Using Story Maps in Elementary Classrooms


Designed by Mara Ciacelli

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Why take this course?

  • Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fluency as "the ability to speak easily and smoothly." Many teachers believe that this skill is synonymous with comprehension. However, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines comprehension as "the act of grasping with intellect; the capacity for understanding fully."
  • Though comprehension usually requires fluency, fluency does not require comprehension!
  • Unfortunately, many teachers assume that once a student is fluent, they can automatically comprehend what they are reading. However, this could not be farther from the truth, and often is the very reason why so many elementary age students struggle with completing follow up activities, such as discussions, worksheets, projects, and basic understanding, after they complete readings.
  • Without comprehension, reading simply becomes the process of following words from left to right across a page while sounding them out. People read for many different reasons (entertainment, research, to learn a new skill) but whatever the reason may be, actually understanding what the writer is trying to convey is the main goal in reading. The lack of strong reading comprehension skills strongly affects a student's success in school. It is crucial that teachers teach reading comprehension as soon as possible in a child's education.
  • There are so many different teaching strategies to improve students' reading comprehension skills. This mini-course will focus on story maps. A story map is a visual organizer that helps a reader understand a piece of literature by tracking story elements such as setting, characters, events and conflicts.

Who is this course for?

  • This mini-course is directed towards student teachers as well as current teachers, with any range of experience, of elementary age students (kindergarten through grade 6).
  • You may be taking this course as professional development, as part of your program of study, or individually for your own benefit.
  • Keep in mind that you must be willing to modify or add to your current instruction practices and adapt some lesson plans and activities to implement the new strategies you will learn here!

What will I learn?

  • The topics to be covered will be:
1. What are story maps and why are they important?
  • You will be able to identify what a story map consists of.
  • You will be able to explain the importance of using one in instruction to improve reading comprehension.
2. How can story maps help students with reading comprehension and other learning disabilities?
  • You will be able to state what type and learners can benefit from story maps and propose reasons why (placing a special emphasis on students with learning and reading disabilities).
3. When and how can story maps be implemented in instruction?
  • You will be able to distinguish where and when during instruction, as well as what content areas, story maps ought to be used in.
  • You will be able to determine how a story map might be used and create an example situation to use one to enhance instruction for better comprehension of a topic.
  • Remember, the materials and teaching techniques provided in this mini-course are meant to enhance instruction, not be the sole basis for teaching reading comprehension!

How will I learn?

  • The content of this mini-course can be done completely on an online basis! You will use internet research tools, the provided wiki discussion spaces, and email correspondence with the instructor for any questions or concerns.
  • You may complete the tasks for this mini-course at your own pace, and if completely necessary, this course can be done totally on one's own. However, it is extremely beneficial to take the given opportunities to collaborate and correspond with some fellow learners. There are a few opportunities for reflecting on new material, research, and prior experiences that you are encouraged to participate in.

So, how do I begin?

Below are the links to the three units of this mini-course. Simply begin with unit 1 and make your way through! (At the bottom of each unit page is a section similar to this, with links to past and future units as well as this page!)

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Unit 1- Story Maps: What are story maps and why are they important?

Unit 2- Story Maps: What type of learners benefit from story maps?

Unit 3- Story Maps: When and how can story maps be implemented in instruction?

To learn more about the intent of this course and the development process, please go to: Mara's Portfolio Page

To learn more about the creator of this course, please go to: User:Mara Ciacelli


The following references and resources will be used and referred to throughout the three units of study: