Standard Lesson

Book Report Alternative: Rewind the Plot!

6 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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Although summarizing the plot is an important component of a book report, it does not lend itself to student creativity.  By mimicking popular websites that relate the plot of movies, television shows, and real life events in reverse, students have the opportunity to review the plot in a more creative and challenging fashion.  Using a snowclone (a verbal formula that is changed for reuse), students complete the phrase “If you read ____ backwards, it's about ____” to comment on the plots of novels.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Carol Jago believes that teaching plot structure often gets overlooked because on the surface the literary term plot seems so straightforward and uncomplicated.  After all, every story has a beginning, middle, and end.  However, Jago encourages educators to devise lessons that “make the language of literature useful” and allows students the opportunity to practice using such vocabulary (51).  Even though a traditional book report might provide such opportunity for practice, as Voukon points out, “the tried and true one-size-fits-all conflict-action-climax book report” does not create excitement for reading; alternative methods that engage today’s students are necessary.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Classroom with LCD projector and whiteboard/interactive whiteboard
  • Computers with printing and Internet capabilities
  • Novels for the students—either from the school library or the classroom library
  • Poster board and markers if computers will not be available for students to create word processing documents.



This website provides the origin of these one-liners that reverse the chronology of movies and television shows.  Because not all examples are school appropriate, this website is for the teacher to gain background knowledge.  Use the Movie Examples printout to share examples with students.

Several popular movies that appeal to teens and preteens have been chronologically reversed at this website.  The Movie Examples are taken from this website.


  1. Examine the website If You Watch X Backwards, It’s About Y to understand the origin and nature of this type of reverse chronological writing.
  2. Download the Plot PowerPoint Presentation, the Movie Examples, and the Example of a Completed Statement to a computer with projection capabilities.
  3. Make one copy for each student of the printouts What Will I Read Next?, Notes on Plot Structure, and Example of Rewinding the Plot.
  4. Make one copy for each small group of The Reader’s Guide to Understanding Plot Development that you will use in session one.
  5. Reserve time in your school’s computer lab or library for Session Two that will occur after students have been given time to read their independent novel choices.
  6. Decide which way students will share their completed “If you read ____, it’s about _____” statements.
    • If they will create posters, have markers and posterboard ready.
    • If they will use ReadWriteThink Printing Press, test that it will run on the computers.  Technical support is available for the Flash plug-in.
    • If they will use a word processing program, sign up for a class site where you can create a class page to be able to project their documents.
  7. Test that the Plot Diagram will run on the computers.  Technical support is available for the Flash plug-in.
  8. If possible, have the Plot Diagram tool and if using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press bookmarked on the computers.  If that is not feasible, you can sign up for a class site where you can create a class page for the links or you can simply tell the students the addresses of the tools.
  9. Prior to this lesson, the class should have read together at least one novel, short story, or poem that can be used to trace the plot in Session 1 as an example.  Complete the statement to the selection(s), “If you read ____ backwards, it’s about ____” to serve as an example.

Student Objectives

Students will:

  • review the plot structure literary terms and demonstrate the understanding of these terms by analyzing novels read independently.
  • use a graphic organizer to demonstrate their analysis of plot structure.
  • complete the template “If you read this book backwards, it is about . . .” to demonstrate their analysis of the plot in reverse chronological order.

