Some teachers call it Story Mountain, some call it the Plot Arc, and others refer to it as the Plot Diagram. Regardless, you’re absolutely going to love mapping out story plots using this graphic organizer.
How I Use my Plot Diagram Wall Reference
The first time we read a story in class, we just read it. We sometimes read together in a large group, sometimes with a partner, or sometimes with a group of three. The important thing is to read through the story for enjoyment and comprehension.
The first time through, I try not to interrupt the flow of the story with too much teaching and questioning.
Have you ever had a story discussion where your students beg, “Can we just keep reading the story?” That’s a clear sign that you’re interrupting the story flow. When that happens, comprehension and enjoyment go out the window.
So just to restate: The first time through, keep to the story! Keep your explanations short and sweet and let students experience the author’s flow and pace.
After the First Reading
Once the first reading of the story is over, allow students a chance to briefly turn and talk with their classmates for initial reactions.
After giving students a few minutes to verbalize their thinking, you can finally ask all those burning, teacher-type questions you’ve been holding in.
At this point, you can begin to really dig into the story. Now is the time to really analyze the characters, setting, and how the plot unfolds.
One key point I try to express to my students is that reading stories and writing stories are closely tied together. It’s worth pointing out that as we read a story, we’re reading someone else’s writing. And from that writing, we can learn valuable lessons about that author’s organization, style, and craft.
Next is where the plot diagram comes in.
Story Mountain provides a great visual for the sequence of events known as the plot.
With the plot diagram on your wall or bulletin board, students can actually see the linear path that a story follows from beginning to end. I always point out that most stories follow a very similar organizational arc, regardless of the type of story.
A typical plot diagram has five main elements.
The exposition is where readers learn about the main characters, the setting, and the background information they’ll need to understand the rest of the story.
2. Rising Action
The rising action starts with the “inciting incident” which triggers the conflict and starts the story’s action. The rising action is where the main character experiences complications and setbacks, but the sequence of events moves him/her toward the climax.
The climax is the event that changes the course of action or way of life for the main character. It is the critical point where all the action, tension, and conflict must be dealt with. It is often intense for the character and has the potential to change the character or the character’s life forever. The reader should be feeling excitement, concern, and tension.
4. Falling Action
During the falling action, the character must deal with his decisions and the changes in his life brough about by the conflict. It includes the events that happen after the climax and before the story comes to an end.
The resolution is how the story ends. It often includes hints or a description of how the character’s life will be forever changed.
More Literary Terms
Additional literary terms are included that can be used to enhance your bulletin board. There are over 40 additional terms to choose from.
Additional terms include types of conflict, character types (protagonist, antagonist, dynamic character, static character, round character, etc.), foreshadowing, flashback, point of views, mood, theme, and more.
The set also includes EDITABLE term cards so you can customize your bulletin board to suit your students’ needs!
To make the actual line for the plot mountain, I simply used construction paper to make a simple line. You can add peaks and valleys to your line to show complications, if you choose.
It’s perfect on your classroom wall or on a bulletin board. I’m currently using it on my classroom wall – taking up most of the wall! I’ve also used the small size with magnets on the back for magnetic dry-erase boards, and I’ve used it on a bulletin board in my previous classroom.
As your class is reading a novel, you can use an arrow or a picture (maybe one that looks like your story character) and staple or tape it onto the plot diagram. Your students will love to see their progression through the story.
Once students understand the plot of the story and the central ideas, you can ask other types of questions focusing on the author’s word choice, descriptions, purpose, and theme.