Practical Sheet

Story structures

SHEET #15

The structure of a story is one of the most important components in storytelling. To follow the narrative, the structure needs to be clear and well-constructed for the audience’s benefit. Unstructured stories will tend to result into a disengagement from the audience, confusion, or plain boredom. The mastery of Story Structures is also a great asset in the sense that they will help pupils to construct coherent narratives in other fields of their lives.

Age range: 5-11 years

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? 

The aim is to instill the natural story structures into the pupils’ mind by repeating the stories several time, so that they may distinguish the relations of cause-effects and the natural flow of the story. Mimetically, they will tend to follow the same structures when telling their own stories, but there are also ways to stimulate this construction of structures. The pupils may use story maps or story sticks to structure their stories. By constructing them, they will inevitably be more aware of the key elements, essential pivotal moments, and general structure of the story.  

The creation of those structural tools will also stimulate their imagination and help develop their visualizing skills by transforming objects from the surrounding world or using symbols, to create new objects with new properties. This will develop their imagination and creativity.  

Striving for the ability to transform the surrounding world by analyzing and synthesizing the qualities of objects. This technique is one of the first with which the child learns about reality and the surrounding world (the stick is a horse, the doll – a princess or a baby, etc.). 

This worksheet helps to form an attitude of structuring the narrative and the thought process, while also developing the ability to search and find a lot of different, various, and non- standard answers to a question or a problem. In the case of using objects, symbols, or elements to structure the story physically or visually, it starts with association tasks, in which children are required to generate alternatives that satisfy given conditions. The aim is to work out a quick overview of the ideas and experience in the creative search. 

TOOLS FOR ENCOURAGING MOTIVATION:  

Once the basic story structures are somewhat understood, the teacher can ask the pupil to create short stories based on everyday objects, on which these structures will be applied. By using an everyday object, the pupils are required to use their imagination to create a narrative and are not as likely to simply repeat a very stereotypical story but will need to construct a new narrative based on the story structures they know.  

Group Storytelling 

Another exercise can be the group storytelling. The teacher directs the different stages of the story and encourages the pupils to follow a very general structure.  

For example:  

  1. The teacher asks a pupil (on a voluntary basis) to choose a title for the story they will all tell together.
    Volunteer pupil: “The chicken and the umbrella.” 
  1. The teacher asks the pupils to describe when the story happens.
    Volunteer pupil: Once upon a time, when dinosaurs were alive, and the chicken still had teeth… 
  1. The teacher asks another volunteer to give a “where”
    Volunteer pupil: in a land where all the trees had bubbles instead of leaves!  
  1. The teacher asks another volunteer to describe the hero: 
    Volunteer pupil: a little yellow chicken with only one tooth 

Etc… until the end of the story.  

The story can have a very basic structure at first, and over time, the teacher can make more complex structures.  

Said structure can also be prepared in the form of a story map with very general steps or as a list of prompts:  

  • Once upon a time…  
  • When…. 
  • In a country where….  
  • A hero named….  
  • That was (action)….. 
  • etc.  

Another exercise would be to create and tell your own story with a favorite character from another story. The character is placed in different time and circumstances. For example: The sleeping beauty wakes up in the modern world. To guess what happened next to the character/Change the end of the story. 

Using the same story structure as a well-known story but changing the characters can also be an interesting exercise to make with the pupils.  

PREPARATION, IMPLEMENTATION: 

  • Analysis of the qualities(properties) of an object and a change of a quality(property) depending on choice. Explanation of the reasons for the transformation and its consequences. 
  • Preparation of the general structure of the story for the group storytelling. 

OTHER OPTIONS IN CASE THE CHILDREN REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ACTIVITY: 

They are offered: 

  • to be an observer of the activity of the others. 
  • To help the teacher with directing the group storytelling session.
  • To choose the original story from which the characters will be changed. 

Specific activities related to fairy tales: 

  • viewing illustrations, drawing out pictures from an opaque box, objects;
  • telling and listening to fantastic stories; 
  • elements of a fantastic hypothesis are introduced;