Session One

  1. Project the Movie Examples for students to view. 
    • Ask students who have seen these movies to explain the “If you watch _____, it’s about____” statements.
    • Discuss the structure of these statements.
    • Explain that these are examples of a snowclone template used online to reverse the plot of a movie.
    • Explain that a snowclone is a phrase template that is often reused.  By changing a few words in the snowclone, the original meaning is still clear.  For example, “brown is the new black” fits the snowclone “X is the new Y.”  The “Got Milk?” advertising campaign created the snowclone template “Got X?” For instance libraries used “Got Books?” to prompt their use.
    • Discuss the tone of the quotations as poking fun at the movie.
  2. Explain to the students that they are going to create statements about novels following this format using “If you read _____ backwards, it’s about _____.” However, before they can successfully reverse the plot, they need to thoroughly understand the parts of plot structure.
  3. Using the Plot PowerPoint Presentation, remind students of these parts of plot structure. 
    • Exposition
    • Rising Action
    • Climax
    • Falling Action
    • Resolution
  4. Project the printout Plot Structure Pyramid Example to cover the parts of plot structure mentioned above.
  5. Using a recent reading selection, ask students in small groups to complete the pyramid for that selection.  Give each group a copy of The Reader’s Guide to Understanding Plot Development to help them in their identification of the plot structure.
  6. After the groups have answered these questions, have a class discussion on their responses.  Require that students use textual evidence to support their answers, and remind them of the definitions of the part of plot structure when differences of opinions occur.
  7. As a class, complete the Plot Diagram for the example reading selection, applying the literary terms exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  8. Ask students to return to their small groups to complete the statement, “If you read ____ backwards, it’s about ____.”
  9. When all groups have completed this task, ask the groups to share what they have created. Share your statement that you have previously created, too.
  10. Hand out the Example of Rewinding the Plot, and explain this is an example of completed notes for this lesson.
  11. Project the second page of the printout Example of Rewinding the Plot and model for students how they will share their project with the class.
    • Begin by reading the statement under the book cover first.
    • Work through the plot in reverse order using the notes.
    • Be sure to use the terminology for the parts of plot structure.
  12. Hand out Notes on Plot Structure.
  13. Using the classroom library or the school library, allow time for students choose their novels. Assign students to read their novels and to work on Notes on Plot Structure as they read.  Tell them when they will be going to the lab or library to work on the Plot Diagram and assign the students to complete their novels by that date.  To allow students time to read their novels, a break between this session and the next will be necessary.

Session Two

  1. Check that all students have completed the Notes on Plot Structure.  Help those students who had difficulty identifying parts of the plot in their novels before going to the computer lab or library.
  2. If projection is not available in the lab or library, model in the classroom how to complete the Plot Diagram.  Explain the purpose of the slider underneath the pyramid is to more precisely show where the climax appears because not all novels will have the climax precisely in the middle.
  3. In the computer lab or library, have the students transfer their Notes on Plot Structure to the Plot Diagram and print the results.  If computers are not available for this step, have the students draw their own pyramids on paper and transfer the information.
  4. Revisit the Movie Examples.  Instruct the students to complete their “If you read _________ backwards, it’s a story about _______” statements for their novel choices.
    • Tell them to start with what happened last in the book (the resolution) and rewind the plot.
    • Remind them to consult their printed Plot Diagram.
    • Also, note with the students that the examples are concisely worded. Challenge them to write no more than three sentences to rewind the plot.
  5. Once students have completed their statements, have them create small posters for their novels that include their statements using the method decided in the preparation steps. 
    • If using a word processing program, model for students how to find images of their book covers and use in their documents.
    • Also, model how to cite the source of the image (see the citation on the Example of Completed Statement.)
  6. Remind students to be ready to share their completed projects in the next session.

Session Three

  1. Give the students each a copy of the printout What Will I Read Next? Explain that as they listen to others' presentations, students will complete this form so that they will have suggestions of what novels they might enjoy reading.
  2. Have each student share his/her poster or word processing document by reading his/her statement and then presenting the plot in reverse order.  Allow time for students to ask questions.
  3. After all have presented, use some of the reflective questions in the assessment sections to get student feedback.
  4. Allow students time to use the classroom library or school library to check out their next book(s) from their What Will I Read Next?


  • Partner up students and ask them to compare and contrast the plot of their novel choices.  Have them use their printed material from the Plot Diagram.
  • Have students report on other literary elements by using other alternative book reports, such as Book Report Alternative:  Glog That Book!
  • Have students use the Plot Diagram to plan their own creative writing works.  After writing, have students create “If you read my story backwards, it’s about ____” statements and explain the plot backwards.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Evaluate each student’s printed Plot Diagram.  Check that students have correctly identified the parts of the plot.
  • Examine each student’s Notes on Plot Structure for detailed answers that fully describe each part of the plot.
  • Look at each student’s printout of What Will I Read Next? Have the students keep these for reference throughout the year.
  • Review each student’s word processing document or poster.  In particular, check that the “If you read _____, it’s about _____” statement is concisely written as well as grammatically and mechanically correct.  If a word processing program has been used, check that the image has been correctly cited.
  • After all posters have been presented, ask students to reflect on the learning experience by having them complete one or more of the following prompts.
  • Because of this project, I learned ____________ .
  • What I found difficult about this project was _____________________.
  • What I enjoyed about this project was __________________.
  • To improve this project, I would _____________________.

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