How to Make Plot Structure VISIBLE for Your Readers

Updated: Jan 22

Making plot structure VISIBLE for your readers means using The Story Mountain!

Using a Story Mountain to help readers understand the elements of a narrative and plot structure is an easy and effective way to make plot structure VISIBLE!

If your students are like me, they need to "see it to believe it"!

Let's look at how the plot of a story unfolds using the elements of a narrative.

Large Story Mountain Wall Chart Student Made


The plot structure of a story illustrates the building of tension as events happen through the course of a narrative.

A narrative begins with the author “hooking” the reader in the introduction as he/she introduces the main characters and where and when the story is set—setting

The setting can influence the events of the story and directly affect the characters.

In the introduction, a conflict or problem is revealed with which the main character(s) is (are) struggling.

The characters are involved in a series of events directly related to the conflict as tension builds in the rising action events until the turning point is reached.

This big moment triggers continuing events after the climax (turning point). This series of events in the falling action leads to a resolution.

This resolution is how the problem or conflict is resolved.

Once the problem is solved, the story reaches its conclusion.

Using a story mountain organizer as an anchor chart, large wall chart, in student readers' notebooks, on post its, on the sidewalk, on the playground or wherever will only help students visualize the structure of a narrative and understand how all the elements of story come together and depend on each other.


Using a graphic organizer in the form of a story mountain helps to illustrate the building of tension to the big moment (climax) of a narrative.

Readers need practice with plot structure using this simple little graphic organizer. This practice helps readers determine how the tension in a narrative builds and develops. Readers will be able to SEE how characters develop and change throughout the plot of a story.

Older readers may even revise and alter the story mountain to reveal more than one big moment in a story. I've had readers convince me that our mountain needed two big moments and their argument WITH TEXT EVIDENCE was able to convince me. Reading is about interpretation and providing text evidence to support your thinking.

As students are able to SEE how a story develops, this kind of thinking will become more natural within their own independent reading making their discussions and written responses more focused on detail and interpretations using text evidence.

Students are able to create story mountains in their Readers' Notebooks for narratives they are reading independently.

Better yet, when you use story mountains in reading to dissect the plot structure of a narrative, it will help to develop student writing because they will be building their narratives using their knowledge of plot structure.

Using story mountains to teach plot structure is a WIN-WIN! It works in reading and transfers into independent student writing.

Until next time...

If you are interested in using story mountains to make plot structure visible, check out this product in my Literacy Treasures Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The blank and labeled graphic organizers pictured above

are included along with other valuable plot structure resources.

Just click the image below to check it out.

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Here at Literacy Treasures, I LOVE to talk about reading and writing and share with teachers all that I've learned about what it takes to build strong readers and writers. I have immersed myself in the research of Lucy Calkins, Jennifer Serravallo, Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller, Carl Anderson, Gay Su Pinnell, Irene Fountas and so many others.  Every resource, strategy, tool, minilesson and teaching tip that is shared on Literacy Treasures is rooted in this research