Literary Term: Plot (Diagram)

Literary Term: Plot (Diagram)


Students must understand plot structure so they can analyze the author’s message. If they don’t… not only will they be confused but higher analysis won’t happen.

Completing a plot diagram of a story will allow students to see where authors stress the theme, create characterization, outline the theme, and add other literary terms.

The location of literary terms along the plot diagram matters. For example, where do readers learn about a character’s troubled past? Does it add to the climax? Is it less important to character development and thus happens on the falling action? This is the fun of literature – figuring it out. We teachers want students to get to that point so we have to get students to understand the plot diagram.

Before analysis, students must be able to outline the plot using a plot diagram. Using a new story may cause students to worry about the actual story and the plot diagram. They may struggle with two new concepts at the same time. Instead, when teaching the plot structure (or reexplaining it), use a well-understood story from pop culture.

Teaching plot? Try this trick to help students understand the plot structure.

Take for instance the movie “Up.” Most students have seen “Up” and creating a plot diagram for it should move quickly.

Exposition: Carl and Ellie are happily married. They have traveling plans but Ellie dies. A construction company wants to tear down the house they shared, but Carl refuses to sell. He is then forced into a retirement home.

Initial Incident: Carl doesn’t want to leave so he attaches balloons to his house so he can have his own adventure. He leaves, but realizes that a young boy, Russell, has come with him.

Rising Action: Carl and Russell have numerous adventures. They make kind friends and escape enemies.

Climax: Carl and Russell defeat the enemies and safely arrive home, in time for Russell’s scouting event.

Falling Action:When Russell doesn’t have an adult figure present, Carl steps in. Carl and Russell realize they have a loving relationship.

Resolution: Carl is indeed living out his dreams, having a little boy to count cars with and eat ice-cream.

Starting with a familiar (and clean!) story for a plot structure diagram will give students confidence to plot stories they are just learning. Popular television shows and other movies will work as well.

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