Blog

Using Drama to Teach Plotting

Teachers and authors who do classroom presentations can teach the basics of plotting by using drama. When students participate in creating a story and see it unfold before their eyes, it’s much easier for them to remember the basic elements that make up a strong plot.

In addition to coming up with a story idea, the audience can also see and hear volunteers act out each step and associate the correct labels with each part of the plot. This visual representation is not only a fun way to learn, it can also make the important story points easier to recall.

 

Preparation

Print large cardboard signs to hang around volunteers’ necks:

  • Exposition
  • Setting
  • Conflict
  • Protagonist (Main Character)
  • Antagonist (Villain)
  • Inciting Incident
  • Rising Action
  • Problem 1 (the back of this sign should say: Problem 1 Solved)
  • Problem 2 (back: Problem 2 Solved)
  • Problem 3 (back: Problem 3 Solved)
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution

Action

First, select a volunteer to be Exposition. That student will stand to the far left. The rest of the students, who will be the storytellers, should come up with several key points:

1) Where does the story take place? Setting comes up front and hangs out with Exposition.

2) Who is the main character? Protagonist joins the group.

3) What is the conflict? Guide the students to select an idea that can be expanded into three escalating problems as Conflict huddles with the others.

4) Who will try to stop the protagonist? Antagonists can rub their hands together and look like trouble when they approach the Protagonist.

Next, Rising Action stands next to the Antagonist, who beckons Problem 1 to the stage to face the Protagonist. After the student storytellers come up with a solution for that dilemma, Problem 1 can turn over the cardboard sign to reveal Problem 1 Solved. The Antagonist, looking disappointed, can summon Problem 2, which also gets solved. Then the Protagonist faces Problem 3, the hardest problem of all. As the Protagonist struggles to reach a solution (make this as dramatic as possible), Climax goes up front. Resolution follows as soon as Problem 3 is solved, and everyone can cheer for the victorious Protagonist.

Review

With all characters onstage, go back and review each element to reinforce the learning. Now, students are ready to plot and write their own stories, incorporating all the plot points.

Some students remember what they hear (8%) or read (10%), but others need hands-on experience. According to some studies, actually participating in an activity boosts retention rate to 75%. A visual demonstration like this can be a fun reminder of all the steps to plotting a story. Enjoy!

Share

In the comments below, we’d love to hear about your students’ reactions to this drama and share some of the stories they create as a group.

Just in time for the holidays! December New Releases!

Check out these awesome new titles for the middle-grade readers in your life. Purchase or pre-order through the links to Bookshop.org, or visit your local bookseller!

Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr, Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers Release Date: December 7

Practice makes perfect, and Ben Yokoyama will settle for nothing less than perfection! A hilarious new Cookie Chronicles adventure that fans of Wimpy Kid or Dog Man will gobble up with gusto.

When Ben’s fortune cookie tells him that practice makes perfect, he refuses to settle for anything less. He demands better parents, superior hobbies, and a brand-new best friend, who might technically be a superhero.

The pursuit of perfection is thrilling until Ben is forced to give up the things he loves most–including baseball, personal integrity, and his dog’s enthusiastic kisses. Life lessons from a goldfish and a spine-tingling near-death experience help Ben realize that his flaws are also the keys to his greatest strengths–and that the people and things that make him happiest will always be perfectly imperfect.

Girl Giant and the Jade War by Van Hoang Published by Roaring Book Press Release Date December 7

In this sequel to Girl Giant and the Monkey King, Thom and her friends set off on a far-flung adventure to save the Heavens and the Jade Emperor from certain destruction.

Thom Ngoh thought the Monkey King was her friend―he taught her to control her super strength and to stand up for herself. But really he was just using her. He tricked her into stealing from the Heavens and releasing him from his 500-year prison. Now the Monkey King is waging a war against the Heavens and Thom must do everything in her power to fix the mess she made.

