Improving our narrative writing... - The Teacher Studio: Learning, Thinking, Creating

Improving our narrative writing...

Today started like any other day . . . kids were a little chatty . . . a parent stopped in to chat before school . . . the sky looked a little dark and ominous but--

I wasn't quite prepared for the storm that suddenly popped up and blew out the power for a fraction of a second--just long enough to wipe out our network.

My connection was not reestablished for 4 hours.

So . . . it was punting for math (our entire program is technology based) and writing (my entire lesson was  Smartboard based), but I think the resulting lesson was worth it!

Our first unit this year is realistic fiction, so once we finish our "launching" unit, we dig right in.  In the past, we have always done a personal narrative/small moment unit first which really helped us start the concept of "story", but--alas--no longer.

So, knowing that realistic fiction is a tough unit, I decided to do a crash course on planning narratives!  It started with me telling my students a story. Now, mind you, we have been working on collecting ideas over the last week or so--brainstorming "fun times", "scary times", "favorite things", "times with friends and family", and so on.

I told the story of a "scary time" when I arrived home from school and the door to the house was wide open--and how I freaked out and had to call the police (from Burger King--pre-cell phone!).  After I told the story, we mapped out the key "scenes" on the easel (I like scenes rather than events because we make the connection to TV and movies and how to picture them in their mind):

Arriving home

Freaking out

Driving to Burger King

Calling police

Meeting the police at the house

  . . . and so on

I showed the students a graphic organizer technique I like to use to show sequence--simply a set of boxes with arrows to show sequence.  After that, I asked the students to help me "retell" the story and beef up my plan by adding in more critical details that the boxes didn't cover . . . some of those "who", "what", where" questions and those important feelings and phrases like "heart pounding" and "mind racing".  Here's what we came up with--ignore the messiness.  It was a work in progress.
After that, I sent the students back to their desks to do their OWN "maps" of a memorable event in their lives.  The students first told their stories to a neighbor and then charted their key "scenes".
After the students sketched out their scenes, they met in trios to "retell" their story and work to add in all those critical details they want to include in their narrative when they draft tomorrow.
Sorry for the horrible blurry photo!
After we finished, I took our lesson and turned it into an anchor chart to refer to as we work on narrative writing.  Let me know if you give it a try--I'd love to hear about it!

Have a great Friday!
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  1. Such a great idea! We're starting out narrative unit now and are practicing stretching out our small moments. I think mapping out scenes and adding details to them will really help!

  2. I love this! I am so bad at teaching writing! This is wonderful!

    1. Writing isn't my strength either, Jamie. I've been working hard to get better at helping the kids!

  3. Retelling before writing the rough draft is a great idea! It helps them organize their thoughts. Thanks for this step by step approach and the pictures. Teaching writing is really hard and this was very helpful.


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