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Narrative writing is one of three forms of written work that are commonly taught.

These three methods are the primary forms of written work we utilize in the classroom. When it comes to writing in general, and narrative writing in particular, what can teachers do to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their teaching? Read on to find out more.

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What is narrative writing?

The narrative writing definition is characterized by its unique way of storytelling. The usual technique of narrative writing is through interaction with a single main character, the primary interaction source within the created world. This could be through solving problems, experiencing events, or more. So, what is a narrative?

As a technical skill to teach in the classroom, narrative writing offers plenty of room for development, including all of the following important factors:

  • Tone
  • Voice
  • Author’s Purpose
  • Structure
  • Word Choice
  • Organization

What do I need to teach?

For teachers working with narrative writing for the first time, the concept can be challenging to wrap your head around. But when broken down into its components, educating students on narrative writing is simple. This method of writing encourages students to think like their favorite authors, Roald Dahl or Beverly Cleary.

With plenty of narrative writing lessons available online, there are ample resources to help you to teach narrative writing effectively, but here are the basics that they will need to know:

Organization & structure

For students to begin to create their narrative writing, they must understand the basis of structure in stories. Stories that utilize narrative are generally organized according to specific rules. An example is that the character or the setting is usually introduced first, with the problem or event introduced secondarily. This encourages a chronological plot format, which is common in most narrative stories.

This third-grade narrative lesson can offer you greater insight and resources for the organization and working with transitions.

Create the character

One of the principal required parts of any narrative writing. Characters play a significant role in progressing the story and interacting with the world your student has created. The character could be a person, animal, or another being, but they are essential to developing a story’s plot. Creating a character, describing them, and planning their actions are all important aspects of the stage before writing begins.

This page offers further information about bringing students’ characters to life in their writing.

Capture the reader

For a narrative to be successful, it must capture the reader’s attention. Your job is to help your students learn how to create compelling, engaging beginnings for their stories. Offering examples of good beginnings is an excellent way to do this.

What is the plot?

The skeleton of any narrative story, the plot, offers the timeline of events the story’s characters must face, outlining what they must do and how they should navigate events or problems within their narrative. Teaching narrative writing to students, including how to draft and plot events, can offer them a better way to create exciting stories with clear plot points.

Using picture books can be a great way to illustrate the importance of the plot. Learn more about that here. For older students, there are a variety of different plots that can be created.

Describe in detail

Most narrative writing uses high levels of detail to tell a story, from describing a setting to giving information about the character in an organic way. Teaching your students when and how to incorporate detail can help them create more intricate stories and plots.

Provide suspense

Cliffhangers are a conventional and effective method to engage readers by creating a sense of suspense that compels them to continue. Reading stories that use effective or unexpected cliffhangers is a great starting point for helping students understand how to incorporate cliffhangers into their work.

What is the ending?

Once the main problem or event of the story has been resolved, it’s time to wrap up the narrative with a compelling conclusion. This involves leaving the main character’s decisions, wishes, hopes, and thoughts at a final closing point, allowing the story to have a satisfying conclusion.

Unsure how to teach endings? This guide may help you.

What is the plot?

A theme of any story is the basis of what the plot is about. Thematic narratives are a common way to help students create stories that align with a particular type of writing. Teaching your students this based on current reading and writing can offer them greater insight into more advanced storytelling.

Narrative writing in different forms

Students will begin to engage with narrative forms from a young age, whether reading stories or watching television. But when it comes to creating their narrative, their writing skills will include narrative stories from an early elementary school level.

From K-2, students will learn how to write within the classroom. Narrative can be easily incorporated into this process through reading-aloud sessions. Both fiction and non-fiction writing is suitable for this and can be used to open a discussion about the elements and themes of narratives over time. At this age, students can also begin creating their own basic stories.

Beyond grade two, third- or fourth-grade students will have a far more developed concept of narrative writing. At this age, writing their own stories is encouraged, including the more advanced narrative elements such as timelines and outlines. Including lessons on endings, introductions and detail can be valuable at this stage.

Writing narratives should be second nature for children in upper elementary school or older. Once the basics are established, students should be working towards developing their narratives and incorporating more advanced narrative skills. This could include different tenses or telling stories from various perspectives.

Non-fiction & personal narratives

While fiction narratives are entirely based on your student’s imagination, personal or non-fiction narratives are stories based on real life. However, the same writing techniques and skills still apply; the story’s plot is already created and cannot be altered to remain true to real-life events.

How to help students

There are many ways teachers can help students to write better narratives. Here are just a few suggestions to encourage struggling students to write more engaging, effective narratives:

  • Encourage prewriting and organization to help students struggling to create narratives. Graphic organizers provide the guidance some students may require.
  • Give struggling students transition words to work with, such as ‘as soon as’ or ‘finally’, to encourage more chronological storytelling
  • These ideas may offer support for students who continue to struggle with narrative writing

How to encourage students to keep writing

If you have students who excel at narrative writing, and you’d like to push them to do more, here are just a few ways to incorporate their higher skill level into your teaching:

  • Encourage students to think about how they would like the reader to react or feel while reading their story and suggest ways to engage certain emotions.
  • Ask students to improve and polish existing characters and add new, minor characters for plot progression.
  • Follow the introduction of minor characters with how their use may impact or alter the narrative of their main character, including any changes to their main plot as a result.