Part of Unit: Writing for the Screen
Lesson Plan Overview / Details
This lesson is designed to either be executed in one 90-100 minute block period or two 50 minute blocks. It introduces the concept of narrative plot and act structure within film and television. Students are first encouraged to reflect upon the idea of story in their own lives, followed by a screening of a familiar television series, "Hey Arnold" where they will be prompted to make observations about the structure of the story. This leads up to an introduction to the general vocabulary involved in the elements of story and three-act structure. They will have the opportunity to create their own metaphors for the diagram (activity #1) and finally apply the plot points to the structure of the episode viewed at the beginning of class (activity #2). To end the lesson, the students present both their metaphors and their plot points to the class.
- One Block Period
- 90 - 100 Minutes
- Two Periods
- 50 Minutes
California Career and Technical Education Standards
California Academic Content Standards (Reinforced)
- ELA.8.R.NAGT.3.2 Evaluate the structural elements of the plot (e.g., subplots, parallel episodes,...3
- VA.9-12 (proficient).AP.IMC.1.6 Compare and contrast similar styles of artwork done in electronic media with tho...
- VA.9-12 (proficient).CRA.VL.5.3 Compare and contrast the ways in which different media (television, newspapers, ...
English Language Development Standards
Objectives and Goals
- Students will learn and understand the vocabulary associated with the elements of story.
- Students will learn and understand the structure of the narrative three-act diagram and how it applies to television.
- Students will learn and understand how to apply the elements of story to the three-act diagram.
Activities in this Lesson
- Warm-Up: Reflection - Hooks / Set
"Warm Ups" are usually made up of written responses either in the form of reflection, comprehension or analysis. Upon entering the classroom and taking their seat, they are prompted to participate in the “Warm Up.”
When the students enter, the following prompt will be up on the board (written or projected) and students will beginning writing.
The students will, in their notebooks, reflect and write on the following prompt:
1. Describe your favorite story from your childhood. Discuss, specifically, what makes this story strong. Think about the main characters, the conflict and the most exciting moments.
Students share responses voluntarily.
- Screening of Hey Arnold episode, "Harold's Kitty" - Demo / Modeling
Show a short episode from the television series, Hey Arnold, “Harold’s Kitty” (Netflix, Instant Play) or any other short narrative example (10-15 minutes maximum). Prepare students to take notes on the following thoughts while screening the episode.
1. Describe the main characters and how they are introduced.
2. Describe the primary conflicts.
3. Describe the most exciting, intense part of the show.
4. Describe how the show ends.
- Small Group Share - Group Work
Following the screening of the episode, students are put into small groups of three to discuss the four thoughts listed above. The student groups are prompted to delegate a speaker and will then share answers to each of the following questions with the entire group. Teacher will record student responses on the white board/smart board.
Following the shared discussion, which communicates the student’s prior knowledge on the topic of “story”, teacher then begins a short lecture on the elements of story and three-act structure so that the students can then begin to connect the specific elements to the observations made in the screening.
- Elements of Story: Three-Act Structure - Lecture
The beginning of the lecture discusses the origin of narrative structure, referencing Aristotle's dramatic arc and Seven Golden Rules of Successful Storytelling. Aristotle concludes that in ancient Greek theater, the following seven elements were included:
3. Theme or Idea
4. Speech (Dialogue)
5. Chorus (Music)
6. Decor (Production Design)
7. Spectacle (Special Effects)
Question: Compare and contrast the above process with today's process in visual storytelling (movies, television, documentary, etc)
The next phase of the lecture is communicated through a multimedia presentation called “Elements of Story”.
The presentation begins with a look at the origin of the narrative structure diagram of the three-act structure and then proceeds with a breakdown of the following elements of story and how they fit into the three-act structure:
Act 1: Exposition, Inciting Incident
Act 2: Rising Action, Turning Point
Act 3: Falling Action, Resolution
Following a description of each element, the students are taken back to a slide of the diagram, so they get a visual of how the element fits into the diagram. Following each slide of the diagram, they are then taken to a broken image of the Super Mario Bros’s video game at the end of level one. Teacher then explains the parallel between “Mario climbing the stairs to the final prize” and Act One (Exposition and Inciting Incident). The presentation continues in the same pattern: Act #, Elements of Story characteristic to the Act, Diagram, Super Mario Bros. Diagram. Based on student interests and culture, a different metaphorical representations/diagram can be used as an example.
Following the presentation of acts and vocabulary associated with each act, the students are then presented with the term “Metaphor”.
Teacher leads a discussion in the definition of metaphor and explicitly discusses how the Super Mario Bros. diagram is a metaphor for the three-act structure diagram.
- Elements of Story Power Point [ Download ]
- Creating a Metaphor - Group Work
Following the presentation, the teacher then prompts the students to get back into their small groups of three and both identify and sketch another possible metaphor for the 3-act diagram.
Teacher hands out a copy of a blank diagram. The students then get back into their small groups of three and apply their knowledge of the “Hey Arnold” plot to each plot point on the diagram.
Check for Understanding:
The teacher once again circles the room, monitoring the discussion and checking for understanding. If needed, the teacher will revisit the diagram and re-explain elements where needed.
The students are prompted to include written rationale for their choices in assigning elements to points on the diagram.
- Three-Act Structure Blank Diagram [ Download ]
- Formative Assessment - Closure
The final activity involves the student groups presenting their diagrams and rationale to the class.
Closing Activity (5-7)
Discussion of the final plot breakdown is reserved for the end of all the student presentations and is teacher led.
- Formative Assessment - Independent Practice
Either hand out another copy of the blank three-act structure diagram or post a digital copy on class website. Assign the students independent practice in breaking down plot in a 15-20 minute short film, television show, animation of their choice.
- Assessment Types:
- Writing Samples,
This lesson is followed by several similar lessons showing examples of narrative structure in different formats: short films, live action and animated examples, documentary/reality. Also, lessons following this will build upon plot structure including the discussion of character, sub-plot and central theme.
The final summative assessment associated with this mini-unit is a written assignment, called "The Plot Breakdown". The students watch a feature length narrative film and independently break down the act structure, plot points, characters, sub-plots and central theme of the story.