Literacy Ideas

Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies

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Narrative Writing for kids starts with fun and creativity.

A good story lies at the heart of excellent narrative writing. This genre is relatively easy for younger students to ‘get’ as storybooks are most often the first types of text they will encounter.

As they prepare to begin writing their own narratives, though, we need to tease out of our students exactly what we mean by ‘story’. That meaning is to be found in the essential elements of a narrative.

Step 1: Learn the Essential Elements of a Narrative

Be sure to take a look at complte guide to Narrative Writing here.

Before teaching specific narrative writing strategies to your students, you’ll need to ensure they clearly understand the six essential elements of a story.

Below, we’ll review each of these story sections alongside an example of each in action chosen from the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood .

i. The Exposition: Characters and Setting 

The exposition or opening of the story orientates the reader, usually by revealing the story’s setting and introducing the main character/s. It may also hint at the central problem yet to come.

Frequently, the setting and characters are closely related. For example, a science fiction story might have space as its setting and an astronaut as the main character.

“Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a village near a thick forest.”

ii. The Problem: The Conflict

Without a problem or conflict, there is no story, just a list of events. Here are some examples of the more common types of conflict to be found in stories:

  • Main Character vs Character: A face-off against an arch-enemy.
  • Main Character vs The Self: Overcome a personal flaw.
  • Main Character vs the World: A struggle against society.
  • Main Character vs Nature: A battle against the environment or an animal.
  • Main Character vs Supernatural: A war against the otherwordly.

 “One day Little Red Riding Hood decided to take a basket of goodies to her Grandma, who lived in a little house in the forest. ‘Remember,’ her mother told her, ‘Go straight to Grandma’s house and don’t dawdle. The Big Bad Wolf is lurking in the forest.’

iii. The Rising Action: More Problems

Usually, more obstacles than one will be put in the main character’s path. These extra dilemmas help build tension as the story progresses on its way towards the climax.

“The Big Bad Wolf ran to Grandma’s house. He gobbled her up, put on her clothes, and climbed into her bed.”

iv. The Climax: The Dramatic Highpoint

The climax is when the story’s central problem comes to a head. For example, the main character might finally have that dramatic showdown with her nemesis. The climax should be the most exciting, drama-filled part of a story.

“The woodcutter burst into the room swinging a huge axe above his head. The Big Bad Wolf jumped out the window and ran deep into the forest.”

v. The Falling Action: The Winddown

Where the rising action of a story helps build tension as the story works towards its climax, the falling action relieves the tension after the drama of the climax. The falling action describes what happens directly after the climax as the story works its way towards the resolution.

“Little Red Riding Hood let out a huge sigh of relief. ‘Thank you!’ she blurted out to the woodcutter.


narrative writing for kids, early years, junior | story tellers bundle 1 | Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies |

A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:

vi. The Resolution: Tying-Up Loose Ends

This section of the story is where the writer ties up any of the story’s loose ends.

“And from that day on, no one ever saw the Big Bad Wolf in the forest again.”

Step 2: Internalize the Elements

Students will need some practice activities to help internalize these essential elements before they can begin to structure the plot of their own stories satisfactorily.

Here are a trio of practical activities to help your younger students achieve this.

Activity 1: Identify the Elements

  • Organize students into smaller groups of around three or four for this activity.
  • Give students a selection of well-known stories to work on in their groups – fairy tales work well for younger students.
  • Challenge the students to identify the following elements of each story: character and setting, problem, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • Groups present their findings to the class – you may wish to assign each group the same story if you want to compare and contrast each group’s decisions.

Activity 2: Plot the Plot

Literacy Poster plot.jpg

  • Students draw one small picture in their groups to illustrate each of the elements identified in the previous activity.
  • Students then draw an x and y-axis on a large sheet of paper.
  • Students label the horizontal x-axis ‘Time’ and the vertical y-axis ‘Drama’.
  • Students then plot each element of the narrative as it occurs chronologically from left to right. The more dramatic the story element is, the higher the plot point will be on the y axis.
  • Students paste each illustration above the corresponding plot point on the graph, creating a visual representation of the story’s action.

Activity 3: Don’t Lose the Plot!

  •   Each group can present their graph of the story’s action to the class.
  • Using their graph as a visual prompt, each group retells the story with reference to the rising and falling action as depicted in their graph.

Once your students have grasped the main elements of a soundly constructed narrative, it’s time for them to put the theory into practice.

The following fun activities will help your students begin to create their own narratives.

Step 3: Get Off to a Great Start

As we’ve seen from the essential elements section, a strong opening begins with the setting and the characters, with the central problem hot on their heels.

The purpose of these sections is to grab the reader’s attention firmly enough that they will want to continue reading the rest of the story. The following activities will help your students get off to that strong start by introducing characters and a setting, defining the central problem, and building the rising action by introducing further obstacles.

It all starts with choosing characters and a setting. We need to make this as interesting as possible for our apprentice writers. If the writer themself is not interested, how can they hope to engage the reader?

Activity 1: A Stranger in a Strange Land

  • Ask students to think of as many different types of fictional stories as they can.
  • Write their suggestions on the whiteboard, e.g., science fiction, fantasy, adventure, horror, romance, etc.
  • Ask students to list the types of characters they would expect to find in each type of story, e.g., astronauts in a science fiction story, a young married couple in a story about a haunted house, etc.
  • Write the students suggestions beside each story type on the whiteboard.
  • Organize students into groups of three or four as before, and ask them to match each type of story with the most unlikely characters (at least two characters should be chosen) from the class’s suggestions. These will form the settings and characters for the stories students will write later.

Activity 2: Pick a Problem

  • Students need to flesh out their characters. To do this, instruct them to write brief profiles including a physical description and some simple biographical details – use a graphic organizer to help!
  • To create their central problem, students should decide on conflicting motivations for two of their characters. For example, Little Red Riding Hood’s motivation is to visit her grandma and return safely. On the other hand, the Big Bad Wolf’s motivation is to eat both Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood.

Activity 3: Raise the Stakes

  • Explain to students that they can increase the dramatic tension in their story by adding further obstacles in the main character’s path.
  • Give the students the task of brainstorming some additional problems they can create for their main character to solve on the way to their story’s climax.

Step 4: Bring Things to a Head

By now, the students will have worked their way to the dramatic highpoint of their story’s action, and it’s time to delve into the climax and the falling action that will lead the story down the slide of the falling action towards the narrative’s final resolution.

Activity 1: Learn from the Best

  • Organize students into groups of three or four.
  • Ask the students to make a list of their Top 3 Favorite Movies and Top 3 Favorite Books .
  • Instruct the groups to discuss and identify the climactic moments in these narratives.
  • Task students to make a list of the features of each that made each climax work. What was the main character trying to achieve? What was preventing them from achieving it? How did they achieve their goal in the end?
  • Finally, ask students to think about their own story. What can they take from the climaxes of their favorite stories to help them complete their own narratives?
  • Have students share their ideas with each other.

Activity 2: Wrap Things Up

  •  To identify the falling action, students ask themselves: What happens after the action of the climax has finished?
  • To identify the resolution, students ask themselves: What loose ends from earlier in the story need to be tied up?

Step 5: Plan a Narrative

The activities above will have helped your students internalise the narrative arc’s essential elements and laid much of the preparation work for writing their story.

At this stage, they should be ready to map out their story using a graphic organizer. One that organizes their notes in the sequence of the essential elements listed above will help reinforce student understanding.

Once they have completed their graphic organizer, it’s time for students to zoom in on their focus, from the big picture to the finer details.


Step 6: Narrative Writing Tips

There is more to a well-written narrative than a soundly structured story arc. The writing itself must be finely crafted and filled with detail if it is to create vivid pictures in the reader’s mind and take them on an emotional journey.

The following tips will help students bring color and life to their writing.

Tip #1: Appeal to the Senses

When writing descriptions, encourage students to incorporate the five senses into their writing. Often, students focus on describing what can be seen and heard but challenge them to appeal to the other senses in their writing too. For example, what can be smelled, tasted, felt in this scene?

Tip #2: Show, Don’t Tell

This is an old-school writing standby for a good reason. Prompt students to reveal character through actions rather than directly telling the reader what they’re like. Suppose a character is greedy, for example. In that case, the student could show this by having them eating everyone’s food at a party rather than simply writing something like, ‘Stephanie was a very greedy person.’

Tip #3: Choose Just the Right Word

 Writing is an excellent opportunity for younger writers to broaden their vocabulary. Help students choose just the right word to tell their tale accurately by teaching them how to use a thesaurus. Choose one that is suited to your students’ ages and abilities. You’ll find a tremendous kid-friendly online thesaurus here.

Tip #4: Select Powerful Verbs

Due to their more straightforward nature, stories written by younger students are generally action-driven rather than character-driven. In such cases, verbs will drive the action of the narrative. Therefore, encourage students to select strong verbs to create that compelling narrative that readers love to read.

Tip #5: Edit – Always!

 Younger students need to learn the importance of drafting, editing, and proofreading when writing any type of text. As story writing is often their first experience of extended writing, teachers should take the opportunity to create good editing habits from the start.


narrative writing for kids, early years, junior | narrative writing unit 1 2 | Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies |

Teach your students to become skilled story writers with this HUGE   NARRATIVE & CREATIVE STORY WRITING UNIT . Offering a  COMPLETE SOLUTION  to teaching students how to craft  CREATIVE CHARACTERS, SUPERB SETTINGS, and PERFECT PLOTS .

Over 192 PAGES of materials, including:

No doubt about it; there’s a lot to narrative writing. Luckily, most of our younger students will already be familiar with many of the basic conventions of storytelling from their years of listening to bedtime stories and watching their favourite cartoons. This is why emergent writers usually learn to write narratives before many other text types.

Of course, narratives play such a crucial role in a student’s early years because children love stories. We all do! So, while there is quite a lot for students to work on, narrative writing is usually an easy sell.

With an understanding of the basic underlying structures and a little imaginative flair, your students will produce entertaining stories in no time.

A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Narrative Writing

July 29, 2018

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examples of narrative writing for elementary students

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“Those who tell the stories rule the world.”  This proverb, attributed to the Hopi Indians, is one I wish I’d known a long time ago, because I would have used it when teaching my students the craft of storytelling. With a well-told story we can help a person see things in an entirely new way. We can forge new relationships and strengthen the ones we already have. We can change a law, inspire a movement, make people care fiercely about things they’d never given a passing thought.

