The Problem Solving Teacher

Simple Little Teacher’s Guide to the Expository Writing Essay in 5 Easy Steps

There are four types of writing that teachers need to teach each school year: narrative, persuasive, descriptive, and expository writing. Expository writing is being pushed more and more in schools as part of college readiness.  The Common Core is asking schools, teachers, and students to be better at expository writing so students will be better prepared for college. 

Why I Like Assigning an Expository Writing Essay

I liked assigning expository writing essays to my students because it allowed them to practice so many skills in writing.  My essay topics usually came from other parts of the curriculum.  While my students were reading The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 I assigned an expository writing essay on events from the Civil Rights Movement 1960s.  This assignment allowed my students to expand their knowledge on the civil rights movements so they would understand the book better.  At the same time, they practice reading comprehension skills while reading their sources, gathering text evidence, organizing information, and writing.

The Overwhelm of an Expository Writing Essay

There are many skills that students learn and practice while writing expository essays, which is why teachers love it.  However, think about all of that work from the students’ perspective.  It’s an overwhelming amount of work.  We want to help our students be successful and even have fun while writing an expository essay.

Expository Writing and Its Several Names 

Expository writing is writing that exposes facts or informs the reader.  The goal of expository writing is to deepen the reader’s understanding of the topic.  Expository writing is fact-based and presented in a logically organized way.  The writer is objective, meaning they keep their opinion out of the writing.

Expository writing is also called:

  • informational writing
  • informative writing
  • research writing
  • explanatory writing

Some More Great Articles About the Expository Writing Essay

Why Do Students Need to Learn Expository Writing?

We use expository writing every day.  We read road signs, recipes, directions, instructions, and so much more. We write grocery lists, directions, and emails.  It’s one of the most common types of writing we encounter and use in our lives.  

Expository writing also helps students show what they know and understand so teachers can evaluate them. Students deepen their understanding of a topic when they are writing about it.  They research for information and organize it in a meaningful way, and then explain it to others.  Of course, expository writing helps them learn more and express their knowledge.  

I have been involved in gymnastics my whole life, even though I was not very good.  When I started coaching in middle school I started to explain the skills to others, and suddenly my own gymnastics skills improved.  Expository writing has a similar effect.

Expository writing is also a key communication tool in life.  We use expository writing in job applications, college applications, emails, and so much more.  

Here are some tips to help you successfully teach expository writing.

Pick Meaningful Expository Writing Essay Topics

Research has shown again and again that students learn better when they are fully engaged.  How do we engage students?  Pick topics that are meaningful to them as much as possible.  Let students choose their topics too.  The bigger their role in choosing the topic the more engaged they will be. 

There will be times that you must have your students write about other topics that you pick, but they will appreciate that they get options at least some of the time.  If they are more engaged in learning when they choose their topics, what they learn will flood their writing even if they don’t get to choose. 

How to Make Writing an Expository Writing Essays Fun

It’s hard to believe that expository writing can be fun, but it’s true.  Let me know what other ideas you have used in your classroom in the comments.

Explore Student Interests

We just talked about picking meaningful topics.  Which can be a strategy you use within some other subject criteria.  For example, if your class is studying Ancient Egypt then you can let them pick which part of Egypt they want to study.  This gives them some choice, but still, within the topic, you need to cover.  

You can also have students explore their interests by basically giving them full control of the topic.  Do they love skateboarding, dance, art, or dinosaurs?  Let them have complete control of the topic and learn more about something they love.  This will also make grading far more interesting for you because you will read about so many different things.

Expository Writing Games

Students love playing games and you can help them learn expository writing through games.  Here are a few ideas.

  1. Students can practice process expository writing by putting the steps of a process in order.  For example, making a sandwich or writing a bike.  Adding a timer can make it more fun and challenging.
  2. Have a research contest.  You can set a timer and have students research as many facts on a specific topic as they can in that time.  Then you can see who got the most facts. You can see which facts are repeated and whoever doesn’t have a repeated fact gets points.  It’s like Scattagories.  This also gives the opportunity to explain that repeated facts are good because it means the information is more likely to be accurate.

Expository Writing Projects

Have students create expository writing projects. We can have our students work on many of the skills they need for expository writing through projects. I know at some point during the year you will need to have your students write an essay, but think about your purpose for each assignment.  Are you working towards them being able to research and gather credible information?  They can definitely demonstrate that through a project. Do your students need to work on organizing the information that they have?  A project or slideshow is a great option to show how they can organize all of their information visually with some written components.  Plus if you mix some projects in you will have to grade fewer essays.

Reliable Sources for an Expository Writing Essay

A huge part of expository writing is learning about reliable sources.  The sources students use for research needs to be reliable.  There is so much information online that is inaccurate.  We have to help our students learn to judge a source’s credibility.  Here is my Reliable Sources Mini-Lesson.

A great way to teach students how to find reliable sources is to have them practice researching.  You can put up some facts on the board and have students research to find out if they are accurate or not.  

Teach Students About Plagiarism Before Starting an Expository Writing Essay

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense, especially as students get into higher grades.  We need to take time to help students understand what plagiarism is.  So often we ask students to look in the text to find the answer to the question.  Then we ask them to write an essay on the information.  I completely understand why some students copy the correct and accurate information from a book, not understanding what they are doing.

If you are concerned about spotting plagiarism remember that your students are not perfect writers. If your students start writing perfect descriptive sentences then you should take a look at their sources to compare.

There are also websites where you can upload digital papers and the website will check for plagiarism.

Tips for Teaching the Expository Writing Essay

Here are a few more general tips about teaching expository writing.

  1. Use the writing process because expository writing is overwhelming.  Having students complete each step will help them see thier project planned out and be more successful.
  2. Organization matters in expository writing.  Just like every other kind of writing expository writing needs to be organized in a way that allows the reader to easily understand it.  How a paper is organized is closely related with which type of expository writing they are using.  Check out my article on The Brilliant and Easy Guide to the 6 Types of Expository Writing.
  3. Teach students to have a powerful hook to entice the reader and a clear thesis statement so the reader understands the writer’s purpose.

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Blog 68

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

The Brilliant and Easy Guide to the 6 Types of Expository Writing

There are several types of expository writing which are sometimes explained to students while they are reading non-fiction text, but rarely do we use the types of expository writing to help our students write more successfully.  Expository writing is a lot of work in which students must research, organize, and write to explain.  It’s a huge task that many students find difficult. But if we actively teach our students about the different types of expository writing and how to use them to structure their assignments suddenly the assignment isn’t so hard.

I Never Learned the Types of Expository Writing in School

I was a hard-working student with good grades.  I probably worked twice as hard as some of my classmates because if I didn’t understand what we were learning then it was just a jumbled mess in my brain.  Everything would be flipped and confused.  I learned that to be successful I had to understand the content, and that took work.  I never understood the different types of expository writing.  I heard some of the types talked about, but I never truly grasped the differences between each kind.  

I can only imagine how a clear understanding of the types of expository writing could have impacted my reading comprehension and writing assignments.  I probably would have spent less time crying if I understood how to decode the reading or had a clear structure to follow for writing.

Impacting Our Students By Teaching the Types of Expository Writing.

Just as everything in schools changes and progresses so can this.  We can teach our students about the different types of expository writing to improve their reading comprehension and writing skills.  

What is Expository Writing?

Expository writing is writing that exposes facts or informs the reader.  The goal of expository writing is to deepen the reader’s understanding of the topic.  Expository writing is fact-based and presented in a logically organized way.  The writer is objective, meaning they keep their opinion out of the writing.

Expository writing is also called: 

  • informational writing
  • informative writing
  • research writing
  • explanatory writing

More Articles About the Types of Expository Writing

How to Teach Expository Text Structure to Facilitate Reading Comprehension

Types of Expository Writing – Definitions and Examples

6 Types of Expository Writing

We are going to talk about 6 types of expository writing.  Depending on the article that you read about expository writing you will hear that there are two, four, or even seven types of expository writing.  We are going to focus on six in this article.

Types of Expository Writing:  Process Essay

A process essay is an explanation or process of how to complete a task.  It can be as simple as a recipe or the steps of a complex science experiment.  The writer is trying to write a detailed explanation that lets the reader complete the task without mistakes, confusion, or questions.  It should also be a process that can easily be repeated.  

Process Essay TIps

  • Add alternative directions if they are appropriate.  For example, it might be an alternative ingredient or scientific measuring tool.
  • Use directional verbs while writing.  Some directional verbs are “mix, bake, whisk, blend, measure, combine.”
  • Use a supply list whenever applicable.  A supply list lets the reader quickly gather ingredients and supplies either from the cabinets or the store.
  • Avoid lengthy sentences or phrases.  The writer should stay focused because if there are extra details or explanations the reader can get confused.

Types of Expository Writing: Cause and Effect Essay

A cause and effect essay is written to explain why something happened and the effects of that event.  The effects may have a positive or negative impact, and sometimes it can even be both.  A cause-and-effect essay clearly explains the relationship and connection of the ideas using supporting evidence.  Sometimes all the effects aren’t known, but they can be predicted using developing evidence and logic.  This means that sometimes cause and effect essays can be hypothetical.  Students can explore “What would happen if…” topics.

Cause and effect essays have two main structures:

  • Block Structure – is when the cause is clearly presented and then the effects are laid out.  I like to think of this as a building.  The foundation is the cause and the effects are the bricks or walls.
  • Chain Structure – If there are multiple causes the cause is explained and then the effects.  Each cause is directly linked together.  Sometimes the previous effect becomes the next cause.

Cause and effect essays are often used in literary essays or social studies.  Topics often include the election of a public official, an environmental crisis, a historical event, or even a personal decision.

It can be a challenge to stay objective in cause-and-effect essays, which is why the writer must use supporting evidence.

Types of Expository Writing: Problem Solution Essay

Problem-solution essays usually involve four steps to effectively layout all the information for the reader.  First, the writer has to tell about the situation or problem.  Second, the problem needs to be explained in great detail.  Third, a solution or several solutions need to be presented. As the writer evaluates the solutions it can be helpful to include the pros and cons of each solution.  Fourth and finally, the writer might recommend the best solution by explaining if and how the solution can be implemented.