Determined to prevent a war, Thom and her dragon friend Kha set off on an adventure across the Heavens to search for allies. But with the stakes higher than ever, the price for help may be more than Thom is willing to pay. . .

This richly woven middle-grade fantasy series is full of humor, magic, and heart, and will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.

Unikorn by Don Handfield and Joshua J. Malkin Published by Scoot Comics Release Date: December 7

Unikorn

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Chloe Coleman (MY SPY).

A middle schooler inherits an old horse from her long-lost mother she believes is a unicorn with a broken horn in this heartfelt coming-of-age story of hope, faith and magic.

Young Mae lost her mother in a tragic accident a few years back, although her mother’s body was never recovered from the raging river into which their car crashed. Mae is devastated because her father, now that enough time has elapsed for proof of death, must sell off his wife’s farm, along with her wild stallion Percy, who seems dangerous to anyone who comes near him. However, when Mae realizes that Percy is really a unicorn with amazing powers, she teams with a group of her young friends to save the creature from an age-old billionaire who sustains his life through unicorn blood — and who is now determined to get Percy in his clutches. But unless Mae can find Percy’s missing unicorn horn, and restore the full extent of his magical powers, it appears that he is doomed — unless Mae can pull off a last-minute miracle to save Percy from a terrible fate…

Katt Loves Dogg by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, published by jimmy patterson Release Date: December 13

In this funny and paw-some story, lifelong rivals Molly and Oscar are forced to team up and brave the great outdoors and help their families before it’s too late.

Wilderness adventurers and expert trackers Molly the katt and Oscar the dogg go camping with their families: parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. One big reunion! It would be fun if there weren’t so many rules to follow at the campsite. ATTENTION KATTS AND DOGGS: No crossing the border, or you’ll be asked to leave the Eastern Wilderness Reserve. If you’re still alive.

Molly and Oscar must outsmart the rule-makers when they discover that their katt and dogg cousins have run away together–for reasons only Molly and Oscar will understand. Now the clever pair must find and warn their cousins before all four of them are in need of a serious rescue mission.

Escape from Atlantis by Kate O’Hearn Published by Aladdin, December 14

From the author of the Pegasus series comes a spellbinding first book in a new fantasy series for fans of Rick Riordan and Shannon Messenger following two cousins whose summer vacation gets swept away by a storm that lands them on the lost island of Atlantis.

The last way that Riley Evans wanted to spend spring break was studying whales on the family sailboat in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. With only her dad, aunt, and annoying cousin Alfie for company, she is so bored staring at the waves that she’s starting to see mermaids between them. But when their boat is capsized during a sudden storm, Riley finds more excitement than she bargained for as she and Alfie are washed ashore with neither of their parents in sight. Where they’ve been shipwrecked is no deserted island, though.

Atlantis is a place beyond imagination, inhabited by both people and incredible creatures ranging from unicorns and gargoyles to talking animals. But not everyone welcomes the cousins’ arrival, and beneath the wonder of this mythical land lurk dangerous secrets—something strange is happening to the inhabitants. What Riley wants more than anything is to find her father and go home. But the closer she gets to this goal, the more the islanders seem determined to keep her from reaching it.

As Riley and Alfie unravel the mystery of Atlantis and its most terrifying part, the Forbidden Zone, they realize that the clock is ticking. If they can’t learn what happened to their parents and find a way off the island soon, it may be too late to leave.

 

Pages & Co.: The Book Smugglers by Anna James, illustrated by Marco Guadalupi Published by Philomel Books Release Date: December 14

The fourth magical adventure in the nationally bestselling Pages & Co. series, starring Milo, the book smuggler. Perfect for fans of Inkheart and The Land of Stories.

Since he was six years old, Milo has lived on board the Sesquipedalian, or “Quip,” a magical train that uses the power of imagination to travel through both stories and the real world. Aboard the Quip, Milo lives and works with his uncle, Horatio, a book smuggler who trades in rare books.