But when we study storytelling with our students, we forget all that. Or at least I did. When my students asked why we read novels and stories, and why we wrote personal narratives and fiction, my defense was pretty lame: I probably said something about the importance of having a shared body of knowledge, or about the enjoyment of losing yourself in a book, or about the benefits of having writing skills in general.

I forgot to talk about the  power of story. I didn’t bother to tell them that the ability to tell a captivating story is one of the things that makes human beings extraordinary. It’s how we connect to each other. It’s something to celebrate, to study, to perfect. If we’re going to talk about how to teach students to write stories, we should start by thinking about why we tell stories at all . If we can pass that on to our students, then we will be going beyond a school assignment; we will be doing something transcendent.

Now. How do we get them to write those stories? I’m going to share the process I used for teaching narrative writing. I used this process with middle school students, but it would work with most age groups.

A Note About Form: Personal Narrative or Short Story?

When teaching narrative writing, many teachers separate personal narratives from short stories. In my own classroom, I tended to avoid having my students write short stories because personal narratives were more accessible. I could usually get students to write about something that really happened, while it was more challenging to get them to make something up from scratch.

In the “real” world of writers, though, the main thing that separates memoir from fiction is labeling: A writer might base a novel heavily on personal experiences, but write it all in third person and change the names of characters to protect the identities of people in real life. Another writer might create a short story in first person that reads like a personal narrative, but is entirely fictional. Just last weekend my husband and I watched the movie Lion and were glued to the screen the whole time, knowing it was based on a true story. James Frey’s book  A Million Little Pieces  sold millions of copies as a memoir but was later found to contain more than a little bit of fiction. Then there are unique books like Curtis Sittenfeld’s brilliant novel American Wife , based heavily on the early life of Laura Bush but written in first person, with fictional names and settings, and labeled as a work of fiction. The line between fact and fiction has always been really, really blurry, but the common thread running through all of it is good storytelling.

With that in mind, the process for teaching narrative writing can be exactly the same for writing personal narratives or short stories; it’s the same skill set. So if you think your students can handle the freedom, you might decide to let them choose personal narrative or fiction for a narrative writing assignment, or simply tell them that whether the story is true doesn’t matter, as long as they are telling a good story and they are not trying to pass off a fictional story as fact.

Here are some examples of what that kind of flexibility could allow:

  • A student might tell a true story from their own experience, but write it as if it were a fiction piece, with fictional characters, in third person.
  • A student might create a completely fictional story, but tell it in first person, which would give it the same feel as a personal narrative.
  • A student might tell a true story that happened to someone else, but write it in first person, as if they were that person. For example, I could write about my grandmother’s experience of getting lost as a child, but I might write it in her voice.

If we aren’t too restrictive about what we call these pieces, and we talk about different possibilities with our students, we can end up with lots of interesting outcomes. Meanwhile, we’re still teaching students the craft of narrative writing.

A Note About Process: Write With Your Students

One of the most powerful techniques I used as a writing teacher was to do my students’ writing assignments with them. I would start my own draft at the same time as they did, composing “live” on the classroom projector, and doing a lot of thinking out loud so they could see all the decisions a writer has to make.

The most helpful parts for them to observe were the early drafting stage, where I just scratched out whatever came to me in messy, run-on sentences, and the revision stage, where I crossed things out, rearranged, and made tons of notes on my writing. I have seen over and over again how witnessing that process can really help to unlock a student’s understanding of how writing actually gets made.

A Narrative Writing Unit Plan

Before I get into these steps, I should note that there is no one right way to teach narrative writing, and plenty of accomplished teachers are doing it differently and getting great results. This just happens to be a process that has worked for me.

Step 1: Show Students That Stories Are Everywhere

Getting our students to tell stories should be easy. They hear and tell stories all the time. But when they actually have to put words on paper, they forget their storytelling abilities: They can’t think of a topic. They omit relevant details, but go on and on about irrelevant ones. Their dialogue is bland. They can’t figure out how to start. They can’t figure out how to end.

So the first step in getting good narrative writing from students is to help them see that they are already telling stories every day . They gather at lockers to talk about that thing that happened over the weekend. They sit at lunch and describe an argument they had with a sibling. Without even thinking about it, they begin sentences with “This one time…” and launch into stories about their earlier childhood experiences. Students are natural storytellers; learning how to do it well on paper is simply a matter of studying good models, then imitating what those writers do.

So start off the unit by getting students to tell their stories. In journal quick-writes, think-pair-shares, or by playing a game like Concentric Circles , prompt them to tell some of their own brief stories: A time they were embarrassed. A time they lost something. A time they didn’t get to do something they really wanted to do. By telling their own short anecdotes, they will grow more comfortable and confident in their storytelling abilities. They will also be generating a list of topic ideas. And by listening to the stories of their classmates, they will be adding onto that list and remembering more of their own stories.

And remember to tell some of your own. Besides being a good way to bond with students, sharing  your stories will help them see more possibilities for the ones they can tell.

Step 2: Study the Structure of a Story

Now that students have a good library of their own personal stories pulled into short-term memory, shift your focus to a more formal study of what a story looks like.

Use a diagram to show students a typical story arc like the one below. Then, using a simple story (try a video like The Present or Room ), fill out the story arc with the components from that story. Once students have seen this story mapped out, have them try it with another one, like a story you’ve read in class, a whole novel, or another short video.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Step 3: Introduce the Assignment

Up to this point, students have been immersed in storytelling. Now give them specific instructions for what they are going to do. Share your assignment rubric so they understand the criteria that will be used to evaluate them; it should be ready and transparent right from the beginning of the unit. As always, I recommend using a single point rubric for this.

Step 4: Read Models

Once the parameters of the assignment have been explained, have students read at least one model story, a mentor text that exemplifies the qualities you’re looking for. This should be a story on a topic your students can kind of relate to, something they could see themselves writing. For my narrative writing unit (see the end of this post), I wrote a story called “Frog” about a 13-year-old girl who finally gets to stay home alone, then finds a frog in her house and gets completely freaked out, which basically ruins the fun she was planning for the night.

They will be reading this model as writers, looking at how the author shaped the text for a purpose, so that they can use those same strategies in their own writing. Have them look at your rubric and find places in the model that illustrate the qualities listed in the rubric. Then have them complete a story arc for the model so they can see the underlying structure.

Ideally, your students will have already read lots of different stories to look to as models. If that isn’t the case, this list of narrative texts recommended by Cult of Pedagogy followers on Twitter would be a good place to browse for titles that might be right for your students. Keep in mind that we have not read most of these stories, so be sure to read them first before adopting them for classroom use.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Step 5: Story Mapping

At this point, students will need to decide what they are going to write about. If they are stuck for a topic, have them just pick something they can write about, even if it’s not the most captivating story in the world. A skilled writer could tell a great story about deciding what to have for lunch. If they are using the skills of narrative writing, the topic isn’t as important as the execution.

Have students complete a basic story arc for their chosen topic using a diagram like the one below. This will help them make sure that they actually have a story to tell, with an identifiable problem, a sequence of events that build to a climax, and some kind of resolution, where something is different by the end. Again, if you are writing with your students, this would be an important step to model for them with your own story-in-progress.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Step 6: Quick Drafts

Now, have students get their chosen story down on paper as quickly as possible: This could be basically a long paragraph that would read almost like a summary, but it would contain all the major parts of the story. Model this step with your own story, so they can see that you are not shooting for perfection in any way. What you want is a working draft, a starting point, something to build on for later, rather than a blank page (or screen) to stare at.

Step 7: Plan the Pacing

Now that the story has been born in raw form, students can begin to shape it. This would be a good time for a lesson on pacing, where students look at how writers expand some moments to create drama and shrink other moments so that the story doesn’t drag. Creating a diagram like the one below forces a writer to decide how much space to devote to all of the events in the story.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Step 8: Long Drafts

With a good plan in hand, students can now slow down and write a proper draft, expanding the sections of their story that they plan to really draw out and adding in more of the details that they left out in the quick draft.

Step 9: Workshop

Once students have a decent rough draft—something that has a basic beginning, middle, and end, with some discernible rising action, a climax of some kind, and a resolution, you’re ready to shift into full-on workshop mode. I would do this for at least a week: Start class with a short mini-lesson on some aspect of narrative writing craft, then give students the rest of the period to write, conference with you, and collaborate with their peers. During that time, they should focus some of their attention on applying the skill they learned in the mini-lesson to their drafts, so they will improve a little bit every day.

Topics for mini-lessons can include:

  • How to weave exposition into your story so you don’t give readers an “information dump”
  • How to carefully select dialogue to create good scenes, rather than quoting everything in a conversation
  • How to punctuate and format dialogue so that it imitates the natural flow of a conversation
  • How to describe things using sensory details and figurative language; also,  what  to describe…students too often give lots of irrelevant detail
  • How to choose precise nouns and vivid verbs, use a variety of sentence lengths and structures, and add transitional words, phrases, and features to help the reader follow along
  • How to start, end, and title a story

Step 10: Final Revisions and Edits

As the unit nears its end, students should be shifting away from revision , in which they alter the content of a piece, toward editing , where they make smaller changes to the mechanics of the writing. Make sure students understand the difference between the two: They should not be correcting each other’s spelling and punctuation in the early stages of this process, when the focus should be on shaping a better story.

One of the most effective strategies for revision and editing is to have students read their stories out loud. In the early stages, this will reveal places where information is missing or things get confusing. Later, more read-alouds will help them immediately find missing words, unintentional repetitions, and sentences that just “sound weird.” So get your students to read their work out loud frequently. It also helps to print stories on paper: For some reason, seeing the words in print helps us notice things we didn’t see on the screen.

To get the most from peer review, where students read and comment on each other’s work, more modeling from you is essential: Pull up a sample piece of writing and show students how to give specific feedback that helps, rather than simply writing “good detail” or “needs more detail,” the two comments I saw exchanged most often on students’ peer-reviewed papers.

Step 11: Final Copies and Publication

Once revision and peer review are done, students will hand in their final copies. If you don’t want to get stuck with 100-plus papers to grade, consider using Catlin Tucker’s station rotation model , which keeps all the grading in class. And when you do return stories with your own feedback, try using Kristy Louden’s delayed grade strategy , where students don’t see their final grade until they have read your written feedback.

Beyond the standard hand-in-for-a-grade, consider other ways to have students publish their stories. Here are some options:

  • Stories could be published as individual pages on a collaborative website or blog.
  • Students could create illustrated e-books out of their stories.
  • Students could create a slideshow to accompany their stories and record them as digital storytelling videos. This could be done with a tool like Screencastify or Screencast-O-Matic .

