I think many times we make concepts more difficult than necessary. A climax map is an easy and easily understandable visual tool to teach plot. Modeling this during read-aloud is a great time to emphasize teaching points and key events.
Start by drawing an upside-down V with a line on either side. The left line is labeled: exposition (a.k.a. known as the beginning of a story), the top of the point is the climax (the highest or most exciting point of a story, often where the conflict reaches its peak). The right line at the bottom is the resolution or denouement (don't you love that word?!)
As we read a story or a novel, we stop to discuss what important events lead up to the actual climax. Various students decide on which events they want to illustrate and then put it on the exposition or rising action side. This is terrific for teaching sequencing and determining key events (versus minor details).
This particular climax map is from the book, Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. If are not familiar with this book, you MUST read it! It's the delightful adventure of nine-year-old Roxie Warbler, who knows just what to do if she finds herself buried in an avalanche, but she doesn't know what to do about Helvetia's Hooligans. The gang at her school has chosen her to be their target, thanks to her ears, which stick out like the handles on a sugar bowl. It is funny, suspenseful, and filled with adventure. There is a wonderful twist to the story and your whole class will be rooting for Roxie!
There is always a lot of meaningful discussion, as students express their views on whether an event is important enough to be included on our climax map. This also really helps when teaching what to include in a summary.
How do you teach plot? I'd love to hear your ideas!