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Plot Structure


Students will demonstrate their understanding of Plot Structure by identifying the elements of such in a fairy tale and in their duo scenes.


Materials Needed

“Scary Mary Poppins” video (can be found by searching for “Scary Mary Poppins” under the video option on

Plot Structure Graph (per student)  Plot Structure Graph

Group Plot Structure Worksheet (per group)  Group Plot Structure Worksheet

Glue sticks

4 envelopes

Fairy Tales broken into different parts  Fairytale Plotlines


Lesson Directions

Write the following question on the board: “What do you think of when you think of

‘plot?’ What makes a plot ‘good,’ and how is it important to a story?” Allow the class to ponder

then and discuss.

Step 1Ask the students to summarize the story of “Mary Poppins.”

Show the video: “Scary Mary Poppins” video.

Afterwards, ask them what they think. If any of them have seen Mary Poppins before, then they

will know it is not the way this clip presents it. Discuss with them the ways that the creators of

the clip made it different than the original. Many answers are correct and good, but eventually

lead the discussion towards the conclusion that it is the way everything was organized that makes

the difference. Each element of the clip, even the spooky music, is all a part of the original film,

and all they did was reorganize it to create an entirely new story.


Step 2Pass out the Plot Structure outline to the students and draw your own diagram on the

board. Have the class fill in each element along with you, stopping to explain what each one is:

Exposition: Setting the scene and introducing the characters

Inciting Incident: The moment were the action begins—without it the story would not happen

Rising Action: Action during which the conflict becomes more and more complicated as

the antagonist (villain) and protagonist (hero) struggle against one another

Climax: When the action reaches it’s highest peak and there is a turning point (for good or


Falling Action: Action during which the conflict unravels.

Resolution: The action reaches the final outcome and the story concludes


Step 3—The Plot Structure Dance: Do the Plot Structure Dance with the students several times,

until they’ve become familiar with the terms and the order in which they occur. Have the class together create a physicalization for each of the plot structure steps that has a physical connection to the step (i.e. stepping up stairs for rising action or a burst of energy explosion for climax) and then stringing the actions together to create a 'dance' of the plot structure.  Have students vocalize as they move and play with vocal qualities to show the structure steps too (i.e. speaking exposition slowly and clearly to lay it out or letting inflection drop when you hit denoument).  It's a great tool to get the structure into their bodies as well as their minds and it's great to do WITH the students so they are creating it instead of you telling them how to do it.

Step 4—Guided Practice: Using the plot structure diagram on the board, have the students help

you identify the plot structure elements within a story. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is given

here as an example, but the teacher or students may choose any other story as well.

Beauty and the Beast

Exposition: Learning the history of the Prince/Beast, and then Belle walking through the town singing; other characters (including the villain, Gaston) are introduced and some history is given as to who Belle is and where she and others fit in this town.

Inciting Incident: Belle’s father, lost in the woods and being chased by wolves, chooses to find sanctuary in the Beast’s castle.

Rising Action: Gaston proposes and Belle refuses, he swears to have her as his wife no matter what he has to do; Belle searches for her father, finds him locked in the Beast’s castle, and she offers to become the Beast’s prisoner; we learn about the curse on the castle/Beast; Belle runs away and the Beast saves her; they become friends; the Beast tries to win her love; Belle’s father is sick and he lets her go; the townspeople find out about the Beast, and they go to kill him, while Belle tries to stop them.

Climax: Gaston is beating up the Beast, but then Belle arrives (the turning point) and instead of losing, he starts to fight back and defeats Gaston

Falling Action: Belle and the Beast are together again, and she professes her love for him; the Beast changes magically back into the Prince; all the enchanted objects turn back into people

Resolution: The curse is broken and everyone happily watches Belle and the Prince waltz the right away

Step 5Analysis: Break the students up into four groups and have them do Part 3 again

together. Give each group one of the following fairy tales:

Little Red Riding Hood


The Little Mermaid

The Three Bears

Each fairy tale will have an envelope with different moments in the story inside. The group will need to work together to put the events in order and decide which moments fit into exposition, the inciting incident, rising action, the climax, falling action, and resolution. (They will glue them to a piece of paper that has a plot structure diagram on it.) Rove through the groups to make sure they are on task and understanding.


Each group will select a spokesperson to present their fairy tale’s plot structure to the class.


If students have their own performance piece like a scene, have the students meet with their scene partners and mark the different plot elements that appear in their own scene.