So this is what worked for me. If you’ve struggled to get good stories from your students, try some or all of these techniques next time. I think you’ll find that all of your students have some pretty interesting stories to tell. Helping them tell their stories well is a gift that will serve them for many years after they leave your classroom. ♦

Want this unit ready-made?

If you’re a writing teacher in grades 7-12 and you’d like a classroom-ready unit like the one described above, including slideshow mini-lessons on 14 areas of narrative craft, a sample narrative piece, editable rubrics, and other supplemental materials to guide students through every stage of the process, take a look at my Narrative Writing unit . Just click on the image below and you’ll be taken to a page where you can read more and see a detailed preview of what’s included.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

What to Read Next

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Categories: Instruction , Podcast

Tags: English language arts , Grades 6-8 , Grades 9-12 , teaching strategies


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Wow, this is a wonderful guide! If my English teachers had taught this way, I’m sure I would have enjoyed narrative writing instead of dreading it. I’ll be able to use many of these suggestions when writing my blog! BrP

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Lst year I was so discouraged because the short stories looked like the quick drafts described in this article. I thought I had totally failed until I read this and realized I did not fai,l I just needed to complete the process. Thank you!

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I feel like you jumped in my head and connected my thoughts. I appreciate the time you took to stop and look closely at form. I really believe that student-writers should see all dimensions of narrative writing and be able to live in whichever style and voice they want for their work.

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Can’t thank you enough for this. So well curated that one can just follow it blindly and ace at teaching it. Thanks again!

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Great post! I especially liked your comments about reminding kids about the power of storytelling. My favourite podcasts and posts from you are always about how to do things in the classroom and I appreciate the research you do.

On a side note, the ice breakers are really handy. My kids know each other really well (rural community), and can tune out pretty quickly if there is nothing new to learn about their peers, but they like the games (and can remember where we stopped last time weeks later). I’ve started changing them up with ‘life questions’, so the editable version is great!

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I love writing with my students and loved this podcast! A fun extension to this narrative is to challenge students to write another story about the same event, but use the perspective of another “character” from the story. Books like Wonder (R.J. Palacio) and Wanderer (Sharon Creech) can model the concept for students.

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Thank you for your great efforts to reveal the practical writing strategies in layered details. As English is not my first language, I need listen to your podcast and read the text repeatedly so to fully understand. It’s worthy of the time for some great post like yours. I love sharing so I send the link to my English practice group that it can benefit more. I hope I could be able to give you some feedback later on.

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Thank you for helping me get to know better especially the techniques in writing narrative text. Im an English teacher for 5years but have little knowledge on writing. I hope you could feature techniques in writing news and fearute story. God bless and more power!

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Thank you for this! I am very interested in teaching a unit on personal narrative and this was an extremely helpful breakdown. As a current student teacher I am still unsure how to approach breaking down the structures of different genres of writing in a way that is helpful for me students but not too restrictive. The story mapping tools you provided really allowed me to think about this in a new way. Writing is such a powerful way to experience the world and more than anything I want my students to realize its power. Stories are how we make sense of the world and as an English teacher I feel obligated to give my students access to this particular skill.

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The power of story is unfathomable. There’s this NGO in India doing some great work in harnessing the power of storytelling and plots to brighten children’s lives and enlighten them with true knowledge. Check out Katha India here:

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Thank you so much for this. I did not go to college to become a writing professor, but due to restructuring in my department, I indeed am! This is a wonderful guide that I will use when teaching the narrative essay. I wonder if you have a similar guide for other modes such as descriptive, process, argument, etc.?

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Hey Melanie, Jenn does have another guide on writing! Check out A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Argumentative Writing .

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Hi, I am also wondering if there is a similar guide for descriptive writing in particular?

Hey Melanie, unfortunately Jenn doesn’t currently have a guide for descriptive writing. She’s always working on projects though, so she may get around to writing a unit like this in the future. You can always check her Teachers Pay Teachers page for an up-to-date list of materials she has available. Thanks!

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I want to write about the new character in my area

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That’s great! Let us know if you need any supports during your writing process!

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I absolutely adore this unit plan. I teach freshmen English at a low-income high school and wanted to find something to help my students find their voice. It is not often that I borrow material, but I borrowed and adapted all of it in the order that it is presented! It is cohesive, understandable, and fun. Thank you!!

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So glad to hear this, Nicole!

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Thanks sharing this post. My students often get confused between personal narratives and short stories. Whenever I ask them to write a short story, she share their own experiences and add a bit of fiction in it to make it interesting.

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Thank you! My students have loved this so far. I do have a question as to where the “Frog” story mentioned in Step 4 is. I could really use it! Thanks again.

This is great to hear, Emily! In Step 4, Jenn mentions that she wrote the “Frog” story for her narrative writing unit . Just scroll down the bottom of the post and you’ll see a link to the unit.

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I also cannot find the link to the short story “Frog”– any chance someone can send it or we can repost it?

This story was written for Jenn’s narrative writing unit. You can find a link to this unit in Step 4 or at the bottom of the article. Hope this helps.

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I cannot find the frog story mentioned. Could you please send the link.? Thank you

Hi Michelle,

The Frog story was written for Jenn’s narrative writing unit. There’s a link to this unit in Step 4 and at the bottom of the article.

Debbie- thanks for you reply… but there is no link to the story in step 4 or at the bottom of the page….

Hey Shawn, the frog story is part of Jenn’s narrative writing unit, which is available on her Teachers Pay Teachers site. The link Debbie is referring to at the bottom of this post will take you to her narrative writing unit and you would have to purchase that to gain access to the frog story. I hope this clears things up.

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Thank you so much for this resource! I’m a high school English teacher, and am currently teaching creative writing for the first time. I really do value your blog, podcast, and other resources, so I’m excited to use this unit. I’m a cyber school teacher, so clear, organized layout is important; and I spend a lot of time making sure my content is visually accessible for my students to process. Thanks for creating resources that are easy for us teachers to process and use.

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Do you have a lesson for Informative writing?

Hey Cari, Jenn has another unit on argumentative writing , but doesn’t have one yet on informative writing. She may develop one in the future so check back in sometime.

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I had the same question. Informational writing is so difficult to have a good strong unit in when you have so many different text structures to meet and need text-dependent writing tasks.

Creating an informational writing unit is still on Jenn’s long list of projects to get to, but in the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out When We All Teach Text Structures, Everyone Wins . It might help you out!

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This is a great lesson! It would be helpful to see a finished draft of the frog narrative arc. Students’ greatest challenge is transferring their ideas from the planner to a full draft. To see a full sample of how this arc was transformed into a complete narrative draft would be a powerful learning tool.

Hi Stacey! Jenn goes into more depth with the “Frog” lesson in her narrative writing unit – this is where you can find a sample of what a completed story arc might look. Also included is a draft of the narrative. If interested in checking out the unit and seeing a preview, just scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on the image. Hope this helps!

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Helped me learn for an entrance exam thanks very much

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Is the narrative writing lesson you talk about in

Also doable for elementary students you think, and if to what levels?

Love your work, Sincerely, Zanyar

Hey Zanyar,

It’s possible the unit would work with 4th and 5th graders, but Jenn definitely wouldn’t recommend going any younger. The main reason for this is that some of the mini-lessons in the unit could be challenging for students who are still concrete thinkers. You’d likely need to do some adjusting and scaffolding which could extend the unit beyond the 3 weeks. Having said that, I taught 1st grade and found the steps of the writing process, as described in the post, to be very similar. Of course learning targets/standards were different, but the process itself can be applied to any grade level (modeling writing, using mentor texts to study how stories work, planning the structure of the story, drafting, elaborating, etc.) Hope this helps!

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This has made my life so much easier. After teaching in different schools systems, from the American, to British to IB, one needs to identify the anchor standards and concepts, that are common between all these systems, to build well balanced thematic units. Just reading these steps gave me the guidance I needed to satisfy both the conceptual framework the schools ask for and the standards-based practice. Thank you Thank you.

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Would this work for teaching a first grader about narrative writing? I am also looking for a great book to use as a model for narrative writing. Veggie Monster is being used by his teacher and he isn’t connecting with this book in the least bit, so it isn’t having a positive impact. My fear is he will associate this with writing and I don’t want a negative association connected to such a beautiful process and experience. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thank you for any information you can provide!

Although I think the materials in the actual narrative writing unit are really too advanced for a first grader, the general process that’s described in the blog post can still work really well.

I’m sorry your child isn’t connecting with The Night of the Veggie Monster. Try to keep in mind that the main reason this is used as a mentor text is because it models how a small moment story can be told in a big way. It’s filled with all kinds of wonderful text features that impact the meaning of the story – dialogue, description, bold text, speech bubbles, changes in text size, ellipses, zoomed in images, text placement, text shape, etc. All of these things will become mini-lessons throughout the unit. But there are lots of other wonderful mentor texts that your child might enjoy. My suggestion for an early writer, is to look for a small moment text, similar in structure, that zooms in on a problem that a first grader can relate to. In addition to the mentor texts that I found in this article , you might also want to check out Knuffle Bunny, Kitten’s First Full Moon, When Sophie Gets Angry Really Really Angry, and Whistle for Willie. Hope this helps!

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I saw this on Pinterest the other day while searching for examples of narritives units/lessons. I clicked on it because I always click on C.o.P stuff 🙂 And I wasn’t disapointed. I was intrigued by the connection of narratives to humanity–even if a student doesn’t identify as a writer, he/she certainly is human, right? I really liked this. THIS clicked with me.

A few days after I read the P.o.C post, I ventured on to YouTube for more ideas to help guide me with my 8th graders’ narrative writing this coming spring. And there was a TEDx video titled, “The Power of Personal Narrative” by J. Christan Jensen. I immediately remembered the line from the article above that associated storytelling with “power” and how it sets humans apart and if introduced and taught as such, it can be “extraordinary.”

I watched the video and to the suprise of my expectations, it was FANTASTIC. Between Jennifer’s post and the TEDx video ignited within me some major motivation and excitement to begin this unit.

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Thanks for sharing this with us! So glad that Jenn’s post paired with another text gave you some motivation and excitement. I’ll be sure to pass this on to Jenn!

