Using Picture Books to Teach Plot Development and Conflict Resolution
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In this lesson, students explore the concepts of plot development and conflict resolution through focused experiences with picture books. The class searches the text and illustrations for cues to the development of the book's plot and the resolution of the story's conflict. They then use a graphic organizer to complete a structured analysis of plot and conflict resolution in the picture book. Finally, students have the opportunity to build bridges from their own experiences as readers to those skills needed as writers by revising their stories to strengthen the plot.
Plot Diagram: Students can use this open-ended online tool to graph the plot of any story.
Story Map: Students use this online tool to map out the elements of their writing. The tool can also be used to analyze the characters, plot, and setting of a piece of literature.
From Theory to Practice
When they are exposed to multiple texts that illustrate effective writing, students naturally begin to think about how the techniques can be applied to their own writing. By modeling the process of reading like writers, teachers demonstrate the kind of thinking that will help students improve their own literacy skills. As Katie Wood Ray states, "the inquiry structures in writing workshops do simply this-they slow down and make more deliberate the reading like writers that happens vicariously when any writer reads. Slowing down lets writers apprentice themselves very deliberately to other writers" (16). This lesson has students examine books that model effective plot development and conflict resolution, encouraging students to use these techniques as they write their own stories.
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.
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.
- 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).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 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
- Use this activity when you observe students who are interested in revising their writing but need specific guidance. Instead of multiple writing conferences on developing setting , you can hold a focus-lesson with a group or all students invited to attend.
- Before beginning this activity, students should write a piece of writing, which will be the object of their revisions.
- Review Picture Books that Illustrate Strong Plot Development and Conflict Resolution and collect texts that will be used for the lesson.
- Prepare a 4-column chart, using chart paper or an overhead transparency, that matches the Conflict Type Chart. You'll record class details on this chart during the sessions. If desired, you can duplicate the Chart for students to record their observations on individually as well.
- Preview the PowerPoint presentation and download a copy to your machine, if desired, to share with your class. You can also make copies of the PowerPoint slides to distribute to students.
- Arrange for a computer and projector to show the PowerPoint presentation.
- Review The Elements of Plot Development which details how plot is developed.
- Test the Story Map and Plot Diagram interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- identify elements of setting development within multiple texts.
- recognize picture books as model texts that exemplify multiple literary elements.
- identify four types of conflict in literature (character vs. character, character vs. self, character vs. nature, and character vs. society).
- apply the elements of plot development and conflict resolution to revisions of their own writing.
- Ask your students to respond in writing or verbally to the questions, "What is conflict? What are some times in your life that you have been faced with conflict?"
- Next, ask students respond to the question, "What is conflict resolution in literature? How does that fit into plot development?"
- Discuss the responses as a class, looking for the similarities and differences in their responses.
- Arrange students in small groups.
- Using books selected from the list of Picture Books that Illustrate Strong Plot Development and Conflict Resolution, invite groups to explore the picture books, paying particular attention to the conflict in the books.
- Gather as a whole group, and ask students to share the conflicts they saw in the books. Record these conflicts on the board/chart paper.
- When all of the groups have shared, ask the students if they see any similarities between the different types of conflicts.
- From that question, ask the students if they can combine and categorize similar conflicts.
- Next, ask the students if they can label the different types of conflict.
- Using the students' responses, guide them to the labels of "Character vs. Character," "Character vs. Self," "Character vs. Nature," and "Character vs. Society."
- Now that students have seen more examples of conflict in literature, invite them to begin crafting a working definition of plot development and conflict resolution in their notebooks or reading response or writing journals.
- Post your Conflict Type Chart where all students can see it. Ideally, create a chart paper or overhead transparency version of the chart. If desired, distribute copies of the chart to students or ask them to create similar charts in their notebooks or journals.
- Using their initial definition of plot conflict, ask students to write their interpretation of each of the above types of conflicts. Students can also add examples from literature of items that fit into each of these categories.
- Help students work through their definition of plot conflict by viewing the Plot Conflict PowerPoint Presentation (or hand out copies of the slides to the students).
- After examining the PowerPoint presentation, invite students to revise and add to their working definitions.
- As a class, devise working definitions that you will use as a class. Record these definitions on the board/chart paper.
- Using a book from the list of Picture Books that Illustrate Strong Plot Development and Conflict Resolution, read a selected passage or show an illustration which demonstrates one of the types of conflict. For instance, if you share The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, read the Example Conflict Passage from Dr. Seuss's The Lorax where the Lorax describes the plight of the Brown Bar-ba-loots.
