Narrative Writing How To: 9 Easy Strategies for Teacher

Not only can teaching narrative writing be a lot of fun to teach our students, but we are required to teach narrative writing by state standards. Narrative writing is a place where our students and dive deep into their creativity and imaginations, which is where great stories are born.  However, narratives also have many pieces that we must teach our students for them to be successful.

Teaching Narrative Writing for the First Time

I always dreaded our beginning of the year writing assessment in fourth grade because I knew what was coming.  And then… and then… and then… Reading about their summer vacations was painful.  I’m sure you’ve also read writing that was basically a list of events that repeats the phrase And then… too many times to count.   The next major piece of narrative writing our students jumped into was the Halloween Class Party at the Haunted Graveyard.  It was an imaginative writing prompt that engaged our students, and we taught many mini-lessons to help them achieve a higher level of success on this assignment.

Narrative Writing How to Change Writing in Your Classroom

Helping our students become more successful writers takes a lot of work.  We are trying to develop writers that show instead of tell, leave lists behind, and expand their transitions to something besides and then.  After you read the rest of this article you will be better prepared to teach narrative writing.

5 Easy to Implement Narrative Writing How To Ideas

Here are a few things you can do that will kick-off narrative writing lessons..  These are simple

1. Read Mentor Text Narratives.  

Of course, you read books with your students, but as you read you need to talk about story structure so they can see the story as a mentor text.  Reading for enjoyment is great, but they need to specifically explain what makes stories narratives.

2. Model Narrative Writing.

Complete the same assignment you’ve given them.  We often show our students examples of finished work, which is a good start.  However, a finished example doesn’t help students understand the complex process the writer went through to create the story.  If we write with them and narrate our process their understanding will increase.

3. Narrative Writing Anchor Charts

Narrative writing anchor charts are a great resource to help our students become better writers.  I wish kids heard, understood, and remembered everything I told them the first time I say it, but the truth is they don’t and won’t.  We have to repeat ourselves endlessly and give them resources to look back at.

4. Give Students Time to Write

Students need time to write and practice everything we teach them.  There are writing curriculums out there that have the teacher teaching and talking a lot, rather than giving the kids a chance to practice and explore their writing skills.  Mini-lesson are an ideal tool to teach narrative writing because they are short, so our students can listen to the whole lessson and will have time to practice the skills we teach.

5. Students Need Time to Share Their Work.  

Students can share with each other and the teachers during revision, editing and publishing.  When students share their writing they are going to learn more from each other, build a writing community and start taking risks.

Narrative Writing How to Resources

What is Independent Writing Practice and How You Can Teach It

Teaching Narrative Writing: 14 Activities to Help Your Students Learn to Love It

Tips for Teaching Narrtive Writing Structure and Style to Elementary Students

Narrative Writing How to Introduce It to Your Students

Writing is a complex process that we need to guide our students through step by step.  Also, we shouldn’t overload them with too much information at once because then they will remember nothing.  Mini-lessons are an ideal way to teach writing your students.  Mini-lessons are a 10-15 minute lesson where you teach your students the skill you want them to practice that day. 

Here are some of the lessons you will want to include while teaching narrative writing to get you started.  Some of these lessons may take several days to talk about and revisit, while others will be a one and done lesson.  As you observe your students you will likely need to add extra lessons to clarify any confusion they may encounter.

Narrative Writing How to Identify a Narrative

Your narrative writing lessons will start with teaching them the difference between narrative writing and other writing.  They will also need to understand the difference between a personal narrative and a fictional narrative.  

A personal narrative has at least some basis on the author’s life, even if a little dramatization is added.  A fictional narrative is a story made up from the author’s creative imagination. 

Some of the characteristics of a narrative are the story structure, characters, setting, author’s purpose, author’s voice, and details.  A great way to model this for students quickly, even in upper grades is with short picture books.  You can discuss the different types of writing and then the characteristics of narratives.

Narrative Writing How to Structure a Story

Do you remember the story structure charts your teachers made you fill out in middle school?  I do.  They weren’t fun, but they are a way to teach story structure.  

