Tag Archives: plot


One of my favorite student projects these days is Fakebook! As the title suggests, students create a faux facebook page for a character, an author, a historical figure, a scientist, whomever. I love this assignment for so many reasons. It’s obviously engaging. Students love technology, and then the play on social networking? Instant motivation and engagement. Because of that, students tend to naturally differentiate this assignment. If nothing else, they practice their skills with plot and characters. But those who can tend to take this much deeper.

Check out a student’s Fakebook for Maya Angelou. She created this after working in a literature circle studying I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She did her own research on Angelou’s life and accomplishments to make the connections seen here. I was especially pleased to see that she’s studied the connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because we’ve been studying him quite a bit this year.

If you choose to use Fakebook, here are some quick tips:
1. Students have to select a name, add a friend, update a status, and input profile information first. You cannot save until you do.

2. After this, have students save frequently. Computers and the Internet are unreliable.

3. Make sure students copy down their URLs in PERFECT HANDWRITING. Even my students with the best penmanship have mistaken an x for a X, a U for a V, an s for an S or a 5. If you don’t correctly record your URL, you’ll lose the work.

4.  Play the tutorial video for your students, but also watch it several times yourself.

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Filed under Book Studies, Common Core, Differentiation, Lesson Ideas, Student Engagement

Plot Stages Breakthrough!

I have struggled for many years with helping students understand the concept of climax. The students always think it’s any exciting part. They don’t understand that it’s all related to the conflict. They don’t get that the definition “turning point in a story” means the point where the conflict stops getting worse and starts getting better.

In a moment of frustration a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an idea that’s been pure gold. I was in the cycle of reteach, check for understanding, see the majority of students did not understand, reteach in a new way. I did not anticipate students would struggle THAT much and I was out of ideas for reteaching that I’d planned, so I grabbed a monster greeting card off of my desk.

I held up the monster card and said “This is the conflict.” Then I taped the card to the wall on our plot diagram and walked them through the monster conflict’s movement. It was a lightbulb moment for the students, so I decided to make the monster conflict a permanent fixture on our diagram. We tracked the monster conflict through the plot stages in two more stories. By the third story, students were telling me the climax before I even asked. Sweet success!

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Filed under Elements of Literature

Plot and Conflict

Last week, we began studying plot and conflict. A few days ago, I shared the Jot Thoughts activity we used to build our anchor chart. Here’s one more idea for conflict and one for plot.

Conflict Magazine Sort

I’ve shamelessly stolen this idea from an amazing teacher I’ve had the pleasure to observe. She works in another school in my district, and she’s full of creativity and enthusiasm. So, my interpretation of her idea … I cut out lots of pictures from magazines and gave them to students. They discussed the type of conflicts they saw in the pictures and classified them as internal or external and character vs. ____. Then, we made collages to hang on the wall around our anchor charts. They’ll help us remember what we’ve learned.

And one humorous response … I had intended students to use the other side of this picture, but they trimmed it down to show their true thoughts about Justin Bieber.

Plot Lesson

Even though they were introduced to the idea in 7th grade, stages of plot is always a struggle for my 8th graders. Identifying the climax of a story just takes a lot of practice to get good at. So, I teach the concept as follows:

1. Define the term plot – the series of events in a story.

2. Picture Book! I read a picture book aloud for the class, and we pause for teams to note plot events … simple, the things that happen in the story. We cut out little squares and write one event per square. I like to use the book Elbert’s Bad Word by Audrey Wood. Elbert’s internal conflict is his struggle to control himself and not say a bad word, but the author personifies the word, so it’s quite easy to track the rising action … as the conflict grows more complicated. It’s also pretty simple to find the climax because all of the characters literally stop and stare at Elbert in anticipation of how the conflict will be resolved. Plus, it’s a fun book for older kids. They love that it’s about a bad word and are so angry that the book never tells what exactly that bad word is that Elbert uttered.

3. Introduce the stages of plot. We draw a large plot diagram into our journals and begin labeling and defining the stages. As we define each stage, we classify the plot events we listed on our sequence squares. As they do this, I post a plot diagram on the wall that will stay up all year. We’ll use it with all the stories we read.

4. Then, the students work as a team to arrange their squares onto their own plot diagrams. Even though we have already discussed each event and even labelled them by plot stage, I still find this activity brings up great conversations. They don’t all take it in the first time we talk about it as a whole class, and the small group discussions are great!

The result . . .

Next week, I’ll place out a literacy center students can choose. They will have several picture books to choose from, and they’ll create their own plot diagrams. We’ll also repeat the activity a few times as a class with shorter stories and with The Tell Tale Heart, our study for the week.

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Filed under Elements of Literature, Lesson Ideas