Story Chains



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).  


Teaching Process

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.

Story Chain Example from Math


Put students in groups of four.  On a sheet of paper, ask the first student to write the opening sentence of a math story chain:


        The Green Goblin goes up 5 plus 2 tens buildings.


The student then passes the paper to the student sitting to the right, and that student writes the next sentence in the story:


Spiderman chases him up 4 plus ten of those buildings.


The paper is passed again to the right to the next student who writes the third sentence of the story:


        How many more buildings must Spiderman climb to catch The Green Goblin?


The paper is now passed to the fourth student who must solve the problem and write out the answer.  The other three group members review the answer for accuracy. 


Answer:  1 plus 10 or eleven buildings


This activity allows students to use their writing, reading, and speaking skills while learning important math concepts.



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. (

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.


From the