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Thank you very much for this really helpful post! I really love the idea of helping our students understand that storytelling is powerful and then go on to teach them how to harness that power. That is the essence of teaching literature or writing at any level. However, I’m a little worried about telling students that whether a piece of writing is fact or fiction does not matter. It in fact matters a lot precisely because storytelling is powerful. Narratives can shape people’s views and get their emotions involved which would, in turn, motivate them to act on a certain matter, whether for good or for bad. A fictional narrative that is passed as factual could cause a lot of damage in the real world. I believe we should. I can see how helping students focus on writing the story rather than the truth of it all could help refine the needed skills without distractions. Nevertheless, would it not be prudent to teach our students to not just harness the power of storytelling but refrain from misusing it by pushing false narratives as factual? It is true that in reality, memoirs pass as factual while novels do as fictional while the opposite may be true for both cases. I am not too worried about novels passing as fictional. On the other hand, fictional narratives masquerading as factual are disconcerting and part of a phenomenon that needs to be fought against, not enhanced or condoned in education. This is especially true because memoirs are often used by powerful people to write/re-write history. I would really like to hear your opinion on this. Thanks a lot for a great post and a lot of helpful resources!

Thank you so much for this. Jenn and I had a chance to chat and we can see where you’re coming from. Jenn never meant to suggest that a person should pass off a piece of fictional writing as a true story. Good stories can be true, completely fictional, or based on a true story that’s mixed with some fiction – that part doesn’t really matter. However, what does matter is how a student labels their story. We think that could have been stated more clearly in the post , so Jenn decided to add a bit about this at the end of the 3rd paragraph in the section “A Note About Form: Personal Narrative or Short Story?” Thanks again for bringing this to our attention!

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You have no idea how much your page has helped me in so many ways. I am currently in my teaching credential program and there are times that I feel lost due to a lack of experience in the classroom. I’m so glad I came across your page! Thank you for sharing!

Thanks so much for letting us know-this means a whole lot!

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No, we’re sorry. Jenn actually gets this question fairly often. It’s something she considered doing at one point, but because she has so many other projects she’s working on, she’s just not gotten to it.

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I couldn’t find the story

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Hi, Duraiya. The “Frog” story is part of Jenn’s narrative writing unit, which is available on her Teachers Pay Teachers site. The link at the bottom of this post will take you to her narrative writing unit, which you can purchase to gain access to the story. I hope this helps!

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I am using this step-by-step plan to help me teach personal narrative story writing. I wanted to show the Coca-Cola story, but the link says the video is not available. Do you have a new link or can you tell me the name of the story so I can find it?

Thank you for putting this together.

Hi Corri, sorry about that. The Coca-Cola commercial disappeared, so Jenn just updated the post with links to two videos with good stories. Hope this helps!

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  • 18 Writing Personal Narratives

Writing Personal Narratives

Start-Up Activity

Ask your students to think of an object that is important to them. They might mention a souvenir from a vacation, a baseball from a winning game, or a bike that they ride to school. Write down students' suggestions. Then ask your students to think of why that object is important to them. Ask them to tell the story of how that object became so valuable. Tell your students that they can write narratives about the important things in their lives.

Think About It

“It’s not easy to travel back into your memory and gather details. But it’s worth it. They help your reader understand what happened. And they help you remember the very important chapters in the story of your life.”

—Sandy Asher

State Standards Covered in This Chapter


LAFS Covered in This Chapter

Lafs.4.rl.1.1, lafs.4.rl.1.2, lafs.4.rl.1.3, lafs.4.rl.4.10, lafs.5.rl.1.1, lafs.5.rl.1.2, lafs.5.rl.1.3, lafs.5.rl.4.10, lafs.k12.w.1.3, lafs.4.w.1.3, lafs.5.w.1.3, lafs.4.w.2.4, lafs.4.w.2.5, lafs.5.w.2.4, lafs.5.w.2.5, teks covered in this chapter, 110.6.b.8.a, 110.6.b.8.b, 110.7.b.8.a, 110.7.b.7.c, 110.7.b.8.b, 110.7.b.8.c, 110.7.b.8.d, 110.6.b.12.a, 110.6.b.11.b.i, 110.7.b.12.a, 110.7.b.11.b.i, 110.6.b.11.b, 110.6.b.11.b.ii, 110.6.b.11.a, 110.6.b.11.c, 110.6.b.11.d, 110.7.b.11.b.ii, 110.7.b.11.a, 110.7.b.11.c, 110.7.b.11.d, page 132 from writers express, sample personal narrative.

Have student volunteers read each paragraph of the sample essay. After each student reads, point out the features in the text using the side notes.

Once the students have read the whole narrative, ask them to skim back through, looking for words that show sights. Write the words on the board. Then have them look for words that create sounds. Write those as well. Then have them look for words with touch sensations. Point out that these sensory details help the reader see, hear, and feel what is happening in the narrative.

You can also have students read additional personal narrative models .

Using Time-Order Transitions

Teach about chronological transitions.

illustration of a clock character holding a pencil

Writing Descriptions That "Show" Instead of "Tell"

Teach students to use sensory details.


Related Resource Tags

Click to view a list of tags that tie into other resources on our site

Page 133 from Writers Express

Gathering story ideas.

Use this page to help your students think about the many narrative topics they can draw from their own experiences. Ask the four questions on this page, and take responses from the class. Discuss how these experiences could make excellent narratives.

Also, you can direct your student to these narrative topic ideas .

Page 134 from Writers Express

Writing personal narratives.

Turn to this page to guide students through the process of writing a personal narrative. Also, use the sample personal narrative on the next page to inspire students and help them see how narratives can grab the reader's attention, establish a setting and situation, introduce characters, use dialogue and action, and bring the story to a thoughtful close.

Page 135 from Writers Express

Ask student volunteers to read parts of this narrative out loud.

Note how the writer establishes the setting , the conflict , and the situation at the beginning.

Also, point out how the writer creates a new paragraph every time someone different speaks. (In narratives and stories, it's okay to have single-sentence paragraphs.)

Show how the ending tells what the writer learned from the experience.

Discovering Narrative Strategies

Use shared inquiry to develop personal narratives. 

Illustration of boy writing his name in a frosty window

Page 136 from Writers Express

Writing family stories.

Use this page to help your students think about stories of family and friends. Students could tell about their names or the names of others close to them, the day someone was born, or special events such as holidays. Your students can also check out these family story ideas . The minilesson provides another activity to inspire students.

Writing a Family Story and Historical Marker

Inspire students to write family stories.

Kascinski's World Famous Hot Dog Stand Plaque

  • 01 A Basic Writing Guide
  • 02 Understanding the Writing Process
  • 03 One Writer's Process
  • 04 Qualities of Writing
  • 05 Selecting and Collecting
  • 06 Focusing and Organizing
  • 07 Writing and Revising
  • 09 Publishing
  • 10 Writing Basic Sentences
  • 11 Combining Sentences
  • 12 Writing Paragraphs
  • 13 Understanding Writing Terms and Techniques
  • 14 Understanding Text Structures
  • 15 Writing in Journals
  • 16 Using Learning Logs
  • 17 Writing Emails and Blogs
  • 19 Writing Fantasies
  • 20 Writing Realistic Stories
  • 21 Writing Stories from History
  • 22 Responding to Narrative Prompts
  • 23 Writing Explanatory Essays
  • 24 Writing Process Essays
  • 25 Writing Comparison-Contrast Essays
  • 26 Responding to Explanatory Prompts
  • 27 Writing Persuasive Essays
  • 28 Writing Persuasive Letters
  • 29 Writing Problem-Solution Essays
  • 30 Responding to Persuasive Prompts
  • 31 Writing Book Reviews
  • 32 Writing About Literature
  • 33 Responding to Literature Prompts
  • 34 Writing Reports
  • 35 Writing Research Reports
  • 36 Writing Summaries
  • 37 Writing Plays
  • 38 Writing Poems
  • 39 Communicating Online
  • 40 Researching Online
  • 41 Staying Safe Online
  • 42 Reading Strategies for Fiction
  • 43 Reading Strategies for Nonfiction
  • 44 Reading Graphics
  • 45 Building Vocabulary Skills
  • 46 Becoming a Better Speller
  • 47 Giving Speeches
  • 48 Improving Viewing Skills
  • 49 Improving Listening Skills
  • 50 Using Graphic Organizers
  • 51 Thinking and Writing
  • 52 Thinking Clearly
  • 53 Thinking Creatively
  • 54 Completing Assignments
  • 55 Working in Groups
  • 56 Taking Tests
  • 57 Taking Good Notes
  • 58 Marking Punctuation
  • 59 Editing for Mechanics
  • 60 Check Your Spelling
  • 61 Using the Right Word
  • 62 Understanding Sentences
  • 63 Understanding Our Language

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

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Teaching narrative writing tips and activities.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

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!

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

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.

  • What You Know First by Patricia Maclachlan
  • Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino
  • Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Bigmama’s by Donald Crews
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Roller Coaster by Maria Frazee
  • Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
  • When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
  • Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
  • The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

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

Narrative Writing Anchor Chart activity

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.

Narrative Writing Anchor Chart activity

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

Narrative Writing Anchor Chart activity

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

Narrative Writing Anchor Chart activity

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.

Narrative Writing Anchor Chart activity

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.

Narrative Writing Anchor Chart activity

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

Narrative Writing Lesson and graphic organizers

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?

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

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!

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

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?

  • How to teach opinion writing
  • Tying writing into your math block
  • Warming up for your writing block
  • How to make their writing interactive
  • Read more about: Common Core Aligned , Uncategorized , Writing Blog Posts

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Tips for Teaching Narrative Writing in Upper Elementary

By Mary Montero

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Teaching tips and activities to use when teaching narrative writing in upper elementary. Includes mentor text examples too!

Narrative writing is my favorite unit to teach with upper elementary students because it’s a chance for students’ creativity to really shine! Every year, I get to read some truly great stories from my students. 

While I love that my students enjoy narrative writing, they often forgo many of the writing skills we have talked about in class because they are so excited to write. The stories can easily become riddled with mistakes, require fluency, and lack structure. 

Teaching tips and activities to use when teaching narrative writing in upper elementary. Includes mentor text examples too!

Here are a few tips I have learned along the way to make narrative writing smoother and more productive for my elementary students.

Tip #1: Let students share before they write.

There is a lot that needs to go into the prewriting stage for students. One of those items is sharing with a partner. This step might seem unnecessary if your students have already engaged in prewriting, but orally sharing a story helps your students begin to craft their writing.

