Fiction Story Elements & Structure

I don’t know about you, but teaching fiction was always a more comfortable place for me than non-fiction.  It can also feel more “at home” for kids, too.  Studying the literary elements and structure of fiction is an important way to deepen your child’s reading comprehension.  It also spills over nicely into helping them write their own fictional stories.

Some Literary Elements of Fiction Include*:

  • Characters: main characters & supporting characters
  • Setting: when and where did the story take place
  • Problem or Conflict: usually introduced early on; can be external or internal
  • Plot: text structure (see Scholastic’s plot diagram link below); the rise and fall of action
  • Solution: or resolution; how the problem or conflict is solved
  • Point of View: 1st person (main character telling story; use of “I” and “me”) or 3rd person (narrator telling story; use of “he/she”, “him/her”)
  • Theme: more than the topic of the story, the “message” the author is trying to send through the use of the story

*Not all fiction works include all of these elements.  Sometimes the plot is not organized and packaged so neatly.  When I’m faced with texts such as these, many times, I’ll ask kids to tell what happened first, next, and last; then tell me what the main idea of the story is.  To describe main idea, I’ve used these phrases: “What is the story all about?” or “If you could tell me what the story was about in 2-3 sentences, what would you say?”

For a more in-depth study on these story elements, check out this.


Text Structure for Fiction

Here are a few graphic organizers to help young readers look for the important information in a fiction work.  (I do have more to share, but will post some ideas with better explanations.)  Knowing what kind of structure a text will have helps readers to organize and summarize the important information.  I like what Emily Kissner says in her book (Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling) about story maps and graphic organizers.  They help to “cue students to story elements to expect” before reading, “help students monitor their comprehension and keep track of the action in a story” during reading, and after reading, graphic organizers “require students to reflect on what they read and make connections between story elements.” (pg. 95)

For Story Maps, Story Maps for Fiction.  (I recommend for Kindergraten/1st grade)  I’m not sure of the source as I’ve adapted these from ones that I’ve used for years.  Readers can draw or write in the spaces provided to help them organize the important information.

  • The first page of Story Maps is for stories that don’t necessarily have an organized plot line.  After the child records her answers in the chart, encourage her to use the information to tell the main idea of the story.
  • The second page is for stories that have more of an organized plot line (with a well-defined problem/solution).  The reader can use this information to retell the story line of the text.

For Scholastic’s Plot Diagram, click here. (I recommend for grades 2-5)

  • Talk about the concepts on the diagram and ask readers to be on the lookout for these in their texts.  One great way to introduce these plot elements is through identifying them in a movie first.
  • This organizer helps readers to structure their retellings, even with long chapter books.

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