Handout 1 (1 of 3) Types of Plot Plot



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KU SOE: Strategies for Educational Improvement

June 11, 2010



Handout 1 (1 of 3)
Types of Plot
Plot – the structure of the action of a story. In conventional stories, plot has three main parts: rising action, climax, and falling action leading to a resolution or denouement (Harris & Hodges, 1995, p. 189).
“Plot is a sequence of events that occurs to characters in situations in the beginning, middle, and end of a story” (Hancock, 2004, p. 136).
There are four primary types of plots (modified from Anderson, 2006, & Lukens, 2007):

  1. Linear – plot is constructed logically and not by coincidence. There are three major parts to a linear plot:

  • Beginning – the characters and setting are introduced, and the central conflict/problem of the story is revealed. Usually the main character sets a goal to overcome the conflict/problem, or s/he may set a goal that creates a conflict/problem.

  • Middle – the main character participates in a series of events or attempts to reach the goal that leads to a resolution of the conflict/problem.

  • End – the main character may or may not reach his/her goal, thus resolving the conflict/problem. The linear plot is common in folktales, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, as well as realistic fiction (e.g., Make Way for Duckling, McCloskey, 1941) and fantasy (e.g., The Rainbow Fish, Pfister, 1992).

Teachers should select books with linear plots when teaching narrative comprehension. Linear plots usually include several episodes within the story. A good source for these types of stories is found in many folktales and fictional books, such as the ones mentioned above.



  1. Episodic – “one incident or short episode is linked to another by common characters or a unified theme” (Lukens, 2007, p. 121).

    • An episodic plot features distinct episodes that are related to one another but that also can be read individually, almost as stories by themselves (e.g., the chapters in Frog and Toad All Year, Lobel, 1976). The chapters of short books with episodic structure like Frog and Toad can be used to teach narrative structure as one would with a picture storybook, because each chapter functions like a story that can stand alone.

    • Most novels involve more complex plots, in which the story builds on itself, so that each episode evolves out of a previous one and produces another one (e.g., Beverly Cleary books, such as Ramona the Brave, and Judy Blume books, such as Superfudge, etc.).


Handout 1 (2 of 3)
Types of Plot (cont.)
Picture books, not novels, should be used to provide explicit instruction in narrative/story structure. Novels are very complex stories that have many linear and episodic plots embedded in them. However, novels may be used to provide opportunities for students to apply, analyze, and synthesize what they know about narrative/story structure in order to make predictions, inferences, and draw conclusions about these complex plots.
Teachers should provide considerable modeling and guided practice in identifying narrative/story structure and the causal links between events with picture books that have simpler linear plots. (See note on previous page after linear plot in bold.)

  1. Cumulative – plots with lots of repetition of phrases, sentences, or events with one new aspect added with each repetition. The Gingerbread Man and The Great, Big, Enormous Turnip are examples of cumulative plots.





  1. Circular – the characters in the story end up in the same place that they were at the beginning of the story. Examples of circular stories are If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Numeroff, 1985) and Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak, 1963).

Stories with cumulative or circular plots should NOT be used to teach the comprehension of narrative text, because they do not provide a complete narrative/story structure.


Conflict is the interaction of plot and character or the opposition of two forces. There are four primary types of conflict:


  1. character against self

  2. character against another character

  3. character against society

  4. character against nature

Lukens (2007) defines the following terms associated with narrative text:



Climax - action that precipitates resolution of conflict (p. 353)

Resolution - falling action following climax (p. 357)

Theme - statement giving the underlying truth about people, society, or the human condition,

either explicitly or implicitly (p. 358)



Handout 1 (3 of 3)


Literary Terminology and Reading Research: A Comparison



Plot: “a sequence of events that occurs to characters in situations in the beginning, middle, and end of a story” (Hancock, 2004, p. 136).



Literary Terminology


Reading-Comprehension

Research Terminology


Beginning
setting

characters


Plot:

initiating event

conflict/problem


Beginning
setting

characters


Plot:

initiating event

character goal(s)

conflict/problem




Middle
Plot:

turning point

crisis

rising action



climax – action that precipitates resolution of

conflict (Lukens, 2007)

subplot

parallel episodes




Middle
Plot:

character goal(s)

character attempts to reach his/her goal(s)
Note: The character may initially fail to meet his goal (failed outcome), and thus may drop the goal and move to the end of the story; try to achieve the original goal with different attempts; or begin a new episode with a new goal. Once the goal is reached, the plot moves to the end of the story.


End

Plot:

resolution – falling action following climax

(Lukens, 2007)

denouement

falling action

ending



End

Plot:

outcome


ending

Theme: Statement giving the underlying truth about people, society, or the human condition,

either explicitly or implicitly (Lukens, 2007).




