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Spotlight on Strategies:Secret story recipe

Use three cards/post-its with characters, setting and plot written on them. Record these on paper as a graphic organiser for students. Discuss recipes and ingredients and relate this to ingredients that create great stories. Pull each of the cards out from a bowl in turn and discuss. Play the digital version of a story, pausing for students to fill in their graphic organisers.

Big idea

Graphic organisers are great visual communication tools. They allow teachers and students to use pictures and/or write words to map out and express ideas and concepts. Most graphic organisers form a powerful visual picture of information and allow the mind to see otherwise undiscovered patterns and relationships. They can be used before, during, and after teaching to assist in the learning process. Using a graphic organiser when learning elements of story writing, allows students to clearly identify the important story components.

Overview of strategy



three story element note-cards labelled with the words characters, setting, and plot; digital version of a story, graphic organiser, pen/pencils, highlighters, mixing bowl

    1. Label each notecard with the names of the 3 different story elements you'll be working with: characters, setting, and plot.
    2. For each student, print a story element graphic organiser that focuses on characters, setting, and plot.

      Note: For older students, the ingredients can be more complex elements of narrative writing.

    3. Ask students for their background knowledge or schema of recipes and ingredients. You may even want to show them an image of a chef to stir their prior knowledge!
    4. Tell your students, "Today we are going to learn the secret ingredients that create a great story."
    5. Out of the mixing bowl, pull out a card with the word characters and discuss what role characters have in the story and who their favourite characters are in the stories they are reading.
    6. Next, out of the mixing bowl, pull out the card with the word setting and discuss the role of this within stories. Ask students to name settings of their favourite class books.
    7. Lastly, pull out the card with the word plot and discuss what a plot is and some plots of their favourite stories. Spend time discussing the beginning, middle, and end, as well as the problem and solution. Be sure to explain, these are all ingredients that make a great story.
    8. Play the digital/audio version the of a story, pausing approximately every one-two minutes, allowing time for students to fill in the story elements graphic organiser.
Sum it up

This strategy allows students to compare story elements with ingredients in a recipe, allowing them to visualise and classify information accordingly. By using graphic organisers we can appeal to students with non-linguistic strengths, and using the audio version engages auditory learners, allowing for a variety of differentiation.

More ideas
  • Have students create stick puppets for the characters of the story and retell the story.
  • Have students compare different versions of the same story, or stories, by the same author to see how the story elements vary.
  • Students can work in groups or pairs using one of the graphic organisers to write up the story. 

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