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example of short story mapping

example of short story mapping

What is a story map?

A story map is a graphic organizer that helps students learn the elements of a narrative. Learning to identify a story’s characters, plot, setting, problem, and solution prompts students to read carefully to learn the important details. There are many different types of story maps. The most basic ones focus on the beginning, middle, and end of the story while more sophisticated organizers focus more on story elements like plot, character development, or theme.

Why use story maps?

How to use story maps

Download simple story map templates (beginning–middle–end)

Download more complex story map templates (characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution

Watch a demonstration: mini-lesson in story mapping

The teacher completes a story map for “The Three Little Pigs” step-by-step, explaining each narrative element.

Watch a classroom lesson: narrative text retelling (grade 1, whole-class)

As part of a lesson on retelling, the teacher completes a story map for “Butterfly’s Life,” a narrative nonfiction text, with input from students.

Watch a classroom lesson: The Hen and the Apple Tree (grade 2, whole-class)

Following a whole-class read-aloud of The Hen and the Apple Tree , the teacher completes a story map with input from students to help them identify the moral of the story (beginning at 12:07).

Collect resources

Differentiate instruction.

For English-learners, readers of different ability levels, or students needing extra support:

Extend the learning

This chart shows how the story mapping strategy can be used in language arts, history, and science.  See cross-disciplinary story mapping chart ›

Students can extend their understanding of story maps into their own writing. Students can use story maps to plan, summarize, and write their own main ideas, characters, setting, and plot for a story. Find more ideas for using graphic organizers to support writing  ›

Language Arts

This story map example demonstrates how story maps are used with an Arthur story. Students identify the setting, characters, the problem, and the solution in the story. 

Story maps can be used to help students solve open-ended math problems or create their own math problems. This work helps students break down problems into smaller sections in order to understand what is being asked.

Social Studies

Using the format of the story map, students can create their own map by taking a walk around the playground or school. Encourage students to include positional words in their story map writing.

Related strategies

Learn more about strengthening reading comprehension in our self-paced module Reading 101: Comprehension .

See the research that supports this strategy

Adler, C. (2004). Seven Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension .

Armbruster, B. B., Lehr, F., & Osborn, J. (2001) Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read kindergarten through grade three . Washington, DC: The U.S. Department of Education.

Boulineau, T., Fore, C, Hagan-Burke, S. and Burke, M. (2004). Use of Story-Mapping to Increase the Story-Grammar Text Comprehension of Elementary Students with Learning Disabilities . Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Spring, 2004), pp. 105-121 

Nell K. Duke, P. David Pearson, Stephanie L. Strachan, and Alison K. Billman (2011) Essential Elements of Fostering and Teaching Reading Comprehension . From What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction (4th ed.), International Reading Association.

Nell K. Duke, Alessandra E. Ward, and P. David Pearson (2021).  The Science of Reading Comprehension Instruction , The Reading Teacher , Vol 74, No. 6 (May-June 2021).

Dunst, C, Simkus, A, Hamby, D. (2012). Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy. CELLreviews 5(4). Asheville, NC: Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute, Center for Early Literacy Learning.

Santa, C., Havens, L., & Valdes, B. (2004). Project CRISS: Creating independence through student owned strategies 3rd Edition . Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

Timothy Shanahan et al.,  Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade  (2010). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. 

Trabasso, T., & Bouchard, E. (2002) Teaching readers how to comprehend text strategically. In C. Block and M. Pressley, (Eds.) Comprehension instruction: Research-based practices (pp. 176-200). NY: Guilford Press.

Children's books to use with this strategy

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

This inventive telling of a familiar tale will enchant readers, young and old.

Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood

Marshall's humorous illustrations add personality and action to familiar tales.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

The "real" story started when Alexander Wolf sneezed when he tried to borrow a cup of sugar from his neighbor in the straw house.

such a wonderful site

thank u this helped me alot


Thanks so much for these helpful resources!

Thank you very much for the ideas of teaching reading comprehension. They are useful for me to plan my lesson.

Graphic organizers help students to understand what they read.

Graphic organizer are so helpful to students.

This is a great and very helpful website.

