Beginning, Middle, End! Let's Chain It All Together!

65 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT describe the structure of the story and how the author uses structure to add meaning to the text.

Big Idea

Using a chain of details, students identify BME, retell the story and learn about how story structure adds meaning!




** The third time I taught this lesson, I grabbed another version of this story - Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa - Partners.  It worked fine - don't feel you have to grab the original book.

I chose this book because it's a great series for beginning 2nd graders. The text is easy and the kids really enjoy the humor. There's lots of books in the series, so the kids can find one on library day!

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words.

Gain student interest & activate background knowledge

  • "I picked a literature book to read today about a cowgirl and her best friend."  Show the book.
  • "Any guesses who a cowgirl's friend would be?"  
    • (Elicit ideas about what a cowgirl is) 
    • "Did anyone see 'Toy Story 2' - Jesse was a cowgirl." 
    • "Who was her best friend? a horse right!"
  • "Today we are going to do describe our story and what happens to the characters in the beginning, middle, and end. It's important to be able to describe a story to others so they can decide if they want to read it and it helps you understand it better!"
  • "Part of your description today will involve a craft.  You'll be cutting, coloring and gluing to make your own 'story chain'. "

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Explain the concepts

  • "All stories have structure that holds it together and gives it order.  Do you have structure to your day?  (math first, then gym, then art...)  What the structure of meals? (breakfast lunch dinner...)
  • "So what is the structure of the book?  Can you think of how its put together?" (Elicit ideas.. beginning, middle, end, characters first...)
    • "Suppose I told you a story... 'We had a good time there.  We lost a ball. Mom and I went to the park. I found it.'  What's wrong with that story?"  Elicit ideas..... "the order is not right.  I should start with 'Mom and I went to the park. We lost a ball.  I found it. We had a good time there.'  Stories usually start with a beginning, then have a middle, and then an end.  I didn't have good structure with my story."
  • "On my chart paper, you see 'beginning', 'middle', 'end'."
  • (Pass out the story element cards as you name them) "We have talked about the story elements before - characters, setting, events or action, problem, and solution. I will go through each part of the story-beginning, middle or end-and you can take turns putting up the story elements where they go." 
  • Have students put the elements on the board next to the chart. "The problem can't happen at the end!  I would be frustrated reading a book where the problem didn't happen until the very end!" 
  • "As we read stories, we can ask and answer questions to find out these story elements. The answers are in the words, illustrations, or we may have to infer the answers."
  • Here's what the whiteboard with story elements looked like.


Model the skill

  • "Let me read the first chapter of this book. Let's find the story elements - We'll ask and answer some questions or infer and put them on the whiteboard next to the words, 'beginning, middle, and end'."
  • (Read first page, thinking out loud)... "Who are the characters? The words said the names in this beginning. I'll write 'Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa'. There's a person too, but is he/she on every page?  No, they they are not main characters."
  • "What is the setting? "Do the words or pictures tell us?" Write that in the top box of the worksheet.
  • "Now I'll read more and figure out a big event. I'll ask and answer another question. What happened to the characters? By looking at the pictures and the words, I'll infer that the big event was the ......"


Guided practice

  • "Let's ask a few more questions about the middle and end of the story. It really helps to think about each part of the story - beginning, middle and end - separately."
  • "Help me with the next big event. How did the characters change at the end?  Take ideas...the horse ....."
  • "Finally, tell me about the end of the chapter. What was the solution?"  Take ideas... Cocoa ......  How do you know that?  It's in the words!"

Encourage students to use text and illustrations to verify answers to questions. This will be a bigger emphasis in my later lessons, but it's a critical push in the Common Core State Standards. Supporting answers with evidence from the text allows them to provide stronger text based information.

I left this part more open (with ....)because I've used 2 different stories in the past - the original Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa and Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa-Partners. Write down and discuss the kids' ideas as you chart the answers.  Here's the completed whiteboard from the 'partners' version.

Students Take a Turn

15 minutes

Explain the task

  • "Now let me read the chapter 2 from the story. Listen for the story elements because you'll be writing them on a story chain."
  • "I heard some words in the story that you may want to write on your chain."  (I write some vocabulary on the board for spelling purposes, but not in order of characters, setting, events, such as 'barn'  'cowgirl' 'surprise'.)
  • (Read the book, thinking out loud)... "Think about what you just hear - the characters, setting, events, problem and solution."

Here is a more detailed completed whiteboard that I used one year with students who needed more support. They gave ideas, but I found I needed to write up the ideas so they could copy.  I also put the ideas on my 'sample teachers' worksheet because  some of them struggled getting the words in the right row.

One of the key shifts in the ELA Common Core Standards is the students need to be able to cite evidence to ask and answer text-dependent questions. Students who can identify the story structure (beginning, middle, end) of a story (RL.2.5), asking and answering questions about these elements (RL.2.1) will able comprehend the story more fully. This activity represents a shift in the Common Core State Standards toward citing evidence (from the text) to ask and answer text-dependent questions.

Students complete the worksheet-monitor their work

  • When you're done reading, pause for a few seconds and tell the kids to do some 'thinking before writing'.  Ask them to pause a look over the elements in the story chain.  Then give them 5 minutes to write ideas.
  • "I'm passing out a worksheet for you to fill out showing these elements."
  • As students work, walk around and monitor. Ask them questions to gauge understanding...
    • "Did you hear the setting or have to infer that?"
    • "Why did you only list those few characters - are you writing all of them or just the main characters?"
    • "How did the characters change at the end of the chapter?"
    • "Did the problem make the characters change?"

Share & Create the Chain

20 minutes

Share ideas and discuss

  • "Who is ready to share what you wrote? Let's start with the beginning and work our way to the end of the story."  Take ideas asking students "Why did you pick that character" or "Is that the biggest problem?'" 
  • "Now turn to the neighbor on your left and take turns retelling the story.  One person tells the title and author, the other tells the beginning, the first person tells the middle and the second person tells the end of the story.  You have 5 minutes."


Color to show the parts

  • Now that you have ideas about the story elements show the beginning, middle and end of the story, you can color the strips with crayons. (Don't use markers because then it covers the pencil.)  
    • "Color the beginning strips purple.... 
    • Color the middle strips pink... 
    • Color the end strips blue."
  • "We can make a 'beginning-middle-end chain'.  Cut out the strips on the line and glue them in a circle.  Then glue the other strips around the first one.  Remember story structure has to be in order (beginning, middle, end) so glue your strips that way!"
  • Here's an example of a BME chain that my student made.
  • "You did a great job today identifying BME, and retelling a story!  When you do this in reading class, it helps you understand the story better!  We'll practice this more later."


Scaffolding and Special Education - You could scaffold this lesson up or down, depending on student ability.

I was able to easily teach this lesson with my students who have disabilities.  Since I was reading the stories, the reading level is not a factor.  If you have students who are not able to write full sentences, they can write 1-2 words per strip.  OT concerns can be addressed by having a friend cut and/or glue.

For higher level students, I would put an expectation out there more richer ideas and more vocabulary. They should be able to write sentences with details (he took a bite out of the hat or she offered him a surprise, vs he ate the hat).