Following Up on Narrative Writing
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.
An Anchor Chart for Personal Narratives
Developing anchor charts across your instructional units for narrative will keep students focused on the elements and/or craft between mini-lessons, especially as they are writing.
Transitional Words & Phrases - A Common Area for Strengthening
Beginning in grade one, and across the grades, the standard for narrative calls for an increasingly strong and more developed use of transitional words and phrases.
Anchor Charts Can Address the Specific Needs of a Class or Group
An anchor chart similar to this one might fit well in second or third grade, where we move students beyond the basics to a wider array of transition words - and more phrases.