When I taught third grade, I noticed that my students often had difficulty identifying the different components of a story. I knew I needed a concrete/pictorial example that would help them to remember. Since we always had our hands with us, I decided to make something that would be worn on the hands. By associating the abstract story concepts with this concrete object, I hoped my third graders would make connections to help them visually organize a story's elements. I also suspected it would increase their ability to retell, summarize, and comprehend the story.
I purchased a pair of garden gloves and used fabric paint to write the five elements of a story on the fingers...**characters, setting, problem, events, and solution. In the middle of the glove I drew a heart and around it wrote, "The heart of the story." (theme) Towards the wrist was written "Author's Message." (What was the author saying?)
After we read a story, I would place the glove on my hand, and we would go through the parts of the story starting with the thumb or characters. (a person, animal, or imaginary creature in the story). We then proceeded to setting (where the story took place.) We did not progress through all the story elements every day, but would often focus on the specific part that was causing the most difficulty. The fun came when one of the children wore the glove (Yes, it was a little big, but they didn’t seem to mind) and became the "teacher” as the group discussed the story. As the student/teacher talked about each of the fingers, we would all use our bare hands without the glove.
I also made and copied smaller hands as story reminders. This hand would appear on worksheets, homework, bookmarks, desks, etc. Sometimes the hand contained all the elements; sometimes it was completely blank, and at other times only a few things would be missing. The hand became known as our famous and notorious Helping Hand.
Why would I allocate so much time to this part of the curriculum? Because…
1) If a student learned the elements of a story, then they understood and knew what was happening throughout the story.
2) If a child is aware of who the character(s) were, then they cab identify the character’s traits during the story.
3) If the child knows the setting of the story, then they recognize where an event was taking place.
4) If they know the problems that are taking place, then they can be a part of the story and feel like they are helping to solve it.
Such visual tools allow a teacher the flexibility to focus on one single story element or present a more complex or intricate view of all parts of a story. By knowing the components of a story, students are more engaged and connected to their reading. It’s as if they assimilate the story and become a part it. So, are you ready to Give Reading a Helping Hand in your classroom?
**The five parts of a story may be identified as introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution or other similar categories.