This is the first of a block of six narrative... experience and knowledge from Year 4 and introduces new areas... Year 5 Narrative - Unit 1

Year 5 Narrative - Unit 1
Novels and stories by significant children's authors
(4 weeks)
This is the first of a block of six narrative units in Year 5. It builds on children's
experience and knowledge from Year 4 and introduces new areas of learning
that will be developed during the year. It is divided into four parts with regular
oral or written outcomes and assessment opportunities. The unit can be linked
to other curriculum subjects and themes.
Phase 1
Read stories by a significant children's author including a serialised class
novel. Children express their response with reference to other books they
have read by the same author. Visualise setting, make predictions about plot
and note story structure. Compare story openings and experiment with
different types of opening.
Phase 2
Explore aspects of an author's style by comparing themes, settings and
characters in different stories. Focus on characterisation and make inferences
about the author's perspective on a particular character. Review conventions
of dialogue: what it reveals about plot or character. Write a new scene for a
story in the style of the author.
Phase 3
Explore the idea of a 'significant author' by collecting information about an
author. Draw on children's own responses, survey popularity in the class or
school and collect background information. Children work collaboratively in
groups to research an author of their choice and make a presentation to the
Phase 4
Write a new story inspired by a favourite book or author. Include elements
based on reading, for example an interesting story opening or language used
to create a particular comic or dramatic effect. Vary the length of sentences to
achieve particular effects.
Read and compare stories by significant children's authors. Include
at least one serialised class novel and draw on children's wider
reading for examples.
Map and compare story structure in different stories. Compare
story openings.
Explore aspects of an author's style, for example themes, settings,
typical characters. Make links with children's own reading habits
and preferences. Look at different ways of presenting characters,
for example dialogue, action, description, and discuss response.
Explore meaning of text through prediction, visualisation and
empathy with characters.
Develop particular aspects of written narrative: experiment with
story openings; write new scenes or characters into a familiar story
in the style of the author; organise scenes using paragraphs
1998 Framework objectives covered:
Year 5, Term 1: T1 openings; T2 compare story structure; T3 presentation of
characters; T4 links with author's experience; T9 active attitude towards
reading; T10 evaluate books; T11 experiment with story openings; T12 appeal
of established authors; T14 map out texts; T15 write new scenes or
S5 difference between direct and reported speech; S7 how dialogue is set out.
Year 5 Narrative - Unit 1 - Objectives
Most children learn to:
(The following list comprises only the strands, numbered 1 through 12, that
are relevant to this particular unit.)
3. Group discussion and interaction
Plan and manage a group task over time using different levels of
Understand different ways to take the lead and support others in
Understand the process of decision making
7. Understanding and interpreting texts
Infer writers' perspectives from what is written and what is implied
Compare different types of narrative and information texts and
identify how they are structured
Explore how writers use language for comic and dramatic effects
8. Engaging with and responding to texts
Reflect on reading habits and preferences and plan personal
reading goals
Compare the usefulness of techniques such as visualisation,
prediction and empathy in exploring the meaning of texts
9. Creating and shaping texts
Experiment with different narrative forms and styles to write their
own stories
11. Sentence structure and punctuation
Punctuate sentences accurately, including using speech marks and
12. Presentation
Adapt handwriting for specific purposes, for example printing, use
of italics
Year 5 – Core Skills
To ensure effective planning of literacy skills, teachers need to ensure they
plan for the ongoing elements of literacy learning within each unit and across
the year, using assessment for learning to ensure children make effective
progress, ensuring they reach national expectations.
These are the relevant strand objectives to ensure effective planning for core
Word structure and spelling - Year 5
Spell words containing unstressed vowels
Know and use less common prefixes and suffixes such as im-, ir-, cian
Group and classify words according to their spelling patterns and
their meanings
Sentence structure and punctuation - Year 5
Adapt sentence construction to different text-types, purposes and
Punctuate sentences accurately, including using speech marks and
Year 5 Narrative - Unit 1 - Key aspects of learning
For further information, see the booklet Progression in key aspects of learning
(Ref: 0524-2004) from Learning and teaching in the primary years
As they read and compare the work of particular authors, children will express
and justify their judgements about books and about the author's style.
Children will decide how to answer questions about an author by using
different sources of information, surveys of opinion, etc.
Social skills
Children will participate in an extended group activity. They will take on a
clearly defined role in the group, negotiate with others and reach agreement.
Children will discuss and reflect on their personal responses to the texts.
Children will develop their ability to discuss as they work collaboratively in
paired, group and whole-class contexts. They will communicate outcomes
orally, in writing and through ICT if appropriate.
Year 5 Narrative - Unit 1 - Building on previous learning
Check that children can already:
Plan, tell and write complete stories with a clear sequence of
events and showing how one event leads to another; use detailed
description and powerful verbs to evoke setting and portray
Participate in group discussion by offering reasons for their
opinions supported by evidence, summarising ideas, reaching
agreement and presenting ideas to an audience.
Talk about books by a favourite author, explaining why they enjoy
them and how and why the books were written.
Year 5 Narrative - Unit 1 - Building assessment into teaching
For further information, see the booklet Assessment for learning (Ref: 05212004) from Learning and teaching in the primary years
Phase 1
Visualise a setting and make predictions about events that might happen
there (discussion, questioning). Write alternative openings for a familiar story
using, for example, dialogue, description or an event (marking and feedback).
Phase 2
Demonstrate understanding of an author's style by writing a new scene for a
story in the style of the author; scene is organised into a sequence of
paragraphs (marking and feedback).
Phase 3
Work as part of a group to research a significant author and make a
presentation to the class; individuals take on a specific role in the group and
play a role in planning what needs to be done and negotiating problems
(teacher observation, feedback from groups).
Phase 4
Write a complete story with a sequence of events arranged into paragraphs,
linked with a range of connectives and using varying sentence length (marking
and feedback against agreed success criteria).
Year 5 Narrative- Unit 1 - Suggested teaching approaches
Phase 1: Reading and response (6 days)
Teaching content:
Introduce the unit by reading and responding to a short story by an
author with whom children are likely to be familiar. Respond to the
story, asking children to express their views with reference to other
stories by this author, for example: Have you read anything else by
this author? Is/are the setting/theme/characters like other books
you have read? Consider what is distinctive about the story, for
example realistic characters in a real-life, fantasy or historical
setting. Map the story structure.
Repeat with other stories by the same author.
Select a novel written by the same author and begin reading as a
serialised class story. Focus on the opening chapter and discuss
the way the characters and theme are introduced. Discuss any
similarities with the first story in style and theme.
Note details of the setting and ask children to visualise a mental
picture, imagining the details of sights and sounds and predicting
what might happen in such a place. Record suggestions and refer
back to them as the story unfolds. Reflect on how the visualisation
helped children to engage with the story.
Make ongoing notes about the story structure, drawing attention to
repetition, with several episodes building to conflict and resolution
before the end of the story. Represent the structure on a chart.
Display further examples of the author's work for children to
browse and read independently during the unit.
Compare and contrast the openings of several more stories by this
author. Ask children to suggest what the author aims to do in the
opening paragraph or chapter and create a checklist. Children read
examples of story openings in a range of other stories and build
their understanding of different ways to start a story, for example
an event, description or dialogue. Discuss any patterns children
observe about the way particular types of story are opened.
Start with a familiar story, for example from a picture book, and
demonstrate how to plan and write different opening paragraphs,
such as using dialogue or an event instead of description. Reflect
on the way the opening sets the reader's expectations for what will
Children experiment with writing several alternative story openings
for a familiar story.
Learning outcomes:
Children can express their opinion of a story with reference to other
work by the same author.
Children can visualise a setting and make predictions about events
that might happen there.
Phase 2: Analysis, response and writing (5 days)
Teaching content:
Explore aspects of the author's style by making generalisations
about recurring themes or settings, typical characters and their use
of language. Refer to stories read together and draw on children's
wider reading.
Focus on characterisation. Refer to extracts from the stories you
have read and look at different ways of presenting characters, for
example using dialogue, action and description.
Select a character and ask children to track the events in the story
from their point of view. Use improvisation and role-play so that
children can explore how the character feels and can make
inferences about the reasons for their behaviour. Make tentative
suggestions about the author's perspective on a particular
character. Look at what is written and what is implied by discussing
questions such as: Does the character change during the story?
Do characters get a chance to put right their mistakes?
Look at examples of dialogue in extracts from the class novel and
analyse what they show in relation to plot and character. Review
the conventions of punctuation and layout of direct speech. Look
for examples of formal and informal speech in the story and
discuss what it indicates about the relationship between
characters. Role-play conversations between different pairs of
characters to explore different patterns of speech (see also
Grammar for writing, (Ref: 0107-2000), Year 5 unit 36
Explore the author's use of language by rereading extracts and
asking children to recall memorable phrases. Look at examples of
the use of language for comic and dramatic effects and consider
whether this is typical of a particular author's style.
Demonstrate how to use what you have learned about the author's
style to plan and write a new scene for the class novel.
Demonstrate how to use paragraphs effectively to organise events
in the scene. Children write their own scenes. Read examples
aloud and discuss successful ways that children have taken on the
author's style.
Learning outcomes:
Children can talk about the distinctive features of an author's style
by referring to characters, themes, settings or use of language.
Children can write a new scene for a story in the style of the
author. They can organise the scene into a sequence of
Phase 3: Speaking, listening and writing (4 days)
Teaching content:
Explore the idea of a 'significant author' by researching information
about the author you are reading in class. Pose questions for
research, for example: What do we enjoy about this author's
books? How popular are they in this class/school? How long have
they written for and how many books have they written? Have they
won book awards or written best-sellers? What do the experts say?
Discuss ways to find the information, for example surveys, letters
to publishers or the Internet.
Plan a group activity researching other authors and making a
presentation about what makes them 'significant'. Children are
responsible for assigning roles within the group, planning how to
carry out the research and negotiating problems. They report back
to the class about favourite books and a range of background
information about the author.
Groups discuss and reflect on the group task, identifying what went
well and things that they would do differently.
Ask children to reflect on their own reading habits and preferences
after listening to the presentation. Challenge them to try reading a
book by at least one author that they have not read before.
Learning outcome:
Children can work effectively as part of a group to research a
significant author and make a presentation to the class.
Phase 4: Writing (5 days)
Teaching content:
Introduce the writing task by asking children to reflect on a
favourite author or text. They consider what it is that they like about
it and use this as the starting point for their own writing, for
example a funny story with a real-life setting about a favourite
character. They discuss in pairs and note their ideas for a style of
story, a setting, characters and some key events.
Children work independently to plan and write a complete story
with an interesting story opening, paragraphs for build-up, climax or
conflict resolution and ending, and examples of language used to
create a particular comic or dramatic effect. Use a range of
connectives to introduce scenes and link events.
Children follow their story plans, rehearse sentences orally and
reread and check as they are writing. Work with guided writing
groups to review writing and offer support as appropriate.
When children have completed their stories, support the process of
discussing, proofreading and editing their own writing. Demonstrate
how to check and improve sentence construction and punctuation
by modelling alternative sentence construction. Talk about the
effect of using longer or shorter sentences for dramatic effect at
particular points in the story (see also Grammar for writing, (Ref:
0107-2000), Year 5 unit 34
Give time for children to make changes or improvements to their
stories. Read finished stories aloud.
Learning outcome:
Children can write a complete story with a sequence of events
arranged into paragraphs, linked with a range of connectives and
varying sentence length.
Year 5 Narrative - Unit 1 - Resources
The following resources are to support the learning and teaching of Literacy
Grammar for writing, (Ref: 0107/2000), Year 5 units 34 and 36
Understanding reading comprehension leaflets, (Ref: 1310-2005 to
Click here for information on different file formats and their usage.
Aspects of narrative: story structure
Writing flier 1 - Improving writing and 2 - Writing narrative, (Ref:
Word 193KB
Y5 Term 1 S3 and S6
Y5 Term 1 S3 and S6
to discuss, proof-read and edit their own writing for clarity and correctness, eg by creating
more complex sentences, using a range of connectives, simplifying clumsy constructions;
to understand the need for punctuation as an aid to the reader, eg commas to mark
grammatical boundaries; a colon to signal, eg a list;
Principles and explanation
See the Glossary (Section 7 of Part 3) for an explanation of complex sentences and subordinate
There is a tendency for weaker writers to write in simple and some compound sentences with
a limited range of conjunctions within, and connectives between, sentences. Varied sentences
occur when a conjunction is introduced, so it is helpful to draw the children’s attention to the
range of conjunctions available, eg after, although, as, as if, as long as, as though,
because, before, if, in case, once, since, than, that, though, till, until, unless,
when(ever), where(ever), whereas, while, and pronouns, eg who, which, what, whose,
where, when, why, how.
Commas are used after a subordinate clause which begins a sentence, eg Although it was
cold, we didn’t wear our coats. See the Glossary for other uses for the comma.
Sometimes other punctuation can be used in much the same way as commas. Both dashes
and brackets tend to indicate more of a break between subordinate and main clauses, and
dashes are used in more informal writing.
Note that simple sentences should not be linked by a comma. This is called the ‘comma
splice’; it has the effect of weakening both sentences and is a very common mistake in
children’s writing. Simple sentences may be joined by a semi-colon or a conjunction, or
separated by a full stop.
Sentence level activities
Adding conjunctions
Put a list of subordinating conjunctions on display, eg after, although, as, as if, as long as,
before, if, in case, since, unless, when(ever), where(ever), whereas. Start with a main clause,
eg we didn’t wear our coats and ask the children in turn to make up subordinate clauses to
precede the main clause, eg Before it was cold, we didn’t …, Unless it was cold, we didn’t
…, Wherever we went we didn’t …, In case it got hot, we didn’t … When they say the
sentence, they should insert the comma with a curled finger and the rest of the children spot the
verb in the subordinate clause.
Construct (page 158)
Give out clauses, conjunctions and commas. Children should make sentences starting with a
subordinate clause so they need to get into groups of four in the order: red (conjunction) – green
(clause) – blue (comma) – green (clause). The resulting sentence should make sense even though it
may be unlikely, eg In case there were rabbits everywhere, I went to the park. When I
wanted to be alone, I escaped to my bedroom. With the addition of the conjunction, the first
clause in the sentence becomes the subordinate clause and the second is the main clause.
I went to the park
I wanted to be alone
I was feeling miserable
I could not eat my breakfast
I climbed the staircase
I wanted to finish reading my book
I escaped to my bedroom
I managed to get out
there wasn’t anyone around
there was a lot to be done
there was a strange sound
there were rabbits everywhere
it was deserted
it was sunny
it was going to be hot
it was a tight squeeze
In case
Complex sentence game (page 159)
Starter sentence: As I leaned against the railing, it collapsed.
Collect and classify (page 156)
Investigate other punctuation in sentences, such as dashes and brackets.
Punctuate (page 159)
Cover all the punctuation in a text. Use both punctuation fans, one for each child in the pair. Children
confer to decide who has the appropriate punctuation mark on their fans.
Ensure children apply this sentence level learning in their writing.
Shared writing
Related text level objectives: Y5 Term 1 T15, T17, T24, T25
Writing for effect
Provide a structure for a short piece of writing using a strip cartoon, strip action stories, eg
Feelings by Aliki, detailed action pictures, eg Out and About Through the Year by Shirley
Hughes (Walker) and Where’s Wally by Martin Handford (Walker).
Ask children to write a story deliberately using different sentence structures, eg short,
simple sentences, maximum six words; compound sentences, 10–20 words; complex
sentences, minimum 25 words; a mixture of lengths of sentences; a particular, defined pattern
of sentences such as short-medium-long-short-medium-long, etc.
Discuss the effect of writing in these different ways, eg short sentences speed up the
action or echo the heartbeat of a scared character.
Ask children to write the first part of, eg a description, starting with a simple sentence such as
The girl had red hair and adding a subordinate clause to give more information about the
subject, demarcating it with commas, eg The girl, who was standing by the door, had red
hair. Extend the description by adding another sentence with the subordinate clause in a
different position, eg Looking rather lost, she pulled a letter from her bag. Finish the
paragraph by adding some further information in the form of a list or simple sentences linked
by semi-colons, eg She read it twice; it seemed to cheer her up.
Y5 Term 1 S3 and S6
Y5 Term 1 S5 and S7
Y5 Term 1 S5 and S7
to understand the difference between direct and reported speech (eg she said, ‘I am going’,
she said she was going), eg through: finding and comparing examples from reading; discussing
contexts and reasons for using particular forms and their effects; transforming direct into
reported speech and vice versa, noting changes in punctuation and words that have to be
changed or added;
from reading, to understand how dialogue is set out, eg on separate lines for alternate
speakers, and the positioning of commas before speech marks;
Principles and explanation
See the Glossary (Part 3) for the definition of direct and reported or indirect speech.
Reported speech is used in fiction and in non-fiction to create variety, so that the writer does
not include long stretches of direct speech. If direct speech is used sparingly, it can have
greater impact: writers tend to put their most forceful points in direct speech.
Sentences in which there is reported speech are among the most common forms of complex
sentence. He said that he would come has a main and a subordinate clause. Quite
commonly, in speech and in writing, the connective that is omitted. He said he would come
is a complex sentence which has no connective and no comma.
Speech can imply character but can also slow down the pace of a narrative. Therefore, use of
direct speech should be considered carefully.
Reported speech is useful when the writer wants to contrast between what a writer says and
what she or he is thinking.
Reported speech is useful for summarising what the speaker says and therefore moves the
action along more quickly.
When direct speech is converted to reported speech, a number of changes are made, eg ‘Are
you ready?’ might be reported as He asked if I was ready. This requires removing the
speech marks and making the following changes:
are to was
you to I
subordinating words:
if added
word order:
Are you changes to I was
? to .
Sentence level activities
Compare (page 157)
Ask the children to look at the sentences below, and describe what is happening when direct
speech is transformed into reported speech.
‘I hate you,’ she whispered.
The man shouted at the dog. ‘Go home!’
‘Did you find it in the tunnel?’ she asked.
‘Let’s find the others,’ he suggested.
‘That’s not fair,’ he exclaimed.
He asked, ‘How did you know?’
‘Mending walls,’ he said, ‘is a specialist occupation.’
She whispered that she hated him.
The man shouted at the dog to go home.
She asked whether he had found it in the tunnel.
He suggested (that) they find the others.
He exclaimed (that) it was not fair.
He asked her how she knew.
He said that mending walls was a specialist occupation.
Y5 Term 1 S5 and S7
The children should suggest similar features to those in the Principles and explanation section.
Ensure children apply this sentence level learning in their writing.
Shared writing
Related text level objectives: Y5 Term 1 T15, T18, T21, T24
Explain that if there is a section of a story in which the characters talk a lot, it may be a good
idea to use both direct and reported speech, eg:
‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ she sobbed. She said she was the one who had broken
the window. ‘It’s all my fault, and no-one else’s,’ she said, looking the policeman
straight in the eye.
The effect here is to emphasise the direct speech, and so to emphasise the fact that the girl is
taking all the blame. Perhaps it leads the intelligent reader to suspect that it is not entirely true
that she was the only one to blame.
Plan a story together as a class. Choose a moment in the story where there might be a large
amount of dialogue. Ask the children to write this part of the story, but include only three
sentences of direct speech. The rest of the information will have to be conveyed by other
means, including reported speech.
Try transforming a small part of a playscript into a story, and see what changes are required.
Use dialogue to build character. See Teaching Unit 22. Allow the reader to infer a person’s
appearance and character from the verbs, particularly speech verbs, eg muttered, gloated,
spat, exhorted, etc.
Curriculum and
coordinators, Key
Stage 1 and 2
What is reading comprehension?
Status: Recommended
Date of issue: 03-2005
Ref: DfES 1310-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 1
Reading comprehension
As children learn to read they are able to decode the text by orchestrating a range of
cues. To become fluent readers they must also understand or comprehend what they
read. To help them do this they need to be taught a range of reading comprehension
strategies and be encouraged to reflect on their own understanding and learning. Such
an approach helps children go beyond literal interpretation and recall to explore the
complex meanings of a text using inference and deduction. They can begin to learn
these strategies from the earliest stages of learning to read.
This leaflet will help you to understand how readers make sense of what they read,
review the research evidence and suggest ways to teach reading comprehension
strategies. There are two further leaflets with ideas for practical activities to use in the
What is reading comprehension?
Comprehension is an active process that involves all these strategies and behaviours:
– making meaning from texts
the text
connections with
engaging with
the text
evaluating the
reflecting upon
monitoring own understanding
making decisions about which strategies will help
clarify understanding
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1310-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 1
What can we learn from research on
reading comprehension?
Over the last decades there has been much research into reading comprehension.
Past research (1945–80) was characterised by attempts to:
identify the sub-skills of comprehension;
establish a hierarchy of skills;
teach these skills in a progressive order.
Teachers may be familiar with comprehension exercises based on this approach
from their own experience at school.
Recent research is based on seeing the child as:
actively engaging with the text to create meaning;
acquiring strategies whilst engaged in authentic reading rather than as a
separate set of skills;
applying cognitive, interpretive and problem-solving strategies;
influenced by differences in their own experience and in their wider
socio-cultural context.
There is growing consensus about the kinds of experiences children need to
develop their reading comprehension, the teaching model to support
this and the range of strategies that might be helpful.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1310-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 1
Evidence from research overviews
The major research-derived strategies for
improving reading:
encourage extensive reading;
teach decoding, with an emphasis on
provide explicit work on sight vocabulary;
teach the use of context cues and
monitoring meaning;
teach vocabulary;
encourage readers to ask their own ‘Why?’
questions of a text;
teach self-regulated comprehension
strategies, for example:
prior knowledge activation;
question generation;
construction of mental images during
analysing text into story grammar and non-fiction genre components;
encourage reciprocal teaching (teacher modelling of strategies + scaffolding for
student independence);
encourage transactional strategies (an approach based on readers exploring texts
with their peers and their teacher).
(From Pressley, 2000)
A further examination of 230 research studies on reading identified three important
factors in the effective teaching of reading comprehension:
Learning about words: vocabulary development and vocabulary instruction play
an important role in understanding what has been read.
National Reading Panel,
Interacting with the text: comprehension is an active process that requires ‘an
intentional and thoughtful interaction between the reader and the text’.
National Reading Panel,
Explicitly teaching strategies for reading comprehension:
children make better progress in their reading when teachers provide direct
instruction and design and implement activities that support understanding.
Government Printing
(From National Reading Panel Report, 2000)
(2000) Report Of The
Washington, DC:
Office. Available at
Pressley, M. (2000) ‘What
Should Comprehension
Instruction Be The
Instruction Of?’ In Kamil,
M. et al. (eds), Handbook
of Reading Research,
Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1310-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 1
Research findings
Extensive reading
Research indicates that the most recent developments in improving comprehension
have taken place in classrooms that promote extensive reading. This creates an
environment where high quality talk about texts can be encouraged.
The critical role of the teacher
The model of teaching advocated by research
is a balance of direct instruction along with
teacher modelling and guided practice leading
to independent practice and autonomy.
The role of the teacher is crucial in
explicitly encouraging the use of
comprehension strategies. Comprehension improves when teachers provide explicit
instruction in comprehension strategies and when they design and implement activities
that support understanding.
Vocabulary development
Research stresses the importance of work to develop children’s phonic skills, their
vocabulary and teaching them about words. Children who can decode quickly and
accurately and have a sight vocabulary of known words, can autonomise some of the
reading process, freeing up more mental capacity to think about the meaning of what
they read.
(See Leaflet 3, p. 2 ‘Semantic strategies’ for practical ideas.)
Metacognitive awareness
Metacognitive awareness involves ‘self-awareness’ and an ability to reflect on one’s
understanding and learning. Research highlights the importance of metacognition in
learning to read:
Younger and poorer readers often do not recognise when they have not understood
a text and they are therefore unable to make an autonomous decision to use a
strategy to enhance their understanding.
More experienced readers show a greater awareness of their own level of
understanding. They stop when a text does not make sense to them and some will
go on to select a strategy that might help them to overcome their problem.
Teachers can model for children how fluent readers monitor their understanding and
use strategies to clarify their own understanding.
(See Leaflet 3, p. 6 ‘Helping children to monitor their own understanding’ for practical
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1310-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 1
When do we teach reading
We want to encourage children to become enthusiastic, autonomous and thoughtful
readers who not only decode the text but understand and engage with what they are
reading. Teaching is central to this.
The structure of the literacy hour provides the context for direct teaching and
application of reading comprehension strategies across the primary age range. The
strategies can be applied to picture books as well as more complex texts. The wider
reading environment in the classroom and school provides further opportunities for
extensive reading.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1310-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 1
Within the literacy hour
The wider
Shared reading
Encourage extensive
ensure regular
opportunities for
independent, extended
provide access to a
wide range of quality
reading materials;
provide opportunities
and resources to read
for a range of purposes
across the curriculum;
plan a read aloud
programme for all
provide story props,
puppets and artefacts
for retelling stories;
plan opportunities
for children to use the
class collections and
the school library;
promote reading at
organise a regular
author focus in each
organise special
events, for example
book weeks, author
visits, storytellers,
book sales, book
awards, etc.
celebrate personal
reading achievements,
e.g. book awards,
reading heroes and
advocates, displays,
Demonstrate how to use a range of comprehension strategies:
model active engagement with the text, for example
rehearsing prior knowledge, generating mental images,
making connections with other texts;
plan opportunities for children to interact and collaborate, for
example ask ‘why’ questions, make comparisons between
demonstrate how fluent readers monitor and clarify their
understanding, for example encourage reciprocal teaching
(See Leaflet 3, p. 7 for further information);
plan opportunities to interpret and respond to the text, for
example teach strategies for using inference and deduction.
(and Word level work)
Plan direct instruction so that children can:
develop a wider vocabulary;
understand why words are spelt in a particular way;
learn to read and spell an increasing number of words by sight.
Guided reading
Support children as they:
apply word level learning to decode words;
actively engage with the text;
monitor their own understanding and prompt them to utilise
different strategies when solving reading problems.
Scaffold opportunities for children to use different reading
comprehension strategies, for example using the strategy modelled
in the shared reading session and applying it to a new text.
Encourage children to explain how they solved a word problem.
Encourage personal response and reflection.
practice and
Independent reading
Expect children to:
use word level learning independently;
monitor their own understanding and choose an appropriate
strategy when necessary;
engage with and respond to texts, for example in a reading
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1310-2005
Copies of this document may be available from:
DfES Publications
0845 60 222 60
0845 60 333 60
Textphone: 0845 60 555 60
e-mail: [email protected]
The content of this publication may be reproduced
free of charge by schools and local education
authorities provided that the material is
acknowledged as Crown copyright, the publication
title is specified, it is reproduced accurately and
not used in a misleading context. Anyone else
wishing to reuse part or all of the content of this
publication should apply to HMSO for a core
Ref: DfES 1310-2005
Produced by the
Department for Education and Skills
If this is not available in hard copy it can be
downloaded from:
The permission to reproduce Crown copyright
protected material does not extend to any material
in this publication which is identified as being the
copyright of a third party.
Applications to reproduce the material from this
publication should be addressed to:
HMSO, The Licensing Division, St Clements
2–16 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BQ
Fax: 01603 723000
e-mail: [email protected]
© Crown copyright 2005
Curriculum and
coordinators, Key
Stage 1 and 2
Strategies to develop reading
Status: Recommended
Date of issue: 03-2005
Ref: DfES 1311-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 2
Strategies to develop reading
Reading comprehension is an essential part of the reading process. Children need to
be taught a range of reading comprehension strategies to help them fully understand
This is the second of a set of three leaflets about reading comprehension. Leaflet 1
introduces evidence from research and gives a sequence for
teaching. Leaflets 2 and 3 give practical suggestions for
teachers to use in their own classrooms. This leaflet has
information on a range of cognitive strategies.
This information will help teachers to:
become aware of a wide range of strategies to
encourage reading comprehension;
know when and how to use them in shared and
guided reading;
know how to model the strategies to children;
know how to encourage children to use the
strategies themselves in shared, guided
and independent reading.
Activating prior knowledge
Activation of prior knowledge can develop children’s understanding by helping them to
see links between what they already know and new information they are encountering.
Here are some ideas for collaborative activities. They will encourage children to bring to
the forefront of their minds knowledge that relates to the text they are about to read or
are reading.
Start with the title, chapter heading or picture on the front cover. Ask children what
it makes them think of. Collect ideas orally, using drawings or by making brief notes.
Select a key word from the title or an artefact. Ask children to think of memories
associated with it. Give sentence starters such as This reminds me of …, It makes
me think of …
Record ideas using a concept mapping or mind-mapping to show the links
between ideas.
Stopping to predict what a text or part of a text might be about makes readers pay
more attention when they begin to read. They need to consider the reasons for their
predictions, look for evidence in the text and revise their initial predictions if necessary.
