Whether teaching personal or fictional narrative writing, there are some lessons you just shouldn’t skip.
Components of Narrative Writing
The first lessons I begin when teaching narratives is to start with what narratives are. We read a few personal narrative type stories and then we dive into our beginning lessons. I’ll reference some of the stories we read to discuss what they all have in common. Students are shown short examples and we determine if they are personal narratives.
When I teach fiction writing I repeat a similar lesson. Students reference a fictional narrative checklist and learn how to use it to check if the short stories they hear are fictional or not.
For me, it’s important to show examples and non-examples to students.
Starting in kindergarten, students learn during reading lessons that a story should have a beginning, middle, and end. These lessons should continue in writing.
First lessons in story plot should be helping students figure out the parts of their story. After they have mastered that, we can move onto learning how to make a story engaging by adding details to our story settings.
During second grade I like to explicitly teach different types of story settings and provide lessons for each part of the plot separately. I also teach personal and fictional narratives separately.
When teaching fictional narratives, my lessons for plot are a little different. I like to introduce students briefly to types of plots they can find (and write) in fiction stories. This might include suspense and adventure. I am trying to show my young writers how to start building the roller coaster feel of a good story.
Several lessons in my personal narrative unit are dedicated to slowing down and focusing on small moments. Small moments can be difficult for students to understand. It’s a necessary series of lessons to make sure to teach as the concept of slowing down a story becomes important again in fiction writing.
For me, teaching small moments begins with a lesson on sorting big and small moments. I really want students to understand the difference of what makes a small moment. I feel like not understanding small moments is where students can get stuck. Showing them examples and non-examples similar to our lessons on what are narratives can really help.
Our young writers usually learn that our pictures must match our writing and to add details. Often, I feel this is where our writing lessons about illustrations end. There are many great lessons we can teach students about the art behind story illustrations.
Due to limited time in the classroom, I can’t teach everything I’d love to about story pictures. I have to pick what I consider the most important lessons.
During both fictional narratives and personal narratives are when I teach my students about the power of illustrations. As we read our mentor texts I am also having students take note of what they see in the illustrations.
Some of the things we might discuss are our character emotions and additional details in the illustrations that are not in the story. Here I really want my students to learn that there is more to illustrations than just matching their illustration to their words. Illustrations can help tell the story.
The power of writing good stories lies in the ability to ask and answer questions.
Since second grade reading lessons focus on asking and answering questions, I like to tie these lessons into our writing as well. I break apart types of questions (who, what, when, where, why and how) and take a week to dive into the differences.
Teaching about asking who I show my students how to add adjectives to tell about their character. Then we work on some examples on asking the question of who to add these details. These lessons are short and sweet but can really help students with specifics when we say “add details.” Do they know what we mean when we are asking that?
There are so many more ideas I could share about lessons we can teach for narrative writing but these are the ones I feel are the most important. Of course in between these lessons are the mini lessons about punctuation, grammar, and organization.