Describe how changes in characters, settings, and plots interact over the course of a text (Inclusive Big Idea #3)

What are students learning?

Reading Literature

Grade 7: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #3: Describe how changes in characters, settings, and plots interact over the course of a text

Standard: Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot). RL.7.3

How could I teach this?

Think about how instructional strategies and activities can give students multiple ways to engage with learning. One way won’t work for all, so how can you remove and reduce barriers for all students?

  • Anchor Text: Use an anchor text such as The Giver by Lois Lowrey. As students read or listen to the text, ask them to consider how Jonas interacts with his community (i.e., the setting). Encourage students to determine if, as he begins to receive more knowledge from the Giver, his perception of his community changes. Learn more about accessing grade-level text in this TIP Sheet.
  • Reflective Journal: As students read or listen to a text, ask them to record (write, audio record, video, etc.) events as they unfold in the text. After each day of reading the text, they should spend the last 5 minutes doing a Quick Write reflection (which may look like writing words, creating images, using AAC to dictate reflections) about how the events are unfolding. This is a way for them to keep track of their thinking as they continue to read.
  • Character Timelines: Ask your students to create a timeline of story characters. Students should plot out (through writing, online cartoon programs, drawing or placing words/images/objects) different events that involved the character as it unfolded. For each event, the student should include how the character relates to the conflict and resolution. Make it more engaging by pulling screencaps from the movie version of a text!
  • Grand Conversations:
    • To delve deeper into analyzing characters’ interactions throughout a story as they relate to conflict and resolution, conduct a grand conversation with the class. Sitting in a circle, or sitting within a small group, pose questions about the character that your students would answer. Questions may include:
      • What did the characters do throughout the story?
      • How did the character react to a certain event?
      • How did the character feel at the end?
    • Consider communication needs by collaborating with a speech language pathologist to ensure that all students can actively participate in the conversation.
  • Think Aloud: The purpose for asking students questions about the texts is to get them into the habit of analyzing stories as they read by themselves. To model this, read aloud a book in front of the class. Then, periodically, stop and talk about the character from the story. Explain how the character’s interactions influenced the conflict and resolution.
  • Setting Maps: During or after reading or listening to a story, students can create a map of the major settings from the story, including some small images of a major event at each site then reflect on how the setting is influenced by the characters or events.
  • Movie Posters: Students can draw or create a movie poster using drag and drop or physically velcroing images and words to a poster that presents one of the major settings and events from the story then reflect on how the setting is influenced by the characters or events.
  • Story Map: During or after reading or listening to a text, students can write or draw out the major events of the story. This could be a linear timeline with pictures and/or text, or integrate pictures and text into something resembling a comic strip and then reflect on how the plot is influenced by the characters.
  • Story Organizer: Students can fill in a graphic organizer or plot diagram that captures the main events of the story then reflect on how the plot is influenced by the characters. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.

Don’t stop here! Remember to reduce barriers for all students.

Make reducing barriers a process - take a few minutes to think about your process! Is there a barrier related to:

  • interest or engagement? Think about how to incorporate student’s lived experiences, culture, and interests… 
  • background knowledge? Think about how to highlight key ideas and define key vocabulary… 
  • showing what they know? Think about having options for how they use learning tools and technology to communicate…

For example, one possible barrier is the amount of information that the lesson requires a student to hold in mind.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • use objects, velcroed sentence strips, or choices on AAC to complete a graphic organizer
  • use collaborative online templates students can add to and collaborate to build an analysis
  • use objects in experience books, schedules, routines, and calendars to reduce cognitive load
  • allow for options in how much sensory input occurs at once

Use these Inclusive Strategies to help reduce barriers.

Tell me more about this Inclusive Big Idea (I need a refresher)

Brush up on the content of this Inclusive Big Idea. It will help you and your colleagues to understand and teach this content better.

  • What Are “Story Elements”?
    • Story elements, sometimes called story grammar, are the parts of a story. These elements develop the story in a logical way to enable readers to easily follow the text. In this big idea, focus on character, setting, and main events. Model for students how to analyze relationships and use key details.
    • Some Story Elements:
      • characters- the individuals in the story
      • setting- the location and time period where the story takes place
      • plot- what happens in the story; has a clear beginning, middle, and end
      • problem/conflict- the incident that sets the story in motion
      • solution/resolution- how the character(s) solved/fixed the problem or conflict
  • What Is a “Plot Diagram”?
    • A plot diagram in literature is basically a map of the book or story. It includes a beginning, middle, and ending for simpler stories. More complex stories for advanced readers will include the introduction, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement (final outcome) as represented in Freytag’s Pyramid. The most common graphic organizer used to analyze the plot of a text looks like this:
Line diagram with a upward sloped diagonal line that connects to a falling vertical line. Along the rising line are Exposition/Beginning, Rising Action, and Climax. Then Falling Action and Resolution fall down.


Looking for more suggestions? Target student common misconceptions, build on interdisciplinary links, and implement strategies and supports across multiple lessons or units.

Go beyond the specific standard! These examples can spark ideas to generalize related skills from the content to real-world experiences for all students.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Story Elements: Summarizing a text should include all aspects of story elements. In addition, some texts are considered inconsiderate texts and do not provide enough to allow students to fully understand all story elements and must fill in the gaps with prior experiences and personal preferences, leading to problems with comprehension.
  • Story Elements: Students may need to be taught that there can be multiple plots, settings, and characters affecting the story to varying degrees.
  • Setting: Setting can include real or fictional places, as well as time periods (e.g., historical fiction).
  • Reader Response: Some students may believe there is only one way to interpret a text. Students need to consider how their prior knowledge and perspective influence their understanding of a story.

Explore other Inclusive Big Ideas to think about the content you are teaching. How can you connect what you are teaching now to what has been taught before or what will be taught in the future?

Other TIES resources:

Inclusive Big Ideas: Standards-based resources for inclusive classrooms | TIES Center

The Inclusive Big Ideas were adapted from resources created by the NCSC Project , a federal grant from the US Department of Education (PR/Award #: H373X100002), However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

Find another Inclusive Big Idea

Grade Level
Subject Area