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Lesson Plan

Graphing Plot and Character in a Novel

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Graphing Plot and Character in a Novel

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



As a class, students create a basic plot diagram of a book they have read. They discuss the use of symbols to represent major events, and assign a positive or negative rating to each plot event they listed. The teacher then turns their ideas into a graphical map of the story to introduce the concept to the class.

In the next session, students discuss an example graphic map from The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963, created from Kenny's point of view, and use a rubric to score it. Students then work in small groups, using an online tool to create a graphic map following another character in the book. Finally, students work independently to create a graphic map for another book they have read.

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  • Graphic Map: Use this online tool to create a graphic representation of a book.
  • Graphic Map Example: This example shows several events from The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963 from Kenny's perspective.
  • Graphic Map Rubric: Use this rubric to assess students' graphic maps of a book they have read.

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Story maps represent the basic structure of a narrative text, and act as templates that graphically represent plot elements. Most story maps document the basic elements of fiction: setting, characters, initiating event, conflict/goal, resolution, and theme. However, Margaret M. Foley in her article, "The (Un)Making of a Reader" asserts that we need to ask more from our students when they respond to literature. Foley states, "What is lost in our rush to have everyone comprehend in the same way is the reader's interests, feelings, and ideas" (510).

This lesson plan takes comprehension a step further by asking students to retell the story graphically, based on their own interpretation of the text. By focusing on a particular change through graphical maps, students gain a deeper understanding of a text. In such projects, students think about the events, characters, and themes; assign a value to them and think about how the elements of the story are all interconnected. This idea of comprehension helps students to read and respond in a deeper fashion.

Further Reading

Foley, Margaret M.  "The (Un)Making of a Reader." Language Arts 77.6 (July 2000): 506-511.

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This lesson plan was adapted from an idea in Barry Lane's After The End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision (Heinemann, 1993).

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