Teaching High School Students Advanced Story Structure Techniques

high school students

High school is a time when students begin to explore more complex forms of storytelling and narrative structure. Teaching advanced story structure techniques not only prepares students for more sophisticated writing challenges but also enhances their analytical and critical thinking abilities. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of advanced story structure techniques and provide valuable insights for educators working with high school students.

Why Teach Advanced Story Structure?

While students may have mastered the basics of story structure in earlier grades, high school offers an opportunity to explore more intricate and layered narrative techniques. These advanced skills help students:

  1. Develop Critical Thinking: Advanced story structures encourage students to think critically about how different elements of a story interact and contribute to its overall impact.
  2. Engage Diverse Audiences: Equipping students with advanced storytelling techniques prepares them to write for various audiences and genres, making them more versatile writers.
  3. Stand Out: In a competitive academic and professional landscape, mastering advanced storytelling sets students apart and strengthens their creative writing skills.

Exploring Nonlinear Narratives

One of the advanced story structures that high school students can explore is nonlinear storytelling. Unlike linear narratives, which follow a chronological sequence, nonlinear narratives play with time and order to create unique and thought-provoking storytelling experiences.

Teaching Tips:

  • Discuss Nonlinear Films and Literature: Analyze examples from literature and cinema like “Memento” or “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Explore how authors and filmmakers use nonlinearity to challenge traditional narrative structures.
  • Student Exercises: Encourage students to write stories that employ flashbacks, parallel narratives, or alternative perspectives to experiment with nonlinear storytelling.

The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey is a rich narrative structure that has influenced countless stories, from ancient myths to modern blockbusters. It offers a structured framework for character development and the hero’s transformation.

Teaching Tips:

  • Introduction to the Hero’s Journey: Provide a comprehensive overview of Campbell’s monomyth, including its stages like the call to adventure, trials, and the return.
  • Case Studies: Analyze well-known stories like “The Hobbit” or “The Matrix” to help students identify and understand the Hero’s Journey in action.
  • Student Projects: Challenge students to write their own narratives using the Hero’s Journey as a template, modifying and personalizing it to suit their creative ideas.

Theme and Symbolism

Advanced storytelling often involves conveying deeper themes and ideas through symbolism. High school students can delve into the power of symbolism and its impact on storytelling.

Teaching Tips:

  • Theme Identification: Teach students how to identify and analyze themes in literature and film.
  • Symbolism in Literature: Explore classic examples of symbolism in literature, such as the “green light” in “The Great Gatsby” or the “white whale” in “Moby-Dick.”
  • Student Writing: Encourage students to use symbolism in their writing to convey abstract ideas and emotions. Assign projects that challenge them to incorporate symbols into their narratives effectively.

Peer Workshopping and Feedback

Advanced story structure techniques often require collaborative learning and feedback. Organize peer workshopping sessions where students can analyze and provide constructive feedback on each other’s work.

Teaching Tips:

  • Feedback Guidelines: Provide guidelines for giving and receiving feedback, emphasizing constructive criticism and specific observations.
  • Real-World Relevance: Highlight how peer workshopping simulates the publishing process, where authors receive feedback from editors and peers.
  • Reflective Learning: Encourage students to reflect on how feedback has improved their writing and storytelling skills over time.


Teaching advanced story structure techniques to high school students not only sharpens their writing skills but also encourages critical thinking and creativity. By introducing nonlinear narratives, the Hero’s Journey, symbolism, and collaborative workshopping, educators can prepare their students to excel in diverse writing situations and to produce compelling and thought-provoking stories. These advanced techniques empower students to create narratives that resonate deeply with their readers, setting the stage for a lifetime of meaningful storytelling.

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