Story Mountains

We did a fun little activity last week that really helped my students to understand story structure a little more.  Common Core has second graders understanding how narrative texts are laid out - not just the basic "What is the setting/characters/problem/solution?" type of thing.  My kiddos have done pretty well with this, but I thought the few who were still struggling to understand how events in a story really contribute to how it moves, could use a little review.

We've been spending the last couple of weeks on famous Americans - lots of black history first, and now we'll get into famous women for March.  We spent a week reading and discussing the book, Henry's Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine.

This is an amazing story about a man who mailed himself to freedom - in a crate.. to Pennsylvania... and it worked.  We used the book to talk about character traits, finding evidence to support conclusions, similes and more. 

This story has a definite rise and fall to the action, so it was a perfect choice for reviewing story structure.  First, we created a story mountain graphic organizer together.  We started with a blank screen (I did this on the Smartboard) and we worked to come up with the elements we would need.  By having students create the organizer, they had to really think and remember what the parts of a story were and how they were related.  Our finished organizer looked like this:

The previous day, we had categorized events in the story by how important they were.

I took the "Red Light", most important, events and typed them up, one event per page. 
After we had re-created our story mountain, I brought out the event pages.  Right away I saw a few eyes light up - "Oh yeah!  _____ would be the climax because that's where the story really changed and got most exciting!"  I knew this was off to a great start!  I just love when the connections start to click!

Students worked in groups with their own set of events to first sequence them, then decide where the climax would be.  We had some great discussions about exactly which event was the climax. 

Finally, we made a kid story mountain!

I had my students who already understood the story structure idea hold the papers, making sure the ones who still struggled could see the mountain and were engaged in the discussion about why each event was where it was.  Woo-hoo!!  They loved it and it really made an impression.

As a follow-up, students used sticky notes to write their own events for the story mountain.  Here is what we used:
Some stuck just with the beginning, middle and end... others asked if they could add rising and falling action events.  Everyone was successful and this was a great way for students to really see what story structure is all about - and how it contributes to the story.

You can grab copies of all the charts here by clicking HERE or on any of the pictures. 

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