Demonstrate how to read the text a section at a time, explain what is happening
and predict what will happen next and how it will end. Read on and point out the
explicit and implicit evidence that supports or confounds your predictions.
Demonstrate how to revise your initial ideas and suggest a hypothesis based on the
new evidence.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1311-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 2
Involve children in this process as part of shared reading. Model how to make
written notes of your predictions and display these, for instance as you read a class
novel aloud. Encourage children to add their own notes based on what they have
Support children as they make written predictions and revisions relating to guided
or independent reading, using their reading journals.
Constructing images
Creating visual images using visualisation, drawing or drama helps children to make
links between their prior knowledge and new ideas. These activities will encourage
children to go back to the text to check or look for more details, thus deepening their
Model the process in shared reading:
read aloud from a fiction or non-fiction text;
talk about the ideas that you had while you were reading;
ask children to think of the picture that they have in their heads.
Then read another passage; children work in pairs describing their image to one
Ask children to draw a character based on information gathered from the text.
You could do this early in the story and then return to it after reading. Ask
children to tell you if they have learned anything new about this character.
Draw a map of a quest or journey based on details from the story.
Draw a diagram to represent an instruction or explanation text.
Make a model based on the description of a particular place in a story.
Select the key sentences from a text or chapter. Children work in groups to
create a still photograph (drama freeze frame) of the moment. Take a photograph
using a digital camera and put it on the computer. Children can then add thought
bubbles giving each character’s thoughts at that moment in the story.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1311-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 2
Skilled questioning will develop children’s understanding of texts but the questions need
to be carefully thought through and planned. Closed, factual questions test children’s
ability to recall knowledge but do not encourage them to use inference and deduction
or to engage closely with what they have read.
These practical ideas will help you to plan questions that will deepen children’s
understanding of the text.
Generic questions and questions relating to particular texts
Some questions may be asked of any text while others relate to particular texts or text
types. Children need to become familiar with this type of questioning as a regular part
of shared and guided reading sessions and to move towards asking these questions
themselves as they read independently.
Examples of questions
Generic questions
What do you think and
feel about what you
have read?
Who is this writing
intended for?
What is the purpose of
this writing?
Who wrote this and
What is the form of
this writing?
Have you read any
other texts like this
Did anything puzzle
Fiction and plays
Who is the narrator?
What do you see in
your mind when you
read this?
How can we locate
information quickly in
this text?
What is the effect of
the rhyme, rhythm and
line length?
Why does the author
use diagrams?
Who is the most
important character?
What do we know
about the setting?
Why does the writer
use dialogue?
Children generating their own questions
Active reading should generate questions in the reader’s mind. It is important to model
explicitly this kind of questioning to young and inexperienced readers, thus making
visible to them what is usually an internal monologue for expert readers.
Generating questions: Select a text and make a note of any questions that come
into your mind as you read. Focus on questions you are asking of yourself rather than
questions you would ask children. Reread the text and try to think of at least two
different answers for each of the questions.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1311-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 2
Demonstrate this process during shared reading and note question starters, for
example Why is this …? If this is true, then why …? What if …? Is there a reason
for …?
Hot-seating: Take on the role of a character from the text. Invite children to create
questions for the character and give answers in role. Encourage children to move
beyond factual questions to probe more deeply into motives or consequences.
Involve individuals in working in role themselves and answering questions made up by
other children.
Talk to the author: Read a text in shared reading and then demonstrate how to
note any questions that you would like to ask the author, for example Who was this?
Why did this happen? Children can then try this for themselves. Discuss what you have
found out about the difference between fact and opinion and any signs of bias.
Focus journals: Children read part of a text independently before their guided
reading session. Write a focus question on the board, for example What seemed
important to you in what you learned about x? The children read the focus, reflect on
their response and write in their journals. This then serves as a basis for discussion.
(See also Leaflet 3, p. 6 ‘Helping children to monitor their own understanding’.)
Questioning at different levels
Questions can operate at different levels, taking children deeper into texts and requiring
different levels of thinking. An effective strategy is to ask questions that make increasing
cognitive demands on children moving from simple recall, through inference to
questions that ask for evaluation and response, following Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Higher- and lower-order levels of thinking
Bloom’s Taxonomy, starting from the simplest behaviour to the most complex:
1 Knowledge – for example Who? What? Where? When? How?
2 Comprehension – for example What do we mean by …? Explain …
3 Application – for example What other examples are there?
4 Analysis – for example What is the evidence for …?
5 Synthesis – for example How could we add to, improve, design, solve …?
6 Evaluation – for example What do you think about …? What are your
criteria for assessing …?
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1311-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 2
Questions to develop children’s understanding of the text should promote thinking at
three levels:
1. Literal questions ask children to recall information that is directly stated in the
2. Deductive or inferential questions ask children to work out answers by
reading between the lines, by combining information found in different parts of the
text and by going beyond the information given by drawing on their ‘world view’.
3. Evaluative or response questions ask children to go beyond the text by, for
example, thinking whether the text achieves its purpose, or making connections
with other texts.
At any stage of reading development children should be expected to be able to think
about the text at all three levels.
Alternatives to questions
Asking too many questions can discourage children from giving elaborate or thoughtful
answers. Alternative strategies can provide more thinking time, allow more children to
respond and open up deeper discussion, for example:
Discussion starter: Select a key sentence from a text, such as a cliffhanger at the
end of a chapter or one character’s opinion of another. Read it out and use it as the
starting point for a discussion, encouraging alternative responses: Who has a different
point of view?
Further information
Read pp. 61–73 in the unit Conditions for learning in Excellence and Enjoyment: learning and teaching
in the primary years for more information about questioning.
See also leaflet Talking in Class available as part of the pack Teaching and learning literacy and
mathematics in Year 3 (DfES 2003).
Text structure analysis
Research suggests that readers use their growing knowledge of stories to help them
predict and understand what is happening and is likely to happen in new stories. This
can also be applied to the structure of non-fiction texts.
Story maps, story shapes and story charts
After reading, demonstrate how to draw a ‘map’ of events in a story. Involve
children in recalling and retelling the story. Ask children to work collaboratively to
map other stories and make comparisons between them.
Use story mapping to make the structure of particular stories explicit, for example a
circular story or a journey from ‘A to B’.
Structural organisers: Demonstrate how to map the content of a non-fiction text
onto a structural organiser grid, for example point and evidence grid; cause and effect
grid; argument versus counter-argument list.
(See ‘Non-fiction fliers’ – download or order from:
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1311-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 2
Sequencing texts
Children can learn to apply their knowledge about texts and reading when carrying out
sequencing activities. The text is jumbled up and then readers are asked to reorder
lines of a poem, or paragraphs of a fiction or non-fiction text.
Poems: Demonstrate how to look for clues for the correct order of a jumbled poem,
for example matching rhyming words at the ends of lines; assembling lines into verses
of the same length; thinking about the meaning and checking that it makes sense;
identifying lines that suggest a beginning and a conclusion.
Give groups of children a similar activity and compare the sequences. Talk about the
effect of any differences in order.
Recount or instructional text: Jumble paragraphs from a chronologically
sequenced text. Demonstrate how to look for a logical order of events and make use
of connectives such as first, later, next, finally.
Comparing texts: Look at a range of examples and discuss texts that have several
possible orders. Involve children in suggesting which texts have only one possible
sequence and why.
Children need to learn how to identify the main idea in a text. Effective summarising
involves children in evaluating a text and deciding which elements of it are most
Teacher modelling: Demonstrate how to skim read a text and then give an oral
summary. Support children as they skim read and summarise short passages.
Go through a text paragraph by paragraph, highlighting the key sentence(s) in each.
Demonstrate how to restructure key information into a non-prose form, for example
producing a labelled picture using the information in the text.
Guided practice: Stop at regular points in shared and guided reading and ask
children to summarise the section you have just read. Challenge them to summarise
within a given word limit.
Ask children to write a brief summary at the end of each chapter outlining key events
and further insights into character and plot.
DARTs (Directed Activities Related to Text)
A group of activities for developing reading comprehension were developed in the
1980s by Lunzer and Gardner. They are known collectively as DARTs and include:
Prediction (see p. 2).
Text analysis and text marking activities: underlining, highlighting or
numbering parts of the text.
Cloze activities: words or phrases are deleted from the text and readers work
out what the missing words could be through the use of contextual and syntactic
Sequencing activities (see above).
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1311-2005
Copies of this document may be available from:
DfES Publications
0845 60 222 60
0845 60 333 60
Textphone: 0845 60 555 60
e-mail: [email protected]
The content of this publication may be reproduced
free of charge by schools and local education
authorities provided that the material is
acknowledged as Crown copyright, the publication
title is specified, it is reproduced accurately and
not used in a misleading context. Anyone else
wishing to reuse part or all of the content of this
publication should apply to HMSO for a core
Ref: DfES 1311-2005
Produced by the
Department for Education and Skills
If this is not available in hard copy it can be
downloaded from:
The permission to reproduce Crown copyright
protected material does not extend to any material
in this publication which is identified as being the
copyright of a third party.
Applications to reproduce the material from this
publication should be addressed to:
HMSO, The Licensing Division, St Clements
2–16 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BQ
Fax: 01603 723000
e-mail: [email protected]
© Crown copyright 2005
Curriculum and
Comprehension: 3
Primary head
teachers, literacy
coordinators, Key
Stage 1 and 2
Further strategies to develop reading
Date of issue: 03-2005
Status: Recommended
Ref: DfES 1312-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 3
Further strategies to develop reading
Reading comprehension is an essential part of the reading process. Children need to be
taught a range of reading comprehension strategies to help them fully understand the text.
This is the third of a set of three leaflets about reading comprehension. Leaflet 1 introduces
evidence from research and gives a sequence for teaching. Leaflets 2 and 3 give practical
suggestions for teachers to use in their own classrooms. This leaflet has information on
semantic strategies, interpretive strategies and monitoring understanding.
