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5 Video Storytelling Options When Teaching the Plot Diagram

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I find that starting the school year with a short story unit that focuses on the elements of fiction is the best starting point to give my students the building blocks they need to be successful in my English classes. In the first lesson, I explain types of plot and how a plot diagram is structured – check out this freebie to use with your students!

While the rest of the unit is full of short stories, I enjoy using video storytelling in this first lesson to help ease my students into the process of analyzing texts, and provide different mediums for students to engage with. After explaining the different parts of the plot diagram, I play a video that tells a story and instruct students to watch and record each part of the plot in a blank diagram.

Here are five video storytelling options to use when teaching the plot diagram. 

1. PIXAR SHORTS

Pixar Short films are great to use when teaching plot structure because they are only a few minutes long but tell an entire story. Students should also be able to clearly identify the different parts of the plot diagram in these classroom-friendly films.

Some of my favorites to use in my class are: 

  • Lifted – An overconfident teen alien attempts to abduct a sleeping farmer only to realize how difficult the process is.
  • Bao – A Chinese mother suffering from empty nest syndrome gets a second chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings comes to life
  • Presto – Presto the magician neglects to feed his rabbit and soon finds out that he’s not the only one with a few tricks up his sleeve.

2. TROPFEST SHORT FILMS

Tropfest is the biggest short film festival in the world, and a search for this on Youtube will yield plenty of options for the classroom on a variety of topics.

Three videos I would recommend for teaching plot structure: 

  • Cargo – a father must get his baby to safety before turning into a zombie
  • Two-Piece – feeling awkward wearing a two-piece bathing suit, a young girl learns to have confidence in herself
  • Revive – a man stops outside the window of a sick child every day to cheer him up

3. MR. BEAN EPISODES

Mr. Bean episodes are a lot of fun to watch because they rely on a lot of slapstick comedy that will have your students chuckling. Because the title character rarely speaks, students can focus on the action, making it easier to figure out each part of the plot diagram as it relates to the events happening.

Two episodes that my students have loved:

  • At The Swimming Pool – Mr. Bean is too scared to jump from a diving board
  • The Exam – Mr. Bean panics when he realizes he studied the wrong topics for an exam

4. MUSIC VIDEOS

Music videos can be a fun way to practice identifying plot structure and students will love that they get to listen to songs in class.

The key is finding music videos that tell a clear story. Here are some classroom-friendly options: 

  • You Belong With Me -Taylor Swift – A studious band member pines for the popular boy next door
  • Havana – Camilla Cabello – Tired of her granddaughter staying inside watching telenovelas, a grandmother encourages her granddaughter to go out and start living life
  • The One That Got Away – Katy Perry – An old woman thinks about a lost love

5. THE SIMPSONS "TREEHOUSE OF HORROR" EPISODES

Every year before Halloween, The Simpsons puts out an episode called, “Treehouse of Horror,” which depicts two or three short stories within their usual half hour timeframe. These work great for plot retelling because they contain a full story, but are under ten minutes each so you can play one or more depending on how much time you have. They are also spooky and weird, which is usually a huge engagement factor for students.

Because these are Halloween episodes they do contain some gory scenes that may be triggering for some students. Three of my recommendations for classroom appropriate episodes are: 

  • Wiz Kids (Treehouse of Horror XII) – a parody of Harry Potter
  • The Raven (Treehouse of Horror I) – an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”
  • Time and Punishment (Treehouse of Horror V) – an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder”

What are some videos that you love using to teach the plot diagram? Comment below or join the discussion on Instagram!

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