Literary Patterns for Reading and Writing

Bill Martin Jr. and Peggy Brogan describe the seven basic patterns authors use when writing stories. Orin Cochrane, in the book Reading, Writing, and Caring (1984), adds the eighth. This list of predictable books was started by Nellie Edge and has been expanded.

Predictable books give kids the opportunity to predict what is going to be said and what will happen next in a story. The more predictable the story, the more likely children will enjoy, remember and want to read it over and over. After reading the same story a few times, children will start to read along or predict what is coming next and may "read" the whole story, even though they may not yet be able to recognize individual words. At this point beginning readers can add emotion and fluency to their reading or retelling.

The following are short descriptions of the eight patterns of predictable books. After each description you may click on activity to be linked to a sample activity or book list to be linked to a list of books.

1. Repetitive: The same phrase, sentence, or episodes repeat one another throughout the story. Repetition makes books predictable, helps develop vocabulary and sequencing, plus children love to anticipate what's coming next in a story or poem. . The sounds of language become planted in children's memory.

Activity - Repetition and Rhyme
Book list

2. Cumulative: Each part repeats the previous part and then adds a new part. The story begins with one person, animal, or event, then adds on bit by bit to form the complete story. This type of book encourages predicting which helps children enjoy, stay on task, and remember the story. In addition, children see the same words repeated which teaches sight vocabulary.

Activity - Sequence of Events
Book list

3. Rhythm/Rhyme Sequence: Any story that unfolds in a predictable rhyme or rhythm sequence. Combined with repetition it provides for easily internalized language. The rhythm and rhyme make these stories and poems predictable. Words are practiced and phonemic awareness is developed effortlessly and joyfully within a context of language that children know and enjoy. Children internalize concepts such as sequencing, movement, rhythm, and rhyme.

Activity -Rhyme with Me: It's Fun, You'll See!
Book list

4. Interlocking Pattern (chain or circular story): Each episode relates to the one before in an intriguing and dependable way. The plot is interlinked so that the ending leads back to the beginning. Children become familiar with concepts and begin identifying key words.

Activity - Word Tag
Book list

5. Chronological pattern: These stories follow a time sequence. The stories are predictable and provide repeated exposures to words and multiple opportunities for repeated reading of connected texts. This develops reading fluency and promotes an understanding of the structure of spoken words.

Activity - Make a Story Map
Book list

6. Familiar Cultural Pattern (familiar sequence): The story pattern is based on a known sequence such as the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, and months of the year. Learning takes place through familiar themes that incorporate patterns from a child's environment. The stories promote children's understanding of text and helps children recognize and organize new vocabulary and concepts.

Activity - Make a Book
Book list

7. Problem Centered Story: Stories that are built around a problem and a sequence of episodes leading to a solution. These stories encourage creative thinking and stimulate the imagination. Children are given the opportunity to use their knowledge as a framework for comprehending a story by setting up expectations occurring in a particular sequence.

Activity- New Endings
Book list

8. Main Character: The ideas of a story revolve around a main character who may be an animal or a human. The story is predictable because of the character. Vocabulary is built when students use inferential skills to predict which vocabulary words tell about the character.

Activity - Take a Bow!
Book list


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