Handout 2 (1 of 4)
Narrative-Text

Story-Grammar Components
Story-grammar components, based on the research of Mandler and Johnson (1977), Rumelhart (1977), Thorndyke (1977), Stein and Glenn (1979), and Trabasso and van den Broek (1985), define the typical structure of a fiction story. In studies of retellings, story events were found to occur in a similar pattern from story to story. The elements of story grammar are listed and defined below.
SETTING: The setting provides the reader with relevant information about the location and time of the story. The author usually gives a description of the time and place. A discussion of the setting is important to prepare the readers for the story.
CHARACTERS: At the beginning of the story, along with the setting, the main characters are introduced. The goals of the main characters drive the plot of the story (i.e., goals, attempt/actions, and outcomes).
INITIATING EVENT: The transition from the initial setting occurs when an initiating event causes a change of state in the story. If the initiating event did not occur, the story would stay in the setting. Each narrative contains an initiating event.
The goal, attempt, and outcome sequences form the episodes of the story.

GOAL: The goal is a reaction of the main character to the initiating event. The goal is what the character desires in the story. A character’s goal may be unstated. Also, more than one character will have goals in the story. The conflict between characters’ goals is what gets the story moving.

ATTEMPTS/ACTIONS: Each character will complete a series of attempts to reach his/her goal. The actions in the story are referred to as attempts.
OUTCOMES: Following the attempts, an outcome will occur. The outcome signals if the character has reached his/her goal. If goal success is reached, the story will end or a new goal will be set. If the outcome signals goal failure, the character may abandon the goal, make additional attempts to reach the goal, or create a new goal.
STORY ENDING: Students may confuse the outcome with the story ending. The ending follows the goals, attempts, and outcomes and brings closure to the story. This category may be added at the end to separate the outcome and story ending.
(Coffman & Oliver, 1997)

Handout 2 (2 of 4)
Goal-Structure Mapping
Simple graphic organizers to help students map stories using causal chains or the goal-attempts- and-outcome format were developed by Sundbye (1998) and Coffman and Oliver (1997). This graphic organizer was designed to help teachers show students how to make connections between events in a narrative in order to focus attention on both the pattern of story events and the relationships that connect the story events to one another. There is research evidence that teaching students about these story parts (i.e., goals, attempts, and outcomes) can improve reading comprehension (Idol, 1987; Spiegel & Fitzgerald, 1986).

It is important to make sure that the graphic organizers that you choose represent the research that has been done with story grammar. Sometimes you will find graphic organizers that may not include character goals or present the elements of narrative as separate entities rather than in cohesive representation of the story. One should look carefully at the graphic organizer that s/he has decided to use to make sure that it is consistent with narrative-text research. In addition, teachers in a school should make an effort to ensure that the terminology used for narrative-text structure is consistent from classroom to classroom and grade level to grade level.

Tips for Constructing Goal-Structure Maps


  • Try it! Don’t be afraid – you can do it!




  • Map the stories yourself or meet with colleagues to discuss the stories and create models of maps before teaching a story to students.




  • Develop the map using the sequence of the story.




  • Talk through the setting and initiating event with students.




  • Identify major and minor characters. Major characters are linked to each other through causal relationships and the causal chains or links that occur between the characters’ goals, attempts, and outcomes. Major characters have a goal, make attempts to reach the goal, and have an outcome that determines goal failure or goal success. Therefore, we represent these transitions in the narrative with the colors of the stoplight: the goal (green), the attempts (yellow), and the outcome (red). Minor characters do not have goals in the story.




  • Start with the setting, initiating event, and the character. Remember that the maps should be created interactively between characters as their attempts and outcomes appear in the story, not linear with the focus on one character at a time.




  • Encourage students to question the thinking that goes into constructing the map. If the class is having difficulty deciding what to put on the map, students should take a vote and go with the consensus. The teacher should ask students to look back in the text to defend their reasoning.


Handout 2 (3 of 4)
Symbols for Goal-Structure Mapping
I.E. Initiating Event

Main Character


Relationships



Goals



Attempts to reach goal



Outcome


Ending

Handout 2 (4 of 4)
Narrative Text

Story-Focused Questions for Text Analysis
Title of Book
Setting: What is the setting of the story?
Time:
Place:
Characters: List all of the characters that appear in the story.

As you look at the list of characters, determine whether the characters have a goal and attempt to reach the goal. Make sure to include all characters that are needed to make the story unfold and come to life.


Initiating Event: What is the initiating event?

Goal: What is the goal of ?

(You will need to consider this for each main character.)

Attempts/Action: What did do to reach his/her goal?

(You will need to consider this for each main character.)

Outcome: Did reach his/her goal? If yes, how was this accomplished?

