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.



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


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.


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!


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.

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…” 





















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

Mixed-Up Files interview with Katherine Battersby: Author of Cranky Chicken!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

Happy Chanukah and Happy holiday season! Hope you’re enjoying it so far!

Today, we are fortunate to have with us Katherine Battersby, author of the graphic novel, Cranky Chicken, which is out NOW!

Katherine, thanks so much for joining us today!

JR: I was fortunate enough to read an Advanced Copy of Cranky Chicken. So adorable and some really funny moments. For those who don’t know, can you tell us a little bit about the book, and where the idea for this come from?

KB: Thank you! That means a lot. CRANKY CHICKEN is a humorous graphic novel about a very cranky chicken who accidentally saves the life of a super excitable worm. Worm decides they are going to be BFFs – Best Feathered Friends. The book follows their quirky and unlikely friendship across three mini stories.

As for where the idea came from, well … I’m actually scared of chickens. Because I know something others don’t – ALL chickens are cranky chickens (I was chased by a lot of chickens in my youth). Then, during one of my author school visits, I met this tiny girl who just adored chickens. She told me, “They’re not scary – they’re hilarious!” I couldn’t stop thinking about her, so I decided to spend some more time drawing chickens. CRANKY CHICKEN is what emerged. It turns out we were both right – chickens are cranky and hilarious.

The story itself is inspired by the ridiculous antics my best friend and I used to get up to as kids. She was an extrovert who was an only child, so she was always turning up on my doorstep just like Worm – full of excitement and ready to play. I, on the other hand, was an introvert who was part of a big blended family. I never had any time to myself, so I could be a bit of a cranky chicken. Even now, we often laugh at how different and yet similar we are. Chicken and Worm are a lot like that, too.


JR: As you just mentioned, there’s a lot of humor in the book, but also some touching moments. How difficult is it to find the right balance?

KB: I’m actually writing the third book in the series as we speak and was just talking to my partner about this very thing! For me, as a reader, the most important thing about any genre of story is that it has genuine emotion at its heart. So as a writer, even when I’m writing light and playful stories like Cranky Chicken, I think a lot about what my characters are feeling and what drives them and aim to capture this in all their interactions. Maybe this is partly because I was a children’s counselor before I became an author / illustrator, so emotions are something I already think about a lot. Luckily, mostly this balancing act is pretty instinctive – I just have to focus on staying true to the characters and Chicken and Worm are naturally both quirky and heartfelt.


That’s a good line to balance on. You’ve mostly done books for younger readers. What were some of the things that drew you to working on Graphic Novels?

KB: As a reader I’ve always loved graphic novels and comic books. I grew up surrounded by ones my parents collected on their travels – Asterix and Obelix, Tin Tin (many in their original French), Footrot Flats (a New Zealand comic) and The Far Side. I never grew out of them and continue to read comic books across genres and age groups. It’s interesting to think about what draws me to the format. I suppose I’ve always particularly loved stories with a focus on visual storytelling and those with richly illustrated worlds. I love the filmic way that these stories can unroll, with the panels leading you through a scene as a camera would. As a storyteller, I also love getting more room (than in picture books) to explore character and to play with the way I humour (such as exploring a joke over several page turns). As a reader, I’ve always had a lot of fun reading comics and I can tell you that now, as the author and illustrator, I am having just as much fun!


JR: You’re talking to the right person. I love comic books! Who were some of your influences?

KB: There are so many, I feel like I might always be unravelling the answer to this question. But one clear one is Sandra Boynton. I adored her books as a tiny thing and would draw her characters over and over. She is the queen of cute, chubby little animals and a sparse use of lines, which are both features of my own work. Standing back, I can also see the influence of Asterisk and Obelix on CRANKY CHICKEN – from the mismatched friendship to the humour and tone. The Far Side also clearly influenced my style, as I have a similar droll, understated sense of humour. But now, writing this, I can’t help but wonder if all these things already existed in me and this is why I was drawn to these creators and stories? It’s the classic ‘chicken or the egg?’ conundrum (something Chicken and Worm would happily debate for hours).


JR: You grew up in Australia. Has anything about living there influenced your writing?

KB: I think so. Definitely my sense of humour – Aussies can be quite wry and sardonic (it’s sometimes mistaken for sarcasm). Also my sense of place – I grew up by the beach on the tropical east coast of Australia, so you’ll see this influence in the second CRANKY CHICKEN book (which is out June 2022). Funnily enough, one of the biggest influences is that strange sense of cultural cringe that people often get in regards to where they grow up, so you’ll notice I never feature any overtly Australian animals in my stories! I was always much more fascinated by animals that were unfamiliar to me – bunnies and squirrels and foxes and bears. My dad was British so we regularly spent time with his family around the UK – my memories of the those trips and the animals that populated those landscapes had a big influence on my stories. Ironically, CRANKY CHICKEN is my most ‘Australian’ book yet as I did at least grow up around chickens (many of my friends lived on farms!).


JR: I need to visit Australia one day! What was your favorite childhood book?

KB: I’ve always been an avid reader, so choosing just one is all but impossible! I could look back on any given day and give a different answer, so today I’ll say … The Bunjee Venture by Stan McMurtry. It’s the first novel I can remember choosing for myself (from the Scholastic catalogue) and I read it so many times it completely fell apart. It’s a quirky little read about a kid who accidentally travels back in time to prehistoric times and discovers this odd mammoth like creature that speaks in a somewhat understandable manner. I loved the creative use of language (and trying to decode the creature’s dialogue) and the strange, often frightening landscape (man-eating flowers! sentient jelly-fish!). It was a lot of fun.

JR: What are you working on next?

KB: I have just finished proofing all the final illustrations for CRANKY CHICKEN book 2 and just this morning handed in the final manuscript for book 3 (phew!). Now I have a little time to work on a couple of picture book manuscripts I have knocking around my mind. One needs to be storyboarded out and the other one I’m still writing. I also have a newer idea for a middle grade graphic novel series which I’m currently collecting ideas for and world building. I always have many stories on the go, all in various stages of development.


JR: How can people follow you on social media?

KB: I love chatting to those passionate about children’s literature, so please feel free to find me here:

Twitter: @KathBatt

Instagram: @katherinebattersby

Facebook: Katherine Battersby Author


JR: Thank you so much for joining us today!

KB: Thanks for having me! It’s been a delight.


JR: Well, that’s it for now, Mixed-Up Filers. Make sure to run out and get a copy of Cranky Chicken, and I truly hope you enjoy the remainder of the holiday season!

Until next time . . .