Types of Expository Writing: Compare and Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay is common.  We often ask our students to compare and contrast.  The comparison is when the writer compares the similarities.  The contrast is when the writer contrasts the differences.  What is being compared and contrasted should be of the same category.  This means you are not going to compare Alaska with going to the dentist.  However, you could choose two states to compare or even two cities in Alaska to compare.


There are two formats for a compare and contrast essay.  We will use an example to talk about these formats.  When students are first learning about compare and contrast essays we usually ask them to write about a topic they are very familiar with and so we will do the same by using cats and dogs to discuss the format.  Here’s a little bit about cats and dogs: life span, training, bathroom, and food.

Point By Point

In a point-by-point essay, the writer would first talk about the life span of both pets and then start a new paragraph about training.  The writer would continue to create a new paragraph for each point of comparing and contrasting.

Subject By Subject

In a subject-by-subject essay, the writer would first talk about cats and explain everything they want to explain and then discuss everything about dogs.  It’s almost as if the writer is writing a short essay about one topic and then a short essay about the next topic.

Either format is acceptable and it’s up to the writer and teacher to determine which is best for the assignment.

Types of Expository Writing: Definition Essay

A definition essay is an expository essay that gives a complete and detailed definition of the topic.  Definition essay topics can be concrete things with concrete meanings such as desk and mug. Or it can be about abstract things with abstract meanings such as love, respect, and anger.  

The goal of a definition essay is to fully explain the topic.  That means the writer will explain the purpose, who, what, why, and how.  Often the writer will appeal to the reader’s five senses to help increase understanding.  

Sometimes definition essays will make a guest appearance in other types of expository writing because understanding the definitions of topics can increase reader understanding.

Types of Expository Writing: Classification Essay

Classification is a word that is usually associated with science when the scientist breaks life on earth into the categories of animals, plants, and bacteria.  That’s a great way to help students understand classification essays.  The writer will break down a topic into different groups and categories.  The categories should have specific criteria and be explained in detail.  Then the writer will explain each category further including providing ideas and examples. 

For example, if we look at living things on earth we usually break them into bacteria, plants, and animals.  Each of these has predetermined criteria when you look up their definitions.  For example, bacteria are microscopic, unicellular, independently reproducing, and free-living,  Each part of this definition can be explained and used as a criterion for categories.

This blog is a classification essay.  I am telling you about the types of expository writing and each type has its own criteria.

Types of Expository Writing Tips

Here are a few quick tips that are perfect for any type of expository writing.

  • Outlines are helpful to create an organized piece.
  • Use clear and concise language so that the reader understands.
  • Use facts, data, and credible sources.  Once you research check your information with more sources to ensure accuracy.
  • Determine your audience and write for them.
  • Have a clear and strong thesis statement.
  • Be sure to use examples to increase interest and understanding of key points.
  • Use the writing process to make sure your work is clear and interesting.
  • Use literary devices and descriptive language to emphasize understanding of key points.  This will help you avoid overusing it. 
  • Always revise and edit.

More Poetry and Writing Articles

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Blog 67

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

16 Surprising Tips for Easy Grading of Narrative Writing

Does easy grading for narrative writing exist? Publishing, sharing, and grading are the final steps to every big writing assignment.  Watching students pour their hearts into writing a story, seeing how proud they are as they publish it, and feeling how nervous they get before sharing their story are some of the best parts of teaching narrative writing.  The part that isn’t so great is sitting down to grade it thinking it is going to be easy grading and then discovering after grading one paper that grading these papers could literally take the rest of the quarter.

Why I Never Experienced Easy Grading in My Classroom

Grading writing is one of the most time-consuming grading tasks that teachers have to do.  In reality, I made my grading tasks much more difficult than they needed to be.  That’s right! Grading took me so long because I expected too much of myself.  I wanted to mark every mistake and write comments for every error.   I was trying to be a super teacher and it wasn’t necessary.  It also didn’t help my students to see all of those corrections on their hard work.

Easy Grading Can Make You a Better Teacher.

I knew my grading system wasn’t working for me. Not only did I have writing to grade, but I was bogged down under huge piles of papers for other subjects too. By trying to do too much I made extra work for myself.  All of that grading made me a worse teacher because I was focused on the grading task instead of my students.  If I had released myself from grading stress and turned that energy toward my students they would have learned more.  Keeping it simple would have benefited everyone.

The Secret to Easy Grading for Narrative Writing

Grading is going to take time, but we can make it take less time, by being more efficient and effective.  The key to easy grading is to come up with a system that works well for you.  Easy grading doesn’t happen instantly, but if you work for the next few months to create a system that works for you then by next year the stress of grading will be reduced because of your customized easy grading system.

More Articles About Easy Grading Tricks

Practical Tips for Grading Faster

10 Time-Saving Tips For Grading Student Writing

How to Grade a Test or Assignment Quickly and Get Off the Grading Hamster Wheel

Easy Grading Tips For Narrative Writing

After reading the rest of this article you will have some easy grading tips to try out.  I do not expect that you will adopt all of these tips.  My goal is that you find a few tips that you can incorporate into your own easy grading system that you will fine-tune over time.  If the first tips you pick out don’t work well for you then come back and pick out something else to try.  

Since every teacher has a different style, every teacher will find a different combination of tips helpful.  These are just some of my favorite tips for narrative writing.  If you need more easy grading tips you can check out my article Grading Essays Faster and Easier with These 20 Spectacular Tips.  Grading is a giant task, but thanks to the internet providing tips and advice from other teachers easy grading is possible.

Start Easy Grading Before the Final Draft

Easy grading starts before the final draft.  Here are three tips you can start using in your classroom.

  1. Grade in Writing Conferences

If you are using writer’s workshop in your classroom you are probably having writing conferences.  During your writing conferences, start checking student work.  Provide students with feedback and mark their papers.   Then when they turn in their rough draft and final draft you simply need to compare the two, at least for some of the paragraphs.   Did they make the corrections you discussed during their writing conference?  

  1. Give Students a Choice of Several Topics

One of the worst parts of grading student writing is when all the writing sounds the same. Offer your students a variety of topics.  These topics can be similar but different.  Maybe you are studying the rainforest.  Not every student needs to write about an animal. They could write about weather, tribes, deforestation, or anything else.

  1. Have Students Self-Check Their Work

I have three ways your students can self-check their work.  

Self-Graded Rubric

We often ask students to check their rubric before turning in their work and most of them say they did. But if you make them turn in a rubric as a requirement they will have to read each part and decide if they did their best work.  Don’t be surprised if students suddenly want to revise more.

Record Their Corrections

After students finish the final draft they can look back at the first draft and make a list of the corrections they made.  Did they find 27 spelling errors?  Add 8 commas? Or switch paragraphs three and five.  They don’t need to write every single error, but this helps you and them see their improvements.

Use a Highlighter

The assignment is likely working on a specific skill such as citing a source or using text evidence.  Have your students highlight this particular skill so it’s easy for you to find. It shows that they understand the skill too. 

Long-Term Planning to Create Easy Grading

I am a planner, just like most teachers.  Let’s put our planning superpowers to use.  Here are a few simple ways to use your calendar and curriculum map to make grading easier.

  1. Plan Out All Your Writing Assignments

At the beginning of the year plan out all of your writing assignments.  Decide how long students will have for each assignment.  Plan the due dates at times that work for you.  Do you celebrate holidays with movies or downtime?  Is there a special assembly once a month?  What things can you incorporate into your year to give you extra grading time?  Then plan the start date from there.  Make sure you have enough assignments in each grading period, but not too many.

  1. Plan In-Class Time for Grading

You should not have to bring home student work to grade.  More and more teachers are putting up boundaries between their home and school life.  Boundaries are great, but you need to have a plan.  Here are two ideas.

Use Movies Strategically

We just talked about planning your due dates.  What if the day after a due date was a movie day?  Of course, the movie should relate to the curriculum, but because you planned ahead it does.  Now you have some in-class time to grade.  You can tell students not to bother you.  They should grab their snacks and settle in.  If they need the bathroom then grab the pass and go.

Independent Work Time

Independent work time is good for your students.  They need to learn this skill.  Figure out a few independent work activities you want in your classroom.  Spend a week training your students on how to do it.  Now use this time for grading writing or another subject in between writing due dates.

Prepare Yourself for Easy Grading

Here is a quick list of ways to prepare yourself for easy grading.  

  1. Grade during the time of day your brain works best.
  2. Block off time to grade.
  3. Plan lessons for other subjects ahead of time during a grading week so you aren’t distracted.
  4. Remove other distractions from your vicinity – goodbye phone, watch, and Instagram.
  5. Grab a good chair and pen.
  6. Use a timer so you don’t linger on one paper too long.
  7. Make commenting easier by using a bank.  This is especially true for digital grading because you can just copy and paste.
  8. Make grading writing the first task you sit down to do. Don’t procrastinate on this task.

Easy Grading Process

Grading student writing can be painful because they are still learning how to write.  Easy grading is difficult when the writing is rough.  Here are some tips to make the process easier.

  1. Scale Up

You know those times you aren’t sure if you should mark a two or a three on the rubric?  Scale-up and give them the three.  They are trying their best and learning.  Give them credit for effort and progress.

  1. Find the Good

Find something about every piece of writing that is good.  Let your students know that you read it and loved it.  Encourage them.  If you don’t find good things about their writing it’s going to be harder to correct and encourage them to keep learning.

Finding the good can also mean that you are finding parts of their writing that are funny.  Today I was laughing through my son’s whole gymnastics class because he didn’t know how to be a snake or a crab.  He was trying to follow the teacher’s directions and line up behind her, but she kept moving.  In the same way, the funny sentences in student writing can keep us going.

Easy Grading Marking

Imagine if we only had to read our students’ writing instead of mark it up.  Writing comments and correcting errors takes so much time unless we change what we are doing.

  1. Use a Rubric, Checklist, or Keycode

We need to have some sort of system for grading and we usually use rubrics or checklists.  Both of these tools let students know what we expect of them.  Keycodes are a little bit different.  Each common error is assigned a letter or a number.  Then when you come across a comma error you write a 5.  Students look at the keycode and know they made a comma error.  

  1. Mark the Line

Some teachers mark each line that has an error with a checkmark.  They don’t go into specific details, but just let the students know there is an error and let them find it.

  1. Three of the Same Error

If your students are making the same mistakes again and again then this tip is for you.  There are actually two options here.