(You will need to consider this for each main character.)

Story Ending: How does the story end?


After you have finished analyzing the story ask yourself,

“Have I included all of the characters that influence the events in the story?”



Handout 3 (1 of 1)

Goal Structure Map

Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn

I.E.: Little Red leaves the Inn for Grandma’s house

enemies



Little Red (Thomas)

Wolf










Visit Grandma and bring her treats

Story Ending: “So, from then on, each week on his way to Grandma’s, Little Red left a keg of ginger ale in the forest for the wolf, who drank it down eagerly, in spite of its embarrassing aftereffects!” (p.31)




Handout 4 (1 of 1)
Goal-Structure Mapping

General Teaching Sequence


  1. (What) Tell the students that you are going to show them how to put the information from a story into a map. Explain that this type of map shows the names of main characters, the characters’ goals, and how the characters try to reach their goals.




  1. (How) Model for the students how to complete each part of the Goal-Structure Map. For younger students, model and practice only one portion of the map at a time. It may be helpful to demonstrate to younger students a map of a real-life incident (i.e., the student wanted a new video game, saved her allowance, bought the game) to get a better idea of how the map works. The parts of the Goal-Structure Map should be reviewed often.




    • Identify the initiating event. The transition from the initial setting occurs when an initiating event causes a change in the story. If the initiating event did not occur, the story would stay in the setting.

    • Determine the main characters. The names of the main characters go on the top lines in a story map. Main characters are going to show up throughout the story.
    • Identify the relationships among the characters. A dashed line is drawn between the characters with a word written on it that describes the relationship (i.e., friends, neighbors, sister). Keep in mind that the relationship may need to be inferred.


    • Identify the goal or goals of the main characters. The goals of the main characters are placed in the ovals (circles). Remember that the goals are what the main characters want or desire to reach in the story.

    • Discuss the narrative with the students, identifying and adding the attempts to the Goal-Structure Map as they happened in the story. The attempts are written in the rectangles. There may be one attempt or several attempts to reach the goal. Be careful not to include minor details. The point is to map the most important parts of the story.

    • Make a statement about the outcome of the attempts to reach the goal. Ask the students if the attempt produced what was wanted. Outcomes may be “yes,” “no,” or even “yes/no” if there were elements of both success and failure to the outcome. “No” outcomes can lead to new goals. Outcomes are written in the triangles.

    • Draw cause-effect lines to connect one episode of the story to another. Help the students link the events together (causal chain) by asking “why” questions about elements in the story. For example, “Why did the girl save her allowance?”

    • Practice with simple stories.




  1. (Why) Tell the students that learning how to make goal-structure maps can help them think about and understand a story. Explain that maps may be constructed during reading or after reading.

Adapted from Coffman and Oliver (1997); Spiegel and Fitzgerald (1986); Sundbye (1998); Trabasso, van den Broek and Liu (1988).


Handout 5 (1 of 14)
Narrative-Text Cue Cards

Narrative text tells a story. Cue cards can be used selectively during teacher read alouds. Later, as students begin to read independently or with a partner, they can use the cards to help them understand narrative texts. (Students orally respond to the questions.)

Set 1 (Green Cards)—Use before reading.


  • Before reading a text, place the green cards in a pocket chart. (Students place them on their desks.)




  • Touch each green card, read it, and ask students to respond.


Set 2 (Yellow Cards)—Use during reading.


  • Place the yellow cards in the pocket chart. (Students place them on their desks.)




  • Review the significance of each card.




  • Begin reading the narrative text.




  • Stop periodically. Touch each yellow card, read it, and ask students to respond.




  • Move the card from the left side of the pocket chart to the right side as each question is answered. (Students move the cards on their desks.)




  • When all the cards have been moved from the left to the right side, students know they have found answers to all the questions.


Set 3 (Red Cards)—Use after reading the entire selection.


  • Place the red cards in the pocket chart.




  • Touch each red card, read it, and ask students to respond.


Cards for students to use at their desks are included in the handout.
Adapted from material developed by Neuhaus Education Center (1998).

Handout 5 (2 of 14)

Narrative Cards Discussion


Green Cards (Before Reading)

Card 1

What does the title tell me about this story?

Card 2

What do the pictures tell me?

Card 3

What do I already know about …?

(Activate prior knowledge on the topic.)

If reading chapter books, review what has happened.)


Yellow Cards (During Reading)

Card 4

Where does the story take place?

(Tell the setting of the story.)



Card 5

Who are the main characters in the story?

(Tell who the story is about.)



Card 6

What happened to make the story start?

(The initiating event that gets the story moving.)



Card 7

What is the goal of each of the main characters?