By sharing with a partner, students begin to create a map in their heads of what needs to be written and in what order. Before students begin writing their rough draft, simply instruct them to tell the story to the person next to them. 

Tip #2: Provide students with a rubric.

You may think that rubrics are bland or that students aren’t actually reading them, but rubrics are essential to our students’ success. Oftentimes our students don’t read the rubrics because we don’t hold them accountable in using them.

Before your students begin writing, pick a day to review your narrative writing rubric. This rubric should be short and sweet, and it actually works best when it’s written in student friendly language. Include the important items you want students to be able to master, such as paragraphs, having a clear plot, and so forth.

Tip #3: Teach a mini-lesson before students write or edit.

It may seem reasonable to think that students know how to write in complete sentences or delete extraneous information in their writing, but that may not be the case.

Instead of asking students to just write and check off items in the rubric, have a skill each day that students will work on. This gives them a specific action item to focus on. Before you turn them over to write or edit, give them a mini-lesson on that specific skill. For example, I may want students to edit the first sentence in their story to make it more engaging. I would first have a mini-lesson over why the first sentence is important and a few ways to craft a great first sentence. I may even show them some examples! Then , my students would edit their essays. 

Tip #4: Use exemplars to model narrative writing for students.

We just talked about why mini-lessons are essential for students’ success with writing. An exemplar or mentor text is a key aspect of that mini-lesson. During the mini-lesson, we want students to have a solid understanding of how to execute the skill in their writing. If you’ve ever had that awkward moment when you want to help a student with their writing…without just simply telling them what to write in their essay – exemplars will be your best friend.

Exemplars are writing examples that show a skill in action. However, it uses an independent prompt or story. This exemplar gives students a model for how their writing looks, and it also allows you to demonstrate a think-aloud while applying this skill.

I created this bundle of exemplars for writing , which includes narrative, opinion, and informational exemplars too! This exemplar resource will save you time because there are ready-to-go mentor texts for the main skills your students will need in narrative writing. 

The exemplar resource is broken down by paragraph, so students get a close look at each area of a narrative text. They will also get a rubric, so they can rate the text and analyze the different skills in narrative writing. There are three versions: single pages, mini-booklet, and digital! Each essay type comes with two exemplars and an anchor chart. 

narrative writing mentor text and text exemplars making teaching writing easier

These exemplars will be a great addition to your mini-lesson. You can focus on the specific skill you want students to accomplish that day, and students have a mentor text to refer to and model their writing after.

Narrative Writing Process Example

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting started with an engaging introduction. For this mini-lesson, I had students write down the first few sentences from five chapter books they were reading. We also used The Big Hungry Bear (Amazon affiliate link) as a narrative example.

Then we sorted those introductions into this chart to show the most common narrative introduction types.

narrative introductions chart

Students also took notes and added examples into their notebooks.

narrative introductions notebook

Then it was time to make plans for students to write their own narrative. For this lesson, all students were writing about the same problem (how to get the bear to leave) using The Big Hungry Bear as inspiration. Note: I give opportunities for students to write about topics of their choice often, but when we’re first learning about a style of writing it’s easier to have everyone using the same idea. This way we can help each other brainstorm.

We brainstormed different ideas to get the bear away from the tent.

narrative brainstorm

Then students used this visual chart to map out their own unique stories. This meant that even though we were all writing about the same general idea, each student’s individual story would be unique.

narrative plans chart

After that, students put everything they had learned together to write a complete narrative.

narrative lesson

More Writing Tips

Working on other writing skills? Here are more helpful writing blog posts to use with your students.

Mary Montero

I’m so glad you are here. I’m a current gifted and talented teacher in a small town in Colorado, and I’ve been in education since 2009. My passion (other than my family and cookies) is for making teachers’ lives easier and classrooms more engaging.

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I want to know the title of the book used for this narrative writing piece. The link takes you to a book about a strawberry and has nothing to do with getting the bear to leave.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

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Narrative Writing | Student Writing Lessons | Student Writing Samples | Resource by Grade Level | Grades 2-5

Narrative Writing - Student Samples by Grade Level

Read Time 3 mins | Feb 24, 2021 11:03:06 AM | Written by: Toolbox


Are you looking to provide specific feedback to your students in order to improve their writing? These samples are annotated for the specific skills students applied effectively in their writing and suggestions are included for improvement. Download each sample and use them as a guide to analyze your own student samples and give you the language to provide feedback based on instruction. The suggested lessons can be found in the Empowering Writers Narrative guides.

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20 Prompts for Narrative Writing That Spark Creativity


Using prompts for narrative writing motivates kids and gets them excited to write. Read on to learn more about narrative writing, mentor texts, ideas, and assessments. Plus you will find 20 fun prompts for narrative and personal narrative writing. These will be sure to spark student’s creativity and imagination!

What’s Narrative Writing?

Narrative writing tells a story using a beginning, middle, and end.  It includes elements such as characters, setting, problem, and solution.  The author’s purpose is usually to entertain or teach a lesson.  Narrative writing can be fact or fiction but the process is the same.  When it’s a real story from the author’s life, it is considered a personal narrative.  

Examples for Narrative Writing

There are so many wonderful examples of narrative writing.  Some are even written as personal narratives.  Below you will find a list of mentor texts for elementary school.  It’s helpful to immerse students in the genre before and during a narrative writing unit.  These books model different strategies that kids can try in their writing.

Narrative Writing Mentor Texts:

  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Come on, Rain! by Karen Hesse
  • Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
  • Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
  • Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
  • Blackout by John Rocco


Narrative Writing Teaching

There are many features to include in narrative writing, but it depends on the grade level being taught.  For the lower grades, it’s important to start with the concept of beginning, middle, and end written in sequential order.  Then you can expand to the introduction, body, and conclusion using details.  Other important elements are character, setting, problem, and solution.  As the student’s abilities increase the number of sentences will grow and expand to paragraphs.

For the older grades, you can introduce plot structure.  It follows the beginning, middle, and end format but on a higher level.  This story arc includes exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  Use the diagram below to see how these features overlap.

Plot Structure


Topics for Narrative Writing

The possibilities are endless when it comes to narrative writing ideas.  Kids can create a fiction piece or write about an experience in their life.  Check out some writing prompt ideas below for narrative and personal narrative writing. You might also like this blog post about opinion writing prompts: 20 Prompts for Opinion Writing That Motivate Kids

Writing Prompts for Narratives

  • I was taking my friend’s picture in front of the volcano when all of a sudden . . .  
  • What if you were given 3 wishes but couldn’t use them on yourself.  Tell a story about what you would wish for and why.
  • Write a story called, “The Luckiest Day of My Life.”
  • Imagine you went to the zoo and could take home any animal for the day.  Tell a story about your time together.
  • Write a silly story that uses these words: airplane, grapes, elephant, and book.
  • You have just been shrunk down to the size of an ant.  Write a story including the good and bad things about being so small.
  • Think about your favorite character from a book.  Tell a story about getting to meet them for the first time.
  • What would happen if you lived during a time when there was no electricity?  Write a story about your school day.
  • Finish this story: The pirates set sail on their ship in search of . . .
  • Suppose you were teacher for a day.  Write a story about the changes you would make.


Writing Prompts for Personal Narratives

  • Have you ever been so proud of yourself for learning something new?  Write a story about a time this happened.
  • Write a story about a time you felt your heart race.  What happened and how were you feeling at the end?
  • What was your most memorable vacation?  Tell a story from part of that trip and why it stands out in your mind.
  • Have you ever done something you knew would get you in big trouble?  Write a story about a time this happened and how you felt about it.
  • Write a story about the strangest thing that has ever happened to you.  Why was it so unusual?
  • What was your most memorable moment from this year?  Write a story telling why it’s so special.
  • Tell a story about a time when you were so excited and couldn’t wait for an event to happen.
  • Write a small moment story about a time you had with your favorite person.
  • Write about a time that you lost something important.  Tell whether or not you found it.
  • Think about the worst day you ever had.  What made it so terrible and did it get better by the end?


Rubrics for Narrative Writing

I often hear from teachers that one of the most difficult parts of teaching writing is how to assess it.  Assessments should be accurate and helpful for both the student and teacher.  When it comes to narrative writing, there are many different approaches.  Some teachers prefer to do a more informal assessment for daily writing pieces and then a formal assessment for the final copy.  Informal assessments can be completed with written comments or student-teacher conferences.

It would be very difficult to use a rubric for every narrative writing a student completes in their notebook.  Instead, most teachers prefer to choose one to three writing pieces to assess with a rubric.  These assessments are ideal for benchmarks, progress reports, and report cards.  Below you will find three types of narrative writing rubrics.  Check out this blog post to learn more about student-friendly, teacher-friendly, and time-saving rubrics: 3 Types of Writing Rubrics for Effective Assessments


Narrative writing enables kids to be creative and use their imagination. They can write a fiction story or about a real event from their life. Writing prompts are a helpful tool to get kids engaged and ready to get started. Did you grab your Free Writing Prompt Guide yet? I love using prompts for morning work, writing time, centers, or as a homework assignment. The possibilities are endless! Be sure to try these prompts for narrative writing with your students!

Genre Based Prompts


Related Articles:

20 Prompts for Opinion Writing That Motivate Kids

  • What is Narrative Writing
  • A Complete Guide to Narrative Writing
  • Personal Narrative Writing for Elementary School
  • Narrative Writing: How to Teach a Story Arc That’s as Exciting as a Roller Coaster

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3 Types of Writing Rubrics for Effective Assessments


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15 Inspiring Personal Narrative Examples for Writers

Reveal a part of yourself in your essay.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Students start writing personal narratives at a young age, learning to use descriptive language to tell a story about their own experiences. Try sharing these personal narrative examples for elementary, middle, and high school to help them understand this essay form.

What is a personal narrative?

Think of a narrative essay like telling a story. Use descriptive language, and be sure you have a beginning, middle, and end. The essay should recount your personal experiences, including your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Learn more about personal narrative essays here:

  • What Is Narrative Writing, and How Do I Teach It in the Classroom?
  • Engaging Personal Narrative Ideas for Kids and Teens
  • Best Mentor Texts for Narrative Writing in Elementary School

Elementary School Personal Narrative Examples

In elementary school, personal narratives might be quite short, just a paragraph or two. The key is to encourage kids to embrace a personal style of writing, one that speaks in their own voice. Take a look at these elementary school personal narrative essay examples for inspiration.

