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As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a plot! This particularly holds true in the classroom. After speaking with numerous elementary school teachers, I have found that everyone has their own preferred method to teach the same concept. All of the teachers I spoke with introduced their preferred plot diagram and asked students to complete a simple worksheet reinforcing their outline. With the power of Storyboard That, you and your students can take these charts to the next level.

For high school and middle school, see our article on plot diagram.

Parts of a Story Lesson Plan

Plot Definition

Plot is the main events of a story, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence of events. Various genres or types of literature may contain different sequences, or use different terminology. This article is intended for elementary school teachers teaching the parts of a story to their students.

Most Common Parts of Plot


The beginning of a work of literature; the setting and characters are introduced.


The "conflict" or "problem" is the primary obstacle that the main character must overcome.


The sequence of events or attempts to overcome the problem.


The turning point of the story.


How the problem was resolved.


The ending of the story, the lesson or moral learned.

Grade Level: K-5


Although this lesson covers multiple age ranges, below are Common Core State Standards for Grade 5. Please see your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.

  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
  • ELA-Literacy.RL.5.3: Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).


Students will be able to explain the parts of a story using details from the text.

Ways to Skin a Plot!

Parts of a Story - Grades K-2

BME: Beginning, Middle, End

For young readers and listeners graphing the parts of a story are simple with a "BME". In this scenario, students might be reading themselves, or being read to. With the direction of their instructor, they will fill out a three-column chart, aloud, as a class. Each column will contain details from the Beginning, Middle, and End of the story. This activity for young readers is excellent to help reinforce sequencing!

Students can easily learn, to summarize most stories with a systematic approach. The “B”, or beginning, of the summary should stop after the problem is introduced. The “M”, or middle, should stop after the climax. Finally, the “E”, or end, should include and explain the resolution/conclusion, i.e., how the problem was solved.

Parts of a Story - Grades 3-5

Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then

In this five-step process, students are asked to recall specific aspects of the story they read. “Somebody” asks students to recall and describe the main character. “Wanted” requires students to evaluate what the character wanted to do, or was trying to achieve. The “But” is the conflict of the story. It is the inevitable problem the main character runs into, and must face and fix before getting what they want. For the “So”, students tell the ways that the character attempted to solve the “But”. It is important to note that sometimes the main character makes multiple attempts, failing on their first few tries. Finally, students get to the “Then” of the story. “Then” refers to the attempt to solve the problem that worked, this is also known as the resolution.

Parts of a Story - Grades 3-5

What’s the S.T.O.R.Y?

Another similar five-step diagram is "S.T.O.R.Y." This is a great acronym to use in class to help students remember the sequence of events and parts of a story. It is very similar to "somebody, wanted, but, so, then". The acronym stands for:


Setting: Time and Place


Talking Characters


Oops! There’s a Problem


How is it Resolved?


Yes! Problem Solved

Parts of a Story - Grades 3-5

Event Arch

The event arch is a plot diagram broken down into straightforward language that is perfect for primary school grades. Notice that the event arch and the plot diagram are very similar. The main difference is the terminology used, and the substitutions of "events" for "rising action". For primary grade levels the use of words like introduction, problem, climax, resolution, and conclusion. I have also seen some diagrams that overlay the S.T.O.R.Y acronym or "Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then" to their outline.

Whichever way works the best with your classroom is recommended; after all, there is more than one way to teach plot structure!

Add a Presentation

Have students attach their storyboard to a paper requiring an in-depth explanation of an element throughout the novel, or couple this assignment with a presentation. See our article on how to present a storyboard.

Related Activities

How to Scaffold Story Analysis for English Language Learners


Pre-Teach Key Vocabulary

Identify and pre-teach key vocabulary words related to the story and its elements. These words could include terms related to the setting, characters, conflict, or specific literary devices. Use visuals, gestures, real-life examples, and context to help students understand the meanings of the words.


Activate Background Knowledge

Activate students' prior knowledge by discussing topics related to the story. Help students make connections between their own experiences and the themes or settings of the story.


Provide Visual Support

Use visual aids such as pictures, diagrams, or story maps to visually represent the different parts of the story. Display visuals during reading or storytelling to support students' comprehension and analysis.


Model Think Alouds

Model think-alouds by verbalizing your thought processes while analyzing the story. Show students how to identify story elements, make predictions, ask questions, and infer meanings based on context.


Collaborative Story Analysis

Engage students in collaborative activities to analyze the story elements together. Use graphic organizers or worksheets to guide their analysis and encourage peer discussion and sharing of ideas.


Provide Sentence Frames and Language Support

Offer sentence frames or sentence starters that students can use to express their ideas and opinions about the story. Provide language support through scaffolding techniques like word banks, sentence examples, or sentence stems.

Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching Parts of A Story

What are some common mistakes to avoid when using storyboard cards in the classroom?

Some common mistakes include using too many or too few cards, using unclear or confusing images, and not providing enough guidance or support to help students complete the cards effectively. Another common mistake is including too many details, which can overwhelm students and detract from the main focus of the storyboard.

How can I ensure that the storyboard cards I create are appropriate for the level of my students?

When creating storyboard cards, it's important to keep in mind the age and reading level of your students. Use age-appropriate language and images, and consider breaking down complex concepts into simpler, more easily digestible parts. It can also be helpful to create different sets of cards for different skill levels so that students can work at their own pace and level of understanding.

How can storyboard cards help students who struggle with writing?

Storyboard cards provide a visual aid that can help students who struggle with writing to better organize their thoughts and ideas. By breaking down a story into its component parts and illustrating them with pictures, students can more easily see how events in the story relate to one another and how they contribute to the overall plot.

Can storyboard cards be used to teach other subjects besides literature?

Yes, storyboard cards can be a useful tool for teaching any subject that involves a narrative or sequential process. For example, they could be used to illustrate the steps in a scientific experiment or the stages of a historical event.

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