(The goal is the reaction of the main character to the initiating event. A character’s goal may be unstated. Also, more than one character goal will occur in the story. The clash between characters’ goals is the heart or “conflict” of the story.)


Card 8

What attempts or actions did the character(s) take to reach his/her goal?

(Explain the series of actions that the character(s) attempted to reach his/her goal.)



Card 9

What do I think will happen next?

(Make predictions, and ask students to explain their reasoning.)



Red Cards (After Reading)

Card 10

What was the outcome of the story?

(Did the character(s) reach his/her goal? Why do you say so?)



Card 11

How did the story end?

(Tell how the story ended, if that is different from the outcome of the character(s) reaching his/her goal.)



Card 12

Why did …?

(Use “Why” questions that ask students to infer meaning of the story around the goals, attempts, and outcome of the character(s).)



Card 13

What are some ways to extend this text?

(Discussion, story mapping, character web, Readers Theater, etc.)




Handout 5 (3 of 14)

What does the title tell me about the story?



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Handout 5 (10 of 14)



What does the title tell me about the story?

1




What do the pictures tell me?


2









What do I already know about…?

3





Handout 5 (11 of 14)




Where does the story

take place?
4



Who are the main characters in the story?
5









What happened to make the story start?
6


What is the goal of each of the main characters?

7





What attempts or actions did the main character(s) take to reach his/her goal?


8



What do I think will happen next?

9


Handout 5 (12 of 14)



What was the outcome of the story?

10




How did the story end?


11









Why did …?


12



What are some ways to extend this text?

13


Handout 5 (13 of 14)
Narrative Cue Cards

Application to Narrative Text
Book: Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn (Roberts, 2005)


Narrative Cards Discussion

Green Cards (Before Reading)

Card 1

What does the title tell me about this story?

Open-ended question.




Card 2

What do the pictures tell me?

Open-ended question. Teachers may point out specific parts of the illustrations. For example, “Why is Thomas called ‘Little Red?’”




Card 3

What do I already know about …?

What do you already know about the story, Little Red Riding Hood?

What do you know about inns? Tell me about ginger ale.



Yellow Cards (During Reading)

Some answers will not be obvious until the reading is finished. To get to the answers, teachers may ask questions such as “Why did Little Red stop to pick red apples?” or “Why did the Wolf put on Little Red’s coat?”

Card 4

Where does the story take place?

There are several settings: the Inn, the forest, and Grandma’s house. Most of the action takes place at Grandma’s house.




Card 5

Who are the main characters in the story?

The main characters are Little Red (Thomas) and the Wolf. Grandma is a secondary character.




Card 6

What happened to make the story start (i.e., the initiating event)?

Little Red starts down the path to Grandma’s house.




Card 7

What is the goal of each of the main characters?

Little Red: Little Red has two goals. The first goal is to visit Grandma. The second goal occurs after Little Red gets to Grandma’s house. The goal is to not get eaten by the Wolf.

Wolf: The Wolf has two goals. The first goal is to have Little Red for a tasty snack. When the Wolf finds out that Little Red is going to visit Grandma, he has a second goal, to have Grandma for a tasty snack.


Handout 5 (14 of 14)




Card 8

What attempts or actions did the character(s) take to reach his/her goal?

Little Red: To reach Little Red’s first goal: (1) Skips along the path to Grandma’s house. (2) Stops to pick apples for Grandma.

To reach his second goal: (1) Offers the Wolf ginger ale. (2) Throws the empty ginger-ale keg at the Wolf. (3) Offers the Wolf all the ginger ale he wants.


Wolf: to reach the Wolf’s first goal: (1) Dresses up like Grandma. (2) Tells Little Red he wants to eat him.

To reach his second goal: (1) Steals Little Red’s coat. (2) Goes to Grandma’s house. (3) Swallows grandma.




Card 9

What do I think will happen next?

Open-ended responses. Predictions should be based on information from the text.



Red Cards (After Reading)

Card 10

What was the outcome of the story?

Little Red reached both of his goals; he got to visit Grandma, and he was not eaten by the Wolf.

The Wolf did not reach either of his goals; he did not have Little Red for a tasty snack, nor did he get to keep Grandma as a tasty snack.


Card 11

How did the story end?

The story ends when Little Red offers a deal to the Wolf. If the Wolf promises to never eat anyone, then Little Red will provide the Wolf with a tasty snack of ginger ale. The Wolf accepts the offer.



Card 12

Why did …?

Why did Little Red stop to pick apples? Why did the Wolf steal Little Red’s coat? Why did Little Red offer ginger ale to the Wolf? Why did Little Red throw the ginger-ale keg at the Wolf?




Card 13

What are some ways to extend this text?

Story-comparison chart, dramatize or write another version of the story, literature circles.






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