As with other content-focused writing strategies, the story chain strategy gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of newly learned material (Bangert-Drowns, Hurley, & Wilkinson, 2004). Story chains are especially useful for promoting application of content area concepts through writing (Saddler, Moran, Graham, & Harris, 2004). The process involves a small group of students writing a story using the information and the concepts they learn. The story chain will include a beginning, middle, and a logical ending or the solution to a problem. By writing out new understandings in a collaborative context, students provide themselves and the teacher a reflection of their developing knowledge (Graham & Perin, 2007).
1. After a new content is learned, groups of students should be formed. The group size will vary depending upon the nature of the content.
2. Model the story chain process with the class by brainstorming lines or sentences that could be crafted related to content the class has recently learned. You might initiate the process by writing the first line on the board, and then eliciting a second line, a third line, and so on until the story is completed with a total number of lines corresponding to the total number of the group members. Emphasize that the last student to contribute to the story chain must write a logical concluding sentence or solution to a problem. All the group members should then look over the story chain composition and check for accuracy and logic relative to the content just learned.
3. Ask the first student to initiate a story based on information and concepts they acquired in that day’s lesson. The next adds a second line. The next, a third line, etc. until the last student writes a concluding line or solves the problem. All group members should be prepared to revise the story based on the last student’s input as to whether it was clear or not. Students can be creative and use information and characters from their everyday interests and media.
4. Groups can exchange their story chains with other groups or share them with the entire class.
Bangert-Drowns, R.L., Hurley, M., & Wilkinson, B. (2004). The effects of school-
based writing-to-learn interventions on academic achievement. Review of
Educational Research, 74, 29-58.
Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing
of adolescents in middle and high schools. New York/Washington, DC: Carnegie
Corporation/Alliance for Excellent Education. (http://www.all4ed.org).
Saddler, B., Moran, S., Graham, S., & Harris, K.R. (2004). Preventing writing
difficulties: The effects of planning strategy instruction on writing performance
of struggling writers. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
CONTENT LITERACY STRATEGY DESCRIPTIONS for the 2008 LOUISIANA COMPREHENSIVE CURRICULUM, Dr. William G. Brozo, May 2008