- Ask the students to write short sentences about each passage or illustration in their journals or notebooks. In addition, ask the students to identify the type of conflict and the reasons for the category they have chosen. For the passage from The Lorax, students should notice the conflict of character vs. character in the comments that the Lorax makes to the Once-ler and the conflict of Character vs. Nature in the plight of the Brtown Bar-ba-loots as well as in the way that the Once-ler is interacting with the Truffula trees in the story.
- Encourage the students to use words from the text. As they provide examples, refer to the words in the book and reread the word or phrases so that they see and hear them within the context of the story. For the passage from The Lorax, echo phrases such as "hacking my trees to the ground," which describes the Once-ler's treatment of the Truffula Trees and the conflict between the Once-ler and the Lorax.
- Ask students to share what they have written for each illustration in pairs, small groups, or as a whole class. Listen to the discussion to assess the students' understanding of the conflicts.
- Ask students to identify the techniques that the book's author used to develop the plot and conflict, using discussion questions such as the following:
- What words and phrases does the author use to help you learn about the story's conflict?
- What events does the author use to help you learn more about the conflict?
- How do the illustrations help you learn about the plot and conflict?
- What words and phrases does the author use to help you learn about the story's conflict?
- Invite students to make observations and draw conclusions about how authors make the plot and conflict they write about vivid and believable. Take notes on their observations on the board. Save these notes for students to refer to when they are revising their own writing independently.
- If there is time left at the end of the session, allow students to explore the picture books from the list of Picture Books that Illustrate Strong Plot Development and Conflict Resolution. Listen for any comments students make about the plot or the illustrations.
- Once students have recognized several examples of plot conflict within the picture books, divide the class into groups of two or three students each, depending on the number of texts available.
- Give each group a picture book, making sure that all four types of plot conflict are represented throughout the groups.
- Ask students to read the picture book in their small group, and find examples of plot conflict.
- Demonstrate how to use the Story Map. Ensure that students understand how to find the "Conflict Map" in the interactive.
- Ask groups to complete the "Conflict Map" in the Story Map to record their findings about the plot anc conflict in the book they analyzed. If computers are not available, pass out copies of the Literary Elements Mapping: Conflict Map and ask students to complete the graphic organizer in the middle of the page.
- While student groups work, circulate through the class providing encouragement and feedback.
- Gather students work at the end of the session and review the Conflict Maps for evidence that students understand the concepts of plot and conflict.
- Once students seem confident in identifying the components of plot conflict, ask them to join you for a lesson on how they might revise a piece of their writing.
- Ask students to select a piece of their own writing that tells a story and that they believe can be revised for stronger plot development.
- Allow students time to revise their writing piece, encouraging them to return to the information that they gathered as they read. Suggest that they consider the words and situations that they found in their reading and think about how to use that information to inspire their own writing.
- If desired, students might complete the "Conflict Map" in the ReadWriteThink Story Map interactive for their own piece of writing.
- Once students have had the opportunity to revise and enhance the plot development in their piece of writing, ask them to assess their work using the Plot and Conflict Development Self-Assessment or participate in a peer review of their work.
- For students who need more support through the revision process with their own writing, the Plot Diagram interactive can be helpful. By first plotting out examples of plot development from their own writing, students can see opportunities for revision in smaller steps.
- During the revision process, invite the students to share a piece of their writing in a peer-review situation. In that pair, invite the students to brainstorm ways to change the plot by substituting a different type of conflict. For example, if their original piece included a character vs. character conflict, the students to change the plot to be character vs. self or character vs. nature, and brainstorm what that revised story would look like.
- For additional lessons on using picture books to teach about literary elements, visit Using Picture Books to Teach Setting Development in Writing Workshop and Using Picture Books to Teach Characterization in Writing Workshop.
- Use the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Unwinding A Circular Plot: Prediction Strategies in Reading and Writing to introduce another plot structure to students. After exploring the way that circular plots work in picture books, ask students to try the technique in their own writing.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Analyze the details included on the “Conflict Map” from the Story Map (or the graphic organizer from the Literary Elements Mapping: Conflict Map handout) to determine how well students understand the plot conflict and the four different types introduced. If a group needs additional support, use activities from the Using Picture Books to Teach Plot Conflict handout to explore additional picture books with group members.
- Once students have had an opportunity to revise and enhance the setting development in their writing, have them complete the Plot and Conflict Development Self-Assessment to identify the effectiveness of the changes in their revisions and suggest topics for additional focus lessons.
- Comparing original and revised versions of students’ work will demonstrate how much they were able to apply the elements of setting development to their own writing.