Narrative writing is so fun to teach! It gives children a chance to express their creativity and it gives you an excuse to spend your marking time reading some interesting stories. Occasionally though, children can find narrative writing overwhelming. The fact that there are endless possibilities for what they can write about can make it hard for them to narrow down all the options. A completed narrative is also quite a lengthy assignment for children compared to the other sorts of projects they are usually tasked with. That is why it is helpful to have some strategies up your sleeve to encourage your children as they work on their narrative writing skills. I have taken the time to put together some of my top tips for teaching narrative writing so that you can find them all in one place and start using them today!
Give Examples of Well-Written Narratives
The first step is to make sure that your children know what a well-written narrative looks like. You can introduce them to exemplar narratives in a number of ways, but simply having an accessible collection of carefully selected books is an easy way to start. At home, you can read through narratives together, making it a fun part of your everyday routine. That way, later on, you can refer back to these stories as examples when your children begin their own writing.
Explain the Structure of a Narrative
Once your children have been exposed to examples of narratives, it’s important to clearly lay out the structure of a narrative with them. Go through each narrative feature, taking the time to explain its purpose. It is a good idea to have your children record this somewhere too for easy reference later on.
Develop the Characters
Allowing your children to develop the characters for their narrative at the beginning will make the writing process easier. I like to use character analysis templates to help them with this. The great thing about the example pictured below is that it can be used to both analyse characters from other narratives and to plan out characters before writing a narrative. You can find a copy of this template here.
Set the Scene
After the characters are developed, it’s time to set the scene. When children have a clear picture of what the setting for their narrative is, they will find it easier to add descriptive words to their writing. You can show them examples of how other books set the scene of the story before asking them to do this for their own narratives.
Offer Story Prompts
When children are new to narrative writing, providing them with story prompts can be an effective way to help them get started. There are so many creative story prompts out there, and they offer a fun starting point for children, allowing them to focus on developing their narratives. After spending too many teaching sessions sitting with students who had no idea what to write about, I created a whole bundle of story prompts that you can find here.
Focus on One Part at a Time
Although children need to be aware of all parts of a narrative before they write one, when it comes to developing their writing you should allow them to focus on one part at a time. This way, you are breaking down the process into smaller, more manageable steps. Focusing on the complication is a great starting point, as it helps children gain clarity about what they need to resolve and how their narrative should be set up. You can find a copy of the resource pictured below here.
Add More Detail to the Second Draft
Once children become more confident with constructing narratives, you can work on helping them develop the level of detail in their writing. I like to use tasks like this one that give students an opportunity to practise this skill before diving into editing their own work. Focusing on one part of their narrative at a time is helpful here too. Perhaps you’ll encourage them to make their introduction as compelling as possible or even just to be extra descriptive when they introduce their characters. By giving them a chance to add their descriptive details to the second draft, you’re clearing obstacles that could make it harder for them to get their narrative written in the first place.
Remember That a Picture is Worth 1,000 Words
If you are working with children who still find it difficult to get started with their writing even after you’ve tried all of these tips, then remember that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Give them an image to start their writing and allow them to write freely, without thinking about forming a narrative. Once they’ve got something started, you can go back through their work with them and help them to develop a narrative from it. You can find more story prompts like the one pictured below here.
I hope you enjoy using these tips as you navigate narrative writing with your children! Use the links to buy your own copies of the resources I’ve referenced.
Still after some more ideas? Stay tuned for my next post: Word Walls, Rotations & Literacy Challenges – Navigating Narrative Writing Part 2.
Have a question or a request? You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.