The use of graphic organizers supports reading comprehension allows students to organize what they have read and provide organization of what they know and what they understand, and what they learned. Great site!

This website is a great site. The strategies listed are very helpful.

These resources are so helpful in my special education reading class. Thank you!

very helpful even in preschool we use a lot of these strategies

the graphic organizers are good strategies

Brilliant, I can adapt this to suit my student's needs. Great website for resources.

Iuse these techniques in my class thank you

thank you so much for these lovely resources

This website has been such a huge help to me and my students in Elementary, Middle, and High School during speech therapy. Thank you so much!

Thank you to the creator of this site this helped me much!!! :D

What a great site. It is always worth coming to the site when looking for some assistance.

I am very happy to have found this website. The information provided is very pertinent to my ELA class. Strategies are great and the tools such as graphic organizers are neat. Thank you!

It's a great website! Thanks so much for this wonderful ideas! :) Very useful

I was looking for a good story map to go in my listening center for the students to recall their information and I found one that is simple and precise. This is awsome! .

Hoping this will help my nephew!

this is a really fantastic website

Thank you that was so helpful as now I can help my son to do his homework

I took the story mapping and simplified it for a kindergarten cooperative learning lesson. After reading a story and discussing the story elements, I split the students into groups and assign each group a story element- characters, setting , problems , and solutions. Each group has a leader and they draw and write in a circle map the components of the story they are assigned. Each student shares with the class the part they contributed. We have a class made rubric to follow to make sure the pictures and writing are from the text. Then we post the maps in the classroom and they write from those maps the rest of the week.

Research shows that graphic organizers help students understand what they read. They also help students at all levels write about what they read and write original stories. A sequence graphic organizer, for example, gives students a guide or blueprint on which to outline their ideas. With that as a starting point, students can begin to write and tell their stories

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What are Story Maps?

Visual representations, content area examples.

example of short story mapping



These worksheets above and below are just a few examples of what a basic story map might look like.


example of short story mapping

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example of short story mapping

A Guide to User Story Mapping: Templates and Examples (How to Map User Stories)

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A Guide to User Story Mapping

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Product management

User story mapping is a visual exercise that helps product managers and development teams define the work that will create the most delightful user experience. It is used to improve your understanding of your customers and to prioritize work. Software leader Jeff Patton is often credited with having developed and shared extensive knowledge around user story mapping.

In user story mapping, teams create a dynamic outline of a representative user’s interactions with the product, evaluate which steps have the most benefit for the user, and prioritize what should be built next. For agile organizations, it provides an alternative to building a flat list of backlog items or working from lengthy requirements documents.

User story mapping employs the concept of user stories — which communicate requirements from the perspective of user value — to validate and build shared understanding of the steps to create a product users love. Teams write user stories in a format that captures business value and can be completed within a development iteration (usually called a sprint ).

The user story format — As a [type of user] , I want to [action] so that [benefit] . — can be helpful in thinking about product interactions from a user’s perspective.

By visually mapping out these user stories, product teams tell the story of the customer journey and break it into parts. This helps you design and build functionality that is focused on desired customer outcomes, instead of solely on development output or feature specifications.

If you use Aha! software, you can create user story maps in either Aha! Create or Aha! Roadmaps . Aha! Create is free to use up to 5 documents and comes with the user story map template shown below. User story mapping is also built into the features section of Aha! Roadmaps.

Create a user story map in Aha! Create. Sign up for a free account .

An example of a user story map in Aha!

Start using this template now

To access even more templates, visit this guide: User story templates + user story mapping templates .

Or jump ahead to any section below:

What are the benefits of user story mapping?

Who should participate in user story mapping, how to create a user story map, what are some challenges of user story mapping, what happens after user story mapping is completed.

The following are some of the ways that story mapping helps you improve your processes for building products users will love.

Focuses on user value When a product team builds a user story map, you are envisioning the product from a user’s perspective. The resulting story map helps you identify how users experience the product and what efforts will lead to the best outcomes. This forces an outside-in approach to product roadmap planning.

