Map is a visual depiction of the settings or the sequence of major events and actions of story characters. This activity helps kids to see structure in a variety of text structures. And by sharing personal interpretations of stories through their own organizers and artwork, students increase their understanding and appreciation of selections.

Used by language arts teachers all over the country, Story Maps can be used by social studies teachers to help their students read historical fiction, make sense of historical events and organize information from their textbooks.

What is its purpose?

  • to help students visualize historical characters, events and settings
  • to increase  comprehension by organizing and sequencing main story events
  • to develop a historical sense of story that will help in the creation of new content
  • to increase awareness that time, people and events are interrelated

How can I do it?

  • Introduce the strategy using a story they’re already familiar with
  • Encourage students to visualize the people, settings and events as they listen or read
  • Have students chart the people and events individually
  • Organize students into groups of two or three to compare their charts
  • Review their chart as a whole group, focusing students’ attention on the sequence of main events.
  • As students agree upon the order of listed events, number these in sequence.
  • Individuals or groups could each illustrate each event.
  • Display completed illustrations in sequence.

How can I adapt it?

  • Students could use paper folded into six equal sections to illustrate and outline a story in six parts.
  • Students may construct written maps or story graphs, or they may use combinations of drawings and words to outline a story sequence.
  • Oral tellings of stories could be recorded and students could create accompanying illustrations in the format of wordless picture books.

Tools to help:


Dan Robinson had his kids use a variation of a story map to help them see the importance of specific events in a story:

Slipping out rough sheets of paper we generated a chart depicting the climactic nature of the chapter. Once students had collaborated to determine the rise fall, noting specific page references, they were then required to compare and contrast their charts with other groups. Each group had to discuss and explain why their chart rose and fell in the way that it did, with specific reference to the text. Amazingly more than half of the groups found that their charts, to their surprise, were remarkably similar. Other groups whose charts were outliers were able to see what elements they had glossed over. Simply visually depicting a key chapter showing the rising and falling action allowed students to engage in deeper critical examination of the crucial chapter, providing an understanding of the following events in the novel.

[slideshare id=7685731&doc=shabanustorymap-110420091740-phpapp01]
We can do the same thing with historical events and historical fiction. Story Maps give us one more tool that can help kids wrap their heads around stuff.