As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a plot! This particularly holds true in the classroom. After speaking with numerous elementary school teachers, I have found that everyone has their own preferred method to teach the same concept. All of the teachers I spoke with introduced their preferred plot diagram and asked students to complete a simple worksheet reinforcing their outline. With the power of Storyboard That, you and your students can take these charts to the next level.
For high school and middle school, see our article on plot diagram.
Plot is the main events of a story, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence of events. Various genres or types of literature may contain different sequences, or use different terminology. This article is intended for elementary school teachers teaching the parts of a story to their students.
The beginning of a work of literature; the setting and characters are introduced.
The "conflict" or "problem" is the primary obstacle that the main character must overcome.
The sequence of events or attempts to overcome the problem.
The turning point of the story.
How the problem was resolved.
The ending of the story, the lesson or moral learned.
Although this lesson covers multiple age ranges, below are Common Core State Standards for Grade 5. Please see your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.
Students will be able to explain the parts of a story using details from the text.
BME: Beginning, Middle, End
For young readers and listeners graphing the parts of a story are simple with a "BME". In this scenario, students might be reading themselves, or being read to. With the direction of their instructor, they will fill out a three-column chart, aloud, as a class. Each column will contain details from the Beginning, Middle, and End of the story. This activity for young readers is excellent to help reinforce sequencing!
Students can easily learn, to summarize most stories with a systematic approach. The “B”, or beginning, of the summary should stop after the problem is introduced. The “M”, or middle, should stop after the climax. Finally, the “E”, or end, should include and explain the resolution/conclusion, i.e., how the problem was solved.
Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then
In this five-step process, students are asked to recall specific aspects of the story they read. “Somebody” asks students to recall and describe the main character. “Wanted” requires students to evaluate what the character wanted to do, or was trying to achieve. The “But” is the conflict of the story. It is the inevitable problem the main character runs into, and must face and fix before getting what they want. For the “So”, students tell the ways that the character attempted to solve the “But”. It is important to note that sometimes the main character makes multiple attempts, failing on their first few tries. Finally, students get to the “Then” of the story. “Then” refers to the attempt to solve the problem that worked, this is also known as the resolution.
What’s the S.T.O.R.Y?
Another similar five-step diagram is "S.T.O.R.Y." This is a great acronym to use in class to help students remember the sequence of events and parts of a story. It is very similar to "somebody, wanted, but, so, then". The acronym stands for:
|Setting: Time and Place|
|Oops! There’s a Problem|
|How is it Resolved?|
|Yes! Problem Solved|
The event arch is a plot diagram broken down into straightforward language that is perfect for primary school grades. Notice that the event arch and the plot diagram are very similar. The main difference is the terminology used, and the substitutions of "events" for "rising action". For primary grade levels the use of words like introduction, problem, climax, resolution, and conclusion. I have also seen some diagrams that overlay the S.T.O.R.Y acronym or "Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then" to their outline.
Whichever way works the best with your classroom is recommended; after all, there is more than one way to teach plot structure!
Have students attach their storyboard to a paper requiring an in-depth explanation of an element throughout the novel, or couple this assignment with a presentation. See our article on how to present a storyboard.