Using a story arc helps kids understand story elements. That makes it great for summarizing and finding a theme. Furthermore, it establishes a reading-writing connection. Once kids make sense of the arc of a story, their narrative writing will improve. What a handy little tool!
How important is this? It’s revolutionized my classroom. So I’m sharing this post, three videos, and resources with you.
Introduction to the Story Arc
Narrative writing can be graphed. Let’s take a look at story parts.
- Beginning (Exposition) – Character, setting, and goal are introduced.
- Rising Action – The character encounters an obstacle (or two). He/she works to overcome the obstacle and meet the goal.
- Climax – This is the most exciting part of the story. The problem is resolved.
- Falling Action – The author wraps up the story. The action falls naturally.
For younger children, you can use a jingle: somebody wanted but then so.
- Somebody – character
- Wanted – goal
- But – obstacle
- Then – character works to overcome obstacle
- So – resolution
Click here to watch a three-minute video. You’ll also find a free download of the story arc template.
As kids fill in the template, they’re actually summarizing. Therefore, they’ll find everything they need for a fantastic summary right at their fingertips:
- Character (Somebody)
- Goal/Motivation (Wanted)
- Obstacle (But)
- Steps Taken (Then)
- Outcome/Resolution (So)
I’ve created a video for this topic too. Click here to watch it.
Finding a Theme
Kids struggle with theme. But with a story arc, it’s a snap! Just look at how the character’s actions affected the outcome. Here’s the video for the story arc and theme. Take a look at the example. You’ll see how easy it really is.
In my classroom, we begin with a Cinderella activity. First, kids explore story elements this interactive website from Annenberg Learning. Next, I introduce the story arc. Finally, I put kids in small groups. Each group reads a Cinderella picture book (folklore or parody). They plot the elements on a poster. A piece of yarn represents the story arc. Index cards show the elements.
As the year progresses, we return to the story arc. We use it to summarize and find theme. It serves as a great springboard for reading discussions. The story arc improves kids’ writing too! When they understand the story arc, their writing is no longer flat. Instead of going on and on, their narratives take shape – the shape of the story arc!