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.

Laurie J. Edwards
Laurie J. Edwards planned to run away when she was nine. She didn’t get far before she realized she’d miss her pet parakeet, so she slept on the back patio. That started her on a life of travel that has led to many interesting adventures, including stepping on a lizard in Africa, climbing a Korean mountain in flip-flops, strolling the streets of Venice in a cat costume, and eating deep-fried water beetles (yum!) in China. You can find out more about her and her books at her website.