Prioritizes the right work Building a holistic visualization of all the work necessary to deliver a Complete Product Experience (CPE) can help teams decide what is most important, organize work into releases (the delivery of a new customer experience), and de-prioritize work that has less user value.

Drives clear, well-sized requirements Many teams struggle to write strong user stories and requirements. User story mapping can help by providing a visual representation of how large items of work break down into smaller ones, and by illustrating how work items fit together.

Delivers new value early and often User story mapping helps you group your work into iterations and releases based on how valuable it will be to users. Working on the most important things first means teams can deliver the most customer value faster, get early feedback from customers, and learn quickly what product features will be most valuable.

Exposes risks and dependencies Creating a story map of how users interact with a product can give teams a global view of the product so you can visualize potential blocks, risks, and dependencies that must be mitigated in order to deliver the product successfully.

Builds team consensus The process of conceiving and building a user story map gives teams a shared view of the customer experience and the work that is required to improve it. The exercise encourages conversations that lead to a shared understanding of what to build, when, and why.

User story mapping is a collaborative exercise that helps align cross-functional teams around building a product that will be better tomorrow than it is today. For this reason, any team whose work will contribute to the successful delivery of customer value should be represented.

Since a user story map creates a holistic view of the product, it is helpful to include members of any teams responsible for architecting the complete product experience. These teams are often represented in a user story mapping exercise:


UX / design

Customer support

Related guide: Who makes up the product development team?

User story mapping starts with a decision about what medium to use for building the story map. It can be done with simple physical resources — such as a wall or whiteboard and sticky notes — or with tools like Aha! Create and Aha! Roadmaps . Virtual planning may be helpful for distributed teams. Regardless of the medium, teams will want to take the following steps:

1. Frame the problem

What is the problem your product solves for customers, or what job does it help them do ? Taking a goal-first approach is critical in mapping the work that follows, and you need to ensure you are mapping the customer’s goal. This is true even if you are building enhancements to an existing product. The user story format (As a [type of user], I want to [action] so that [benefit].) can be helpful in thinking about product interactions from a user’s perspective.

2. Understand the product’s users

Who is the target audience for your product? There is likely more than one. Different audiences can have different goals and ways of interacting with your product. Starting this exercise with a set of user personas can ensure that teams share an understanding of the target audience and build stories from that point of view. It also eliminates wasted effort on edge cases that are not a fit with your target audience.

3. Map user activities

All users who interact with a product will likely do so through a series of common activities. These activities — also referred to as themes or functions — form the backbone of the user story map. For example, users of an ecommerce product may want to search items for sale, view items by category, put items into a shopping cart, and complete a purchase. These activities will comprise the stories across the top of the map, which the team will then break down into smaller user stories.

4. Map user stories under activities

With the backbone in place and major themes defined, the team can now build out the skeleton of the map by breaking down each activity or theme into smaller user stories. For example, under the shopping cart activity, there might be stories like, “As a shopper, I want to edit and delete items in my cart so I can change my mind before I purchase.”

5. Flow and prioritize

With the high-level themes and detailed user stories in place, the next step is to prioritize stories, ranking them vertically so that the most important ones are at the top. Then, teams map how users flow through the product — typically from left to right. If a product has multiple types of users, teams may want to map different scenarios for each. These actions help teams decide which stories are vital and which ones are less important to delivering a delightful product experience to the target audience(s).

6. Identify gaps, dependencies, technical requirements, and alternatives

The story map gives teams the ability to envision upfront the potential issues that may slow you down later, such as bottlenecks, dependencies, technical architecture, or missing information and capabilities. Identifying these risks before design or development work begins can help teams minimize and mitigate them, enhance usability, and come up with alternative solutions.

7. Plan sprints and releases

This is where teams turn a visual exercise into executable work. With stories prioritized from the top down, teams can see the work that will deliver the most value in the shortest time and group these stories into development sprints and product releases. Teams will create horizontal “slices” across the map, grouping stories by priority within each critical user activity. It is important to consider that this is not about identifying what is required for a minimum viable product; rather, it is critical for identifying the most important work to be completed to create a delightful customer experience .

