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Lesson Plan

Book Report Alternative: Examining Story Elements Using Story Map Comic Strips

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Book Report Alternative: Examining Story Elements Using Story Map Comic Strips

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Knowing the elements of a story aids students in their understanding of what is taking place in the book or novel. When students comprehend the story elements of characters, setting, problems, events, and solutions, they become more involved in the story and take a greater interest in details. In this lesson, students use a six-paneled comic strip to create a story map, summarizing a book or story that they've read either read as a class or independently. The story strips that result provide a great way to evaluate student's understanding of important events and elements in a novel. The students enjoy the artistic aspect as well!

This lesson plan uses Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are as an example to model the process of creating the story map comic strips; however, any book you and your students have explored recently that demonstrates the elements of character, setting, problem, events, and solutions will work.

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Story mapping activities are a technique for using graphic representations to explore elements of a reading while working toward increased comprehension. As Margaret Foley explains in her "The (Un)Making of a Reader," story mapping asks readers to focus on the distinctive features of a text (feature analysis), separate the facts or significant information from the other details (signal detection), provide abstract structures that represent the text structure of a reading (schema theory), and explore the process of reading by breaking that process into component parts and making the reader aware of the way that these parts combine (metacognition). Foley warns, however, that teachers must guard against allowing story mapping to become a "self-monitoring system for story reading which inhibits [students'] potential to explore a diverse range of personal responses" (510).

In this activity, students use story mapping as a step toward personal response to the text. The creation of the comic strips is part of a reading process that also includes reflection and personal rethinking of the text elements. In this way, students can explore the benefits of story mapping without losing the opportunity to read and respond to texts personally.

Further Reading

Foley, Margaret M.  "The (Un)Making of a Reader." Language Arts 77.6 (July 2000): 506-511.

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