  • Only mark an error three times and then tell your student it occurred several times and they need to find the errors.
  • If students are making the same mistakes repeatedly then simply tell them their work is not ready to publish and give it back to them to correct.  You can give them a date to turn it in again or mark it incomplete and let them figure it out.

Easy Grading Tips By Experienced Teachers

Over time teachers develop systems that make teacher life easier including developing an easy grading system. Here are a few tips from some teachers who have done just that.  

  1. Focus Skill

Focus on teaching and grading one skill.  Usually, within lesson plans, there is a specific standard or skill that teachers are helping their students learn.  What if students were graded on this focus skill or main skill?  You wouldn’t need to mark every error.  Their grade would be mostly based on content.

  1. Don’t Grade Everything

It’s perfectly okay to have students practice writing that you are not going to grade.  Students have so many creative ideas that they would love to write and share without the pressure of it being perfect for a grade.  If you had them write three assignments you could let them choose which one you would grade or they could simply be practice writing.  

  1. Limit Length

At some point students needs to learn how to be concise writers.  They need to learn to take out the extra words and phrases, even paragraphs from their writing.  If you limit writing to a specific number of pages or paragraphs then you will have less to grade and be challenging your students to complete the assignment concisely.

  1. Grade for Content

No writer is perfect, and our students definitely won’t be either.  Let’s grade students on the content of their writing and their ideas instead of being perfect in their mechanics.  

  1. Group Work

Have your students work in groups on projects so that they benefit from working with each other and there are fewer papers to grade.

Creating Your Customized Easy Grading System

Creating your own easy grading system will take some work and time to fine-tune, but hopefully, these tips will help you get started.  Take the pressure off of yourself and finish your grading faster and easier.

More Poetry and Writing Articles

13 Strategies for Prewriting to Help Your Students Efficiently Produce Writing 

How Teach Writing More Effectively to Students Easily With Writer’s Workshop

Narrative Writing How To: 9 Easy Strategies for Teacher

5 Incredible Benefits of Teaching Poetry and Writing

Remarkable Little Guide to the 4 Different Types of Writing

The Teacher’s Practical and Inspiring Guide to What is Narrative in Writing?

How to Use the Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing in a New Prewriting Strategy

Blog 65

Blog 66

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

Prompts for Narrative Writing Easily Explained and 35 Inspiring Starters

Writing prompts are one of the tools that teachers use to get our students moving during writing. I think every teacher has had students who struggle to pick a topic or start writing. Students will sit at their desks looking like they are working hard but they are just doodling the whole time because writing an actual story is scary. 

The Best Prompt for Narrative Writing I Used

In October our students wrote about a Halloween Class Party they were invited to.  This Halloween class party had a strange invitation.  It was at midnight in the haunted graveyard.  Students loved this writing prompt.  It inspired them to write funny and scary Halloween stories.  Some students wrote about getting to the party while others wrote about events at the party.  

Practical Prompts for Narrative Writing

The students were inspired to write creative stories, which is the purpose of a writing prompt.  When students are working on narrative writing our goal should be for them to get creative and imaginative.  That should be the top priority.  If our students can dive into their imaginations and share their ideas through writing they are going to fall in love with writing.  They will find their voice as writers and want to learn more about how to do it better.  It’s a process for our students to become good writers.  

What are Prompts for Narrative Writing?

Prompts for narrative writing are a writing tool meant to inspire our students’ writing.  Writing prompts can provide ideas that unlock creativity that the writer may not have been able to brainstorm on their own.  Prompts for narrative writing can guide you towards any and every type of story, from real life to a fantasy world.

When a writer has a prompt telling them their topic it can be easier to dive into writing.  It’s a story starter.  Instead of a completely blank canvas, the writer has a prompt giving them a basic idea or shape for the story. A lot of writers use writing prompts as an exercise to help them practice writing and stretch their imaginations.  

Writing prompts are a tool for teachers and writers, which challenge writers to write about topics outside of their usual subject matter. Writing prompts help writers tap into their creativity in a different way, which helps them learn and grow.  

More Prompts for Narrative Writing

There are so many lists of prompts for narrative writing.  Here are a few lists top the others.  

April Writing Prompts – Need prompts for a different month?  This teacher has them for you.

50 Writing Prompts For All Grade Levels

365 Creative Writing Prompts

When and Why Should You Use Prompts for Narrative Writing in Your Classroom?

Writing prompts can be used any time, but they can also be overused.  Using writing prompts for every writing assignment can stifle your students’ creativity.  They will certainly have things to write about that are not related to your writing prompts.  Like most things in life, it’s about balance.

Student Growth

Use writing prompts to challenge your students to grow.  It’s easy to slip into a comfortable pattern.  Sometimes we have to get uncomfortable to learn and be creative.  You will have students who will write the same, but slightly varied story for every assignment.  Writing prompts can push them to grow and do more.

Literary Skills

When students read and write they are increasing their literary skills.  Writing prompts can push them towards understanding certain skills in a new way.  Unless we push our students to grow they will avoid the work needed.

Telling Their Story

It’s funny that we live in a society where many people are addicted to telling their stories on social media, but students avoid writing about themselves at school.  When our students learn to tell and take ownership of their own stories their confidence is going to grow.  Lots of writing prompts bring students’ lives into the limelight.  

Develop a Growth Mindset

So many students think they are just no good at writing.  They avoid it and have a low opinion of their writing abilities.  Writing prompts can help students who struggle with writing get writing easily.  The more they write the more they will grow as writers.  As students see their improvements their mindset will start to shift from fixed, “I can’t do this.” to growth, “I wonder what we will write about today.”

Express Their Creativity

Our students start as creative and imaginative young kids.  They have ideas and imaginary worlds that surround them, but as they grow and go through school that creativity gets squashed or faded.  Writing can help or force students to dive back into their creative worlds and show students that we value their creativity.

Even professional writers use writing prompts.  They may be between projects, have writer’s block, or just be looking for inspiration for a new story.  No matter the reason that a writer uses writing prompts they are going to help build the writer’s muscles, creativity, and skills.

There are a few styles of prompts for narrative writing that are common.  Whether you use what others have created or write your own you might decide that one style fits your classroom or students better than others.

What If Prompts for Narrative Writing

What if writing prompts are when your students are asked a question like

  1. What if you woke up as a snowman?
  2. What if you moved to Africa?
  3. What if an alien landed in your backyard?

These types of writing prompts can lead to very imaginative stories.  Students can run wild with these writing prompts because they are so open-ended.  

Sentence Starters or First Sentence Prompts for Narrative Writing

These two styles of writing prompts are similar but slightly different.  Can you guess the difference already?  Let’s take a look.

Sentence Starters

In a sentence starter writing prompt you would give your students the first part of a sentence to complete.  Then your students would continue their story from there.

  1. On Christmas morning…
  2. The last thing I expected on Friday was…
  3. On safari we…

Sentence starters give students the first word of a sentence which can lead to some creative ideas right off the bat.  I’m sure that as you read these you thought of a couple of ways you could complete them.  That’s exactly what a sentence starter will do.

Your students will all have the same start to their writing which is okay because the stories will still be vastly different.  However, your students won’t be working on a good hook, unless you teach that skill after the first draft.

First Sentence

In the first sentence prompts you will give your students the first sentence of their writing.  This sentence will provide more structure for their story.  When you provide the whole first sentence you will be influencing their story more by giving it more shape.  Let’s look at the examples above if we transform them into first sentences.

  1. On Christmas morning we woke up to no presents under the tree.
  2. The last thing I expected on Friday was a monkey loose in the school.
  3. On safari, our jeep broke down near the watering hole and we would be stuck in the wild all night.

Clearly, these writing prompts give great shape to the story.  This means your students’ writing will have greater similarities.  It’s okay to have a class of papers that are similar if your students need a more structured prompt to help get them writing.   If your students need more help developing a creative story giving them the first sentence could be a great option.

Are Sentences Starters or First Sentence Right For Your Classroom?

These two types of writing prompts are incredibly similar.  I took my first examples of sentence starters and transformed them into the first sentence.  This is a great way you can differentiate for your students.  You can give most of the class the sentence starter and then provide the first sentence to your students who need it.  It’s so simple.  

Often students who have modifications or accommodations to their work feel self-conscious, but this is a great way to differentiate less noticeably.

Personal or Real-Life Prompts for Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is the type of writing we want our students to learn, and personal narrative is a subcategory of narratives.  You can read all about the types of writing in my blog Remarkable Little Guide to the 4 Different Types of Writing. Narratives include all types of stories that students write.  When students are learning narrative writing they can write any genre that tells a story.

Teachers like to teach personal narratives because it is a little bit easier.  When our students write a personal narrative they already have the characters, setting, and sequence of events ready to write.  It’s a great strategy to use personal narratives when teachers are first teaching narratives.

Here are a few examples of personal narrative prompts.

Write about a time you went on a big trip.

What was the best part of your summer vacation?

What was the best day of school you ever had?

Write about a time you got hurt.

But don’t get stuck in personal narratives all year.  Once your students know more about narrative writing make sure you have them practice other forms of narrative writing. Let them get creative with their characters, setting, and sequence of events.

Challenge the Writer Prompts for Narrative Writing

Some writing prompts can challenge the writer, which is one of the purposes of writing prompts for narrative writing. These prompts can be a little bit harder to find online and you may have to create your own.

Write From a Different Perspective

When students write from a different perspective they can write from the point of view of another character.  Imagine a story they would normally tell from the protagonist’s point of view and if they switched it to the best friend or antagonist.

  1. Write about your last sleepover from your friend’s point of view.
  2. Write about getting a new puppy from the puppy’s perspective.
  3. Write about the last time you got in trouble from your parents’ point of view.

You could also challenge them to write in specifically third person or first person.  Try to pick the opposite of what they would normally do.  If it is a personal narrative they could write in the third person, which is extra challenging.

  1. Write about your last sleepover in the third person (He, She, They, Them.  Not I, We, Me)
  2. Write about an astronaut going to the moon as if you were the astronaut.
  3. Write about the day in the life of a police officer as if you were the police officer.

Write a Different Type of Narrative Writing

There are 5 types of narrative writing, well 6 depending on who you ask.  Challenging your students to write one of the different types of narrative writing could bring out a whole lot of creativity.  For some of the different types of narrative writing, the type itself could be the writing prompt, and for others, you might need to prompt further.

Different Types of Narratives
  1. Descriptive 

Descriptive narratives do exactly what they say, describe.  Descriptive narratives have two main focuses: tone and mood, and setting. Instead of having our students try to incorporate descriptive

  1. Historical

Historical narratives show how events link together through cause and effect.  It’s a clear sequence of past events that helps the reader see the cause-and-effect process that defines historical narratives.  You can think of it as a chain reaction.  

  1. Quest

A quest narrative is when the protagonist works tirelessly towards their goal or all-consuming passion.  As the protagonist works towards their goal they will face many trials and obstacles online the way. 

  1. Viewpoint

A viewpoint narrative is when the story is filtered through the main character or other characters’ point of view.  Every person or fully developed character has unique experiences and life events that shape what they think and feel about what’s currently happening in their lives.  This means that what the reader readers is not necessarily the full story or accurate.

  1. Linear

A linear narrative moves in a straight line.  The reader hears about each event in the order that it happens.  This is how our students usually write their narratives.

  1. Non-Linear

A non-linear narrative is not a straight line.  The events of a story are told out of order on purpose. 

These different types of narrative writing can inspire so many writing prompts.  Take them into consideration as a challenge for your students.

Social-Emotional Prompts for Narrative Writing

Writing is a great way for our students to think, explore and learn about the social-emotional parts of life.  Characters constantly go through social-emotional changes and challenges.  

Students can also write about the social-emotional challenges they are facing daily.  Writing about their thoughts and feelings can help them process life events that are wonderful and challenging.  

Personal growth can come from hearing about the challenging and good moments other people face.  It can also come from writing about their own.  It’s a great way to extend learning beyond academics.

Write about a time you were scared.

Write about a time you were angry.

Write about a time you were excited.

Write about a time you made a mistake.

Write about a time you were shy.

Write about a time you cried.

Tips for Brainstorming vs Prompts for Narrative Writing 

Brainstorming and writing prompts can both help students become more creative writers.  They are both valid starting points for writing assignments.  However, it’s important to start writing from both methods.  Students deserve the opportunity to create their writing from the ground up.  I recommend a balanced approach in your classroom.  Include assignments that start from both methods.

Prompts for Narrative Writing

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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

Discover New Ways of Teaching Writing Narratives With 17 Brilliant Mini-Lessons

Teaching writing narratives can be and should be fun.  Mini-Lessons are a great way to tackle teaching writing narratives.  Mini-lessons offer our students support to learn about narrative writing while giving them lots of creative room to produce their pieces.  But as a teacher with a list of a million things that need to be taught, assessed, and graded it’s easy to be overwhelmed and lose the fun piece of the puzzle.

Teaching Writing Narratives with Mini-Lessons for the First Time

The first time I taught narrative writing I got too caught up in the curriculum because I had no idea what I was doing.  I was trying to teach my students, make it meaningful, and alter the curriculum.  But I didn’t do a good job of it.  We stayed on the same writing assignment for too long.  My students were bored and unmotivated and so was I.

Follow Your Teacher Instinct While Teaching Writing Narratives

We do not need to teach every writing lesson during every assignment.  It’s okay to pick just a few lessons to teach within a writing assignment.  We can keep our lessons short and to the point.  We can move on to a new assignment even if the curriculum doesn’t want us to.  We need to take care of the students we have in front of us that we know better than anyone else.

Why Teaching Writing Narratives with Writer’s Workshop is a Good Idea

Writer’s workshop is a powerful tool for teachers because it is student-centered.  Writer’s workshop allows us to guide students with a short lesson and offer them ample time to write and be creative.  Writers become better by writing a lot and often about topics they want to write about.  Making writing student-centered gives them ownership of their work which helps them grow as writers. The challenge is to let our students write, support them, and help them stay motivated.

There are three main components of writer’s workshop, depending on who you ask: mini-lesson, writing and conference time, and sharing.

More Ideas on Teaching Writing Narratives

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Narrative Writing Mini-Lessons

Teaching Writing Narratives with Mini-Lessons

With so many subjects and things to teach it can be hard to know where to start.  These are several of the basic mini-lessons that I would consider teaching while working through narrative writing with my students.  I put them in a particular order to try to foster their creativity.  Of course, you can change the order, add lessons, or remove lessons. 

If you haven’t purposely used mini-lessons before here is a breakdown of what they usually look like.

The format of a mini-lesson might be something like this:

1. Get your students thinking about their background knowledge of the topic with a strong question, intriguing example, or fast game.

2. Teach about the topic of the lesson.

3. Get your students engaged by having them practice somehow such as talking with a classmate, asking questions, or writing on a post-it.

4. Have your students figure out how they are going to apply the skill they just learned to their writing.  I think this is overlooked, but the most important step.  If students learn something but don’t apply it the lesson was useless.

Some teachers like to do a status check on what step of the writing process their students are on before they send them off to write.  Some teachers use pocket charts, bulletin boards, magnet boards, or checklists.  If you want to have this as an additional step of writer’s work, go for it.

  1. Brainstorming Topics While Teaching Writing Narratives

Brainstorming topics is an important part of writing.  Some professional writers are given their topics by a boss, but some have to figure out what topics they plan to write about on their own.  

However, we often give our students the topic they are going to write about.  I know that teachers need to avoid chaos and have students work on similar assignments, but is there a way to teach them how to brainstorm topics while doing that?  If we give our students more control and choice about the most pivotal part of their writing, what they will write about, they will likely be more invested in their work.

Teach your students how to brainstorm topics.  You can give some sort of parameters, but offer them more control than a writing prompt gives at least sometimes.

  1. Prewriting While Teaching Writing Narratives

My students hated prewriting.  They hated filling out a graphic organizer when their brain was brimming with great ideas.  I would hate that too.  I looked into it and there are 13 Strategies for Prewriting to Help Your Students Efficiently Produce Writing.  That’s a good amount of strategies.  There are lots of choices without there being too many.

Our students need to learn how to use prewriting effectively so that it helps them create the story they dream up.  Writing is the best way for them to share their thoughts with lots of people.  

When you start to pick out a prewriting strategy to use with your students I would remember that the writing process is not linear – meaning you don’t check off each step as you write, but will likely have to move back and forth between the steps.  I like to think of it as a prewriting strategy plan.  A prewriting strategy plan is when you plan to have your students use several strategies for prewriting.  You will plan for them to prewrite, draft, prewrite, revise and edit.  You can repeat each of these steps as much as your students need it.  

There is never enough prewriting for our young writers, and it often comes at the wrong time of their creative process.  I am reshaping my thinking on the writing process and have a prewriting strategy plan for you in my article How to Use the Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing in a New Prewriting Strategy.

  1. Drafting While Teaching Writing Narratives

Drafting is when students start getting their ideas down on the page.  Without a draft, there is no writing to revise or edit.  Writing would not happen without writing the draft.

The most important thing that you can teach your students about drafting is that they should not check their spelling or grammar.  They should focus on getting their ideas on the page.  Drafting should be messy and it’s okay if the writing is confusing because it’s their first draft.  Writing the draft should be the only thing they do.

Need to know more about teaching writing the draft to your students?  Check out Clever Tips Every Teacher Needs to Know For Successfully Writing the Draft

  1. Audience and Purpose While Teaching Writing Narratives

You might decide to teach audience and purpose before drafting, and I used to do the same thing.  However, I recently read, On Writing by Stephen King.  It’s a great read if you are interested in hearing about his process and advice as a writer.  I felt like it bridges the gap between teaching writing and professional writing.  

When Stephen King writes his first draft he writes it for himself.  He literally closes his door and writes for the only person in the room.  He enjoys getting his words down on the page, creating characters, and seeing where the characters take the story.  Then he writes his second draft for his audience.  He thinks about his purpose and what his audience would enjoy and rewrites for them.

I thought this was a genius method, especially for our students.  They have brilliant ideas and we stop them before they get to enjoy the story and characters they’ve dreamt up.  We insist on a full plot before our students have learned who their characters are.

What would happen if we held out on teaching them about the audience, purpose, and maybe the rubric?  I think we would get some creative writing.  We would guide them through the revision process with students who are more willing because they are invested in their work.  

If you would like to teach this to your students sooner that’s your call.  You know your students best, but consider this as an option, tuck it away in the back of your mind.

All that being said, a writer must know whom they are writing for. Your students know that from the style of writing, how the writing will be shared, and their goal as a writer. Every writer will write differently for a first grader and a high schooler.  A horror writer will write differently from a  journalist.  Authors write differently for different audiences and different purposes.

  1. Plot Diagram or Story Map While Teaching Writing Narratives

Often when teachers start teaching writing narratives they pull out their plot diagram or story map to have their students use as a prewrite.  Their students fill it out and follow it to the letter while writing.  I always found the results were kind of boring and more of a list of events than a story.  It could have been the age of my students or it could have been my method.  

Did you notice that I have the plot diagram and story map after students have a draft?  It was done on purpose.  I want my students to be creative and have freedom while they write their draft- even if it turns out a bit messy and confusing.  However, we are teaching narrative structure and that is important. I think having your students fill out either of these graphic organizers after they write their first draft is a great idea.  They will have a visual to help them determine if anything is missing from their story.

Mapping out their story can also help them realize that it shouldn’t be an information dump, but a slow reveal of the characters and events.  As they fill out their graphic organizers they will likely see there was some sort of information dump, likely at the beginning.  Now they can see what they need to do to show the readers their story.

  1. Pacing A Story While Teaching Writing Narratives

When I am honest I never really knew how to teach pacing well to my students, but they desperately need to understand it.  I have read too many personal narratives that start with four paragraphs about waking up and getting dressed and one paragraph about the actual events of the story.  Ugh.

Have your students take a look at their plot diagram or story map.  Then they should mark the most important events, kind of important events and least important events.  Teach your students that they should spend the most words, paragraphs, and time on the most important events.  This simple lesson and visual could change your students’ writing.

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives Sentence Structure 

Pacing is also created through short sentences and long sentences.  The best way to show students this is with mentor texts and modeling.  Once they play with the idea a bit they will get it.  

The sentence length and structure can affect the tone and mood of the story.  Lots of short sentences can build suspense, and long descriptive sentences can create a calm relaxed feeling.  

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives With Descriptive Language  – Show Don’t Tell 

Descriptive language is a pain point for fourth-grade teachers. Fourth grade is one of the first times we are asking out students to show us what is happening instead of telling it.  It’s a really hard concept, but it will improve their writing.

Examples:

Next Tony and I rode the roller coaster.

Tony cheered as we climbed into the car on the metal tracks.  In mere seconds we could be racing to our death through the twists, turns, and loops.

There is a huge difference between these two examples. One is a simple statement that tells what happened.  The other lets the reader know that Tony is excited, the narrator is nervous, it’s a metal coaster with twists, turns, and loops.

Mentor texts and modeling are the best way to teach students descriptive language that can show instead of telling the reader what’s happening.  Students don’t even realize they can write like this until they see, understand, and practice it.

  1. Sensory Details and Figurative Language While Teaching Writing Narratives

We’ve covered how students should describe what is happening by showing instead of telling.  But how can they do that?  What tools can they use to make that possible?

Sensory details are when students use their senses to describe what’s happening.  Maybe Tony and the narrator climbed into the sticky plastic car. I am guessing the narrator smells like sweat and salt because he’s so nervous.  Sensory details can help the reader feel like they are in the story.  Students have to practice writing sensory details until they can seamlessly weave them into their writing.

Figurative language is a powerful descriptive tool.  The goal of figure language is to use words beyond their literal meaning to give the reader a visual of what is happening.  There are so many types of figurative language that you can teach your students.  Don’t overwhelm your students with all of them.  Teach your students 3-5 options and then require that they use two.  This gives your students some choice in their practice using figurative language.

If you’d love to hear more about figure language then check out my article NAME AND LINK TO FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE BLOG

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives With Impactful Settings

The setting of a story impacts who the characters are, the choices they make, and what events are happening around them.  A setting has to be carefully developed slowly throughout the whole story.  It shouldn’t be a statement at the beginning and then left alone.  

The setting is a part of the whole story that impacts everything along the way.  It takes a lot of practice for students to understand that the effects of the setting need to be weaved into the whole story.  Mentor texts are a great way to show students this.  I would also use movies and tv shows to help them understand it.

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives With Powerful Character Development 

I like tv show better than movies because I get to know the characters well over the years.  I can see the characters grow and change through the seasons.  

Growth and change are the reason we like the main characters in a story.  They might grow and change themselves or they may change the world around them by showing others who they are.  

In a story, we usually get to see these main characters during the pivotal moments of their lives while they are growing and facing changes.  We have to show our students how characters grow and develop throughout a story.  Students need to learn that changing characters is what makes the reader cheer for the protagonist.  A well-developed character makes the reader feel what the main characters are feeling.

For example, we saw Luke Skywalker when he was born and then again when he was about the learn about the Force and fight his father.  We didn’t see the day-to-day life of him growing up.  We saw the most pivotal moments.

You can show students mentor texts, modeling, and examples from tv.  Also, have them pull out their plot diagram or story map to add notes about how the main character is growing and changing in their story.  Is this missing from their story?  Have them add it in.

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives With Interesting Dialogue

Dialogue is a tell-tale sign of narrative writing. Giving characters a voice is a challenge and it makes the story a lot more interesting.  Dialogue helps to reveal the character further and move the story along. 

Students are usually more than willing to try dialogue.  Their characters are likely already saying a lot in their imaginations. 

When students first start to add dialogue to their writing they need guidance with dialogue writing techniques.  Show students how to use quotation marks and punctuation for dialogue.  They won’t get this the first time you teach it.  Writing dialogue with the correct technique will take a lot of practice.

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives With Intriguing Hooks

The hook is the beginning of the story.  The hook is the first sentence or paragraph that makes you want to read more.  

I like to save writing a powerful hook until later in the narrative process because our students have already revised their story so many times by this point.  If I started with having them write hooks they would likely have to do it again at this point.

There are weak, boring, and overused hooks.  We don’t want to read them and we want to help our students become better writers than that.  Here are some strong ways to start a story:

  • Dialogue
  • Ask a question
  • Describe something in detail
  • Give a fact
  • Using an onomatopoeia
  • Funny or sad memory of the character

These introduction strategies get kids excited to try something new.  It also gives them a practical way to get going so they aren’t stuck on how to write a good hook.

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives Using Dynamic Transition Words

Our students started to learn to write by using the transition words first, next, then, and finally.  These transition words are what they know and are comfortable with.  When students are writing their first draft we don’t need to change that.  We do not need to address transitions until later in the writing process.  The first goal is for students to get their ideas on the page in any way possible.  Let your students go crazy with these overused transitions.

In your mini-lesson use a mentor text to show them strong transition words that show you the order of the story. Give them a list of transition words.  Have them go through their work and highlight any transition words they notice.  Then they can try replacing those transition words with a word from the list.  They need to make sure the sentences still make sense.

Your students do not need to replace every overused transition word in their writing.  Nor will your students will suddenly have great transitions.  As you read their work the transitions will likely be awkward.  But your students will learn through practice.

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives Conclusions or Resolutions

The resolution or conclusion of the story is where all the loose ends are tied up.  It’s where the reader gets to see how events have changed for the characters.  Don’t let your students fall back on the end.  Here are a few suggestions of how to write a resolution.

  • Circular endings  are when the story comes back to the beginning.  
  • Surprise endings are when the story takes a surprising turn.
  • Lesson endings  are when the main character learns something and expresses it somehow.
  • Emotional endings are when the writer tugs at the heartstrings to make the reader feel with the characters and maybe cry or smile.
  • Reflection endings  are when the narrator takes time to reflect on what happened and how important it is.
  • Humor ending is when the writer ends with something that might make the reader laugh to remember the ending more.
  • Question ending is when the story asks a question that makes the reader continue to think after they close the book.
  • The cliffhanger ending is when the ending leaves the reader wanting to read more.  This often gets readers into the next chapter or book.
  • Image endings give the reader descriptive vided images that change the reader’s mood and emotions
  • Dialogue ending is when the writer ends with a conversation or maybe a quote. 
  1. Teaching Writing Narratives Revising Skills

Your students may not realize it but they have been doing a lot of revising through this whole process.  Now it’s time to help your students realize that the work they have been doing is revising.  They have rewritten and reworked so many parts of their original draft.

Once your students realize they have been revising and are capable of it you can take it a step further.  Teach them what revising is.  It is when they add, subtract, rearrange, consider word-choice, ensure readability, and determine relevant details that need to be included.  Depending on your group of students you may limit or simplify this explanation.  

The easiest way to have your students revise their work is to have them go through them one step at a time.  This means that first your students will read and look for things to add, then during the next read they will look for things to subtract, and on the third read, they will look at word choice.  How complex of a process this is is completely up to you.

  1. Teaching Writing Narratives Editing 

Have you heard of editing in rounds?  It’s what some professional writers and editors do.  When a writer edits in rounds they focus on one editing point at a time.  During the first read-through they will check their capitals, during the second read-through they will check periods, and on the third read-through, they can check subject-verb agreement.  They will continue the process until they are done editing

When writers and editors edit in rounds it’s less likely they will miss errors because they are focusing on one thing each time. This is a great editing skill to teach your students.  They can learn to edit like a professional, focusing on one thing, and making fewer errors.

Teaching Writing Narratives Publishing and Sharing

When your students have finished the whole writing process do more than just publishing and collecting their work.  Make sure that you have your students share their work.  There are so many ideas for sharing student work.  You can read my entire article on sharing student work 12 Delightful and Innovative Ways to Share and Publish Students’ Writing.

Your students need to practice how they are going to share their work.  It should be well-rehearsed.  This is another great skill for students to have.  They need to be able to present and share their work.  More and more students are struggling to present and share their ideas.  If students practice this life skill regularly it won’t be such a big deal for them.

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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

The Teacher’s Practical and Inspiring Guide to What is Narrative in Writing?

Personal narratives are our students’ first exposure to narrative writing and in many cases writing.  After students learn to write their names and the ABCs they start writing sentences about their day and their life.  It’s meaningful to them to start writing this way because it’s all about them.  

The unfortunate part is that your students get used to writing these lists of sentences about themselves and it’s a challenge to help them grow into mature writers, but the 5 types of narrative writing could change that.  Imagine reading narratives and personal narratives that are interesting?

Teaching What is Narrative in Writing

When I was teaching in fourth grade we’d start every school year with a writing assessment about the kids’ summer break.  The reasoning for this assignment was that summer break was fresh in their minds, the kids wanted to tell us all about it, and it would give the teachers an idea of who each student was as a writer. 

 It was a great idea, but the results were always the same.  There was no descriptive language and the story read more like a list, full of spelling and grammar errors.  It didn’t count towards their grade and was just intended to help the teachers prepare for writing.

After their assessment, we would spend some class time talking about personal narratives and narrative writing.  We would teach students about a hook, and strong closing.  We started to encourage our students to use more descriptive writing.

What is Narrative in Writing That Will Bring Our Students to the Next Level?

These are all great building blocks for writing, but narrative writing is more complex than these building blocks.  There are several types of narratives, which can encourage our students to venture into more interesting writing.  If I had taught my students the types of narratives and encouraged them to explore different types in their writing I think we could have gotten away from the dreaded list of events in their writing.

What is Narrative in Writing?

Essentially, narrative writing is telling a story.  But you already knew that much.  After a lot of research from various sources and of differing opinions it seems there are three ways to explain narrative writing.  All of these are correct, but different people might relate to one more than another based on their background, location, and education.  I have created my own names that I think help summarize each of these definitions and help make them memorable.

  1. Connected Events

Narrative writing tells a good story through connected events that create patterns.  The events, connections, and patterns lead to specific ideas, themes, and concepts. Patterns help make the theme and ideas stand out and resonate with the reader. 

  1. The Art of a Story

Narrative writing is the practice and art of telling a story using a beginning middle and end.  The art of telling a story involves other literary elements such as characters, plots, settings, conflict, and theme.  Using these literary elements the writer can shape and tell the whole story. 

  1. Narrative Forms

Narrative writing can take many forms such as an epic or comedy.  The writer shapes events towards a specific goal or effect.  The writer may consciously or unconsciously be working towards a specific form to entertain the reader or take them on an adventure. The details, structure, and language help the writer determine which form of narrative writing they are practicing.

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Why Teachers Should Know What is Narrative in Writing: Types of Narrative Writing + a Bonus

I often feel like my students dreaded big writing assignments.  It was a lot of work for a big grade that was often lower than they wanted. Of course, they dreaded it.  Writing has been turned into a skill students are supposed to do perfectly so that they can score well on state tests.  There is no fun or joy in writing anymore.  

I think it’s time we change the way we grade narratives and give our students a lot more room to explore what they can do with their writing.  If they fall in love with writing and all the possibilities it brings they are going to invest more time and effort into the mechanics of it. 

Expanding how we teach narratives is a great way to help our students explore writing.  They can learn the five types of narrative writing and produce work that is much more interesting to read.  Exploring the 5 types of narrative writing can also help our students find their voice.  Once their imaginations start to try to write in a different type of narrative writing they might begin to feel like they have a way to share their thoughts.

What is Narrative in Writing? Linear Narrative

A linear narrative moves in a straight line.  The reader hears about each event in the order that it happens.  This is how our students usually write their narratives.  It can be written from different perspectives, but the reader sees everything in chronological order. It can also be told in past, present, or future tense, just in order.

The benefits of a linear narrative are that the reader knows why each event happened.  It is easy for the reader to see how events link together which creates patterns.  The reader sees what the characters are going through daily so it’s easy to see the cause and effect of each event.  The reader gains a true understanding of the main character’s life.

In the Classroom:

This is the default type of narrative our students write.  If you are having your students write this type of narrative warn them against boring writing.  Help them understand the benefits of a linear narrative and challenge them to step up to strong writing. Important events should be longer and more detailed, and insignificant events should be shorter.

What is Narrative in Writing? Non-Linear Narrative

A non-linear narrative is not a straight line.  The events of a story are told out of order on purpose.  As the various events are presented to the reader out of chronological order the narrator’s role may shift between characters also.  

The benefit of a non-linear narrative is that it emphasizes the emotional state and mindset of the narrator.  Through the jumps and gaps of time in a non-linear narrative, you get to see the most important parts of how the narrator feels and why he or she feels that way.  Non-linear narratives are likely going to use some literary techniques such as flashbacks.   It’s great to have our students practice literary techniques.  The non-linear narrative can also make it easier for the reader to pick up on and understand the themes in the story.  The thematic connections are clearer in a non-linear narrative. 

narrative-writing-technique

Uses of a Non-Linear Narrative:

A narrative being non-linear must be on purpose and it should be for a specific purpose.  If the narrative is non-linear by accident it will likely be confusing for the reader.  If you are having your students write non-linear narratives try having them pick a use first.

Purposes for Using Non-Linear Narratives

  1. Narrator’s Emotional State or Consciousness.

If the narrator is traumatized or has lost their memory then it can show the reader how the character feels as they are trying to understand, remember, or cope with what happened.  We might see the highlights of events and as their story continues gain more details and insight.

  1. Multiple Stories with Related Themes or Plots

If there are two main characters or narrators they might be going through similar trials and challenges at different times.  The reader can see how the characters relate to each other and might even route for them to help each other.  Maybe in the end the two characters will come together or maybe not.

  1. Build Suspense

Sometimes a writer can reveal scenes before or after the climax and then jump back to other parts of the story.  The reader is on the edge of their seat wondering how the characters got there.  

In the Classroom:

Students should experiment with non-linear narratives even if it’s only so we don’t have to read the boring line, “and then…” repeatedly.  It’s a great challenge for your students to take a finished linear narrative and have them transform it into a non-linear narrative.  It will make it easier for your students the first time they write a non-linear narrative if they can see the chronological version first.  Remember to have your students pick a use for their non-linear narrative.  It will give them a goal of what to emphasize.

narrative-writing-elements

What is Narrative in Writing? Historical Narrative

Historical narratives show how events link together through cause and effect.  It’s a clear sequence of past events that helps the reader see the cause-and-effect process that defines historical narratives.  You can think of it as a chain reaction.  The series of events lead to the outcome or resolution.  Word choice helps the reader follow a historical narrative by showing them the order of events.  There are usually transition words that tell the reader the order of events.  

In the Classroom:

This would be a great history assignment.  Have your students write a short story about a historical event rather than a research essay.  Students would have to consider how people felt about the event and the social impacts that could have occurred.

What is Narrative in Writing? Descriptive Narrative

Descriptive narratives do exactly what they say, describe.  Descriptive narratives have two main focuses: tone and mood, and setting.  If you read my blog 11 Creative Activities and a Practical Definition for Literary Elements you may recall what these are:

  1. Setting – is when and where a story takes place.  The reader needs an established time, location, and environment with detailed descriptions.  The setting impacts the plot and characters throughout the story.
  2. Mood – is how the writer wants to make the reader feel as they read the story.
  3. Tone – is the overall mood or message of a story.

When you combine these story elements the story is greatly impacted.  They can work together to create strong emotions for the reader to connected to or be gripped by.

As a reader, you may notice that in a descriptive narrative the writer lingers on specific settings, feelings, or images to help create the tone and mood of the story. As a writer, you can purposely linger on specific parts of your story to create these strong feelings for the reader, usually by adding purposeful descriptions.  This is what we can teach our students.

In the Classroom:

Every teacher I have ever known has wanted to get their students to use descriptive language in their writing.  Teaching students about descriptive narratives would be a great way to do that.  If it was the sole focus and sole grading criteria I think students would suddenly understand how to do it better.  It would also provide you opportunities for mini-lessons and conferences to help.

What is Narrative in Writing? Viewpoint Narrative

A viewpoint narrative is when the story is filtered through the main character or other characters’ point of view.  I know that sounds quite wordy, so let’s simplify it.  Every person or fully developed character has unique experiences and life events that shape what they think and feel about what’s currently happening in their lives.  This means that what the reader readers is not necessarily the full or accurate story.

The narrator’s feelings, moods, desires, beliefs, and values moods, impact how the sensory details, events, and other characters are described to the reader.  This can make the narrator unreliable, which could be on purpose or unintentionally.  It depends on who the narrator is.  Is the narrator a liar or trickster? Are inexperienced or too young to understand?

This can work for either first or third-person narratives.  It impacts how the reader interprets the story.  We can agree with this narrator because we don’t have all the information or something to compare the information against.  It could also be because the narrator is strong and convincing.  

In the Classroom:

A viewpoint narrative would be a challenging task for students, which means they can learn a lot.  Imagine if you picked an experience that most of them are familiar with. For my students, it would probably be going to the ocean, skiing, or sledding.  Next, you’d tell them there was going to be a visitor to your town who had never done or seen that experience.  Then the students would write about that experience from that character’s point of view.

What is Narrative in Writing? Quest Narrative

A quest narrative is when the protagonist works tirelessly towards their goal or all-consuming passion.  As the protagonist works towards their goal they will face many trials and obstacles online the way.  This protagonist is undeterred from their goal no matter how challenging the quest might be.  Often the quest is a geographical location that takes them on a long and hard journey.  A few examples of a quest narrative are The Hobbit and The Odyssey. 

In the Classroom:

Students would love to write a quest narrative.  I can imagine what characters they would create and the adventures those characters would go on.  A quest narrative would help students dive into their creativity and use their imaginations.  This would be a valuable lesson.

What are Narratives in Writing and How They Apply to the Classroom

Different types of narratives are an amazing way for students to explore writing and learn how to become more mature writers.  Students can use these types of narrative writing in several different genres or forms of narratives.  Here are some of the forms of narratives that you can expose your students to.  Consider introducing these types of narratives to your students through reading and writing assignments so they can see how many kinds of narratives there are.

  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Captivity Narrative
  • Epic
  • Epic Poem
  • Essay
  • Fable
  • Fantasy
  • Flash Fiction
  • Folk Tale
  • Historical Fiction
  • Legend
  • Memoir
  • Myth
  • News
  • Novel
  • Novella
  • Parable
  • Play
  • Poem
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Screenplay
  • Short Story
  • Tall Tale

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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

Episode 65: How to Use Product Lines and Templates in Your TpT Store

Product lines are an easy way to make more resources and money once you know what they are and how to use them.  Here’s what you need to know to get started.

What Are Product Lines?

Product lines are a group of products that are similar and from the same brand.  Product lines might also be described as a group of products that function in a similar way and are targeted toward the same audience.  Both descriptions used by the world are true in my TpT business too. Once you find your niche, or your main thing, it’s much easier to create product lines.

Benefits of Product Lines

Product lines make it easier to make more resources because you know what it will look like and all the steps the students and teacher will need to complete an assignment.  The basic idea is planned you just have to fill in the details.  It’s like every curriculum you use in school.  Your math lesson might consist of a whole group lesson, followed by small group work, then independent work, and wrap up with an exit ticket.  You basically know what your math period will look like, but the details are different every day.  Predictability helps your class anticipate what’s coming next.  By creating product lines, you help yourself create lessons and teachers teach them.

A template is the basic outline of a product in which you can fill in the details.  You can even use the last resource you made as a template by duplicating it.  Once you have a template you can fill in the details and change out key directions.  Once your details are filled in you just need to add appropriate clip art.  Working from a template rather than a blank canvas makes resources creating much faster.

How Do You Decide What TpT Product Lines to Create?

Look at your Product Statistics page on TpT and play with the toggles.  You can see conversion rates and sales numbers.  Once you look at what’s selling you know what to create more of or stop creating.  

I create sensory table themes for my son.  I switch it out every month or so.  For a while, I was creating a resource to put on TpT, but they weren’t selling at all.  Some of them have been up for a year and not one has sold.  Clearly, there is not currently a need for these lessons on TpT or maybe I didn’t use SEO correctly.  But without any sales, I haven’t continued to make more sensory table resources.  The product statistic told me I didn’t need to create them.

I have created many poetry lessons.  It’s my thing and where I see a lot of my sales.  I wouldn’t have my students write an acrostic poem for every holiday, but I do sell one for every holiday because that is the form of poetry most teachers are familiar with.  Acrostic poems are a product line for me.  As long as they continue to sell I will continue to make them.

How to Use the Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing in a New Prewriting Strategy

What is the best graphic organizer for narrative writing?  After a lot of research, I discovered 13 Strategies for Prewriting to Help Your Students Efficiently Produce Writing.  I combed through the list to determine strategies that had various names and simplify the definition of each.  

