Story Structure with a Costume Design Twist
By Giselle Gremmert
Students will understand basic story structure by performing a small reader’s theatre and drawing a basic plot structure for a story.
- 40 newspapers
- 5-10 rolls of masking tape
- More Than a Match story (included in lesson plan attachment)
Hook: (15 minutes)
Immediately after taking roll, put students into 10 groups of 3-4 students. Give each group a number 1-10. From this point forward until the game starts, students have to be completely silent. Draw a story structure line on the board.
Rules of the game: Students raise their hands, and if called on, can yell out what this line represents, or label any portion of the line. The first student to answer gets their groups number written down first. If students run out of answers, the rest of the groups get their numbers written down in a random order (or whoever is sitting the quietest).
Looking for answers like story structure, exposition/back story, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement (bonus point for this word).
Discussion about the story structure plot isn’t needed at this point in the lesson.
Once the different group numbers are written on the board, tell them that today we are going to be performing a little show. There are 10 characters in the show, and there are 10 groups. In each group, one student will be the performer, and the others have a different task that I will explain in a minute. But first, groups need to pick their character. Based off of who answered first, they get to pick the character their group would like to work with.
The characters are:
Wise One Giant (onstage the most)
First Councilor Master of Clubs
Second Councilor Master of Swords
Third Councilor Master of Fire
**Each of the councilors is buddies with the Master of ____ directly to their right on the list. First councilor is friends with Master of Clubs, etc. This will be important in a minute.
Once each group has a character, each group needs to select a performer.
Instruction: (5 minutes)
Before we can begin our play, we need to distinguish our actors and their characters a bit more. So, we’re going to be making them costumes… out of newspaper and masking tape. Each group will be given 4 newspapers and a roll of masking tape. (You might need to share between groups). So, people who are not performers, if you haven’t figured it out yet, you are costume designers. Performers, your job right now is to do what they say and hold still.
Spread out around the room. You only have 10 minutes to complete your costumes.
Practice: (10 minutes)
Students have 10 minutes to complete the costume for their character. This is where the councilor groups may be interested to know their connection to the different masters. The purpose of the costumes is not to help the students with plot structure, but to help them become more engaged in the story so they can understand all the elements of plot structure later. Don’t get too wrapped up in making the costumes perfect.
Clean-up: (5 minutes)
We cannot begin the performance until every scrap of newspaper is picked up off the floor and thrown in the trash. Any unused newspaper needs to stacked neatly in a pile, and every roll of tape needs to be handed back to me.
Set up the room according to the best way to perform for the space. The king and queen can stay on stage the whole time in their thrones off to the side or enter and exit like everyone else.
Performance: (20 minutes)
Read the entire story out loud to the class. The majority of the time, the story lends itself to telling students when it is time to enter and exit, but there may be a few spots that need prompting.
A group picture and bows are a fun way to end the performance.
Clean-up: (3 minutes)
Have students take off their costumes and throw away the newspaper. Everyone else should rearrange the classroom back to facing the board.
Instruction: (10 minutes)
Up at the board, ask students what different things happened in the story—write them down as students say them, not in order. With every story, there is a structure to how it is written. Most stories follow the basic plot structure you may have seen in your English classes at one point or another.
Draw the plot structure and explain the following concepts:
Ask students for examples of where in our story they think these different things happened. Write them all down on the board.
What do you think is the hardest moment for new writers to pinpoint in their story?
Believe it or not, it’s the climax. A lot of times we don’t realize what the real climax is in our own stories, even though it seems really obvious in other people’s stories. To help us with that, we have what’s called a Major Dramatic Question.
The Major Dramatic Question, or MDQ, is the question that is surrounding the whole story. Once this question is answered, the rising action of the story stops and we find out the resolution.
Group Practice: (10 minutes)
If we were doing Beauty and the Beast, the inciting incident is when the witch comes and turns the prince into the beast. What would be our MDQ?
Will the prince every meet his true love to turn human again?
So, if that’s our MDQ, the climax is whenever the MDQ is answered. What happens in Beauty and the Beast that answers the question?
Belle says she loves the Beast—he transforms back into a man.
In our story, what is the MDQ?
(Will people be able to get from Here to There?) REMEMBER—the question is not, Will they defeat the giant—why would they want to defeat the giant? Because they need to get from Here to There. That’s the bigger picture.
What happens in the story to answer the MDQ?
(The Wise One tricks the Giant into helping people across the bridge—now they can travel from Here to There.)
Small Group Practice/Assessment: (10 minutes)
In groups of three, students are going to pick a story they all know well and create the plot structure for the story including the MDQ. It will be turned in at the end of class.