Semantic strategies
Clarifying the meaning of words and phrases in the text enhances comprehension. Children
who can decode fast and accurately are free to think about the meaning of what they read.
Where children struggle to work out words, and frequently misread them, these difficulties
can get in the way of understanding.
Children have regular phonics/word level teaching as part of the literacy hour and learn how
to apply this knowledge in shared and guided reading. Work on semantic strategies can be
done before, during and after reading a text.
Previewing vocabulary
Before a shared or guided reading session, identify unfamiliar words or phrases in the text.
Provide a list of words relating to the book or topic and discuss the meanings of the words
before reading.
Building banks of new words
In shared reading, demonstrate how to make a note of any new words or words where the
meaning is unclear. Involve the children in suggesting ways to work out the meaning, for
example root, morphology and so on, and note the meanings once they are understood.
In guided reading, support children to do the same as they read independently, making a
note of words to check in a vocabulary journal or on sticky notes. The group then
discusses the meanings of words and makes notes. They could add a visual cue to remind
them of the meaning.
Word tracker and oral thesaurus
Focus on a particular group of words or phrases, for example words to do with
appearance. During shared reading demonstrate how to track and list these words. Discuss
the list and suggest alternatives, considering whether or not a different word would change
the meaning of the text.
Challenge children to track other groups of words as part of guided reading sessions.
Making dictionaries and glossaries
Identify words whose meanings are unclear and demonstrate how to track these words in
the text as part of a shared reading session. These could be technical words, dialect words,
slang and so on. Investigate the meaning of the words and model how to put together a
dictionary or glossary for that text.
Provide opportunities for children to make dictionaries or glossaries in the same way for
guided reading texts or texts used in other areas of the curriculum.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1312-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 3
Interpretive strategies
Children need to be taught strategies that will enhance their critical understanding and
inform their reflections on what they have read.
These practical ideas will help you to plan opportunities for children to structure their
responses to texts they have read. They can be used with children from the earliest
stages of learning to read. The ideas can be modelled in shared reading for children to
use subsequently, with support, as part of guided reading sessions. As they become
familiar techniques children use them during independent reading sessions.
Character development
These strategies will help children to make explicit their response to and knowledge
of a character. They can be used with a range of texts from picture books to longer
children’s novels. The strategies involve:
imagining how a character might feel;
identifying with a character;
charting the development on a character over time (in a longer text).
Feeling graph or map: show how emotions develop throughout the story.
Journal entries: record the reader’s response, or written in role as the character
reflecting on events in the story.
TV interviews: compile a list of questions to ask the character in an interview.
This can lead on to hot seating so that the interview is conducted with the
Drawing characters: surround the drawing with phrases from the text that
relate to that character.
Thought bubbles: write a thought bubble for a character at a key moment in the
text when they are not actually speaking.
Relationship map: record the relationship between different characters using
evidence from the text.
Relationship grid: list each character along the top and down the side. Each
cell represents a relationship to be explored.
Speculation: ask questions that focus attention on actions and motives, such as
Why did …? What if …?
Character emotions register: create a five-point scale of emotions for the
possible range of reactions at certain specific points in the story, for example
‘mildly irritated’ to ‘incandescent with rage’. Rate the characters on this scale
justifying decisions with implicit and explicit evidence from the text.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1312-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 3
Identifying themes or information
These ideas can be modelled by the teacher as part of shared reading sessions
before the children work more independently.
The author's chair: A child takes on the role of the author. Other children ask
them questions about the book and the ‘author’ responds, explaining and justifying
what ‘they’ have written.
Diagrams: Identify specific information within the text and then present it in the
form of a diagram, grid or flow chart.
Cartoons and story boards: Draw a strip cartoon or story board that
identifies four or five main points from a story or information text.
Highlighting: Identify and highlight specific words or phrases within the
text that link together to build a picture of a character, mood or setting.
Blurb: Write a blurb for the book that summarises the story or theme and will
persuade people to read it, for example by using rhetorical questions or quotes.
Fact and opinion: Focus on a particular subject, incident or character within the
text. Identify facts and opinion and consider how they are woven together.
Reading for multiple meanings
These strategies will help children to understand that readers can respond to texts in
different ways and that it is possible to make meaning from the text in more than
one way.
Character ranking: List all the characters from a story and then rank them
according to different criteria, for example most powerful to least powerful, kindest
to meanest. Discuss the differences between the rankings and ask whether different
criteria give different insights.
The roles we play: Draw an outline of a character. Children then record all the
different roles they play in the story, for example daughter, friend.
Illustrations: Identify and discuss any differences or additional information to be
found between the text and illustrations.
Text or pictures: Give the text only or pictures only from a multi-layered picture
book and ask children to tell the story or read the prose story before reading the
complete book. Discuss any changes in their perceptions and responses after
they had seen the complete book.
Minor characters: Select a key scene from a story. Retell the scene from the
point of view of a minor character within it. How does this change the reader’s
perception of events?
Villains: Discuss children’s responses to the villain in a particular story. Challenge
them to justify the villain’s actions. Are there any changes in their response after this?
Do they have more sympathy with the villain?
Problem solving: Stop at the point where a character faces a problem or
dilemma. List alternative suggestions from the group. Consider the consequences
of each suggestion. Arrive at a group decision or prediction before moving on.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1312-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 3
Looking for or challenging a consistent point of
Genre exchange: Ask children to transpose something from the genre they have
just read into another written genre.
Story comparison charts: Read several versions of the same story, for example
a traditional tale such as Cinderella. Devise a comparative chart to note the
similarities and differences between different versions.
Criteria rating: Assess certain scenes from a story at a crucial point and rate
them according to criteria such as mostly likely to happen/least
likely to happen, mostly likely to be true/least likely to be true.
Relating texts to personal experiences
What would I do?: Stop at key points in a story and ask
children to imagine what they would have done themselves.
Would they make the same decisions as the main character?
The best bit…: Ask children to chose the funniest, scariest,
or most interesting moment from a story or information book and justify their choice.
Children could compare their individual responses with a shared group reading text.
Response journals: Children keep a personal record of their thoughts as they are
reading, recording questions that occur to them as well as their response to
particular characters or key events. When reading longer books the journal can be
used to record their changing responses.
Comparisons: Relate to other books by the same author or on the same topic,
read by the group or individual. Discuss similarities or differences.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1312-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 3
Helping children to monitor their own
Fluent and experienced readers have the ability to check continually that they have
understood what they are reading. When they are unsure of something they use an
appropriate strategy to clarify their understanding. Children need to learn these skills as
they develop as readers.
Teacher modelling
Show children how fluent readers monitor their understanding and use strategies to
clarify their understanding:
Explain your thinking as you use semantic strategies for an unfamiliar word, for
example This is similar to a word I know …, It has the same root as …, I
recognise this word ending …, It usually means …
Speculate about the plot, theme or an aspect of character using tentative language,
for instance I wonder whether she did that because …, Perhaps that information
was included so that …, Maybe the author will return to that theme later …
Challenge the author if you think something is wrong, for example I don’t agree with
that because I know ..., I would like to check that ...
Plan to ask probing questions that require children to consider how they know some
information from a text and to encourage metacognitive reflection, for example Can you
explain …? Why do you think that …? How do you know …?
Invite children to elaborate, for example Tell us more about …
Support children in making alternative responses based on their own reading, for
example Is there any evidence to support a different point of view?
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1312-2005
Understanding Reading Comprehension: 3
Reciprocal teaching
This process trains children to monitor their own understanding and can be used in
guided reading sessions. The teacher models the process initially and then the children
in turn take on the role of group leader as they work more independently.
Group leader predicts what the next part of the text will be about,
and asks the group to read a section (for example a paragraph).
Readers read the text to themselves.
Group leader asks if anything in the passage is unclear, and the
group clarifies any points raised.
The group leader calls for any questions that the passage has
raised in the readers’ minds, and the group discusses them.
The group leader summarises what the section just read was
about, and then hands over to another group member, who
begins the process again.
© Crown copyright 2005
Primary National Strategy
DfES 1312-2005
Copies of this document may be available from:
DfES Publications
0845 60 222 60
0845 60 333 60
Textphone: 0845 60 555 60
e-mail: [email protected]
The content of this publication may be reproduced
free of charge by schools and local education
authorities provided that the material is
acknowledged as Crown copyright, the publication
title is specified, it is reproduced accurately and
not used in a misleading context. Anyone else
wishing to reuse part or all of the content of this
publication should apply to HMSO for a core
Ref: DfES 1312-2005
Produced by the
Department for Education and Skills
If this is not available in hard copy it can be
downloaded from:
The permission to reproduce Crown copyright
protected material does not extend to any material
in this publication which is identified as being the
copyright of a third party.
Applications to reproduce the material from this
publication should be addressed to:
HMSO, The Licensing Division, St Clements
2–16 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BQ
Fax: 01603 723000
e-mail: [email protected]
© Crown copyright 2005
department for
education and skills
Story Structure
The National Literacy Strategy
Relevant objectives
Year 1 Term 2
T10 to identify and compare basic story elements, e.g. beginning and endings in different stories.
T14 to represent outlines of story plot using, e.g., captions, pictures, arrows to record main incidents, in order, e.g., to make a
class book, wall story, own version.
T16 to use some of the elements of known stories to structure own writing.
Year 2 Term 1
T4 to understand time and sequential relationships in stories, linked to plot.
T10 to use story structure to write about own experience in same/similar form.
Year 2 Term 2
T4 to predict story endings/incidents, e.g. from unfinished extracts, while reading with the teacher.
Year 2 Term 3
T10 to write sustained stories, using their knowledge of story elements: narrative, settings, characterisation, dialogue and the
language of story.