The Horrible Day

“next i fell asleep in my cereal and my brother stole my toast”—anonymous student.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

In this short personal narrative written by a 2nd grader, the author describes a bad day with lots of details and an informal tone. It’s a great model for your youngest writers.

Read the full essay: The Horrible Day at Thoughtful Learning

Keep an Eye on the Sky!

“as we made our way out to the field, my stomach slowly turned into a giant knot of fear.” —anonymous student.

Any student who dreads gym class will connect with this essay, which turns a challenge into a triumph. This narrative from Time for Kids is annotated, with highlighted details and tips to help kids write their own essay.

Read the full essay: Keep an Eye on the Sky! at Time for Kids

Grandpa, Chaz, and Me

“i really miss grandpa, and so does my brother, even though he never met him.” —cody, 4th grade student.

Written by a 4th grader, this essay relates the author’s loss of a grandfather at a very young age. Using simple, personal language, they tell a compelling story in a few short paragraphs.

Read the full essay: Grandpa, Chaz, and Me at Thoughtful Learning

Surviving an Embarrassing Situation

“i had made the shot in the wrong basket, giving the green shirts the win” —anonymous student.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Personal narratives tell a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. This annotated essay outlines those parts, making it easier for young writers to do the same in their own writing.

Read the full essay: Surviving an Embarrassing Situation at Sopris West Educational Services

“Do you have a friend who loves you?” —Kendra, 4th grade student

Writing about friends gives writers the chance to describe someone’s physical characteristics and personality. This 4th grade essay uses personal details to bring a beloved friend to life.

Read the full essay: Ann at Thoughtful Learning

Middle School Personal Narrative Examples

By middle school, personal narratives are longer and more involved, telling more detailed stories and experiences. These middle school personal narrative essay examples model strong writing skills for this age group.

“As thoughts of certain death run through my mind, the world appears a precious, treasured place.” —Amy, student

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Describing an opportunity to overcome your worst fears makes an excellent personal narrative topic. The vivid descriptions of the landscape and the author’s feelings help the reader make a strong connection to the author.

Read the full essay: The Climb at Thoughtful Learning

The Best Friend Question

“i’ve often wondered, does not having a best friend make me defective” —blanche li, age 13, diablo vista middle school, danville, california.

When her Spanish teacher asked students for an essay describing their best friend, 13-year-old Blanche Li fell back on her standard story: that of a made-up person. Here, she explains why she made up “Haley” and wonders what having an imaginary best friend says about her.

Read the full essay: The Best Friend Question at The New York Times

The Racist Warehouse

“i didn’t know racism was still around; i thought that situation had died along with dr. king.” —alicia, 8th grade student.

Strong personal narratives often relate the way the author learned an important life lesson. Here, an 8th grader describes her first experience with racism, in an essay that will sadly ring true with many readers.

Read the full essay: The Racist Warehouse at Thoughtful Teaching

“For the first time, we realized that we didn’t know how to express our voice, and we always suppressed it.” —Jocelyn C., 7th grade student, Texas

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Seventh-grader Jocelyn C. describes the unique experience of spending two years living in an RV with her family, traveling the country. She relates the ups and downs of their trip, illustrating the way her family learned to live together in close quarters and embrace the adventure.

Read the full essay: RV Journey at Write From the Heart

An Eight Pound Rival

“i’m trying to accept that he didn’t mean to dominate the center stage all the time, that’s just one of the many lovable assets of his personality.”.

A new sibling can change everything in a family, especially when you’ve always been the baby. This middle schooler explains her challenging relationship with a little brother that she loves, even when he drives her a bit crazy. (Find this essay on page 42 at the link.)

Read the full essay: An Eight Pound Rival at Teaching That Makes Sense

High School Personal Narrative Examples

High school students have more complex stories to tell, though they’re sometimes reluctant to do so. Reading personal narrative essay examples like these can encourage them to open up and get their thoughts, feelings, and ideas down on the page.

Sorry, Wrong Number

“when i received the first text, i was a playful sixth grader, always finding sly ways to be subversive in school and with friends.” —michelle ahn, high school student.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

When Michelle Ahn was 11, she started getting texts for a wrong number, a man named Jared. Rather than correcting the error, she spends the next few years occasionally engaging with his texters as “Jared,” learning more about him. Though she finally comes clean, her time as “Jared” exposes her to a way of life very different from her own, and opens her eyes to the inner lives of others.

Read the full essay: Sorry, Wrong Number at The New York Times

Caught in the Net

“little does everyone else know how often i’m not doing school research or paper writing; instead i’m aimlessly writing emails or chatting with internet friends and family hundreds of miles away.” —kim, college student.

Even before social media and smartphones swept the world, internet addiction had become a problem. Here, a student shares her experiences in AOL chat rooms, meeting people from around the globe. Eventually, she realizes she’s sacrificing life in the real world for her digital friends and experiences, and works to find the right balance.

Read the full essay: Caught in the Net at Thoughtful Learning

Nothing Extraordinary

“an uneasy feeling started to settle in my chest. i tried to push it out, but once it took root it refused to be yanked up and tossed away.” —jeniffer kim, high school student.

During an ordinary shopping trip, high schooler Jenniffer Kim suddenly realizes she’s ashamed of her mother. At the same time, she recognizes all the sacrifices her mom has made for her, and gladly takes the chance to make a tiny sacrifice of her own.

Read the full essay: Nothing Extraordinary at The New York Times

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

“at this point in life, i had not yet learned to be gentle with myself, or others.” —anonymous student.

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

A teen who lives with bipolar disorder recounts a difficult conversation with her parents, in which her mother dismisses her as “crazy.” A few years later, this same teen finds herself in the emergency room, where her mother has just tried to die by suicide. “Crazy!” the daughter thinks. After her mother also receives a bipolar disorder diagnosis, the author concludes, “‘Crazy’ is a term devised to dismiss people.”

Read the full essay: The Pot Calling the Kettle Black at Pressbooks

What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew

“i know that i am different, but do not have the words to understand how.” —mariama lockington.

Though not written by a high schooler, this essay by Mariama Lockington makes an excellent mentor text for this age group. Lockington dives deep into her feelings about being adopted by parents of a different race, and shares her challenges in poignant language that speaks directly to the reader.

Read the full essay: What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew at Buzzfeed News

Do you use personal narrative examples as mentor texts in your classroom? Come share your experiences and ask for advice in the We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook !

Plus, strong persuasive writing examples (essays, speeches, ads, and more) ..

Find stirring personal narrative examples for elementary, middle school, and high school students on an array of topics.

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examples of narrative writing for elementary students

65 Engaging Personal Narrative Ideas for Kids and Teens

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37 Student Narrative Essay Examples

The pot calling the kettle black….

“You aren’t acting normal,” my dad said with a dopy, concerned look on his face. He was a hard-working, soft and loving man. He was smaller than my mother, physically and figuratively. She sat beside him. She had a towering stature, with strong, swimmers’ shoulders, but she was hunched often. She didn’t really have eyebrows, but she didn’t need them. She had no problem conveying emotion on her face, especially negative ones.

“What’s wrong?” my mother asked. She took my hand frantically. Not the way one might take someone’s hand to connect with or comfort them. She needed reassurance more than I did.

My parents were sitting across from me on cushioned, bland-colored chairs in my dad’s office, while I sat on a rickety, torturous wooden chair. My dad’s office generally utilized natural light due to the expansive glass windows that allowed the light to drown the room, enclosing us in the chamber. I felt like an inmate being prepped for lethal injection. The weather was particularly gray and dismal. Perhaps it was the ambiguous, gray, confusing feelings I was breathing through. My parents had somewhat regular “interventions” to address my somewhat regular (sometimes public) emotional breakdowns, my self-medicating habits, and my general shitty attitude.

This week in particular, I had purposely destroyed two of my mother’s collectible horses. She had a maniacal obsession for them. She also maniacally collected sunflower artwork, which was the one obsession, of many, I found endearing. My old babysitter noted at one point there were 74 collectible horses in the house. After my outburst, there were 72.

I could see behind my parents, through the glass-paned door, my two younger sisters were secretly observing the altercation from the dining room, hiding under the table. They were illuminated by the ominous weather, which was also watching in on the dismal conversation through the windows. I was envious, jealous even, of my spectating sisters. My sisters didn’t have overflowing, excessive emotions. They didn’t have emotions that were considered “excessive.” I felt like an offender being put at the stocks: my parents were the executioners, and my sisters were the jesters.

“I’m angry.”

“What about?” my dad asked, puzzled. “Did someone do something to you?”

“Honey, were you—” my mother looked to my dad, then concealed her mouth slightly with the other hand, “ raped ?”

I couldn’t help but raise my voice. “No, Mom, I wasn’t raped, Jesus.” I took a moment to grind on my teeth and imagine the bit I was chomping at. Calm, careful, composed, I responded. “I’m just angry. I don’t feel—”

“What don’t you feel?” She practically jumped on me, while yanking my imprisoned hand toward her. She yanked at my reins.

“I don’t feel understood!” My mind was bucking. I didn’t know why I needed to react by raising my voice. It felt instinctive, defensive. Shouting forcefully, I jerked my hand away from her, but it remained in her clutches. I didn’t feel satisfied saying it, though what I said was the truth.

“What are you talking about?” my dad asked mournfully. I knew he felt betrayed. But he didn’t understand. He didn’t know what it’s like for things to be too much. Or to be too much. My dad looked at me longingly, hoping I would correct what I had said. He looked lost, incapable of understanding why I was doing what I was doing. My mother interjected, cutting off my dad’s hypnotic, silent cry for connection.

“You’re crazy!” she said, maintaining eye contact. My mother then let go of my hand, flipped it back to me. She reclined in her chair, retracting from me and the discussion entirely. She crossed her legs, then her arms. She turned her head away, toward the glass windows, and (mentally) left.

I was and am not “too much.”

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18 years old.

I had just stepped off a squealing MAX line onto a broken sidewalk slab, gnarled from tree roots, when I felt my phone buzz rhythmically.

“I need you to come to the hospital. Mom had a little accident.” My dad’s voice was distant and cracking, like a wavering radio signal, calling for help.

“What’s going on? Is she okay?” I asked while making my way to campus.

“Where are you?” He wasn’t going to tell me anything over the phone. Adrenaline set in. I let him know I was downtown and headed to campus, but that I would catch a Lyft to wherever they were. “We’re at Milwaukie Providence. How soon can you get here?

