No matter what age kids are, story elements are great skills to teach. Learning story elements helps kids with narrative language skills. Story elements are: setting, characters, initiating and rising events/action, problem, climax, falling action/events, resolution and ending. Narrative language includes (but is not limited to): comprehension, sequencing, grammar, syntax, critical thinking, and vocabulary. There are so many different genres that the choices of what to read and share are seemingly endless!
It’s important to orient the child to the basic WH’s in the story:
(Who, What, When, Where, Why).
Setting: Where we are and when it is happening.
Characters: Who we are.
Initiating Event: What is happening at the start of the story.
From What to Why and How
Once kids have a sense of the basics as the story begins, we can start climbing the mountain…the rising action! This is where kids practice finding the main ideas/events, ideas that are the most important/relevant to include. As the story progresses they can start to talk about characters’ feelings, ideas, perspectives. The “why” and “how” start to take shape as we dive into motivations related to actions. Cause and effect and the idea of “if/then” also comes about, giving kids an understanding of consequences to actions.
The Problem and The Plan
What is the problem and how to sort it out? Working on problem solving is fun as kids name multiple ways to solve problems and start to understand the difference between the size of the problem, best ways to solve it, and what it looks like when problems get worse with bad decisions. Making predictions about what will happen in different scenarios keeps kids engaged with cause and effect and reinforces story comprehension.
Kids love the climax because it’s when the action is the most intense. All of the good, bad and ugly converge at a moment in the story. This is the point where we can discuss how we got here, take a look around at the setting, characters, motivations, actions and emotions. We look at the plan and see how it is going as we start to go down the mountain. Now is also a great time to get more practice with time and sequence. What already happened, what is going on now and what could happen next?
Going Down The Mountain
As kids move to the other side of the climax and start going down the mountain with descending action, they again practice their main idea skills, determining what is most important as the plan is put into action and the story starts to come to a resolution. Prediction skills come into play again as kids start to make educated guesses about what will happen as the story starts to resolve.
Resolution and Ending
How did everything turn out? How were the problems solved? How are the characters feeling and what are they doing now that the problems are solved?
Incorporating visual elements and graphic organizers helps kids learn sequencing (beginning, middle and end), along with some of the basic elements of characters, settings, problem and solution. Character motivations, insights, perspectives, feelings, and helps kids develop critical thinking skills. Using graphic organizers and plot diagrams gives kids a way to see their ideas organized in front of them, get practice with sequencing, and see how the story elements are connected.
Sequencing is a very important skill in narrative language. Teaching kids how to use transition words helps them develop good narrative language skills and learn words that convey time and space. For example, instead of them saying “and then” continuously, they can start to use words like “before/after”, “when”, “while”, and the classic “first, then, finally”. There are multiple sequences in a story, such as in the well known story of the Three Little Pigs. Kids will start to get the rhythm of “first, then, next, last (finally)” as they practice.
As kids verbalize and write their ideas down, there are endless opportunities to work on parts of speech, sentence structures, and vocabulary. The amount of transition words, conjunctions, prefixes and suffixes will vary depending upon the age and ability of the child. Vocabulary can be learned with the help of visuals, referencing key words and figuring out the meaning from the context of the story.
Retell is where the rubber hits the road. Starting small and building slowly is a great idea to help boost confidence and refine skills. Using apps, animated shorts for kids and books with lots of pictures and/or interesting content are fun ways to learn and practice re-telling stories.
Writing is one of my favorite skills to teach. Once a child can retell their story, it’s time to put their ideas in print. Handwriting or typing, with as much or as little help as they need, brings it all together. Kids feel a sense of accomplishment when they see their ideas in print. Plus, learning how to proofread their work, using correct punctuation, vocabulary and sentence structure, helps them to learn all the necessary skills they need to create their own story. All that’s left to do is to share it!
Here are a few resources that you can use to help build teach story elements and build narrative language skills:
One app that I love using for teaching kids how to learn sequence skills at a basic level is called Sequencing Post Office by Virtual Speech Center. This app provides a variety of 4 picture scenes, allowing the child to get the hang of how to organize the pictures and then tell the story, using basic transition words while practicing simple sentence structures.
Story Grammar Marker is a very popular way to help kids learn story elements and narrative language.
Boom Cards has many story retell decks.
Teachers Pay Teachers has graphic organizers for kids of all ages, and using editing tools and visuals while teaching helps kids learn all of the story elements in a fun and easy way. And don’t forget books and animated shorts!
There is a lot to do but we are here to help and make it as easy and fun as possible!
At Vibe, our speech therapists are trained to work with children of every age, and in every facet of speech and language. We are experts in our field. The clinical and personal relationship we have with you is at the core of everything we do. From the resources we bring to support growth in communication, to the highly individualized therapy sessions. We offer collaborative partnerships with other providers, family and caregivers and we are committed to exceeding your expectations. We look forward to helping your child bring their best self into the world!
Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn more about how we can help you!