Choice Novel Unit: Mapping How a Story Unfolds

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SWBAT describe how a novel's plot unfolds by identifying the exposition, rising action, turning point, falling action and resolution.

Big Idea

As a post-reading activity, students create a plot diagram.

What is a plot diagram?

10 minutes

The purpose of today’s lesson is to give students a chance to analyze the literary elements of the novel they recently finished reading. I start by asking a few questions to activate prior knowledge such as What are the building blocks of a story? What order do they appear in?

Then I show students this handy diagram from the Reader's Handbook. Most students are going to be familiar with the diagram and its elements; however, it is important to be aware of those students who are hesitant. They are the ones to touch base with during the group work portion of the lesson.

Group Work

40 minutes

Students work with others who have read the same novel to identify and record their thinking on the plot diagram. They soon discover that it is not as easy as it looks. Most move through the exposition without a problem but the rising action is trickier. Some groups are adding too many details and running out of room; others are arguing over the turning point. In fact, I let them muck around for a while before stepping and brainstorming a solution. We decide that since we have to be picky about what to include on the diagram, each item needs to be tied to the conflict. We talk a lot about the tension that builds over time and then at some point is released. Sometimes it is more efficient to work backwards: find the turning point and then work back to the exposition. A few samples of their work is found here.

Evaluate the Unit

10 minutes

I am anxious to get feedback from the students about this unit of study. They had a choice of what novel to read and are able to choose three projects to complete as part of the unit. Also, much of the work is done in small groups. On the back of the plot diagram I ask students to answer these questions: What are the successes of this unit of study on character change? What are the challenges? What did you learn about character change? I will keep this information in mind when planning other projects that involve group work and to plan on how to run this unit next year. Samples of their responses can be found here and comments on those responses appears here: