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Teaching Plot Structure: 3 Types of Story


Understanding the 3 baskic approaches to story can help kids understand plot structure

Reading with kids and encouraging kids to read is the  most important thing we can do for their education.

The end.

Just kidding.

But you don’t want them to just read, do you?  Because as amazing as that is, you also want them to be able to understand what they’re reading and prepare them for college, when reading (let’s face it) is not so simple anymore.

Teaching plot structure with story types

Knowing the 3 basic approaches to story can help kids begin to understand plot structure and the free printable can help them track story types in the books they read

Teaching plot structure can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you break it down into small bits.  And it won’t only help your young readers comprehend better, it will help budding writers hone their craft.

It doesn’t really get any better than that.  (I mean, in a humble Lit Mama’s opinion.)

Once your child understands story types, she can watch for them as she reads.  This will help to identify the Elements of Plot, which I’ll cover next week.

3 basic types of story

Nearly all plots follow a specific arc:

  • Exposition (beginning)
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution (end)

Nearly every story follows this basic plot arc

There are several ways to get from beginning to end, however, and whichever one the author chooses impacts the story and how it’s understood by the reader greatly.

There are 3 basic story types if you break them down to bare bones.  Sure, there are variations, but stories usually fall into one of the three.  When we talk about plot structure, we’re talking about how the story is laid out: the order in which events happen and how those events are introduced into the overall story.

The Forward March

The forward march is just what it sounds like: The story is told in a chronological order that moves forward in time.  In other words, the story goes from A to B to C to D to E to F, etc., with no stopping or looking back.  The driving force behind this structure is What Happens Next.  Forward motion toward the future, full speed ahead.

The Flashback

A flashback occurs when the story shifts from the present action to a story from the past.  Flashbacks can give the reader insight into the protagonist’s secrets or personal problems and enlighten the reader as to a character’s personality or explain why certain actions are taking place.  The Flashback method usually moves the character back in time and keeps him there for long stretches.

The Zig-Zag

This one combines the first two.  The story moves forward at a steady pace but periodically a story from the past is inserted to clarify a plot point.  The zig-zag method doesn’t keep the character in the past for as long as the flashback method.  It is more likely to use mini-flashbacks to fill in details for the present scene.

You’ve probably read every one of these story types at some point or other.  Now you know what they’re called!  If you want to help your young students practice recognizing story types, print out this free printable and have them track the next book they read (it works with both picture books and chapter books).

Free Printable

Free download-plot structure printable to teach the 3 basic approaches to story

Be sure to come back next week when I’ll show you how to teach the elements of plot!

Love wins,


Looking for more ways to teach literature?  Check out:

These 4 steps will have you teaching literary theme like a boss and your kids finally understanding how to find the theme of any novel. Includes a 5-page printable to help students along.

4 Simple Steps to Teaching Literary Theme

Even if you read aloud in your homeschool or classroom, don't get so caught up in the story that you forget to read with purpose. This free Character Map printable is great for helping your students read with purpose to understand the characters they're reading about.

Reading with purpose

A character time capsule is a hands-on learning experience to help kids understand the characters in the books they're reading.

How to Make a Character Time Capsule

Take these steps to create a novel brochure as an alternative to a book report. So much more fun for kids!

How to Create a Novel Brochure Book Report



KT Brison
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About KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.
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  1. Thanks for sharing with us at Love to Learn; our favorite flash back story is the Candymakers!
    Mother of 3 recently posted…Weekly Wrap- Up: The Week We Officially Started Back to SchoolMy Profile

  2. What a wonderful resource! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
    Tina at Mommynificent recently posted…Booknificent Thursday Link Up Party #216My Profile

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