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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Story graph and story map

Reading Strategy: Story graph or Story map 

ESOL Principles:

Most strategies can be used to support all seven of the ESOL principles dependent upon how the teacher decides to use the strategy within their teaching and learning planning cycle. This strategy is usually used to support:

Principle 3: Maintain and make explicit the same learning outcomes for all the learners. How can I make the lesson comprehensible to all students? How can I plan the learning tasks so that all the students are actively involved? Do my students understand the learning outcomes?

Principle 4: Begin with context embedded tasks which make the abstract concrete. How can I put these concepts into a concrete context?

Principle 6: Ensure a balance between receptive and productive language. Are the students using both productive (speaking, writing) and receptive (listening, reading) language in this lesson?


Story graph 

Students draw a line graph to show the rise and fall in excitement level of the plot. (See example below.) OR using the main events of the book (which the teacher may provide), give each event a rating eg. 1 - not exciting....5 - very exciting. Plot this information on a line graph. Drawing story graphs helps students to understand the structure of narrative texts,

Plot Tension Graph for Tomorrow When the War Began

 © Ministry of Education, Wellington, New Zealand (First published 1998)

Story Map .

A story map is a strategy that uses a graphic organizer to help students learn the elements of a book or story. By identifying story characters, plot, setting, problem and solution, students read carefully to learn the details. There are many different types of story map graphic organisers. The most basic focus on the beginning, middle, and end of the story. More advanced organisers focus more on plot or character traits. It is an important task for all children, but especially for ELL students, to learn how to distinguish the main story from the unimportant material. Using story maps can improve students' comprehension and provide students with a framework for identifying the elements of a story. They can also help students of varying abilities organize information and ideas efficiently. The Reading rocket website provides examples based on books at different levels and in different learning areas.

video icon Secondary level: Making Language and Learning Work DVD 2 - Year 12 English.

Teaching and learning sequence planning examples:

Primary level:

Secondary level:

Some possible Teacher Inquiry questions:

  • What will I need to model/teach to my students before they attempt this task for themselves?
  • Should I increase the opportunities for speaking and listening by making the task a collaborative task?
  • How does using a story graph benefit my ESOL students?
  • Where will this activity best fit into my teaching cycle?


  • Adler, C. Seven Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension. Reading Rockets website. (Adapted from Adler, C.R. (Ed). 2001. Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, pp. 49-54. National Institute for Literacy. Retrieved Nov. 1, 2007, from http://www.nifl.gov/partnershipforreading/publications/reading_first1text.html.)
  • Gibbons, P. (1991). Learning to learn in a second language. Newtown: Primary English Teaching Association. Chapter 6.
  • Gibbons, P. (2002). Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning. Portsmouth: Heinemann. Chapter 5.
  • Ministry of Education. (2003). English language intensive programme: Years 7-13, resource; Auckland: Ministry of Education, National Migrant and Refugee Education Team. (Particularly the narrative text sections.)
  • Ministry of Education. (2008). English language intensive programme: Years 1-6 resource. Auckland: Ministry of Education, National Migrant and Refugee Education Team. (Particularly the narrative text sections.)
  • Ministry of Education.) (2003). Effective literacy practice: In years 1-4  Wellington: Learning Media Ltd. Pages 42-46 and chapter 5.
  • Ministry of Education. (2006). Effective literacy practice: In years 5-8 Wellington: Learning Media Ltd. Pages 34-42, and chapter 5.
  • Ministry of Education. (2008). The English language learning progressions. Wellington: Learning Media Ltd. (Reading sections.)
  • Ministry of Education, (2009). Supporting language learning in primary schools: A guide for teachers of: Year 1 and 2; 3 and 4; 5 and 6; 7 and 8. Wellington: Learning Media Ltd.

Useful websites:

Published on: 14 Aug 2012