Whether you teach narrative writing to elementary or middle school students, you can count on a few roadblocks. Some students don’t know what to write about. Others have errors they don’t know how to fix. You may spend more time writing lesson plans and feedback than your students spend writing their stories! Use these 10 techniques to get better results in teaching narrative writing.
Personal narrative or short story? Start with a personal narrative. It’s easier to brainstorm and write about experiences from your own life than to make up new characters and situations. Spur the process with a writing prompt. For example, “Write about a time when you faced a fear.”
As Stephen King said, “If you want to be a good writer, you must do two things above all others: Read a lot and write a lot.” Read lots of personal narratives together and talk about the things they have in common. Make a list. This becomes a checklist for students’ own writing.
“I can’t think of anything to write about!” This is a common lament from students of all ages. Daily journaling or quick writes (5 minutes writing to a prompt) can generate a pool of potential topics for a personal narrative.
One way to get students excited about writing is to model excitement. Celebrate the authors of the stories you read as a class. Celebrate the writing students share. Sprinkle in plenty of comments like, “Oh wow, I want to know what happens next!”
Some students will struggle to come up with one idea to write about. Others will have the opposite problem. To narrow the focus, try providing writing prompts. If students keep a journal or do quick writes, help them narrow down their ideas to the top three to pick from.
Beginning a story can be difficult for any author. Before students write, have them map out their narrative on a blank copy of Freytag’s Pyramid or empty comic book boxes. The visual map can help with pacing and keep the story focused.
The best teachers model what they want their students to do. That means writing a story along with the class. As you write, stop to think aloud. Talk about your process. Show there’s no shame in getting stuck or revising.
“I wrote it. It’s done.” This is a common mindset among students. They do something once and turn it in. Writing is a recursive process. Encourage students to share their work, compare it to a model, take feedback, and make changes to improve the narrative as much as possible.
Students don’t make mistakes on purpose. It can be difficult for them to fix their own errors. Provide rubrics, models, and checklists. Adobe Education Exchange can help you develop your own narrative writing rubrics, worksheets, and lesson plans for teaching narrative writing.
To get the best possible final product, let your students know their work will be shared with an audience. Your students are comfortable with you. This is good, but it can also garner complacency. Share work with parents or school personnel. This can give students a boost of pride in their work and also raise the bar for quality.
Whether you’re planning your first narrative writing unit or revising lesson plans for the hundredth time, these techniques help. Best of all, your students will feel proud of the final product.