Story pyramids

Story pyramids were originally used for narrative text, but they have been modified to be used with expository text, the researchers write in Preventing School Failure. The story pyramid requires that the learner pay attention to the underlying structure of the text while reading. In an eight-step pyramid for expository text, students are told to:


  1. identify the topic using one word;

  2. describe the topic using two words; and

  3. describe the setting using three words, etc.

After students have read a passage, they may be asked to write a summary of the most important information in a text. It may be as concise as three sentences or as long as one page.

Students may use the pyramid to write the topic sentence in the summary and to provide more supporting details. The closing statement should synthesize information on the topic.

An important "don't" for teachers of adolescents, the researchers say, is don't assume that students have been taught the reading strategies in earlier grades. While students may have the skills necessary to read or at least recognize words, they often need assistance in comprehending what they are reading.

*This method may be a good companion to jigsawing a section of the text. For example, if I were to start a chapter on the human body I would first begin with modeling proper techniques needed to summarize readings in few words. They may need assistance obtaining the main idea from a reading and how to properly use important vocabulary if need be. I will then break the students up into small groups. They each will be assigned a section of a longer chapter, in this instance the human body. Each student will use the “Story Pyramid" to outline the main idea of his or her section of the chapter. Students may summarize the sections regarding the heart, lungs, skin, stomach or brain. Using this method they will fill in six lines of the "Story Pyramid. The first line will be the organ assigned. The second line will be what the organ is next to in the body. The third line will be size and/or shape. The fourth line will be functioning and the fifth line would be potential diseases that target that particular organ. The last line will be a clear and concise sentence to two sentences that describes what they just read. I may not follow the particulars in regards to word counts so I may just double the word count for each line. The first line with a word to two words and doubling as the pyramid gets wider. As students become more accustomed to finding the main ideas of a reading and better able to describe readings using fewer and fewer words I may change the word counts accordingly but I would like to make certain that all important information is included and shared. After they are done with their story pyramids they will return to their groups and share their information with the rest of the group. This serves a number of functions. First of all they gain all the information from the entire chapter of their text without having to read the entire thing. The second function is they are able to see how other students fill in their "Story Pyramid" and adjust theirs accordingly. I will be there to direction and monitor all group work and note taking to maximize the time that we spend on this method.