However, not every prewriting strategy or graphic organizer is useful for each assignment.  What are some good strategies for prewriting in narrative writing?  How do you know which prewriting strategy to use? And what is the best graphic organizer for narrative writing?

How Did I determine the Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing?

When I was still in the classroom I didn’t put much thought into which graphic organizer  I gave my students.  If I found a pretty graphic organizer that seemed okay I would use it.  I had my students do the steps, but it didn’t impact their work in a significant way because it was just a graphic organizer, not a prewriting strategy.  Of course, their writing was poor when I didn’t combine the graphic organizer with a prewriting strategy to truly support their writing plan. Looking at the writing my students produced I should have figured out the problem sooner. It was my fault and it was up to me to fix it.

Learning About the Best Graphic Organizers for Narrative Writing

Maybe you’ve been in the same situation as me.  Your students aren’t producing very good writing and you don’t know where to start.  You’d very much like to find the best graphic organizer for narrative writing that will magically fix your writing problems.  I’m going to attempt to make your writing teacher’s life better by giving you a great prewriting strategy to help your students.

What are Graphic Organizers?

I have been talking about graphic organizers like everyone knows what they are.  Likely you do because you are a teacher and have been through many years of school and possibly many years of teaching.

A graphic organizer is a visual and graphic tool that helps writers organizer their work.  It allows writers to see relationships between facts, terms, and ideas,  It makes it easier to comprehend, and internalize information.  Graphic organizers can be used in all subjects, but today we are going to focus on writing and more specifically narrative writing.

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What Role Does a Prewriting Strategy Play With Graphic Organizers?

Strategies for prewriting and graphic organizers are different things.  Strategies for prewriting are the plan of action the writer is going to take to write successfully. There is often more than one step in a prewriting strategy.  Whereas the graphic organizer simply helps students organize their incredible ideas in ways that are easy to visualize and understand, thus making it easier to share with their audience. 

Graphic organizers and prewriting strategies are two very different tools, but when we use them together it’s almost impossible not to see improved writing.  We have to teach our students that these are separate tools and show them how they work together to support impactful writing.

What I am going to lay out for you here is a prewriting strategy.  It’s going to take more than a graphic organizer to effectively help your students grow as writers.  Of course, I expect you to tweak this plan so it works better for your students because you know them best.  I’d also love to hear the results of what happened in your classroom, so bookmark this article and come back and leave a comment.

This is a six-step process that I am offering up to you here.  My goal is to combine lots of support for our students with an opportunity to write like a professional.  I believe support and the creative breathing room will help them develop into better writers.

  1. The Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing: Step 1 Brainstorming or Listing

The truth is that you do not need a graphic organizer for brainstorming or listing, but students seem to do better in the younger grades when you hand them one.  Even middle schoolers do better when you hand them a graphic organizer rather than an intimidating blank page.  If giving your students a graphic organizer gets them writing then give them one.  The more they brainstorm and write the more their confidence will grow.

Your students can brainstorm like crazy people or write lists.  Different personalities and writers like using different methods.  Both of these methods allow students to get all of their ideas out quickly without worrying about their organization.  Their brainstorming or listing should include all the crazy, out-of-this-world ideas they can think of.  They should be laughing because some of them are silly and writing questions about things they don’t know.  

When students brainstorm they can do it on a blank piece of paper or a graphic organizer page.  There should be lots of room to write without many restrictions.  They don’t need lines or bubbles.

If your students like a little more organization they should write lists.  Students can organize a list in any way they would like.  They might like to create categories, a list of rhyming words, or write about one topic.  Listing tends to have some more organization.

If you would like a graphic organizer to assist your students with brainstorming or listing you can grab them here.

  1. The Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing: Step 2 – Talking or Visual

Students now have a plethora of ideas in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they are all good.  It’s time to flesh them out a little bit.  There are two ways your students can do this.  

Talking

First they can have a good conversation with a friend, classmate, or teacher.  They might have thought their first idea was the best one, but when they chat with someone else they figure out that it’s awful.  Talking about our ideas makes them real and helps us see if they have value.

How to Do It:

In this step of our prewriting strategy, students should mark their best ideas with a star.   Then they should bring their brainstorm or list with them to talk with a classmate.  They will also need some markers or highlighters and a pencil.  Instruct your students that they are going to be looking for their best ideas and also cross out the ones that won’t work.  Then allow your students to talk about their writing ideas.  

The conversations I heard boys have with each other in grades 4-6 were absurd.  A lot of the conversations guys have at any age are silly, hypothetical, and intriguing.  It’s these kinds of conversations we want to foster to help our students understand their ideas better.

Visual

If your students are visual learners then you can have them use their brainstorming and listing to create a storyboard.  You students can draw out what is going to happen in the story using their ideas.  A visual of ideas could help students expand the ideas or realize which ideas won’t work and cross them out.  

The Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing: Step 3 – Freewriting

I think freewriting has gotten a bad rap in the writing teacher world.  Teachers are trying to help students organize their work in a meaningful and logical way.  Freewriting seems to hinder that process.  When I was researching prewriting strategies I thought, It’s crazy to have students freewrite as a prewriting strategy.  How could they follow the writing process and stay organized? However, when you pair freewriting with other graphic organizers and parts of your prewriting strategy it’s very useful.

Allow your students to take some time to write out their ideas.  They have already formed some sort of plot and plan by brainstorming/listing and talking or creating a visual.  Your students are excited and ready to put their ideas on the paper, so let them.  Use their passion and excitement to motivate a lot of writing.

Give them a set amount of time for freewriting.  Let them know that they will be doing more work on their writing a bit later and that this is the given amount of time for now.

The Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing: Step 4 – Mind Mapping or Diagramming

Mindmapping and diagramming are very similar techniques.  The goal is to map the story in a visual way that allows the writer to see the various connections.  If they have something in their opening paragraph that alludes to the climax of the story it can be hard to remember that connection but when they map it out they can manipulate their story and plot better.

In mind mapping, students will use a web of circles and lines that show all of the connections in the story.  They can show who is friends and enemies, what the big conflict is, and the events leading up to it. 

Diagramming is a little more formal and organized.  You’d probably want to create a template based on your requirements for the narrative assignment.  To differentiate between the two I would use boxes in the diagram graphic organizer. 

The goal of having students use this graphic organizer is that they can see what parts of the story are big with lots of details and important events and which parts are small.  Then they can see which parts they are spending far too much time on and which parts don’t give enough detail.  When a writer mixes up what is important with what’s not the results are a boring story.  Who wants to grade boring stories?

The Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing: Step 5 – Looping

Looping is a writing technique that is fairly new to me, but I love it already.  So your students have a freewrite done and they can see what their story looks like in a mind map or diagram.  Now it’s time to notice which parts were too big or too small and change them.  

It’s called looping because students are looping back to certain parts of their writing and doing a rewrite.  They can loop back as many times as needed to make their story better.  Sometimes the loop turns into the main story.  Meaning that your students will throw out the original freewrite and focus on the loop they created.  I’m sure you’ve taught students that they picked a watermelon topic when they need to pick a seed.

Here’s a quick example:

Your student is going to write about an amusement part visit.  They spend three paragraphs on getting up and dress.  They spend three paragraphs on the car ride and fighting with their sibling.  They spend 1 paragraph on all the rides.

In the mind map, they saw that this was a silly story about getting dressed and driving.  They loop back into the story at driving to the amusement park, which is one paragraph full of excitement and nerves.  Then they spend 8 paragraphs on the amusement park.  

In the next loop, they realize it’s a list of rides.  So the student loops again and spends most of the focus talking about riding the biggest roller coaster.

The Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing: Step 6 – Plot Diagram or Story Map

Teachers use these graphic organizers when reading narratives all the time.  They are also a popular choice for teaching writing narratives.  I know that some people use these upcoming terms interchangeably, which is fine. They serve a similar purpose.  Teachers usually decide which one to use based on the age of their students. I am going to be a little more specific here.

A plot diagram is that little mountain the main character climbs during the story with an introduction, rising action, climax, and resolution.  

A story map is when students write out the characters, setting, conflict as well as the beginning, middle, and end.

Teachers jump to have students map out the story and determine each step the characters take a long the way.  It should make writing the actual story a breeze, but whenever I used these students were resistant and their stories were boring. I am not saying there is anything wrong with these graphic organizer.  I actually think they’re great when they are in the correct place in the writing strategy plan.   

If you have your students use one of these graphic organizer near the end of their writing, like I am suggesting here, they will see where their story fall short.  It’s another way to look for necessary revisions before editing.  Your students will map out their own story just like the ones they read. Did they forget the resolution or is there no rising action? 

When did I come to believe these should be left for the end? I recently read On Writing by Stephen King.  I am not a fan of his, infact I have never read one of his books because I just don’t like scary stories, but I figure he is a successful writer and has wisdom.  In his book he talks about how he never plans out his stories.  He gets an idea, usually combines it with another idea and sees how it changes and grows as the story unfolds.  He lets his characters become real and control the story.  His method must make for interesting writing since his stories keep selling.  

If we are too quick to have our students nail down the plot they are going to miss this creative opportunity.  If we let them use story maps and plot diagrams to check their work later in the process we will still get a complete story, but it will probably be way more interesting to read.

The Best Graphic Organizer for Narrative Writing is a Prewriting Strategy Plan

This prewriting strategy plan is complex.  It will walk your students through a process that is similar to what real authors do.  Our students have so much imagination and creativity that should get to shine in their writing.  Changing how we have them start the writing process is a good way to help them produce their best writing and grow as writers.

For some reason we tell our students the writing process is not linear, meaning they will have to revisit first steps, but then we teach it to them in a linear way.  However, this prewriting strategy encourages a non-linear writing process, that lets our students’ creativity shine through.  You will likely change this particular strategy around to make it your own.  In the end I hope that your students writing grows with confidence and creativity as you try a new prewriting strategy plan.

If you would like access to a narrative writing lesson that uses this strategy you can grab _____ in my TpT store.

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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

Episode 64: Updating Products in My TpT Store

Since I started my TpT store a year ago I have learned a lot about product design.  As I rounded the first year of having my Teachers Pay Teachers store, I decided I should start updating my products.  I had heard of other sellers doing this once they had over 300 resources and I didn’t want to wait that long.  So, I started.