Year 3 Term 1
T15 to begin to organise stories into paragraphs.
Year 3 Term 2
T6 to plan main points as a structure for story writing, considering how to capture points in a few words that can be
elaborated later; discuss different methods of planning.
T7 to describe and sequence key incidents in a variety of ways, e.g. by listing, charting, mapping, making simple storyboards.
Year 3 Term 3
T10 to plot a sequence of episodes modelled on a known story, as a plan for writing.
T13 to write more extended stories based on a plan of incidents and set out in simple chapters with titles and author details;
to use paragraphs to organise the narrative.
Year 4 Term 1
T4 to explore narrative order; identify and map out the main stages of the story: introductions → build-ups → climaxes or
conflicts → resolutions.
T9 to use different ways of planning stories e.g. using brainstorming, notes, diagrams.
T10 to plan a story identifying the stages of its telling.
Year 4 Term 2
T12 to collaborate with others to work stories, in chapters, using plans with particular audiences in mind.
Year 4 Term 3
T3 to understand how paragraphs or chapters are used to collect, order and build up ideas.
T12 to write an alternative ending for a known story and discuss how this would change the reader’s view of the characters
and events of the original story.
T13 to write own longer stories in chapters from story plans.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
Year 5 Term 1
T2 to compare the structure of different stories, to discover how they differ in pace, build-up, sequence, complication and
T14 to map out texts showing development and structure, e.g. high and low points, the links between sections, paragraphs,
Year 5 Term 2
T11 to write own versions of legends, myths and fables, using structures and themes identified in reading.
Year 6 Term 1
T7 to plan quickly and effectively the plot, characters and structure of their own narrative writing.
Year 6 Term 2
T1 to understand aspects of narrative structure, e.g.:
how chapters in a book (or paragraphs in a short story or chapter) are linked together;
how authors handle time, e.g., flashbacks, stories within stories, dreams;
how the passing of time is conveyed to the reader.
Year 6 Term 3
T11 to write own story using, e.g., flashbacks or a story within a story to convey the passing of time.
Writing explanations and principles
Most writers are inclined to be ‘planners’ - who like to plan in detail before writing - or ‘discoverers’ - who like to
launch off into the story and see what happens. However:
over-planning may be safe, but possibly restrictive;
discovering may lead to rambling aimlessly, and for young writers this may make the act of writing
Children need to have internalised a sense of the basic pattern of narrative and to have accumulated a repertoire
of basic story structures that they can manipulate. Planning needs to be swift, elegant and to act as a scaffold to
the writing. Different approaches to planning include:
brainstorming ideas;
mind mapping;
making notes and sketches.;
listing ideas for scenes;
writing scenes on post-its and organising them;
mind maps to generate and organise creative thinking;
story maps;
paragraph grids;
flow charts
Planning in too much detail can kill the desire to write. Once you know the ending, the pleasure of discovery can
become lost! Having a basic structure helps to guide the tale, but confident writers should be able to reinterpret
their initial plan in the light of the writing - for during writing, the imagination takes hold and new ideas may creep
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
in. Many writers talk about the characters beginning to take over the story. Young writers need:in. Many writers
talk about the characters beginning to take over the story. Young writers needto have internalised basic narrative patterns;
to have a few simple planning techniques;
to be taught how to use these in their own writing.
There are many different story structures that children can learn through the process of reading, listening, telling
and writing stories. In considering how narratives have been structured, and fall into categories, children can plan
their own tales based upon such structures. On this journey from deconstruction to reconstruction, the spoken
word plays a critical role. Children need to inhabit the story structure, representing it in a variety of ways so that
they listen to retellings, illustrate, retell or enact the structure prior to using it to write their own story. Different
approaches to representing story structures include:
Story maps;
Diagrams - grids, flow charts, lists;
Narrative patterns - story hands, mountains, graphs, illustrations;
Oral retelling - pairs, story circles, using tapes;
Enacting - acting out scenes, playing at stories.
The oral bridge to written prose must be well trodden before children are ready to use the structure in their own
Picture books, short stories and oral stories (both personal and traditional) are particularly valuable in work on
narrative structure, since these are frequently easier to understand and tend to have clear, overt structures.
Children are more often expected to write short stories than novels, so they need simple, clear models. Novels, if
structured with linked and titled chapters, can be very useful as models for exploring the passing of time and
creating flashbacks.
Annotated examples
The most basic narrative structure could be described as going up and down a hill. The characters start at the
base. All is well. They are doing something. Various events happen. At the top of the hill something goes wrong.
There is a problem. This has to be sorted out – leading to the end.
Opening - introduces characters in setting;
Build up - they are doing something;
Problem - something goes wrong;
Events - they try to sort it out;
Resolution - they sort it out;
End - they reflect on what has happened.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
This simple pattern can be used for many tales – both simple and elaborate. It acts as a basis for all stories, which
are primarily about what happens to characters, how they sort it out and how they change as a result.
Young writers begin by imitating the stories that they know, often interweaving events from their own life. The
more that they are read to, the more they imitate – even to the point of knowing whole stories and being able to
retell them. As they build up a repertoire of stories, they can innovate, taking the basic structure but making
changes – such as, introducing new characters or events. The larger the background of stories the more they
become able to invent, drawing on the structures and texts that they know well.
To make a simple start to thinking about structuring stories, take a well-known tale or rhyme, retell or reread it
many times, and then illustrate the sequence of events. This approach helps very young children gain a sense of
basic plot, and can also be used with older children to lead into writing. For instance, Little Miss Muffett is built
around the following scenes:
Opening – Miss Muffett on tuffett;
Event – Eats curds and whey;
Problem – Along comes the spider;
Event – It chases her away.
This seemingly simple structure might be borrowed and used as a basis for a different story, by generalising from
the particular events in the rhyme, e.g.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
Opening – Main character in setting;
Event – Doing some everyday act;
Problem – Something horrible happens;
Event – Main character reacts.
This basic frame might then be brought alive with the children’s own ideas, e.g.
Opening – Sam is in the park.
Event – She is walking to her Nan’s.
Problem – A dog chases her.
Event – She runs back home.
If young writers are asked to leave a space between each section of the story they soon move into writing in
paragraphs with little fuss. Other nursery rhymes that can act as simple tales to retell or use as a basic structure
for stories include: ‘Sing a song of sixpence’, ‘Dr Foster’, ‘Lucy Locket’, ‘Three blind mice’, ‘Little Jack Horner’,
‘Jack Spratt’, ‘Simple Simon’, ‘Mary’s lamb’, ‘Hey diddle, diddle’, ‘Goosey, Goosey Gander’ and ‘Humpty
Humpty climbed the last few steps of the tower.
At last he was outside, gazing across the city.
It was a hot, still afternoon and he could see right across the
city into the distance.
Without really thinking, he hoisted himself up onto the wall,
and sat there, his legs dangling…
As one step on from using simple rhymes, work with a variety of picture books, developing a range of basic
structures. The texts listed below are available as picture books; some are big books and all offer high-quality
examples, showing the journey of the characters. Using high-quality literary models provides a repertoire of story
structures that can be used for writing. Discuss and analyse the organisational features of these texts with
children, to help them to internalise different types of structure.
Young writers need to develop a storehouse of different, simple structures that they can use in their own writing.
Those listed below would provide a useful bank for writers at key stage 1. These simple patterns may be
elaborated upon at key stage 2. For instance, The Hobbit ’is a journey story, travelling from A to B, in which the
main characters meet and overcome various problems.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
Cumulative stories
In these tales, events or characters are constantly added to the preceding narrative, until a climax is reached.
The Enormous Turnip - traditional
There was an Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly - traditional
The House that Jack Built - traditional
The Sheep’s Tale - traditional
Reverse cumulative tales
In these tales something is progressively made smaller until the status quo is revisited
The Tailor’s Button - traditional
Mr Gumpy’s Outing - J. Birmingham
Problem resolution tales
In these tales a clear problem is set up at the start of the narrative and a series of steps are taken to resolve the
The Cat that Scratched - Jonathan Long
The Dog that Dug - Jonathan Long
The Duck that had no luck - Jonathan Long
The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark - Jill Tomlinson
The Rainbow Fish -Marcus Pfeister
Days of the week tales
The days of the week are sequentially introduced and the key character undertakes a different activity on each
day. On the final day a climax is sometimes reached or something different and unexpected happens.
Jasper’s Beanstalk - Mick Inkpen
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
On Friday Something Funny happened
Mr Wolf’s Week- Colin and Jacqui Hawkins
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
Circular stories
These involve the key character in a series of activities which in the short term change their situation, but
eventually return them to the original position, often due to some negative characteristic of their own.
Willy the Wimp - Anthony Browne
The Old Woman who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle - traditional
Journey stories
In these tales the key character meets a series of people, animals or places on their journey, sometimes they
return home enriched by the experience, while in other tales they travel to a new situation.
a. Return journeys (from A to B to A)
The House Cat - Helen Cooper
Sleeping Nanna -Kevin Crossley Holland
Oi Get off the train - John Birmingham
Where the wild things are –Maurice Sendak
We’re going on a Bear Hunt- Michael Rosen
The Rainbow Bear- Michael Morpurgo
b. One way journeys (from A to B)
The Little Boat - Kathy Henderson
On the Way Home - Jill Murphy
The Train Ride - June Crebbin
Going West- Martin Waddell
Repeating single event stories
In these tales the key characters all engage in principally the same action.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff - traditional
The Three Little Pigs - traditional
Molly Whuppy - traditional
Climactic tales
In these tales the narrative builds to a clear and often explosive climax, after which the characters return home or
the tale ends.
