Plot Diagram and Narrative Arc

By Katherine Docimo and Natasha Lupiani

Find this Common Core aligned resource and more like it in our Middle School ELA and High School ELA categories and also in our Special Education Articles!



( Buy PosterBuy PDF )

Narrative arcs and the prototypical “Plot Diagram” are essential for building literary comprehension and appreciation. Plot diagrams allow students to pick out major themes in the text, trace changes to major characters over the course of the narrative, and hone their analytic skills. Lessons emphasizing these skills meet many Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS.ELA-Literacy). The concepts not only give students a fuller understanding of classroom texts, but also their favorite books and movies.


BeginningMiddleEnd
  • Exposition
  • Conflict
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution


Exposition

The exposition is the introduction to a story, including the primary characters' names, setting, mood, and time.


Conflict

The conflict is the primary problem that drives the plot of the story, often a main goal for the protagonist to achieve or overcome.


Rising Action

The rising action of the story is all of the events that lead to the eventual climax, including character development and events that create suspense.


Climax

The climax is the most exciting point of the story, and is a turning point for the plot or goals of the main character.


Falling Action

The falling action is everything that happens as a result of the climax, including wrapping-up of plot points, questions being answered, and character development.


Resolution

The resolution is not always happy, but it does complete the story. It can leave a reader with questions, answers, frustration, or satisfaction.



By plotting simple narrative arcs in three-cell storyboards, or more complicated stories in six-cell boards, teachers can easily assess students’ understanding of important story components. Combined illustrations and text can enliven difficult concepts like “rising action” and “climax”.


To Kill a Mockingbird Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION The Finch family lives in Maycomb, Alabama. Although it is the 1930s, a time of depression, the family is not struggling. Atticus, the father, is a prominent lawyer. The narrator explains that it is a time of racism and prejudice. A young black man is accused of raping a white woman, and Atticus is asked to defend him. This is not easy; Atticus must overcome the prejudice and preconceptions people of Maycomb have against Tom Robinson. Atticus’ children, Scout and Jem, become a center of attention because their father is representing a black man. Throughout the trial, the children go through tribulations of their own as they learn valuable lessons about justice, commitment, and what is right. Tom is found guilty, and Atticus’s innocent children cannot believe that the people they knew could send an innocent man to the electric chair. One man in particular, Bob Ewell, has made his disapproval of Atticus well know. During the move, he threatened both Atticus, and Tom’s wife, Helen. The children fear he will do something to hurt their father. In the end, Ewell goes after Scout and Jem, instead of Atticus. In the process, their reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley, comes to the children's rescue. He grabs Ewell's knife and kills him. POLICE Guilty!

Example

Start My Free Teacher Trial »

Plot Diagram Template

Making storyboards that explain a plot bring students' understanding to life! It's an engaging and fun way for students to interact with the texts they read in class. The details and characters featured in students’ storyboards allow instructors to immediately determine whether students comprehend the scope of the objectives. For narrative arcs for younger grades or other plot diagram templates, make sure to check out "Four Innovative Ways to Teach Parts of a Story".




Start My Free Teacher Trial »

Classroom Exercises and Book Reports

Some fun ways to teach this lesson using Storyboard That:


Relating to the Common Core

Analyzing a literary work with a plot diagram fulfills Common Core ELA standards for many age groups. Below are only two examples of ELA standards for different levels. Please see your Common Core State Standards for grade-appropriate strands.



Example Rubrics







Examples from Literature




Start My Free Teacher Trial »

Suggested Modifications

For the Students Who Need Minimal Guidance

Within special education there are varying degrees of abilities, including students who may have disabilities that have a minimal impact on their cognitive abilities. Those students for whatever reason may still be in a special education setting but won’t necessarily need significant modifications on something like a plot diagram. For the students that require minimal assistance, a blank plot diagram with very little or no information completed may be the way to go. As the creator of the storyboard, the teacher can control just what information is provided and decide how much he wants to guide his students. Use the templates above as they are, or make slight adjustments to the templates.


For the Students Who Need a Little Guidance

Some students will need a little more guidance when it comes to a plot diagram. Students who struggle with reading comprehension may have difficulty picking out the different parts of a story. Often times details of the story can be lost in translation, so to speak. That is where a plot diagram with some leading information can be helpful. Incorporating the visual aspect into the storyboard prior to asking the students to complete the plot diagram gives them “clues” as to what they are looking for when completing the diagram. The visuals act as context clues for students so they can focus their energy on the appropriate information, as seen in the Holes Plot Diagram.

Plot Diagram - Little Guidance
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION