- Given 3 or less verbal cues, student will sort pictures and/or written words by story element (e.g., characters, settings, problems, solution) with 80% accuracy.
- NAME will identify the character, setting, problem, and solution from picture books read out loud in 75% of opportunities given a graphic organizer.
- NAME will answer questions about story elements (e.g., character, problem, action, plan) about a short (2-3 paragraph) narrative with 75% accuracy across 3 data collection opportunities.
- Student will identify 5 or more story grammar parts in short narratives in 4 out of 5 observed opportunities given familiar visuals and a graphic organizer.
- Given a model story, NAME will retell the story and include a character, setting, problem, feeling, action, and solution in 75% of opportunities across 2 sessions.
Read more about my goals here.
Teaching Story Elements + Story Grammar
Story grammar gives structure to the flow of stories.
It builds on and draws from foundational narrative skills including Sentence Formulation, WH Questions, and Sequencing. The use of different story elements can increase the complexity of stories including an initiating event, several attempts to solve a problem, causal links between events, a plan, and more. The understanding of story elements and story grammar also sets the stage for more difficult narrative skills including Story Retell and Story Generation.
Similar to when we’re thinking about word knowledge and vocabulary skills, stories can have story grammar breath (long and complex episodic structure) and story grammar depth (well defined, in depth development of different story grammar parts like character, setting, problem, etc..).
Another way of putting this is that stories can be made more sophisticated/difficult by two variables: story length (many story elements) and story complexity (complex characters, plot, etc…).
Like I do with most skills, I like to teach story elements directly (sometimes one at a time) before having my students use that knowledge to identify individual story elements in picture books or short texts.
Here’s how I typically break this skill down to set my students up for success:
First, I try to model different story grammar parts in motivating books or stories. I’m don’t expect much output from my students at this point, I’m just pointing out things in stories like “Jemma is the character” or “Uh oh! Sounds like Jemma has a problem!”. I’ve found that doing this first makes the direct teaching we’ll do next more relevant.
2. Direct Teaching
Next up, I directly teach each story grammar part. I directly define what each means, share tons of examples, and always, always, always use visuals!
Then, I have my students sort different examples into the correct story grammar category. Can they identify characters vs settings vs problems vs actions?
4. Story Structure
Once my students have demonstrated success with learning what individual story grammar parts are, I teach how the parts are often organized in a predictable order in stories. Depending on student’s age and level, I might teach which story grammar elements are often found in the beginning, middle, or end of stories. Or, I teach story structure using a plot diagram.
5. Story Grammar Identification
Last, it’s time to put all of this knowledge into practice to identify story grammar elements in picture books and short texts! Read on to learn more about targeting story grammar in context!
If you’re looking for story cue cards that don’t require printing or prepping, I’d recommend Story Cue Cards from Bjorem Speech. I co-authored them with Leanne Dall, another fabulous SLP. They are printed on super thick paper and come in a box.
Click here to learn more and check them out.
Or, click here to check out my printable Story Element and Story Structure visuals resource.
Once your learners are having success with the 5 steps shared above, they’re ready to take their story grammar skills to the next level in less structured activities including some of those shared below.
Story Grammar in Context
After you’ve directly taught your learners about each story grammar element, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice using contextualized activities!
To do this, I often pair the same visuals I used in the direct teaching steps above with picture books, non-fiction articles, short videos, magazines, and other texts.
I love keeping relevant visuals right inside my favorite picture books so I can truly grab and go for my therapy sessions.
Short videos, like Pixar shorts, can be an incredibly engaging, easy medium for identifying story grammar parts.
Pair any video with a graphic organizer and/or visuals and you’ve got a therapy session planned! ✅
Three of my favorite Pixar short videos on YouTube are:
- Piper – https://youtu.be/WIPV1iwzrzg
- For The Birds – https://youtu.be/nYTrIcn4rjg
- Partly Cloudy (shown above) – https://youtu.be/PfyJQEIsMt0
But there’s so many more amazing ones available on YouTube and online! Just be sure to preview them before using them with your students and being cognizant of what ads might play before or during the video.
For older students who are working at the text level, I’d recommend having them identify story grammar elements in short narrative texts.
When your students are ready for it, removing the visuals and images found in picture books can be a great added challenge when identifying story grammar parts.
Really, any narrative or story in any format (video, text, pictures, personal experiences) can be used to identify story grammar parts! I’ve even had success breaking down graphic novels from my students’ classrooms! Reading and seeing lots of different examples of story structures will help your students internalize comment story structures.
Want any easy button to target story grammar elements in wordless picture books made just for speech therapy sessions? Check out my story units linked below:Shop Story Units