Giant- Juliet and Charles Snape
The Rascally Cake -Jeanne Willis
Angus Rides the Goods Train- Alun Durant
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
Key teaching ideas
Using examples from above, and others, teach children to internalise and begin to use a range of structures as
writers. At the beginning of such work the activities will need to be introduced via teacher demonstration, leading
to joint class composition and, later, group, paired or individual supported work. This work will frequently involve
representing narratives (whole/part) in various ways to enable the class to perceive, predict and understand the
structure and shape of the tale.
Develop a teaching sequence as follows:
Teaching focus
1. Create visual representations and talk
through the sequence of events.
Children experience the story structure more fully,
and will begin to internalise the underlying patterns.
2. Demonstrate how to plan a story based on a planning
Children use planning frame to plan own story.
3. Demonstrate how to use plan to tell story prior to writing.
Children use talk to internalise key events and
sequence, to rehearse sentences in their head and
to develop detail.
4. Demonstrate how to start writing using the plan.
Children develop confidence in committing a story
to paper.
5. Children set a clear written task - for example to work with
a partner to write the next sentence or paragraph of their
story on a whiteboard.
Children are supported as writers, and are able to
concentrate on composition rather than invention..
Each activity needs to suit the particular structural features of the story being examined, e.g. the story hand
planning frame will only really suit tales with three major narrative events.
Examples of such structural support strategies include:
A story hand
Individuals draw around their hands and represent in key words, simple icons or pictures the key events in the
beginning (thumb) middle (middle three fingers) and end (little finger) of the story. The themes of the tale can also
be shown as rings on the hand or a bracelet encapsulating the narrative.
A physical story board
Groups of children freeze-frame a key element in the story/chapter so that the whole structure is physically
represented by the class in several tableaux. The sequential structure can then be revisited and the story retold by
the teacher or a child moving between each of the freeze frames. If titles are given to these tableaux, a summary
or resume of the tale/chapter is effectively created.
A problem resolution chart
Applicable only to problem resolution tales, this usefully denotes the sequential paragraphs or chapters, that seek
to resolve the key problem, and documents the eventual resolution.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
Story maps
These can be varied to suit the narrative, but could include the geographical settings in the story (particularly
appropriate for journey tales and circular stories), the main movements of the protagonists and antagonists, the
sequence of events and the key phrases from the tale (e.g. repetitive story language or significant speech).
Block graphs
These suit cumulative story structures and enable the accumulating building blocks of the narrative to be
recorded simply but effectively. Icons can be drawn in each box to show the repetitive sequential pattern in the
Story mountains
These suit climactic stories and clearly demarcate the climax of the tale at the apex of the mountain range. Made
out of sugar paper with small pictures or keywords to denote the sections of the story, mountains are very
versatile and can be cut to suit the number of significant episodes in the narrative.
Flow charts
These show the development of the story, scene by scene. They can be used to represent a known tale or as a
planning device.
Paragraph/scene charts
These provide a series of boxes in which each scene is drawn or notes are made. They can become flexible if
‘post-its’ are used, as this means that scenes can be moved around. For instance, instead of beginning a story at
the beginning, a writer might start with the dramatic event and then have a flashback to the opening, e.g. “It had
only been two hours ago that Mrs Savage had told the two girls not to play by the canal…”.
Enacting the tale
This is a powerful way to represent stories and also acts as a precursor to writing. If children have just acted out a
scene or improvised an event then they will find writing easier because the key sequence of events can be more
firmly fixed in the mind.
Telling (or retelling) the tale
With children working in pairs, or as a story circle, stories can be retold or invented. Oral rehearsing of a story
means that some refining and revision can take place before the act of writing.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
Listing scenes
Many writers use the simple technique of making a list of the key events in the story.
Mind mapping
The more children internalise a range of basic structures, the more they are able to write successfully without rigid
plans. This is because they know the direction in which the tale must move. This allows them to be imaginative as
they are writing and to allow unexpected events to creep into the tale. When children are confident with story
structure they can use mind mapping successfully as a way of generating ideas for stories.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure
department for
education and skills
Story Structure
The National Literacy Strategy
Key pointers for young writers
Keep it simple.
Work from what you know and can see, and add in some invention. Most writers use bits
of people and places they know. You do not have to invent everything. This will help you
make your story seem real as you can use details.
Some writers plan a basic framework to guide their writing - some like to work from a
basic plot idea (e.g. two children get lost on the moors but find their way home in the
end), some use flow charts, storyboards, paragraph grids or begin by jotting down a list of
Knowing where you think you are going may mean
that you are less likely to ramble or lose your way.
But do not be afraid of moving away from the plan
if something better comes along.
Don’t plan too rigidly or the story may sound false.
Many writers find that once they get going, the
story begins to tell itself. Sometimes you are writing
so quickly that your wrist aches, and you can hear a voice in your head telling the story, and
there you are trying to keep up. This helps the writing flow. So, allow yourself to make
discoveries and to be surprised (and to have fun) as you travel along.
Use brainstorming and mind mapping to help you enter your story world and explore
possibilities. This means that you begin writing with a rucksack of possibilities, loaded with
some provisions for the story journey. Going in without provisions is not advisable.
Use mind mapping to bring into being a few characters in a setting - keep asking yourself
questions to help develop possibilities.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure.
Keep a writing journal to store useful ideas, suggestions, writing tips, word lists - anything
that might be useful for your writing. Get used to noticing incidents that might be useful for
your stories and jotting these down. Collect scraps from your own life - incidents, things
you overhear, odd events, funny things that people say, odd people, curious details anything that seems memorable. Raiding your memories is a good place to begin.
A journal/scribble pad is also a place to play - with words, ideas, names, etc. It helps to
get used to the feeling of filling blank pages. It can be a place to learn that we don’t have
to write something wonderful each time we put pen to paper. We may write lots of
rubbish in the progress towards a story. The journal acts like an artist’s sketchbook - it is
both a store of possibilities and a testing ground.
Fairy stories, myths, legends and jokes are storehouses of wonderful tales. Read them,
use them in your own stories. Listen to storytellers: grandmothers, mad uncles, toddlers.
Writers are thieves. They are constantly on the lookout for ideas. They plunder each
other’s writing - and raid their own lives.
Good writers are basically elaborate liars - but their lies hold a form of invented and
powerful truth.
© 2001 Crown Copyright Story Structure.
Writing Flier 1
This flier covers general points related to all types of writing.
Improving writing
Teaching writing is a major focus for virtually every primary school in the country. Whilst standards in reading have risen
considerably, this has not yet been matched by improvements in writing.
This is one of a series of fliers offering advice about writing narrative, non-fiction, poetry and plays. Each flier introduces
ideas that are supported by practical teaching approaches for the main writing objectives. These are to be found on the
NLS website.
The Grammar for writing and Developing early writing videos show examples of effective teaching. The accompanying
booklets provide many teaching suggestions.
If pupils are to become independent writers they need to be familiar with a range of writing, so that they may adapt their
writing to suit the audience and purpose of a task. Their writing should also reflect their own individuality and creativity.
Creating a writing climate
It is important to establish a positive climate for writing. This might feature:
access to a wide range of quality reading including non-fiction, stories, poetry
and playscripts;
writer/text of the week/month;
inviting writers, story tellers and poets into school;
spreading enthusiasm for all sorts of reading and writing;
creating frequent opportunities to publish writing;
writing about subjects that matter to the children;
writing, reading and sharing favourite texts as a teacher;
reading whole texts, not just extracts.
Planning to teach writing
Plan units of work around a whole text and create sequences of lessons that link together over a number of weeks.
Start with the ‘big objective’, e.g. ‘I have Year 4 pupils and at the end of this four-week block of work they will be able to
write an effective adventure story.’
Be clear about exactly what has to be taught in order for progress to be made in writing.
Relate sentence level objectives to the teaching of written style – avoiding exercises and worksheets that do not
relate to improving writing.
Make sure that whatever is taught children begin to use it within their writing.
Read with a ‘writer’s eye’ good examples and investigate how a writer creates different types of writing.
Use demonstration, shared and supported composition on a regular basis.
Teach writing across the curriculum.
Find out more about improving writing
Further teaching ideas and case studies can be found on the
department for
education and skills
NLS website:
See also pages 154-155, Grammar for writing and Developing early
The teaching of writing sequence
Developing writer’s knowledge
1. Reading
2. Focused
Developing writing skill
3. Definition
4. Preparation and
5. Demonstration
6. Shared
7. Supported
8. Independent
9 Publishing
and reviewing
Read good
Teach specific
Summarise what
Write about
Demonstrate by
Pupils participate
Practise trying out
Remind pupils of
Use response
objectives, e.g.
has been learned
motivating subjects.
explaining aloud,
in composition
words, sentences
the specific
partners to
investigating how
about writing this
talking as a writer,
with the teacher
or paragraphs on
writing focus
develop revising
to write effective
text type.
focusing upon the
as editor and
before they write.
and checking.
openings, using
background context
adjectives to
through drama,
enhance settings,
experience, etc.
recounts with
ƒ new and difficult
aspects of writing
ƒ transforming the
plan into writing
Show OHT
Use a range of
Some pupils may
samples to the
Keep the focus
need support.
whole class so
clearly on the
strategies such as
writing partners,
Prior to writing,
can talk about
working from
read aloud
their writing.
ƒ rehearsing,
that the children
Create simple
connectives, etc.
plans that support
Encourage pupils
model text, writing
Pupils mark in a
writing but are not
writing and re-
to rehearse
frames, paragraph
colour where
sentences and
pointers, or
reconsider weak
completing half-
A few pupils
feature and
written texts and
could write
comment on their
so on.
