Plot Triangles

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SWBAT create a graphic organizer to help them understand plot.

Big Idea

This lesson shows students a graphic they can create to help them determine the plot of a story. It also introduces the first plot structure of Character vs Self and they will use the triangle to understand plot.

What is plot?

5 minutes

In a previous lesson, we went over the basic idea of plot. Today I want to start with a review of this and also come up with a workable definition for it. I ask the class to help me with what plots is. A student tells me that it is, "the chain of events in the story." The class agrees and so we start with this as our definition.

I explain that plot is basically the chain of events. Now that they are in fourth grade they need to understand what that chain of events is and how they make up the plot. I give them an example of making spaghetti, and do this using chronological order. I then ask them if this is a chain of events or something else. They think on it and I have them discuss this with their elbow partner. They decide that is is very different. Thank goodness, because if I used chronological order like this, it would make a very boring plot.  


The Triangle

5 minutes

I ask them to get out their white boards so that they can see how the chain of events works to make the plot. I explain that we are going to draw a shape that will help us remember how the plot forms in a story. Instead of just telling them to draw a triangle, I want them to label and add the pieces to form it so their is more understanding.

I begin by drawing a straight line, and adding the word exposition to it. I explain that this is the story's beginning. It is where we find out our characters, setting, and the basic situation. We then begin to add to the side of the triangle. The first little part, I label the Inciting Incident, this is what sets the story in motion. I have them add the whole side as the Rising Action, or the main part of the story and where the complication begins to form. We add the triangle top, and label it climax. For this I tell them that this is the OMG moment. This is the part in the story where it gets exciting or everything changes. Now we are ready to form the other side of the triangle. On this side we label it Falling Action, this is how the author begins to lead us to the resolution. We are now ready to add the last line to the bottom. This is the resolution, the author ties up loose ends, answers questions, and ends the story.

I have them write all of this on their white board. I know this will not last, but we will recreate it more than this time as they learn it. 


Character vs Self Plot Practice

15 minutes

To practice I ask them to keep their triangle and to help him figure out all of the parts to a story I am going to read to them. I explain what plot conflict is and that this is what happens between the character and something else. A plot will have a conflict and that as a reader we need to figure out what this is. 

For the story I am going to read, I write Character VS on the board. I realize that I need to define the VS to them. I bring up the example of boxing and then of the upcoming Superbowl. This is all it takes for them to make the connection.

The story will have Character VS Self conflict. I ask them to tell me what they think this might mean, Character VS Self. We have a brief discussion and they get pretty close. So we talk about the character having an issue that stems from who they are. I am going to read The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. I remind them to fill in their triangle while I read or just to listen to fill in after. I also ask them to try to figure out the conflict between Ferdinand and himself. 

I read the book all the way through and then give them time to fill out their triangle. We have a discussion and work through the triangle together. 


Discussion on How Knowing Helps

5 minutes

Now that we have practiced using our triangle model, we need to discuss our findings. I would like the class to determine which parts of the book reflect particular pieces of the plot. To start, I ask them to tell me about their findings in each section. Instead of giving the answers, I want them to discuss, between each other, the correct placement of events.

This might be tricky and could require prompting. I found that offering to reread a section to them was helpful. For the most part, they were pretty close and had good reasons for why they chose that section. If they had it wrong they determined quickly what should be the answer and were careful to choose another student's view point or answer.