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Lesson Plan

Plot Structure: A Literary Elements Mini-Lesson

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Plot Structure: A Literary Elements Mini-Lesson

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Freytag's Pyramid is a tool for mapping plot structure, which allows readers to visualize the key features of stories. Students whose experience with text is limited have internalized the pattern described by Freytag's Pyramid through oral storytelling and television viewing. They need help seeing that the patterns they are familiar with are the same ones writers use to construct a short story, play, or novel. This lesson plan provides a basic introduction to Freytag's Pyramid and to the literary element of plot. After viewing a brief presentation about plot structure, students brainstorm the significant events in a story with which they are all familiar and place those events on Freytag's Pyramid. They work in small groups to map the plot of another story. For homework, they map the plot of a favorite television show. Finally, they apply their knowledge of Freytag's Pyramid to map the plot of a narrative poem.

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Plot PowerPoint Presentation: Use this presentation as an introduction to Freytag's Pyramid and the literary element of plot.

Plot Diagram: Students can use this online tool to map the plot of any story, play, movie, or other text.

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As Carol Jago explains, "It's easy to ‘teach' literary terminology and devise quizzes on the terms, but to make the language of literature useful to readers, students need to practice using academic vocabulary in ways that deepen their understanding of how stories work" (51). Jago proposes using Freytag's Pyramid to present and explore plot because the graphic organizer "allows readers to visualize key features of stories" (51). This lesson, which is adapted from Jago's "Stop Pretending and Think about Plot," asks students to practice using the literary element "in familiar contexts" (51). Through this process, students gain a deeper comprehension of the literary element's meaning and the ways that it contributes to a writer's craft.

Further Reading

Jago, Carol. "Stop Pretending and Think about Plot." Voices from the Middle 11.4 (May 2004): 50-51.

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