Read as writers,
investigating how
ƒ referring to
texts are
constructed and
scaffolds and the
effects gained.
they have used a
straight onto an
Maintain a lively
pace and
progress in
(OHT) in order to
writing and
teaching style.
share their work
decide what has
Ask pupils to
in plenaries or
to be
comment on the
further class
effectiveness of
ƒ revisiting
the writing
Ensure an
audience for
most writing.
department for
education and skills
Teaching key writing skills
Guided writing
a. Planning
Use guided writing to secure the link between phonics
Writers spend time preparing, mulling ideas over, finding
and basic spelling and handwriting in the early stages.
out information, generating ideas and organising their
Later on use guided writing to teach children who have
thoughts before they start to write. Teaching children to
not made progress through whole class teaching, or to
create a simple, manageable plan for their writing can
challenge more confident writers.
help them improve because it frees their attention from
What interferes with composition?
worrying about ‘what to say next’.
Composition will be made more difficult if certain basic
b. Drafting
skills are not automatic. Young writers need to have
Key skills for committing the text to paper include:
rehearsing sentences and parts of sentences
a range of spelling strategies
revising before and during writing
fluent handwriting and presentation
concentrating, imagining and not being distracted
the ability to create sentences with correct
away from the flow of composition
constant rereading to help compose what happens
the ability to create, and write from, simple plans.
selecting words for maximum effect
creating, controlling and varying sentences
Identify effective examples to show to the class. Select a
using connectives to make the text cohere
few examples that have weaknesses common to most of
Marking writing
selecting stylistic devices, such as using similes or
the class. Use these to teach revision. Revision should be
alliteration, to add power
focused on improving a selected aspect. Comment on
using the plan to help write the next section
aspects of the writing that are effective. Then identify
using any checklists, prompts or referring back to
parts of the writing that need to be improved – underline
models used in reading
weak words, clumsy sentences, poorly constructed
remembering to complete any specific targets.
paragraphs, or where the text needs reorganising.
Celebrate progress and set new targets.
c. Revising and checking
Writing should be read aloud to hear how it sounds.
Pupils should assist each other, developing the skills of
reading critically and considering sensitively what is
effective in a text and how it might be improved. It should
be routine for children to check for aspects of writing that
they find difficult.
Attitudes to writing
Keen writers:
have positive self image as a writer
participate in shared sessions
concentrate during writing
reread as a reader
show enjoyment and commitment.
fluent handwriting and presentation.
department for
education and skills
National Curriculum and NLS Objectives
The NLS objectives link with and support work in the rest of the
curriculum in several ways. We can:
ƒ Bring content knowledge and reading/writing activities from
the curriculum into the Literacy Hour. Work in the Literacy
Hour is then linked to real purposes for reading, writing,
speaking and listening.
ƒ Teach language and literacy in both the Literacy Hour and
other subjects, weaving the work in subjects and the Literacy
Hour explicitly together.
ƒ Apply and practise the skills learned in the literacy our in new
contexts in the rest of the curriculum.
ƒ Use language work done in other subjects to access
children’s English abilities.
Linking QCA Units of Work and NLS Writing Objectives
In order to help with planning, links have been mapped between
NLS objectives and existing writing activities within QCA schemes
of work for history, geography, science, religious education and
design and technology.
Visit the QCA website:
DfES Publications
Tel 0845 60 222 60
Fax 0845 60 333 60
Textphone 0845 60 555 60
e-mail: [email protected]
Ref: DfES 0532/2001
© Crown copyright 2001
Produced by the Department for Education and Skills
This document may be reproduced for non-commercial or training
purposes on the condition that the source is acknowledged.
Writing Flier 2 This flier covers the main points relating to writing
narrative, helping children to build up a repertoire of different types of
Narrative in the NLS
Story writing is included in the NLS Framework in every term, as a central
aspect of literacy. Story writing is magical – its appeal lies in the creation of
imaginative worlds. Stories help us to enthrall, to intrigue, to entertain, to
wonder and to bring our world and ourselves alive. There is a strong cycle that
links reading, discussing, telling, listening and writing.
As writers, pupils should build up a repertoire of narrative forms that they can
call upon to help them compose their own stories.
Creating a writing climate
It is important to establish a positive climate for story writing. This might
access to a wide range of quality literature;
attractive displays that focus children’s interest;
writer of the month;
selecting stories to tape, for other classes;
regular reading of a wide range of stories;
working with writers and story tellers in school on a regular basis;
author boxes of books;
spreading enthusiasm for stories and writers – recommendations by pupils and teachers;
writing, reading and sharing stories as the teacher.
Writing narrative – principles
The roots of story writing lie in a rich experience of listening to and watching stories, drama and role play, early story
reading, frequent rereading of favourites and the telling/retelling of all forms of story.
Use drama, video and puppets to help build up the content and context for stories.
Imitation – early story composition can be based on imitating well-loved tales.
Innovation – encourage young writers to base their stories on known tales, making changes to characters, settings,
or events.
Invention – as young writers acquire a good store of stories they can mix the ingredients and invent their own.
Consider how different types of story have typical patterns, characters, settings, events and are written in differing
Provide audiences for writing, e.g. classroom scrapbooks, taped performances.
Find out more about writing narrative
Further teaching ideas and case studies can be found on the
department for
education and skills
NLS website:
See also pages 154-155, Grammar for writing and Developing early
Preparing and planning
Writers are thieves and liars! They plunder their
You can
reading and their lives for ideas. They take what
take different
they know and then invent some more.
story ’shapes’
Some techniques you can ‘steal’ for planning your
own stories:
from stories you know
and use the ‘shape’ to plan
retelling stories
changing a known story
mixing ingredients from different stories
retelling anecdotes.
your own story. There are many
different story shapes. One of the most
basic narrative shapes is:
something goes wrong
events to
sort it out
You might start planning by jotting down ideas.
You might plan by drawing you ideas.
Mind map
Story board
Story map
You can plan by putting events in order.
1. Tom gets a bike
2. Rides to Gran’s
3. Falls off …
Once upon a time …
One morning …
Suddenly …
List of scenes
Using connectives
in a frame
Flow chart
department for
education and skills
Paragraph grid
Characterisation and settings
Stories can begin with a character or a place.
Choose names with care. Make a class collection of names that might be used in stories. The right name suggests
character, e.g. Mrs Savage, Scrooge, Mrs Twit .
Keep description limited to a few details that suggest something about the character, e.g. she walked down the
street in her red leggings. Weave description into the tale. Use details to bring characters alive – unusual clothing,
how they walk or talk, typical expressions, their eyes or mouth, their hands, a special interest or talent. Make the
details a little unusual.
Too much description of a character, or a place, may interfere with the story line.
Possible questions to ask about the character: what secret do they have, do they have a problem, how are they
feeling, what sort of person are they, what are their wishes and fears, who else is important to them?
Characters are created by what they SAY (how they say it) and what they DO.
Other character’s (or the narrator’s) comments can help to build up characterisation, e.g. Jo was fed up with Sally’s
Make sure that the character’s ‘type’ (bossy, the leader, happy-go-lucky, shy, etc.) or their ‘feeling’ (angry, sad, etc)
influences what they say and do.
Dialogue should reflect character, e.g. ‘I hate you all,’ snarled Sam.
When writing dialogue think about:
what the speaker and listener do
what else is happening.
Use this to avoid a string of speech, e.g. ‘I hate you all,’ snarled Sam. He rushed to the door. Sim stood and stared
after his friend. Outside a car hooted.
Stories are about CHANGE – what happens to the characters. Make sure this is reflected in the beginning and
Use detail and sense impressions to bring places and people alive. Base people and places on what you know –
plus some invention. Many writers use their own experiences, e.g. Michael Morpurgo sets stories on the Isles of
Scilly where he goes for holidays.
Use settings to create different atmospheres. Practise creating frightening settings or comfy settings.
Use writing on location to develop an eye for detail to bring settings alive.
Possible questions about the setting: what is hidden there? What has just happened here or is about to happen?
What is dangerous looks unusual or is out of place?
As well as place – think about the weather and the time of day.
Use the principle of ‘show’ and ‘not tell’.
Practise writing scenes from stories so that
you become skilful at paragraphing and
writing, e.g. openings, build-ups,
complications, dilemmas, cliff hangers,
suspense paragraphs, atmospheric settings,
resolving problems, endings
department for
education and skills
Helping the story progress
Have a working title but be prepared to alter this.
Put numbers on pages; leave spaces between scenes – this helps to give the feeling of accomplishment.
Think of the story or paragraphs as a series of scenes.
If stuck, go back to the plan, imagine a new scene, introduce a new character or event, find something hidden, look
in a pocket, make a discovery.
Collect story triggers – incidents that get scenes going, e.g. a phone rings.
Keep in mind a simple story idea, e.g. two children get lost but find their way home.
If stuck use your whiteboard or notebook to jot ideas, mind map some possibilities.
Collect and use paragraph openings:
Change of place – On the other side of town…
Change of time – The next day…
Change of person – Tom entered the room…
Change of event – At that moment a dog barked…
Change of speaker – ‘Hi,’ said the girl…
Pace yourself as a writer – avoid rushing any part – but do not elaborate too much.
Reread every now and then but don’t let this stop you from driving on to the end.
Writing endings
Knowing where your story is going can help you concentrate on the quality of your writing. However, if you near the
end and a better idea comes along – then use it.
Don’t cop out with a tricksy ending, e.g. It was all just a dream.
Distinguish the end of a story from the resolving of the plot. At the end of the story you could:
• describe, or show, the character’s feelings
• reflect on events (provide a moral)
• look to the future
• mention some object or detail from the story
• reread the beginning to see if some sort of link can be made or to show how a character has changed.
You can download this flier from the web and adapt it for direct use by children or to create posters for your
writing area.
DfES Publications
Tel 0845 60 222 60
Fax 0845 60 333 60
Textphone 0845 60 555 60
e-mail: [email protected]
Ref: DfES 0532/2001
© Crown copyright 2001
Produced by the Department for Education and Skills
This document may be reproduced for non-commercial
or training purposes on the condition that the source is