Teaching Plot with a Picture Book... with a freebie!

plot anchor chart

What is your first ELA topic to cover each school year? When I co-taught in 5th grade classrooms, we always started with teaching the PLOT ELEMENTS.  I would introduce the topic with my PowerPoint on the first day, but on the second day I would dig out a picture book!

Picture books are perfect for teaching plot elements in grades 4-6.  As we all know, upper elementary and middle school students still love picture books. Another benefit is that they are short- in one class period you can read an entire picture book and plot the story on a plot diagram. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, Margie Palatini is my go-to author when I am looking for picture books to use with my upper elementary students, so I chose one of her hilarious books to use in this plot lesson.

Before class, I draw a basic plot diagram on an anchor chart (the black line only), and then as soon as class begins I ask the students to recall what they learned yesterday to help me label the various parts of the plot diagram.

Next, I inform them that I am going to read aloud a picture book to them, and when we are done, we are going to plot the story on our anchor chart. (This is also when I show them the book cover and tell them that Margie Palatini is my all-time favorite author of picture books because I am constantly laughing out loud when I read her books… which they are about to witness for themselves! I tell them that most kindergarteners and first graders would enjoy this book, but a lot of the humor would “go over their heads”.  As fifth graders, though, I think that they will really enjoy this book and fully appreciate the author’s humor. This usually perks my students up, and makes them become very good listeners- and it allows for interesting discussions as we read the book!) (Amazon affiliate link follows.)

After we finish the book, students help me write sentences that summarize the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution of the book on the anchor chart.

plot anchor chart

Finally, I give each student the exit ticket shown below. (Click HERE to download it for FREE!) I also set the anchor chart face-down on a table until all students have finished their exit tickets.

I ask students to independently label each box on the plot diagram with its formal name, and write a short definition to explain what typically happens during each part of the plot. After class, I scan the exit tickets to check for understanding. Students who completed the exit ticket activity with ease are allowed to tackle my plot task cards independently the next day, while the classroom teacher and I work with small groups of students who had more difficulty with the exit ticket. (Typically, the classroom teacher quickly meets with students who had one or two minor errors on the exit ticket, while I work with students who appear to need a higher level of support.)

Keep reading below to find out how I plan my 5-day study of PLOT. Feel free to check out the resources shown if you are looking for additional plot activities to do with your upper elementary and middle school students (just click on the images)!

Day 1: I show students my PLOT POWERPOINT.
activity for teaching plot

Day 2: We do the activity described above, reading Bad Boys and creating the anchor chart together.

Day 3: Students work through these PLOT TASK CARDS. Students who are ready to work independently do so, while students who need extra support work through these passages with a teacher.
activities for teaching plot

Day 4: Students read the short story, label the plot diagram, and create the foldable.
ideas for teaching plot

Day 5: Students read the short story included in this resource and identify the plot elements. (I use this as an assessment.) When finished, they assemble the craftivity.
activity for teaching plot


  1. I love picture books that older kids can relate to. I'm checking out books by this author right now -

    1. Awesome! Some of my favorites include Bad Boys (and its sequel Bad Boys Get Cookie... there is another called Bad Boys Get Henpecked that I haven't yet read), Piggie Pie (and its sequels, Zoom Broom and Broom Mates), Sweet Tooth, Goldie and the Three Hares, and Bedhead.

  2. Perfect timing! I am working on PLOT this week! I am thankful my school library had this book. I will be using this lesson! :) Thanks a million, Deb!

  3. I've never heard of this book- but I'm anxious to get it and read it! This was a very good blog post! Thanks for sharing your ideas!