Story structure is the introduction, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion.  The term used for each of these parts of a narrative might differ a little depending on where you teach. You students will need to learn the basic parts of a narrative and story structure but also need to revisit each piece in a separate mini-lesson.

Narrative Writing How to Create a Character

Your students need to create real three-dimensional characters.  Their characters need to have things they love, things they hate, dream, goals, challenges, and personalities.  The main character they create should make the reader feel things with how they act, learn, and grow in the story. 

Narrative Writing How to Develop a Setting

The setting of a story works right along with the character.  The setting is more than just a name and date given at the beginning.  It should have more details revealed throughout the story.  It can challenge the reader to grow and learn.  The setting should help drive and develop the story.

Narrative Writing How to Hook the Reader

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

Narrative Writing How to Teach the Plot

Once your students have their hook they need to think about what conflict the character will face and everything after it.  This is a big task and a lot to take on.  I suggest breaking this into three parts

First, teach your students about big events and small moments in a story.  You can do this with mentor text or give them examples and have them brainstorm their own.  Here are a few:

Playing a big sports game | scoring

Going on a big vacation | A specific special stop

A special stop on vacation | one thing they did while they were there

Their birthday party | Opening the present they had been dreaming of

Next, make sure your students understand that the plot should have a conflict or problem the character must face.  The story should be about the events that happen because of the problem.  Usually, the intensity of the events increases as the character gets closer to the climax.  The climax is the most exciting part of the story and the turning point for the character.  Then there should be some falling action events that lead to the resolution.  This is a lot of information for your students.  It could be a long lesson or one taught over several days.

Here is an example of a story plot:

  1. Going to an amusement park to ride the biggest coaster.
  2. Problem: Gt might be too scary to actually do it.
  3. Getting lost in the park while walking to the coaster.
  4. Eating before the ride.
  5. Waiting in a long line.
  6. Having to wait extra while maintance fixes the ride.
  7. Climax: Getting on the coaster, the moment at the top of the clink clink clink, and riding.
  8. Enjoying the rest of the day at the park.
  9. Resolution:  Proud he/she did it, great story to tell friends, rode the coaster again.

The sequence of events is the last part of a plot to teach your students.  The order of the events makes a huge difference in a narrative.  If you have your students practice sequencing they will likely learn they need to start their story earlier or late.  They will learn the order of their rising action events could need to change so they become more intense, or that their climax needs more excitement.  In the example above, if he/she got food after the coast it wouldn’t be a very big deal because their stomach is likely fine at that point.

Narrative Writing How to Teach Resolutions

The resolution or conclusion of the story is where all the lose ends are tied up.  It’s where the reader gets to see how things 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 some how.
  • 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. 

Narrative Writing How to Teach Theme and Main Idea

The main idea of a story is the one-sentence summary that tells what the whole story is about.  It usually sounds too simple to kids.  The struggle with leaving out all the details. In our amusement park example it might be something like “Ezekiel and Vivia were proud after they rode the scariest roller coaster at the amusement park.”

The theme of a story is complex.  The theme is the underlying message of a story that the author wants to convey.  These are usually complex things like honesty, integrity, trust, love, or friendship.  Jeffrey Wilhelm said, “Each time students read, they’re entering into a conversation with the author about what matters.”  I have never heard what a theme is described so well.  The author is trying to tell them something big that matters.  In our amusement park example it would be about facing our fears.

Narrative Writing How to Help Your Students Find Their Author’s Voice

The truth is our students need tools to help them learn how to be effective writers like the mini-lesson suggestions above, but they also need time to write.  As students write they will find their voice, but it takes time.  Give them lots of time to write and encourage them when you see them start to develop their own style.  It’s our unique voice that makes our writing and ideas interesting to others and writer’s workshop is a great way to help your students find their voice.

More Poetry and Writing Tips and Resources

Here are some more great tips and ideas on how to include poetry in your classroom. 

Creating Writing With Flow

Teaching the Writing Process with Poetry

Writing Conferences Made Easy With Poetry

The 5 Best Ways to Make Expository Writing Fun

5 Incredible Benefits of Teaching Poetry and Writing 

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

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