User story mapping can be beneficial to teams that want to move fast and build products customers love, but it can also yield disappointing results if teams are not prepared. These are some challenges to watch out for:

No clear customer If you do not know who the customer is, then it is impossible to work out how they experience the product. You must know for whom you are mapping stories.

No clear problem If you do not know what problem your product is solving for customers, the entire exercise of user story mapping can backfire. Building out stories towards the wrong customer goal can result in a waste of time and resources — not just in the exercise itself, but also for the sprints and releases that are based on it.

Limited utility Physical story maps made from sticky notes on a whiteboard are difficult to keep updated. The notes stop being sticky and fall off, whiteboards get cleaned and the work is lost, or iterations and releases get shipped without updates to the board. Additionally, story maps built in a single, physical location do not serve teams in other locations who cannot see them. This is why virtual whiteboarding is the choice for many teams.

Re-work and redundancy Stories from a user story map typically need to be recreated in a flat backlog afterwards, such as a software engineering tool, in order for development teams to begin working on them. As a result, this exercise can make teams feel that they are doing the same work twice. However, if you use Aha! software, the user stories on your user story map are connected to the real work that they represent.

At the end of a user story mapping exercise, you will want to schedule your outline of prioritized stories into sprints and releases. You may want to share or review the user story map with teams that did not participate, including leadership, to ensure there is agreement on the product roadmap. Any teams contributing work to the upcoming sprint or release who were not represented in the mapping exercise will need to add their work in as well.

Then, transfer your user story mapping artifacts into a shared tool. Engineering teams may need to add technical specifications and acceptance criteria to ensure all the work delivers the user value identified in the story mapping exercise.

A user story map need not be static. You can update it with findings from research spikes, revised estimations, and user feedback from sprints and releases. The story map can also be used as a visual roadmap to communicate both the planned work and the work that remains.

Finally, teams doing user story mapping should take advantage of each exercise as an opportunity to get closer to customers and increase your levels of empathy for what the customer is trying to accomplish. Story mapping is a tool to help product builders create customer value with an incremental, iterative approach, with opportunities to learn and improve as you go.

The road to planning and building lovable products starts here. Start a free trial today.

example of short story mapping

example of short story mapping

Alix Ohlin on How to Map the Shape of Your Short Story

The author of we want what we want tries to find the shape of things in alice munro, ocean vuong, and more.

In the before times, I loitered in museums. The last show I saw in person before the pandemic was work by David Wojnarowicz , film and photography he made as the AIDS epidemic ravaged. I emerged from the gallery blinking into the grey light of a March afternoon in Vancouver, thinking about loss, memory, and the accompaniment of art.

Shortly thereafter, we went into lockdown, and over the months that followed my mind turned over new pandemics and previous ones, the images of Wojnarowicz I’d seen, and how they represented, as Olivia Laing puts it in in Funny Weather , “defiance in the face of extinction.”

I didn’t write much during that time, but the few stories I drafted all feature bodies under siege, on the verge of disappearance and extinction. In retrospect I can see how the show was continuing to haunt me, and how my own work spoke back to it, filtered through my own experiences and preoccupations.

It’s always been this way for me with the work of visual artists—that it helps me cross some threshold into the space where writing happens. It offers both a refractive lens and a kind a companionship. I respond strongly to the work itself, and the experience of roaming through a gallery or a museum seeds my subconscious. More often than not I come away from an exhibit with a notebook dense with scribblings that connect, intuitively and indirectly rather than explicitly, to the art I’ve just seen.

This is especially true for me with short stories. Perhaps it’s because the short story is where I feel most engaged with questions of form, where I experience writing at its most dynamic and malleable. Sculpture, painting, installations—all of them are encounters with form, and because of how they inhabit physical space, they help me conceptualize forms I might work with myself.

When it comes to form, I’ve never felt at ease with the narrative arc as it was taught to me in high school, the Freytag’s pyramid that leads from inciting incident through rising action to climax and denouement. It doesn’t seem to capture the essence—or the breadth—of the kinds of stories I love or the kinds I’m trying to write. So I’m always seeking out different ways of thinking about story form. In recent years, I’ve found aesthetic resonance in Jane Alison’s exploration of narrative structures like the meander or the spiral . I’ve been intrigued by the use of kishōtenketsu in the work of writers like Ocean Vuong . I’m continually thinking about where my own stories might go, what shapes they might take.

