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I love to write and always have. Though I will say that creative writing is not always easy, using story mapping is a great tool to help any child. I have used story mapping in two ways - to outline a story, and to understand an already written story.

STORY MAPPING

Story mapping is simply using a plan, an outline to work out what you want to say and when. It is a strategy that uses graphic organizers to help students plan out or understand the elements of the story or book. I have used story mapping in two ways – to outline a story, and to understand an already written story or book. Either way, it is extremely helpful as a visual tool to assist in our learning and creative endeavors. I will focus on using story mapping to plan a story, a creative writing piece. During the video I share two planners that I use (and will talk about later in this post). I would love you to have them, so here is a printable download of the planners.


STORY WRITING

I love to write and always have. I remember having to do creative writing exercises in 3rd and 4th grades (years 3 and 4) and loving the way something came to life on paper. Today I still write, but largely for my girls. We have a series of stories about them and an elephant (that came about during bedtime) and I have been working on some books called “The Adventures of Diggle and Doe” because I love to keep my mind active.

And I love to tell stories.

Though I will say that creative writing is not always easy (it is a learned skill) and it is a task that some people dread. Where do I start? What should I say? How on earth am I going to write a one-page story? Am I any good? By story mapping, we can plan out a story and take away some of that apprehension and anxiety. A plan is always a good idea. We don’t just take off in the car without having a plan as to where we are going. It is very easy to get lost that way. Same with a story. Without a plan, you can easily get lost and might not find the way to the destination.

Typewriter
Typewriter

STRUCTURE A STORY

I will be honest and say that I do structure a story but I don’t always write it beginning to end. That is me now, as an adult, when I am crafting a story that I feel is the best I can produce. This was not something I did in primary or high school. I do not suggest that to children as they are learning to craft a story. It is easier to go from beginning to end, and with a plan that will be the smoothest way to write. 

There are five main components in story structure: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. You can also add point of view and theme into the mix. Feel overwhelmed yet? I hope not. For children, I highly suggest that they think about who is going to be in the story, what will they do, what is going to happen that will create some excitement or tension and how will it finish?

Knowing where you start and where you end is great when you are writing. It is especially helpful in a timed writing situation. Don’t just jump in and see where you end up. Take a few minutes of that precious time and plan so you can write efficiently. This will save stress and allow better focus. The more you practice, the quicker this will become (as in all things). This is where story planners come into play, giving a visual tool to follow and refer back to when you need help.

The journey is on, Mapping a Story.
The journey is on.

STORY MAPPING USING A STORY PLANNER

A story planner, or a graphic organizer, is a powerful tool in story writing world. Anything visual you can provide as a resource is going to help (and not just our visual learners. If you would like to see my video on visual learners, click here). One of the main ones I use is the actual road map. For me, it is one of the easiest ways to explain to children the correlation between planning and doing. 

Planning a Story

Imagine you are in a car and taking a journey. You have a starting point, and you will definitely have an endpoint. Where on this journey do you introduce these different elements of the story? You certainly can’t have the climax if you haven’t been building up to it. And you need to introduce your characters first so we know who this is about. What is the setting? Is it in the past or future? At the beach? On another planet? There really is an order to introduce everything and then move through the story. Once you have jotted down these elements in the right order, the story will be a lot easier to write. Hooray!

Another one I like to use is the castle organizer. You cannot build a castle without proper foundations. There is an order in which you build a building. You can’t put on a roof if you don’t have walls. You don’t put in windows and doors without a frame in place. By building up your story ideas in a castle format, you have a strong foundation and framework for your story. 

Here are the two planners (road map and castle) that I talk about on the video as a printable download.

Story Planning Resources

Here are some great places to find a graphic organizer or story map template. Most of them will be typically used for building an understanding of a book or story after it has been read, but they can also be used to plan stories (which is my favorite MO – why just use something one way?). 

Story Maps by Reading Rockets

Graphic Organizer by Teacher Vision

Center line of a Road.
Center line of a Road.

STORY IDEAS

When I started teaching 6th grade in the States I was so excited to do some creative writing with my class. A great picture was picked out as a prompt, put up on the board, and I started the lesson. I learned very quickly that this was not something they were used to. A quick change of plan and story mapping was introduced as part of the lesson. This was something that I had taken for granted – that not everyone teaches creative writing the way I was taught, and not everyone is given the same opportunities to write as I had.

I love using pictures as a story prompt, for story ideas. You can use famous artworks or a comic panel. It can be something that a child has drawn or a photo you have taken while driving somewhere one day. Anything visual can be a great story prompt.

Mapping a Story with Girl by the Tree
Girl by the Tree

Example:

The photo was taken by me.

Some simple story ideas that could be written about from the photo. 

  • A little girl is lost and has sat down by the tree, hoping to be found.
  • The little girl is sad because of the drought and the fact that they have had to sell the animals, which she loves.
  • A little girl is waiting for the magic gum tree fairy who appears only at sundown. They then go on grand adventures.

Sentence prompts are also another great way to get a story rolling. I like to put a bunch on them in a jar and let a child pick out a prompt for the whole class, or let each child pick out their own prompt. There are many great resources on the internet that can give you ideas. Look up “journal writing prompts” or “story writing prompts”. You can even put in the grade you want. You can even have your children write out some ideas to put in the jar to be picked out. Get everyone involved. Here are some that have randomly popped up in my head (which is most often the case – I have often heard the moans from my students for my random and quirky ideas):

  • The man who saw too much
  • Once upon a time, there was an ogre…..
  • How I became invisible
  • When the animals escaped the zoo
  • The day the moon disappeared
  • My family’s greatest achievement
  • Kangaroos, kittens, and kites, oh my!
  • Salt is now sweet and red is now blue – what do I do?

Here are a few links to story prompts:
Story writing prompts for kids by Journal Buddies
Writing Prompts for kids by Think Writing


MAPPING STORY…

Mapping story, story mapping……so easy to do and it is fun too! (Sorry, felt the need to rhyme.) This is a great exercise to do whether homeschooling or in school, whether for extra practice or just because. It is fun to make up your own graphic organizers to help your children, especially as you know them best and how they think. Make a story mapping tool that piques their interest? Or is based on something they are interested in.

Do you have any story mapping techniques you like? I would love to hear them. What about fun story writing anecdotes?

As I finish up, here is one of mine: I was doing a substitute teaching stint with a year 5 class in Australia and we were having fun writing stories. One student had been struggling to write a full-page, but with story mapping and talking his story through, he was able to give another story a go and rushed up so excitedly that he had written a whole page! And he had! The one little downside was that the entire page was one long sentence…..”and then……and then……and then……” He was so proud. So was I. We just needed to work on sentences and paragraph structure.

Map and Planer
Map and Planer

Michayla Best

For over 30 years I have worked with children in a variety of capacities, whether as a teacher or tutor, a babysitter, a camp leader, or family advocate. I have always found a way to connect with children, to help them understand themselves and the world around.

I am Mummy to trinational twincesses who keep me on my toes with their questions, their commentaries, their shenanigans and acts of spontenudity.

Wife, world traveler, musician, crafting queen and self-proclaimed nerd; I love to take what I see, glean, know and help families to find their groove and be successful.

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