I talked about my love of James Marshall’s “George and Martha” series in a previous post. This month I have been using them for something new – targeting story structure.

Narrative skills” are the ability to tell and understand stories. Kids need to be able to tell stories about events that happened to them, or things they want to happen. Kids need to be able to understand stories because we tell them all the time as part of sharing our lives with each other! It is a foundational literacy skill related to reading comprehension, among other things. Kids need skills like:

  • using character names and describing the setting (instead of “it, he, she, they, there, that, thing…”)
  • identifying the important details (“He was mad” is more important than “He has a freckle on his nose”)
  • understanding the story arch, or structure
  • using causation to explain WHY things happen

This month I am working on the structural element of stories, using the framework Beginning, Middle, and End. All stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

BEGINNING: In the beginning of a story, we learn about the characters and setting. WHO is in the story? WHAT are they doing? WHERE are they?

MIDDLE: Things happen in the middle of the story. Every story has different things that happen.

END: The end is the conclusion. We learn how the story finishes, and WHY things happened.

George and Martha stories are perfect for this kind of activity. Each book contains 5 mini-stories, which are all 3-4 pages long. 1 page for the beginning, 1 page for the middle, and 1-2 pages for the end.

We read one page at a time, and identified what part of the story (beginning, middle, or end) we were on. Then we would talk about which information was most important. In the beginning we talked about the characters and setting. In the middle we talked about the story events. In the end we talked about the wrap-up, and why things happened.

As we went through, we drew simple pictures, with a few words added, to remind us of the story. You can probably imagine my stick figure hippos. Not very pretty, but quite effective. We would only include the IMPORTANT parts, and just enough words to remind us what had happened. A sort of comic-book-style summary of the story, with bad art.

When we got to the end of the mini-story, I would close the book and ask the student to tell me the story without looking at it. They were allowed to use the pictures we drew if they wanted, but they could also tell the story from memory if they chose.

We had so much fun, and there are tons more George and Martha stories to go! If you’d like to try similar activities at home, you can download the visual aid I made and do it yourself!

Click here for the Beginning, Middle, End visual aid.

You can find George and Martha books at your local public library, or on www.Betterworldbooks.com.