Following Up on Narrative Writing

Huntsville Elementary

Ideas to Support Your Instruction and Intervention

Two years ago, we worked in vertical teams of K-1, 2-3 and 4-5 and took time during our Common Core block planning sessions to look closely at student work samples and the progression of the narrative writing standard in the Common Core State Standards.


Lucy Calkins, an expert in writing research and instruction, emphasizes the importance of narrative writing in Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (2012), where she notes that narratives are the primary mode of knowing and an essential part of almost every kind of writing - from persuasive speeches that are essentially mosaics of stories - to informational texts, also rooted in stories.


As we worked together then - and again briefly today - to analyze the progression of the narrative writing standard (W.3), you all noticed the heavy expectations of this standard by grade four, where the writer is supposed to exhibit the following skills - though not necessarily all in a single piece:

  • establish a situation

  • orient the reader

  • introduce a narrator and/or characters

  • organize a sequence of events that unfolds naturally

  • describe actions, thoughts, and feelings to develop experiences or events

  • use dialogue to show the response of characters

  • use concrete and sensory language to convey experiences precisely

  • use words or phrases that show the movement of time

  • create a conclusion that follows from the events


Calkins reminds us that with the narrative writing standard, along the way, from kindergarten to grade twelve, there is a rather “elegant series of steps” and when we are successful in helping writers achieve these stages of development, “not only will they be more proficient writers of narrative - but they will learn skills that will apply to any genre.”


This year, we can look at the beginning of year samples for narrative writing that we collected in every classroom and move forward with these steps:

  • Continue to use the “class record” for narrative, shared in a google document (3-5) and the K-2 rubric to more carefully assess where your students are with the narrative standard.

  • Plan a unit of study to support students in the next level of development based upon the pervasive needs evidenced in your class/grade. We will all revisit narrative writing in the second nine weeks during CASA, and you can continue to collaborate between now and then.

  • Look for resources and mentor texts to support instruction that match the needs most evidenced in your class record (based on student samples). Let me know if I can help!

  • Plan/teach a unit on narrative writing within your schedule - perhaps offering at least one large block for a workshop based lesson each week - maybe a “Friday Focus” and/or a commitment to focus on writing once a week during your I&E block.

  • Provide additional time, even if in small chunks, for students to continue working on their pieces.

  • Offer support and feedback through individual and small group conferences as you find time across the day/week.

  • Set a goal to publish a narrative piece for a real audience - another class, collaborating teachers, administration or parents! You could host a “writer’s tea” or some other special event to celebrate the hard work and commitment from your students - and most of all, to provide them with an authentic audience to hear and value their writing voices.
Writers need and deserve an audience - and the sharing and celebrating time in a writer's workshop setting is powerful in motivating young writers.
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A Great Example of a Purposeful and Powerful Small Group Conference

In this video from the Teachers' College Reading and Writing Project, a second grade teacher works with a small group of students on developing a strong sense of closure. You can view the full video here - and the full site, with several additional videos and lots of other great resources, is linked below.
Small Group Work in Writing to Support Students Developing a Sense of Closure (K-2)

Great Online Resources to Support Your Work with Narrative Writing!