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A JK-12 pluralistic school that engages students in an exemplary and inspiring general and Jewish education.

What is Story Grammar Marker and How is it Used?

Heidi Tacktill and Becca Lipscomb

Heidi Tacktill and Becca Lipscomb are Lower School Learning Specialists at CESJDS

Story Grammar Marker® is a manipulative and multi-sensory tool for narrative development that helps students develop reading, writing and speaking skills that are essential for academic and social success. Our learning specialists were fortunate enough to attend a training this summer with founder and creator, Maryellen Rooney Moreau. Since this time, learning specialists in grades one through five have been working with small groups, teachers, and whole classes to implement this methodology in general and judaic studies classrooms as well as in targeted strategy groups. The program uses an icon system to cue students into different parts of a narrative. These icons can be used to re-tell narratives, create stories, and work on nonfiction text structures. It is important to note that children must first learn how to develop oral communication to verbally share stories before they are able to write. 
At the first grade level, students have been introduced to SGM through class read alouds and in guided reading groups. They are explicitly taught how to orally retell a story using the icons, which also serves as a tool for comprehension. This framework teaches them the essential components of a story, either told aloud or written. Once they master retelling the key components of a story, they learn how to begin the narrative writing process.  Students are more engaged in the learning process when given the appropriate developmental tools and resources such as SGM. As students progress through their first grade year, they will utilize the framework of SGM to create their own personal narratives. 
This knowledge will be built upon in subsequent grades. One second grade teacher reported “it’s so nice to have a common language to discuss story elements that can be used across curriculums.” Giving students a structure to talk about, respond to, and create stories, allows them to think about the content rather than expending so much energy on organizing their thoughts. The framework is there and they need to fill in the rest. The Judaics teachers have been using these icons to work through Parsha stories and discuss lessons from the texts. 
In older grades, the Story Grammar Marker has lent itself to deeply exploring the way characters feel and act. This helps build higher order comprehension skills as well as works on social pragmatics. Through this process students develop their theory of mind, understanding how and why others have different feelings and thoughts than their own. One fourth grade student in a reading strategy group stated “Now I totally get why the character did that!” when making an inference in a novel. It is so amazing to see the connections being made when giving students a multi-sensory framework to expand their great ideas. We look forward to seeing how these skills build on each other as the years progress. 

After being introduced to the SGM, students independently practice using this structure to retell a story. 

The Story Grammar Marker manipulative tool, The Critical Thinking Triangle and a Small Moment using the icon system.

A reading group using the SGM to find parts of a nonfiction text.