Teaching Narrative Writing Tips and Activities

Last week, I walked you through how I thought Opinion Writing should be taught! Today, you’re going to get teaching narrative writing tips. Like last week, I’m going to share best practices I think are best, mentor text suggestions, and even a closer look at Common Core expectations. I hope you can walk away with ideas, activities, and inspiration for your narrative writing lesson plans. All of the images you see below (except for the read-alouds) are part of my ELA writing units. The links to all grade levels are at the bottom!

Time to check grade level expectations from Common Core

Common Core writing domain focuses on three big types of writing: informative, narrative, and today’s topic OPINION WRITING! It begins kindergarten and each year, gets progressively more in-depth and detailed. Here is a look at K-5’s expectations for opinion writing, according to Common Core.

Primary Standards:

  • Kinder: Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.
  • 1st: Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.
  • 2nd: Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

Intermediate (3rd and 4th) Standards:

  • 3rd: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. (a- Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.) (b- Use dialogue and descriptions of actions, thoughts, and feelings to develop experiences and events or show the response of characters to situations.) (c- Use temporal words and phrases to signal event order.) (d- Provide a sense of closure.)
  • 4th: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. (a- Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.) (b- Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.) (c- Use a variety of transitional words and phrases to manage the sequence of events.) (d- Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.) (e- Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.)

Outline of narrative writing teaching unit…

  • What is narrative writing?
  • Teaching the difference between big events and small moments
  • Write an introduction
  • Sequencing events
  • Teaching how to write conclusions
  • Tying it all together & practice opportunities

Stock up on your narrative writing mentor texts!

All of the pieces within this blog post should have a mentor text example along with it. Each time you teach your students about a component of narrative writing, use a strong example! Each of the book links below are affiliate links to Amazon.

Let’s begin… Start by teaching WHAT narrative writing is.

First, we are going to kick off our writing unit by teaching WHAT narrative writing is and how it’s different from the other big writing pieces. Since it is one of the three types of writing pieces, it’s important for students to understand what goes into personal narratives and fictional narratives. The big components I’m going to talk about in this blog post (focused on K-4) is an introduction, events (we will get more in detail later), and a conclusion. Students must understand all the pieces of that before they try writing their own.

Narrative Writing Lesson Plan activity

It is also important for students to recognize the difference between personal narratives and fictional narratives. Since they’re going to be asked to write both types of narrative writing pieces throughout their units (links below), they must know what goes into each one.

After you introduce narrative writing and teach the types of narrative writing, give them some activities to help them practice determining what parts of the story they’re listening to or reading. One activity is a story read aloud. The teacher will read aloud a sample personal narrative, and then he or she will reread it one sentence at a time. Then, students will turn and talk with a partner to identify if that sentence is part of the introduction, events, details, or conclusion. Another activity they can do is a fold-and-snip book where they lift a flap and write a sample sentence under each (or they can write the purpose of each personal narrative component).

Teach big events & small moments

Narrative Writing Lesson plan activity

Now it’s time to teach about big events and small moments. When you’re teaching narrative writing, it gets tricky for younger students to differentiate between big events that happened and smaller moments within those moments. For example, a big event would be taking a trip to Disney World. But focusing on a smaller moment within that event could be meeting Cinderella or riding the new Avatar roller coaster. This helps students focus in on writing more specific details, feelings, and actions when they’re writing their narratives.

Narrative Writing graphic organizer

Give the students lots of practice with big events and small moments. With partners and groups, give students an example big event and ask them to come up with sample smaller moments. First, give them specific big events on a smaller circle map. Then, ask them to come up with their own big event examples.

Move on to introductions

Students will now be ready to move on to introductions because you taught them components and small moments. They’re ready to start practicing! First, you need to introduce introductions (mouthful, right?) You’ll teach them the different ways that you can introduce their narrative and hook their reader. Then, you’ll let them practice identifying sample introductions. This will benefit them in two ways. One way is that they’re getting tons of exposure to different examples of strong introductions. Another way is that they’ll be comfortable with the different types of introductions, which are using dialogue, asking questions, giving details, giving facts, using onomatopoeia, and using emotion.

Narrative Writing graphic organizer

Once they’ve listened to mentor texts and practiced with strong examples, it’s time for them to start practicing coming up with their own. First, ask students to work with a partner to come up with a clever introduction when they see a picture card. Then, they can practice writing a sentence or two on a worksheet when given a topic.

Teach how to sequence events

After your students practice introduction, you can get into the bulk of your writing… the events. This is one of the hardest parts of teaching narrative writing because the majority of the story detail is in this piece of their writing. Within the body, students are going to cover the sequenced events, details, feelings, actions, and emotions.

One way to ask them to practice this is by showing them sequenced events on a picture strip. This shows details of a storyline that students can verbally discuss with a partner. After they study the pictures, they can try to create 3 sentences for each picture to describe the events. A big focus of this part of narrative writing is temporal words, or words such as first, next, then, and last. This will help students be able to organize their events in chronological order.

Narrative Writing graphic organizer

Another way to help kids with events is to show them strong mentor texts as examples. When reading aloud a story, such as Owl Moon, the teacher needs to stop and discuss when they find new events and details that the author has provided. Then, students can write about the ‘first, next, then, and the last events in the text they read.

Narrative Writing  graphic organizer

Don’t forget to include details when you’re teaching narrative writing. If you look at the Common Core standards listed above, you will see that second grade is the age which students are expected to start adding details. They’re expected to start using feelings and actions to help explain their story. Give them lots of practice opportunities to perfect adding these into a story.

Teaching narrative writing conclusions

Narrative Writing graphic organizer

And finally, we will move on to conclusions in narrative writing. When you’re teaching narrative writing, students must know the different types of conclusions, like giving a suggestion, asking a question, or describing a vivid image. First, you can read a few mentor texts’ conclusions to show examples. Then, you can ask them to come up with their own examples after learning about each specific type.

After a few activities that show students different examples of all types of conclusions, let them practice coming up with their own when they’re given a topic.

Tying narrative writing together

And now for the fun part!

Finally, you’ve taught all the pieces of your narrative writing unit. Therefore, it’s time to practice, practice, practice. Choose high-interest and engaging topics for students to write about. Give them lots of different prompts to pick from. Provide them with scaffolded graphic organizers that will help them brainstorm and pre-write. They’re going to rock those narratives!

Interested in Free Graphic Organizers for Your Writing Unit?

Grab a free set of narrative writing graphic organizers. One page for each grade level, perfect for differentiation or just grabbing what you need.

Or Do You Want Ready-Made Lesson Plans for Narrative Writing?

If you’re interested in getting your students to master writing without having to spend hours on planning and prep, I have all-inclusive units for you! These no-prep units have everything you need to teach opinion writing in your classroom!

Narrative Units come complete with anchor charts, lesson plans, graphic organizers, writing prompts, and more! Click the button for your grade level below:

Want more writing blog posts for ideas and tips?


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