When I read stories I admire, I’ve found mapping their forms visually to be extremely helpful, similar to the process Martin Solares describes here . For me, story mapping is a kind of reverse outlining that helps me understand the story better, how it progresses and how it’s engineered, and it keeps me attuned to the possibilities inherent in the genre. As Jerome Stern writes in Making Shapely Fiction, a book that also ascribes narrative meaning to visual forms, “These shapes aren’t rules that you follow so much as ways to create.”

My story maps are personal and idiosyncratic, subjective visions of my own reading experience. When I map Jenny Zhang’s story “ Why We Were They Throwing Bricks? ” I find a pendulum structure that swings back and forth with dramatic energy. Justin Torres’s “ Reverting to a Wild State ” has a chiasmic structure that looks like an X to me, two thematic trajectories crossing through space and time. Alice Munro’s “ Dimension ” is an aqueduct, the present tense story crossing the top, two levels of backstory arching beneath.

example of short story mapping

Thinking about these forms leads me to consider what internal architectures might support the stories I want to tell. And because I’m thinking about story structure through visual analogies, I return to visual art. And I ask: what if I wrote a story shaped like this sculpture I saw, or with the compositional pattern of that painting? What narrative architecture might emerge?

Some examples, to illustrate what I mean: Julie Mehretu, who had a mid-career retrospective at the Whitney this summer , creates multi-layered, complex abstract paintings and drawings that evoke the dynamics of global capitalism, displacement, and identity. Sarah Sze constructs mixed media installations that look like universes to me, exploring time, space, and perception. I wouldn’t say that my own work directly resembles that of either artist, but their boldness has been galvanizing. Their work has nudged me towards story forms built around networks of power and powerlessness, that (at least in my drafting of them) are engineered as miniature universes. The lives of disparate characters—a Somali-Swedish orphan; a childless North American couple; their teenaged gamer neighbor—are all mapped as intertwining paths in my story “The Universal Particular.” I thought of “Money, Geography, Youth,” a story about a young woman who returns to Los Angeles after a year doing volunteer work in Ghana to discover that her father is engaged to her best friend, as an entropic constellation of needs, clustering the three main characters together even as they drift apart.

The artist Ann Hamilton is interested in trace presences. In her portraits, she places a pinhole camera inside the mouth, making “the orifice of language the orifice of sight.” When the mouth opens, the film is exposed, and the portraits, to me, look blurry and intimate, organic and embodied. I love the idea of dual portraiture as a form, and it fits itself well to my preoccupation with dyads of women, one seen through the eyes of another. What would a story look like if it took the form of a pinhole camera positioned inside the mouth of the taker? Perhaps it could involve a woman who witnesses her long-time friend disappear into her obsession with new age therapies (“The Point of No Return”), while she also contemplates the strange evolution of her own life.

A final example is the work of Janet Cardiff and Georges Muller , themselves highly narrative artists. They create aural environments where you can listen to a story being told as you walk through a given place, whether Edinburgh, the Montreal métro, or Central Park. The way Cardiff and Muller use voice to overlap with landscape, the way headphones enclose you in your own world while you navigate the outside one, has inspired the way I think about first person narration in fiction as both a guide and a barrier, an enclosure and a self-directed universe. In my story “The Detectives,” a woman who knows everyone in her small town still feels deeply alone; in “Service Intelligence” a college student who can’t talk directly about her sexual assault sees criminal activity everywhere. The voice in these stories is meant to speak in your ear as you walk through the world of the characters, keeping you close and cloistered at the same time.

When I’m stuck in the draft of a particular story, I’ll try to draw the map of where I am, what I’ve built so far. If I can’t map it at all, that tells me I might need to take it apart and assemble it a different way. Or perhaps that it’s time for me to go back to the museum and roam around, looking for new forms, new shapes.


example of short story mapping

Alix Ohlin’s We Want What We Want is available now from Knopf.

Alix Ohlin

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