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Use Plot Diagrams to Improve Reading Comprehension

A plot diagram can be useful for readers and authors alike. Plot diagrams help show the structure of a story from beginning to end. They are a great tool to use to help students to better visualize and understand the key components of a piece and how they work together to tell the overall story. Plot diagrams are best used after the story elements have been introduced and are fully understood by the student

Plot diagrams include the following story elements:

  • Exposition - the background information or introduction to the story. This includes the main characters, setting, mood, and time.

  • Rising Action - the build-up that leads to the most exciting part of the story. This will include several events.

  • Climax - the most exciting part of the story, perhaps a crisis point.

  • Falling Action - the climax is resolved and loose ends are tied up.

  • Resolution - the end of the story.

The first time any graphic organizer is introduced, it is important for the adult to model how to fill it out correctly, what to put in the blanks, and what the thought process is behind why certain things were put in certain spots in the graphic organizer. I like to start with a simple storybook - something funny is always a good choice, even for older students. The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka or Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester are always fun choices. The benefit to starting with short stories is that they are quick, silly, and don't take a great deal of time to read. Verbalize your thinking as you fill in each of the sections of the graphic organizer, making sure your child understands how each of the story elements fits into the diagram.

Plot diagrams can be particularly useful when teaching students how to write their own stories, too. Use them as a pre-writing exercise to help your student plan his or her writing. Kids don't always struggle with the "big" idea of what to write about, but they often struggle with making sure they've included all of the story elements. When writers are able to see their story outline in plot diagram form, they are less likely to miss key parts of their story and are better able to plan for cohesiveness among each of the story elements.

You can find an example of a plot diagram below. Better yet, you can download it for free here!

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