When you think of all the books, movies and television shows you watch, it can be very easy to identify the plot structure of the stories they tell. Most entertainment follows the same basic structure. It is a timeless formula of introduction, rising action, climax, and resolution. I challenge you to expand the concept of a plot into the planning of your lesson, not as the content but as the format of your presentation. To do this, consider overlaying the elements of a mastery teaching lesson onto a plot diagram.
As I searched for a visual of the standard plot, I came across a reimagined version of the plot diagram which much better fits the format of a mastery teaching lesson.
How do the elements of the Mastery Teaching Model mesh with the diagram of a plot?
This format is based on the research-supported Mastery Teaching Model established by Madeline Hunter with some adjustments for contemporary best teaching practices.
During the introduction of a story, the creator sets the scene and begins building the background. Major characters and situations are introduced. This is usually brief because when you tell a good story you should “show, not tell.”
The same is true for the introduction of a lesson. This is the point at which the teacher accesses prior knowledge, makes connections to earlier lessons, explores vocabulary the learners will need and sets up the purpose of the lesson.
- Anticipatory Set: a short activity or experience that sets the stage for the lesson’s objective. It can be a visual, an example problem, or a simple question. During this anticipatory set, the teacher focuses the students’ attention, organizes a framework for the ideas, skills, and information that will follow and extends the thinking of the students through an example or conundrum.
- Objective(s): establishes the objective(s) of the lesson. It makes evident what is to be learned, why it is important and establishes how mastery will be demonstrated.
The narrative hook in a story is the point at which the introduction meets with the rising action and momentum in the story begins to take over. This is when the story gets interesting, and engagement with the narrative increases. It is when those being entertained begin to realize what the story is all about and why it is important.
- Lesson Hook: technically part of the anticipatory set, for Edutainment purposes it warrants being highlighted. How will you get students to buy in and get excited about what they are going to learn? How can you appeal to their pathos (emotional appeals), logos (logical mind) and ethos (sense of right and wrong) in a way that makes the learners vest in what you are about to present to them?
The rising action begins the process of sequencing events that lead from the discovery of a conflict or problem to the story’s climax and resolution. A well-written story builds steadily, but not necessarily smoothly as facts and experiences are introduced.
- Input: here the teacher introduces vocabulary, skills and any other information the learners will need in order to make sense of the instruction. This can be done with interesting, multimedia lectures, video clips, visuals, and demonstrations.
- Modeling (“I do”): the teacher commands most of the action in this part of the lesson. It is the point at which gradual release begins. Before releasing the responsibility of instruction more and more to the students, the teacher models the skills. Students typically take notes during this portion of instruction which will inform them as they move into guided practice.
- Check for Understanding: This is done throughout the lesson, but is very important in determining when to move from modeling to guided practice. This can be done in a variety of ways from questioning to observing as students discuss or complete a short task that requires an understanding of the lesson objectives.
- Guided Practice (“We Do”): at this point, the students begin to demonstrate the level at which they grasp the content or skill being taught. They participate in application activities which are directly supervised by the teacher. During this time, the teacher circulates and corrects errors and misunderstandings while reinforcing the right actions with specific praise and feedback.
There are several different ways to describe what a story’s climax is, but in its essence, the climax is the moment of highest interest when the audience begins to realize how the conflict will resolve.
- Independent Practice (“You do”): this is the pinnacle of gradual release, wherein the learners assume responsibility for their learning and the teacher acts as a facilitator. Also known as reinforcement practice, this cements the learning and allows students to experiment with their new knowledge.
Imagine if a story simply stopped at the climax — how unrewarding! “Denouement” is a french word that translates as the untying of a knot, and it simply cannot be skipped if the story is to be complete.
- Lesson Closure: often forgotten due to time demands, the lesson closure is one of the most important parts of the lesson. Make time for it, even if you need to use a timer to do so. During the closure, new content is cemented and understandings of the objective(s) of the lesson are measured in order to inform the next steps for the teacher.
Now, Let’s P.L.O.T. Your Lesson
Pick your focus content and methods of instruction. Research lessons other educators have created and see if you can embed their methods. What media can you use? You would be amazed at the WebQuests and videos others have already created around your content. Use this planning time to over-plan; you never know when students are going to take to new content and show mastery quickly. Also, research alternative ways to differentiate and scaffold the instruction.
Lesson Plan like you are creating a video or production. Make notes on what materials (props) you need for the presentation. Use the plot sequence above to design a lesson that includes the gradual release of responsibility from the teacher to the students. I have noticed a growing trend in depending upon packaged curricula to do the lesson planning for teachers. The authors of those programs don’t know your audience. Plan separately and cite the plan embedded within the curricula.
Observe the impact and outcomes of your lesson. What are the students responding to? How can you leverage their gifts and deficits to plan your next lesson? If you are fearful of asking your students for feedback on the lesson, you are missing a great opportunity. Find a way to be vulnerable and elicit direct feedback from your audience. It is an incredible way to adapt your style to meet the needs of a specific audience.
Take the data, feedback and personal reflections to make data-driven decisions for your future lessons. What parts of the lesson did the students connect with? Did anything fall flat? What was the spread of the data for objective mastery? Who needs more instruction and who needs extension activities? (Great information for planning your assignments at work stations (centers) if you use them.)
This all sounds like a lot, but when you get in your groove, PLOTting your lessons with the key characteristics of a plot diagram should improve your engagement and the students’ retention of the new learning. Now, get to PLOTing!
- “Rethinking the Plot Diagram.” The WriteAtHome Blog Rethinking the Plot Diagram, blog.writeathome.com/index.php/2012/10/rethinking-the-plot-diagram/.
- “Madeline Hunter Lesson Plan Model.” The Second Principle, thesecondprinciple.com/essential-teaching-skills/models-of-teaching/madeline-hunter-lesson-plan-model/.