When Horatio takes on a dangerous new job, he needs the help of Tilly Pages, a uniquely gifted book wanderer. But when Tilly’s grandfather and Horatio are poisoned by a mysterious copy of The Wizard of Oz and fall into a deep sleep, Milo and Tilly find themselves racing against time to save them. The friends must journey to the Emerald City with Dorothy, and eventually to Venice, Italy, to find out who is behind these strange poisonings.

Segregated Skies: David Harris’s Trailblazing Journey to Rise Above Racial Barriers by Michael H. Cottman Published by National Geographic Kids Release Date December 21

It was 1964 and black men didn’t fly commercial jets. But David Harris was about to change that …

After years of flying B-52 bombers in the United States Air Force, David Harris applied to be a pilot for commercial airliners, an opportunity no other African American before him—not even the famed Tuskegee Airmen—had ever been afforded. After receiving rejection after rejection, he finally signed on with American Airlines in 1964. But this success was just the beginning of another uphill battle for equal treatment.

It was the height of the civil rights movement, a time of massive protests as people struggled to end racial segregation and give Black people equal rights. As a light-skinned, light-eyed Black man, David was told by many people he could have passed for white. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he made the bold decision to disclose his race to his employers and fellow airmen. He had experienced discrimination throughout his life, but this was different. He now carried the pride of his family and the hopes of future Black aviators on his shoulders.

This gripping narrative, perfect for middle-grade readers and Black History Month, follows Harris’s turbulent path to become the first African-American commercial airline pilot in the U.S., presented against the backdrop of racial tensions, protests, and the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It’s the story of a man who fought social injustice the only way he knew how—by succeeding.

 

Honest June by Tina Wells, illustrated by Brittney Bond Published by Random House Books for Young Readers Release Date: December 28

Middle school is hard—but it’s way harder when a fairy godmother puts you under a truth-telling spell!

June has always been a people-pleaser, telling harmless little lies to make her friends and family happy. She’s convinced being honest about her feelings will only hurt the people she loves!

Until out of nowhere, a secret fairy godmother appears to “bless” her with the ability to only tell the truth! Seriously?! As if June didn’t have enough to worry about!

Now, June has no choice but to be honest about how she feels. And the truth is: what June feels is stressed out. Middle school is no joke—between field hockey, friend drama, and her parents’ high expectations, June feels so overwhelmed that sometimes it’s hard to breathe.

When everything spirals out of control, will June find freedom in telling the whole truth and nothing but—or is she destined to battle the curse for the rest of her life?

STEM Tuesday — Give the Gift of STEM/STEAM Books for the Holidays

 

Happy Holidays from the STEM Tuesday team! Can you believe it’s that time of year again when you have to go out and buy gifts?

Do you know what you’re getting? Why not consider the gift of a STEM/STEAM book? It’s a great way to introduce a love of science to kids (of ALL ages)  OR to expand upon and encourage a love of STEM to grow.

Not sure where to find awesome STEM/STEAM books? We can help!

Look at our site! Each month comes with a Book List for the topic we are covering that month. Just search by topic on our home page HERE

Then click on the search by topic part and you’ll get a drop down menu where you can select the topic you’re looking for. Most of the books on the list are already attached to Bookstop so you can just click on the title and ORDER and you’re done!

 

 

If you’re looking for more ideas of STEM/STEAM books for kids, check out STEAM Team Books! It’s a website that highlights the amazing fiction and nonfiction books that have come out that year.

​STEAM-related books bring the spirit of inquiry, discovery, and creative problem-solving to your learners

while engaging them in rich literacy experiences.

 

Here are some suggestions from the STEAM Team members for “Books for Kids Who Like…” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a reminder, TODAY IS #GIVINGTUESDAY 

So, if you don’t have a young reader to buy a book for, consider donating to a nonprofit charity that provides books to Kids!

There are MANY amazing charities out there. Pick one you love and support it. Here are a few to check out:

KidLiteracy, Inc. 

Lit World 

Room To Read

World Literacy Foundation

Books for Africa

Ferst Readers