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Teaching Plot Structure: The Elements of Plot


Lesson on the elements of plot is part of a series on teaching plot structure to kids and includes a free printable

As we move through this series on plot structure, make sure your young students understand the reasons for learning it.

Knowing plot structure is essential for writing creatively, but it also helps with reading.  Understanding the elements of plot can help young readers make more sense of the stories they’re enjoying.

There are 3 basic approaches to story, and all of them follow the same arc.  Let’s take a look at the elements of that arc.

Lesson on the elements of plot is part of a series on teaching plot structure to kids and includes a free printable

The 5 Elements of Plot

Let’s start by taking a look at the basic arc we talked about in last week’s post.

Nearly every story follows this basic plot arcThis is a simplified look at the 5 elements of plot in an easy-to-follow diagram.  Plot is simply the organized pattern or sequence of events that make up a story.  Each incident in the series is related to the others in a way that moves the story along.  To get a deeper understanding, let’s talk about what each element of plot really is.


Exposition is the beginning of the story.  The characters are introduced, the setting is revealed, background information is given when necessary.  Most importantly, though, this is where the main conflict is laid out.  In the 19th century, playwright Gustav Freytag termed the main conflict the complication. It is also known as the inciting incident and can be used as a subheading under Exposition.

Rising Action

Just what it sounds like, the next element of plot is the rising action.  Suspense is built, conflict is developed, and things start to get exciting.  Occuring between the Introduction and the Climax, the Rising Action is when the story gets complicated and interesting.


The climax is the moment of greatest tension in the story.  Usually a turning point, this is the moment when the main character comes facte-to-face with the conflict and often changes in some way.  Think of it as the most exciting part of the story, because this is where your heart is pounding, your eyes are devouring, and you’re wondering, “What’s going to happen?!  Will this conflict be resolved or not?”

Falling Action

The complication begins to resolve itself in the falling action.  The conflict has been met head-on and it’s time to wrap things up.  This is the sad part, because when we reach it we know the story is about to end.  I mean, it always makes me sad; I don’t know about you.  Seriously, this is where all the loose ends of the story are tied up neatly and we see what the main character has learned and how he or she has grown.


The resolution is the end of the story, the part that concludes the falling action and reveals the outcome of the conflict. The Denouement is a subheading of resolution.  It’s the part where the author leaves us to think about the book’s theme or the future possibilities of the characters.  Think ‘And they lived happily ever after.’

So now our diagram will look like this:

Detailed plot arc graphic to help kids understand the elements of plotFree Printable

Once you’ve taught your young readers about the elements of plot, use this free printable to let them practice!

Free printables to help kids learn the elements of plot

Make sure you come back next week when I’ll cover types of plot!

Love wins,


Looking for more ways to teach literature to littles?  Check out:

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: 3 Types of Story

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

Chucking the reading level can help your child learn to love to read organically

Chucking the Reading Level




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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