English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Identity
  • Plot
  • Race
  • Short Story
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Developing Plot

    Developing Plot


    In this lesson, students will define terms related to plot and will “map” the plots of familiar stories. Using “The Tell-Tale Heart” again, they will discuss how writers build and develop plot in their stories.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Determine how you will put students in groups to find definitions and in pairs to share their plot maps.
    • Decide whether you will survey the class to determine which of the terms are already familiar to students.
    • Plan pairs or small groups for the story mapping activity in Task 3.

    Literary Definitions

    • Discuss and check for understanding.
      • ELL: A possible way to support ELL students during this process is to display definitions of these terms on the board or in another easily accessible place that they can reference during the rest of the lesson.
    • If it will be helpful to your students, you can create a graphic organizer of a map or diagram of story structure to provide visual support for learners who are working on understanding the different elements of plot and how they work together to create a coherent and compelling story.


    • Working in groups, find the definitions of the following words.
      • exposition
      • rising action
      • climax
      • falling action
      • denouement/resolution

    Open Notebook

    Then discuss the terms with the whole class and agree on a definition for each.

    Tell-Tale Heart Climax

    • You may choose to show a completed plot map for Romeo and Juliet to aid student understanding.
    • Have students share their ideas from their writing with the class.

    Work Time

    The climax of a story can most easily be defined as the turning point. It is often the most exciting moment, but can also be subtle; regardless, it is the most important piece of the story because the rest of the story is a direct result of the climax, and often the main character or characters are changed for the better or for the worse.

    For instance, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , the climax of the story is when Romeo’s friend Mercutio is killed by Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt. Because of this, Romeo kills Tybalt, Romeo is banished, and, eventually, both Romeo and Juliet die.

    • What do you think is the climax of “The Tell-Tale Heart”?
    • Explain your reasoning with evidence from the text.

    Open Notebook

    Story Plot Map, Round 1

    • If time permits, have students brainstorm as a whole class and generate a large list of stories, films, etc., that they could then use for this activity.
      • SWD: Take time to model this process with at least one familiar story or movie. Use the Think Aloud technique and encourage student participation before releasing students to work independently.
    • Ideally, each student will choose a different story to map.
    • You could ask a couple of volunteers to share their pyramids with the rest of the group.


    A plot map (or diagram) is a visual representation of the various parts of a story.

    • On the plot map, identify setting, characters, problem/conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and closure from a fairytale, film, play, novel, or short story of your choice.

    Then share and discuss your plot map with a partner.

    Story Plot Map, Round 2

    • Students could complete this assignment for “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but they can also use any other short story if they prefer.


    • Complete a plot map identifying setting, characters, problem/conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and closure with a second story.