I am going to share some of the things I’m updating in my TpT resources. 

  1. Fonts

I am updating my TpT fonts.  I found a good basic easy to read font early on and I love using it for just about everything.  Honestly, I am a little sick of it myself, but I haven’t come across a better font for text that needs to be easy to read. When you are creating resources for kids, they need to be able to read the fonts easily and I think this font is perfect for that.  The fonts that I am updating are for my titles and headings.  I’ve learned how to create a more attractive title that really pops off the page and grabs the buyer’s attention more.  Even the way you line up the fonts in your titles makes resources that are more desirable and cuter.

  1. Clip Art

My clip art needed a makeover too.  As I update my resources, I am making sure that my clip art is cute and appealing.  I have never been a clip art person myself.  It won’t be the make-or-break buying point for me, but for some teachers it is. I also want my clip art in black line and color.  This leads me to my next update.

  1. Black and White Edition

When I first started, I wasn’t making a black and white edition of my resources.  Again, I wouldn’t mind buying a color version and just printing it in black and white.  But some teachers look for the black and white version.  It’s a bit of a pain in the butt but making a black and white version should make more teachers consider buying my resource.  I’m adding a black and white version as I update my resources.

  1. More Value in a Resource

As I’ve become a better curriculum creator, I’ve added some basic things to most of my products.  For example, now every resource I create has a revision and editing checklist specific to the resource (it only takes a few edits to do this).  When I first started, I didn’t have this checklist.  Now I am adding it into my resources.  It makes my resources more complete and easier to use.

  1. Titles and Descriptions

I am also updating my product titles and descriptions using SEO.  I heard about SEO early in my TpT seller journey, but like everything else as I practiced more, I got better at using SEO.  So, I am writing more complete product descriptions with SEO. 

Remarkable Little Guide to the 4 Different Types of Writing 

There are so many things that we need to teach in writing each school year.  It’s overwhelming to think about all the mini-lessons, teaching moments, assignments, and grading. But if we can take a step back and look at the big picture of what we are teaching it can help simplify our writing curriculum for the year.  

I love anything that makes teaching life simpler. Every school year there are four different types of writing that we need to teach our students.  They are narrative, persuasive, expository, and descriptive.  Let’s take a look at these different types of writing because having a better understanding of the big picture can make this humongous teaching task easier. 

Teaching the Different Types of Writing

During the school year I would get wrapped up in all the lessons I was teaching and all the grading I was going to have to do.  It was overwhelming to plan lessons to try to teach writing in an organized and understandable way. As part of a teaching team, I was expected to hop between the different types of writing with the other teachers.  It also seemed like the teaching curriculum wanted my students to work on the same piece of writing endlessly.  They were bored and it made their assignments and motivation awful.  Who wants to continuously revise edit the same piece of writing forever?

Ready for Testing with the Different Types of Writing

Writer’s Workshop and writing blocks should be a little messy.  Creativity is messy.  When we imagine and create it’s often in short bursts until we practice creating. Our lessons are going to change every year based on our students’ needs, not what a curriculum says.  Our students’ goal is to progress as writers, not become perfect.  

The best way to make progress as a writer is to practice a lot. We are trying to give our students a strong foundation of the basics so they are ready for more intense work in high grades. We want them to recognize the different types of writing and texts through their characteristics and start to apply those differences to their work. As they progress as writers, their writing will become more complex by adding adjectives, adverbs, descriptive writing, paragraphs, and more.

Why Are There Different Types of Writing?

One of the lessons we are constantly trying to teach our students is how to write to their audience for a specific purpose. This is a skill any writer needs to do.  While people write emails they are trying to convey a clear message to the recipient without any misunderstandings occurring. 

When writers are writing a book they are trying to engage their audience enough that they will read the whole book and maybe the next one too.  If you are a scary story person who hears Stephen King is releasing a new book you are excited until you find out it’s a fantasy book with a princess and frog.  He has a clear audience and that book is not what they want to read.  

The audience and purpose for writing will determine the type or style of writing your students are going to create. The different types of writing all have different purposes and require different writing skills.  Your students need to understand which type of writing they are focusing on, and you need to help them stick to it to make their writing better. 

Often types as our students practice the different types of writing they will start to find that they prefer one type of writing over the others.  This is a good thing.  It means your students are starting to find their writer’s voice where they can share their personality and thoughts.  I know we want our students to be great all around, but help them develop their preferred style because it will help the rest of their writing too.  

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What are the Different Types of Writing?

There are four different types of writing.  They can be broken down into more categories, genres, or styles, but we want our teacher lives to be simpler.  There are four different types of writing.  Imagine all of the writing assignments you give your students over the school year.  Your goal with those assignments is to make sure your students understand four types of writing.  That’s it. 

We are going to dive into a detailed explanation of each, as well as common places you can find examples of the different types of writing.

Different Types of Writing: Narrative

Narrative writing tells a story.  Narratives can be real or imagined. Narratives need characters, conflicts, and settings. The reader should enjoy reading to find out what happens to the characters.  

There are often events in narratives like action, motivating situations, conflicts, and resolutions.  Dialogue and action can make the story come to life and move forward. Sometimes the writer wants to share a theme or message with the reader, but other times it is just about telling a good story.

Often teachers start the school year with a personal narrative about our students’ lives or summer because it provides students with some of the basic story or literary elements a narrative needs.  

You Can Find Examples of Narratives Writing In

  • Short Stories
  • Novels
  • Poetry
  • Historical Accounts
  • Biographies
  • Fiction
  • Human Interest Stories
  • Anecdotes

Different Types of Writing: Expository 

In the teacher world, expository writing can be called informational, research, fact-based, or any other number of terms.  It sometimes depends on the grade level, teacher, district, or state.  Today I am going to use the term expository.

Expository writing is informational writing.  The writer is exposing or explaining facts and information for the reader.  The goal for expository writing is that the writer explains all the relevant information they can in a logical order without stating their personal opinions.  This is hard for students because they have opinions on almost everything.

Often expository writing will include evidence, facts, research, and statistics.  The writer has to think on multiple levels to explain their topic logically, include evidence to support their writing, and keep their personal opinion out of it.  

Schools push students to learn expository writing to prepare them for college.  It’s also important for students to identify, read, and understand expository writing because they will see it in their daily lives.  We read expository writing daily.

You Can Find Examples of Expository Writing In

  • Textbooks
  • Journalism (but not editorials or opinion articles)
  • Business Writing
  • Technical Writing
  • Essays
  • Instructions
  • Directions
  • Scientific
  • How To
  • Recipes

Different Types of Writing: Persuasive

Persuasive writing is exactly what it says it is.  In persuasive writing, the writer is trying to convince the reader to take their side of an argument.  The persuasive writer has a strong opinion and they want you to know what it is, understand it, and agree with it. However, the persuasive writer knows it’s going to take some work so they share their opinion, give reasons, evidence, and justifications to help you agree with them.

Teaching persuasive writing is a lot of fun for both the teacher and the students.  As I said in expository writing students have opinions on almost everything, and in persuasive writing, they get to share them.  They get to go beyond sharing their opinions, they are trying to convince the reader that their opinion is the right opinion. 

Students usually need to do some research to write a persuasive paper, which is why I teach it after expository writing.   Here are some of the basic steps for how teaching persuasive writing might go.

  1. Pick topics or ideas that your students are passionate about.  Persuasive writing is all about passion.  
  2. Once students have the topic ideas from you or themselves they need to decide what their stance is.  
  3. Next they need to research both sides of the argument.  They are going to try to make the facts and statistics support their idea rather than the opposition.  The writer must understand both sides of the argument.
  4. Have a class debate or small group debates about the topics.  Students can try to sway their classmates and work out some of their ideas better.
  5. Write.  Their writing should go between what they think and what the opposition thinks, while always trying to disprove the opposition.

Students will need to use evidence and justifications to convince the reader to join their stance and maybe take some action.  For example, if students are writing about paper, plastic, reusable, or no straws.  They will try to convince the reader to use their preferred type of straw. If their persuasive writing is convincing the reader may change their buying habits.  

Even in schools, persuasive writing can create real change.  Students can call other students to take action and make a difference.

You Can Find Examples of Persuasive Writing In

  • Advertising
  • Opinion Articles
  • Editorial Articles
  • Reviews (book, concert, or food)
  • Job Applications
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Cover Letters
  • Arguementive Essays

Different Types of Writing: Descriptive

In fourth-grade writing, I encountered a lot of list writing.  My students would tell me what happened by saying “and then…” over and over again.  It was boring to read their immature and poor writing.  As a teacher, it was hard to get students to implement descriptions that show the reader what’s happening instead of telling.

Descriptive writing is when the writer helps the reader visualize the story.  The writer is painting a picture of what the story looks like using vivid and sensory details.  These details can describe a character, setting, event, idea, or all of them.  As students become better writers their descriptive writing will include more literary techniques such as figurative language.

Descriptive writing is artistic.  The writer has a lot of freedom in their writing to show the reader what they want them to see, just like an artist has the freedom to paint with as many colors as they’d like.

Descriptive writing can occur in narrative and persuasive writing, but it also can be a more stand-alone type of writing.  It’s a great skill to have students practice descriptive writing as their own assignment before expecting students to incorporate it in their regular writing.

You Can Find Examples of Descriptive Writing In

  • Poetry
  • Journals and Diaries
  • Fiction
  • Poetry
  • Advertising
  • Nature Writing
  • Observational Writing

Finding a Balanced Way to Teach the Different Types of Writing

It is important that students understand all of these different types of writing.  They should be able to identify them while reading and know which one they are writing.  As students progress in their academic careers they are going to need to be able to pick which type of writing they should use for an assignment.  Which type of writing they choose is of course going to depend on their purpose.  

Usually, we tell our students which type of writing they are going to use, but we should also try to give some opportunities for students to choose which type of writing to pursue.  It’s important for them to practice the responsibility of choosing.

Students need to switch between the different types of writing enough that writing is fun and interesting, but also have enough practice with one type of writing that their understanding and writing skills grow. Personally, I like to work in two-week increments.  I give students practice with one type of writing for two weeks, and then offer a break with poetry or descriptive writing for a bit before diving into another type of writing.

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