One of the most difficult tasks that I have experienced as a teacher, is to get my students to really understand the elements of plot.
They can retell, summarize and paraphrase a story beautifully. But, when they are asked to summarize the elements of plot, the comprehension starts to break down. The most difficult elements for my students have been to recognize the main problem, the rising action, and the turning point.
I have struggled all year with teaching them to understand this. I have tried many different ways…
- Analyze fiction text with plot elements
- fill out a plot triangle diagram
- Read and answer multiple choice questions about the different elements
- Brainstorm and write a fiction story by using the plot story structure
Nothing has worked better than this one simple question…
What caused the solution to the problem?
This question narrowed down the plot into three very simple ideas; problem, solution, and turning point. If they can answer those elements, they can answer this question (by the way, this was our #1 most frequently missed question on our last district benchmark).
How did I discover this Aha Moment?
By complete accident.
Here is the Lesson-
Students recreated the graphic organizer onto their tables with Expo Markers. * They LOVE writing directly onto the tables with the Expos, and at this point, I will do just about anything to get them engaged and focused.
These were the objectives for the month, and these were the areas that we needed to review. (symbolism, tone, mood, (changing over time), genre, point of view, purpose, and structure, theme, THE QUESTION, cause and effect relationships).
The students then watched the Pixar clip, La Luna, while taking notes on their tables with the focus <to fill out the graphic organizer>
The students filled out their graphic organizers, plot diagrams, and notes with their table teams. When they discussed, problem solved, and could prove all their answers they came to my white board and filled out their answers.
As the discussions were occurring, I simply walked around the room and listened. I listened for students to problem solve, to prove their answers, answered any questions they asked <by asking my own questions in return> and cheered them on. Their answers were fantastic! Their discoveries were breathtaking! I felt accomplished because my students were accomplishing a task that was so difficult for them a day ago!
I started to wonder why I was even there. I sat back and watched the GENIUS, the light bulbs, the Aha moments happen for my students- it was Total and complete engagement!!!
The students feedback …
“working with table teams allows us to hear from others”
“We get to problem solve”
“I got the chance to teach the other people at my table team”
” I love writing on the table and white board!”
“The question, “What caused the problem to the solution?” allows me to narrow down the plot diagram to three smaller parts. It isn’t so daunting.”
“The movie is a nice change from reading.”
“I had to infer a lot of the information and use text evidence to help make the story make sense. It was hard, and the challenge was so nice.”
I would call this a very successful day.