Plot Lines- Putting it All in Order

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TSWBAT create a plot line detailing the elements from exposition to resolution in order to summarize the text.

Big Idea

A plot line just helped a kid write a summary....personification at its finest!

Warm Up

5 minutes

We've come to the literary element of PLOT.  Although plot and the use of plot lines have been discussed in lessons outside of this literture study, we have not yet applied it to Island of the Blue Dolphins.  I look forward to sharing this lesson about its components. 

This is a short video on plot Line, showing just a plot line with the five basic components: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution. It's sung to the tune of "Airplanes" by B.O.B. The chorus is catchy and the kids will memorize easily. Lyrics are included when you scroll down and although I can't quite keep up with rap, many in my class were able.  It's a Youtube video, so there are 5 seconds of an ad until you can skip and go on to the video.  It's a good idea to watch the 5 seconds yourself and pause before showing. Most ads are boring, but something questionable would be just your luck.


25 minutes

A Plot Line or Story Map is a great visual for depicting the structural elements of any literary work.  The following terms are the ones used in 5th grade in my district, but plot lines can be more detailed and have varied names.  There are simple and advanced plot lines.

Exposition-explains the setting and identifies the characters

Rising Action-central part of the story during which events take place

Climax-the turning point of the story

Falling Action-follows the climax and has the action to bring the story to an end

Resolution-the end of the story where the problems are resolved.


Before jumping into a plot line for Island of the Blue Dolphins, it's good to introduce the concept by reading a picture book and mapping it out.  If you'd rather not read a different book, another option is to pick something you've already read as a class so everyone's aware of the plot.  Once you're ready to map out the five main components of the story, draw the "mountain" plot line on the board or pull up on the smartboard.  Clearly label the above components.  The kids can copy on a blank plot line worksheet or you use the picture book as an example and have them recreate a plot line for a book they already read.

Plotting Island of the Blue Dolphins is a good activity to use as the kids work toward summarizing the novel.  At this point, they've read the book and can fill in all of the components for a complete a plot line. An alternative to creating the plot line is a "write as you go" method.  Start the plotline at beginning of the book and add elements as events take place. 

The Plot Line Slide Show is a good resource, and includes Island of the Blue Dolphins as an example.


15 minutes

The following day the kids will summarize Island of the Blue Dolphins using their plot lines. 

I like the following quote about writing a summary and share it with the kids, "The process of writing a summary is like squeezing out toothpaste.  You squeeze out just what you need and leave the rest in the tube."

The kids will summarize the text in the form of a letter to me.  This is a great tool to use for writing because it's a little less inhibiting- as if they're having a conversation with me. 

An example:

Dear Mrs. Robinson,

I just finished reading the novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell.  It was a book about a girl named Karana who survived living on an island by herself. (first paragraph)

Rising Action events (2nd paragraph)

Climax (3rd paragraph)

Falling Action events (4th paragraph)

Resolution (5th paragraph)

Island of the Blue Dolphins was a wonderful book and taught me a lot about what people do when faced with difficult situations.  I'd recommend this book to others. (6th paragraph)


Student in the Class

Six paragraphs may seem like a lot, but by using the plot lines, let them know most of the work has been done already.  They'll be proud of the finished product!