“I’ll let you know soon.” My assumption was that my parents had been in an argument, my mother left the house in a rage, and crashed her car. She’d been an erratic driver for as long as I could remember, and my parents had been arguing more than usual recently, as many new “empty-nesters” do. The lack of information provided by my dad, however, was unsettling. I don’t really recall the ride to the hospital. I do remember looking over the river while riding from the west to east side of town. I remember the menacing, dark clouds rolling in faster than the driver could transport me. I remember it was quick, but it was too much time spent without answers.

When I arrived at Providence, I jumped out of the sedan and galloped into the lobby of the emergency room like a race horse on its final lap. My younger sister and Dad were seated on cushioned, bland-colored chairs in the waiting room. There were expansive glass windows that allowed the light to drown the room. The weather was particularly gray and dismal. Perhaps it was the ambiguous, gray, confusing feelings I was breathing through. I sat down beside my dad, in a firmer-than-anticipated waiting room chair beside him. He took my hand frantically. He took it in the way one might take someone’s hand to connect with or comfort them. He needed reassurance more than I did.

“Where did she get in the accident?” I asked.

My sister, sitting across from me with her head in her knees, looked up at me with aquamarine, tear-filled eyes. She was staring through me, an unclouded window. “Mom tried to kill herself.”

“What?” My voice crescendoed from a normal volume to a shriek in the span of a single word. My mind felt like it was bucking. I grabbed at my hair, pulling it back tight with my spare hand. The tears and cries reared, no matter how hard I yanked my mane.

“We got in another argument this morning, and she sent me a message saying she didn’t want to be in pain anymore. She told me to tell you girls she’s sorry. I’m so sorry.” I’d never seen my dad cry before; I didn’t know he could. I didn’t know his tears would stream like gushing water from a broken dam. He looked lost, incapable of understanding why she was doing what she was doing. I looked from my dad to my sister to my hands. One hand remained enveloped by my dad’s gentle palm. At this point in life, I had not yet learned to be gentle with myself, or others. I cut off my dad’s hypnotic, silent cry for connection.

“She’s crazy!” I let go of my dad’s hand, flipped it back to him. I reclined in the

chair, retracting from the situation entirely. I crossed my legs, then my arms. I turned my head away, toward the glass windows, and (mentally) left.

“Crazy” is a term devised to dismiss people.

My mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 50 years old.

Teacher Takeaways

“This essay makes excellent use of repetition as a narrative strategy. Throughout the essay, terms and phrases are repeated, generally with slight alterations, drawing the reader’s attention to the moment in question and recontextualizing the information being conveyed. This strategy is especially powerful when used to disclose the separate diagnoses of bipolar disorder, which is central to the narrative. I also appreciate the use of dialogue, though it mostly serves an expository function here. In itself that’s effective, but this narrative would be strengthened if that dialogue could serve to make some of the characters, especially the mother, more rounded.”

– Professor Dunham

My College Education

The following essay, “My College Education” is from Chapter 15.2 – Narrative Essay , Writing for Success , University of Minnesota Libraries.

The first class I went to in college was philosophy, and it changed my life forever. Our first assignment was to write a short response paper to the Albert Camus essay “The Myth of Sisyphus.” I was extremely nervous about the assignment as well as college. However, through all the confusion in philosophy class, many of my questions about life were answered.

I entered college intending to earn a degree in engineering. I always liked the way mathematics had right and wrong answers. I understood the logic and was very good at it. So when I received my first philosophy assignment that asked me to write my interpretation of the Camus essay, I was instantly confused. What is the right way to do this assignment, I wondered? I was nervous about writing an incorrect interpretation and did not want to get my first assignment wrong. Even more troubling was that the professor refused to give us any guidelines on what he was looking for; he gave us total freedom. He simply said, “I want to see what you come up with.”

Full of anxiety, I first set out to read Camus’s essay several times to make sure I really knew what was it was about. I did my best to take careful notes. Yet even after I took all these notes and knew the essay inside and out, I still did not know the right answer. What was my interpretation? I could think of a million different ways to interpret the essay, but which one was my professor looking for? In math class, I was used to examples and explanations of solutions. This assignment gave me nothing; I was completely on my own to come up with my individual interpretation.

Next, when I sat down to write, the words just did not come to me. My notes and ideas were all present, but the words were lost. I decided to try every prewriting strategy I could find. I brainstormed, made idea maps, and even wrote an outline. Eventually, after a lot of stress, my ideas became more organized and the words fell on the page. I had my interpretation of “The Myth of Sisyphus,” and I had my main reasons for interpreting the essay. I remember being unsure of myself, wondering if what I was saying made sense, or if I was even on the right track. Through all the uncertainty, I continued writing the best I could. I finished the conclusion paragraph, had my spouse proofread it for errors, and turned it in the next day simply hoping for the best.

Then, a week or two later, came judgment day. The professor gave our papers back to us with grades and comments. I remember feeling simultaneously afraid and eager to get the paper back in my hands. It turned out, however, that I had nothing to worry about. The professor gave me an A on the paper, and his notes suggested that I wrote an effective essay overall. He wrote that my reading of the essay was very original and that my thoughts were well organized. My relief and newfound confidence upon reading his comments could not be overstated.

What I learned through this process extended well beyond how to write a college paper. I learned to be open to new challenges. I never expected to enjoy a philosophy class and always expected to be a math and science person. This class and assignment, however, gave me the self-confidence, critical-thinking skills, and courage to try a new career path. I left engineering and went on to study law and eventually became a lawyer. More important, that class and paper helped me understand education differently. Instead of seeing college as a direct stepping stone to a career, I learned to see college as a place to first learn and then seek a career or enhance an existing career. By giving me the space to express my own interpretation and to argue for my own values, my philosophy class taught me the importance of education for education’s sake. That realization continues to pay dividends every day.

Model Student Essay

Innocence again.

Imagine the sensation of the one split second that you are floating through the air as you were thrown up in the air as a child, that feeling of freedom and carefree spirit as happiness abounds. Looking at the world through innocent eyes, all thoughts and feelings of amazement. Being free, happy, innocent, amazed, wowed. Imagine the first time seeing the colors when your eyes and brain start to recognize them but never being able to name the shade or hue. Looking at the sky as it changes from the blackness with twinkling stars to the lightest shade of blue that is almost white, then the deep red of the sunset and bright orange of the sun. All shades of the spectrum of the rainbow, colors as beautiful as the mind can see or imagine.

I have always loved the sea since I was young; the smell of saltiness in the air invigorates me and reminds me of the times spent with my family enjoying Sundays at the beach. In Singapore, the sea was always murky and green but I continued to enjoy all activities in it. When I went to Malaysia to work, I discovered that the sea was clear and blue and without hesitation, I signed up for a basic diving course and I was hooked. In my first year of diving, I explored all the dive destinations along the east coast of Malaysia and also took an advanced diving course which allowed me to dive up to a depth of thirty meters. Traveling to a dive site took no more than four hours by car and weekends were spent just enjoying the sea again.

Gearing up is no fun. Depending on the temperature of the water, I might put on a shortie, wetsuit or drysuit. Then on come the booties, fins and mask which can be considered the easiest part unless the suit is tight—then it is a hop and pull struggle, which reminds me of how life can be at times. Carrying the steel tank, regulator, buoyancy control device (BCD) and weights is a torture. The heaviest weights that I ever had to use were 110 pounds, equivalent to my body weight; but as I jump in and start sinking into the sea, the contrast to weightlessness hits me. The moment that I start floating in the water, a sense of immense freedom and joy overtakes me.

Growing up, we have to learn the basics: time spent in classes to learn, constantly practicing to improve our skills while safety is ingrained by our parents. In dive classes, I was taught to never panic or do stupid stuff: the same with the lessons that I have learned in life. Panic and over-inflated egos can lead to death, and I have heard it happens all the time. I had the opportunity to go to Antarctica for a diving expedition, but what led to me getting that slot was the death of a very experienced diver who used a drysuit in a tropic climate against all advice. He just overheated and died. Lessons learned in the sea can be very profound, but they contrast the life I live: risk-taker versus risk-avoider. However, when I have perfected it and it is time to be unleashed, it is time to enjoy. I jump in as I would jump into any opportunity, but this time it is into the deep blue sea of wonders.

A sea of wonders waits to be explored. Every journey is different: it can be fast or slow, like how life takes me. The sea decides how it wants to carry me; drifting fast with the currents so that at times, I hang on to the reef and corals like my life depends on it, even though I am taught never to touch anything underwater. The fear I feel when I am speeding along with the current is that I will be swept away into the big ocean, never to be found. Sometimes, I feel like I am not moving at all, kicking away madly until I hyperventilate because the sea is against me with its strong current holding me against my will.

The sea decides what it wants me to see: turtles popping out of the seabed, manta rays gracefully floating alongside, being in the middle of the eye of a barracuda hurricane, a coral shelf as big as a car, a desert of bleached corals, the emptiness of the seabed with not a fish in sight, the memorials of death caused by the December 26 tsunami—a barren sea floor with not a soul or life in sight.

The sea decides what treasures I can discover: a black-tipped shark sleeping in an underwater cavern, a pike hiding from predators in the reef, an octopus under a dead tree trunk that escapes into my buddy’s BCD, colorful mandarin fish mating at sunset, a deadly box jellyfish held in my gloved hands, pygmy seahorses in a fern—so tiny that to discover them is a journey itself.

Looking back, diving has taught me more about life, the ups and downs, the good and bad, and to accept and deal with life’s challenges. Everything I learn and discover underwater applies to the many different aspects of my life. It has also taught me that life is very short: I have to live in the moment or I will miss the opportunities that come my way. I allow myself to forget all my sorrow, despair and disappointments when I dive into the deep blue sea and savor the feelings of peacefulness and calmness. There is nothing around me but fish and corals, big and small. Floating along in silence with only the sound of my breath— inhale and exhale . An array of colors explodes in front of my eyes, colors that I never imagine I will discover again, an underwater rainbow as beautiful as the rainbow in the sky after a storm. As far as my eyes can see, I look into the depth of the ocean with nothing to anchor me. The deeper I get, the darker it turns. From the light blue sky to the deep navy blue, even blackness into the void. As the horizon darkens, the feeding frenzy of the underwater world starts and the watery landscape comes alive. Total darkness surrounds me but the sounds that I can hear are the little clicks in addition to my breathing. My senses overload as I cannot see what is around me, but the sea tells me it is alive and it anchors me to the depth of my soul.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.” … In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man in spite of real sorrows….” The sea and diving have given me a new outlook on life, a different planet where I can float into and enjoy as an adult, a new, different perspective on how it is to be that child again. Time and time again as I enter into the sea, I feel innocent all over again.

Write What Matters Copyright © 2020 by Liza Long; Amy Minervini; and Joel Gladd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Planning Writing Lessons for the Early Elementary Grades

Teachers can provide thoughtful instruction that supports the sustained development of young students’ literacy skills.

Elementary student writing while teacher assists other students

Often, attempting to plan effective and purposeful writing instruction raises many questions: What does lesson planning look like? How will I manage so many students who may be in different stages of their writing? How often should they be editing and revising? The list doesn’t stop there.

By utilizing on-demand writing for assessment and long-range writing for scaffolded practice of applying various writing techniques, teachers can approach their instruction with intentional and tailored lessons that meet the needs of the learners in the classroom, as well as help students develop self-regulated behaviors when crafting a piece of text.

On-Demand Writing

Just like any area of instruction, assessment is critical for knowing what the students’ strengths and areas of growth are, and on-demand writing is how teachers can gather that evidence. An on-demand piece of writing simply means that the teacher provides a specific prompt for the student to write to for the purpose of anecdotal data. For example, let’s say a second-grade teacher prepares for a narrative writing cycle. In the first couple of days before the cycle begins, they’ll ask students to write a narrative about something fun they’ve experienced (with their family or a friend). 

After the prompt is given, students get one or two days to write and are provided with all necessary tools to carry out the process of developing a piece of writing without additional modeling or instruction. Effective tools might include graphic organizers, writing paper, tools for editing, and a writing checklist. However, the teacher will not model how to use the tools. The teacher is informally assessing if the students know how to use these resources to develop a story.

After students complete their piece, the teacher collects them for analysis. It is critically important to determine realistic expectations for what writing should look like throughout various points of the year, so creating a common rubric as a grade level is a great way to stay on the same page for analyzing the assessment. 

Writing growth, similar to reading, happens along a continuum of skills. At the beginning of the year, a second grader can’t be expected to write like an end-of-the-year second grader because they haven’t been taught the grade-level skills necessary to do so yet. On-demand benchmark assessments along the way will gradually raise the expectation of what that student should be able to do. Websites such as Reading Rockets and Achieve the Core provide useful anchor examples of real student writing in various genres that provide annotated explanations of students’ overall writing ability and possible next steps for instruction.

As students engage in daily lessons about crafting a narrative within the instructional cycle of a long-range writing piece, another on-demand prompt may be given at the halfway point of the cycle to track growth and drive future instruction. This could be the same prompt as before or a prompt given in response to a story or passage the student has read.  

It’s important to remember that it’s easy to fall into the trap of using writing prompts daily for students to produce writing simply because it’s easy to manage. If we use this approach exclusively, we rob our students of the opportunity to dive deeply into producing self-chosen, elaborate pieces full of voice and author’s craft.

Long-Range Writing

Long-range pieces give students the autonomy to choose their own writing topic while the teacher assists in walking them through the process. This type of instruction instills the executive-functioning behaviors needed when students are asked to write a piece on demand. When considering how to implement this type of writing instruction, it can be overwhelming. Breaking down long-range instruction using the following components allows for a more manageable approach.

Keep your lesson mini: A mini lesson is 15 to 20 minutes long and organized in a gradual release format, and it allows the teacher to model a specific, focused lesson. For example, narrative writing could be broken into the following mini lessons for a beginning-of-the-year cycle for second grade: introduce and describe a setting, introduce and describe the character, edit on the go (this means to stop and edit before we add more writing), describe the first event in the narrative, introduce a problem, etc. Essentially, each lesson will invite students to add to their story one chunk at a time.

Model, provide independent practice: The teacher begins by modeling one learning target using a well-crafted organizer . An effective organizer teaches students that each genre has a specific structure. As learners begin to recognize the pattern in text structure, they can replicate it when assessed in on-demand pieces. For example, the teacher can start by using a text that clearly introduces and describes the setting, and then read that page out loud and ask students what they notice about how the author introduced the setting.  

Next, students are invited to help the teacher write a setting to a story together by offering verbal suggestions. The teacher records the students’ ideas and writes an example introduction in the organizer. Then students think about an idea for an introduction of a setting on their own and are prompted to talk to a partner about their story. The students verbally rehearse what they plan to write, as this provides them an opportunity to organize their thoughts and prepares them to get started as soon as they are released to write independently, using the same organizer that the teacher used to model the mini lesson.  

The benefit of this approach is that it gives the teacher time to provide specific feedback over the same crafting element. Having every student write their complete thoughts directly in the organizer in a chunked manner allows for a better visual of where to correct capitalization and punctuation. Essentially, each lesson should invite students to write one or two complete sentences that can be quickly edited before adding the next part of the story.  

Share and reflect: Close each lesson by bringing students back together so that they have an opportunity to share what they’ve produced. This time celebrates students’ creativity, as well as giving them an opportunity to reflect on how they can improve their writing.   

Both on-demand writing and long-range writing are vital in developing confident writers across various genres. It’s important to approach them with a cyclical scope and sequence that allows students to learn the craft, structure, and development of narrative, informative, and opinion styles of writing. By scaffolding and supporting students’ growth in each genre of writing, learners will begin to automatically apply these techniques more independently as the year progresses because of the solid foundation that has been built. 

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

Teaching narrative writing and need some fun writing prompts to get your students thinking? I have found that the more fun you make the narrative writing prompts, the more students will write. Here is a list of 55 narrative writing prompts you will want to use in your classroom. Some are serious and others are hilarious. Take a look at what the list has to offer and feel free to change them up any way you would like.

In this blog post I share 5 different categories of narrative writing prompts, each with 11 prompts. That means when you download it you will have FIFTY-FIVE writing prompts to use all year long. Fill out the form below to have all 55 sent to you in an easy, printable list that will help simplify your lesson planning!

Family Narrative Writing Prompts

All students have had experiences with their families and it’s fun to write about them. Invite students to share their family stories with the class using these thought-invoking narrative writing prompts.

  • Tell a story about the most recent trip you took with your family.
  • What is something your family likes to do in the fall (spring, summer, winter)?
  • Write about your family’s favorite movie to watch. What is the experience like (popcorn, songs, blankets, etc)
  • Think about 5 things in your life that are special and write about them. Tell us about your dog, your mom, your uncle, or anything else you can think of.
  • Suppose there is an extra space at the table for dinner one night. Who would you invite to join your family for dinner and what would the evening look like?
  • Think back on a gift you gave to a family member. Why was it so special to give to them and what was their reaction?
  • Pretend you have to describe your family to someone who has never met them before. Write about your family members and their personalities.
  • Consider a challenge or tough time your family had to go through. How did your family deal with this challenge and overcome it?
  • If you are able, interview one of the oldest members of your family. Ask them what their life was like as a child and about their memories.
  • Does your family have an unusual tradition? Tell us about it!
  • You can only keep one memory about your family, which memory do you choose. Write about that memory.

Narrative Writing Prompts for Upper Elementary

Personal Experiences Narrative Writing Prompts

Narratives are the perfect time to write about personal experiences we go through in life. Use these 11 narrative writing prompts about our personal life to get students thinking.

  • Explain a moment when you felt embarrassed.
  • Talk about a time you were overjoyed.
  • What is something that makes you feel sad and how do you make yourself feel better?
  • Have you ever helped a friend when they couldn’t do something? Tell us about it.
  • Write about a time you were bored and found something to entertain yourself.
  • Tell us about a day when you were in a bad mood. What happened?
  • Write about a time you were proud of yourself. What did you do?
  • Have you ever felt your heart racing? What made your heart race and what did you do?
  • Were you ever in a situation where you knew you could get in trouble? What did you do?
  • Tell a story about something unusual that happened to you.
  • Write about a time you lost something important. What was it and how did you react?

Narrative Writing Prompts for Upper Elementary

Silly Narrative Writing Prompts

Kids love writing about silly things. These narrative writing prompts are a great way to let them have fun as they get creative with their writing.

  • Take a look at your shoe, and tell a story of where it’s been.
  • Write a story about what it would be like if you work up one morning with scales on your body.
  • You woke up this morning in your pet’s body! What does your day look like?
  • There’s a knock on the door. When you open the door, you see a giraffe! What do you do?
  • Write a silly story about yourself that uses the words: elephant, watermelon, jet, and computer.
  • Finish this story: The explorers set out on their quest to find…
  • A friend on the bus gave you a bottle of magical glitter. You and your friend sprinkle it on yourselves. What happens next?
  • Imagine you have an amazing sense of smell. What would you use it for? What will you smell?
  • You’re inventing a new sandwich. What do you put on the sandwich and how does it taste?
  • This morning you woke up and you are 20 feet tall! What will you do all day?
  • A spaceship lands on your school’s playground. Write about what happens next.

Narrative Writing Prompts for Upper Elementary

Want access to use all of these narrative writing prompts in your classroom? Just fill out the form below!

55 Narrative Writing Prompt Ideas!

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Fictional Narrative Writing Prompts

Sometimes, personal narratives that come from a place of fiction are easier to write about because they aren’t so personal. These narrative writing prompts let students step out of their reality for a moment.

  • You are a superhero. What are your powers and how did you get them?
  • Imagine a world without televisions, music, digital games, or computers. What would you do for fun?
  • Tell a story about a day where everything that could possibly go wrong, does.
  • Time travel is real! Would you visit the past or future and why? What would you do?
  • Imagine you are a new character in your favorite book. Who are you and what adventures do you go on?
  • You’re playing in the driveway when a bus drives by. A neatly wrapped package drops out, what do you do? If you open the package, what is inside?
  • One day in class, a skunk climbs through the window. Write about what happens next.
  • You wake up one day and realize you can talk to animals. Write a story about the animals you would have discussions with and what might be said.
  • Imagine you are the teacher for the day. Write about the changes you would make and what a day in the classroom would look like.
  • You and your friends wander into an abandoned house covered in cobwebs. What do you find?
  • Your classroom plant has grown a really strange fruit. What is it and what can it do?

Narrative Writing Prompts for Upper Elementary

Dreams and Wishes Narrative Writing Prompts

It’s always encouraging to write about our dreams and wishes in life. These narrative writing prompts let kids reflect as they write.

  • Tell a story about your ideal place to live. Where would it be and what would it look like?
  • If you could do anything you wanted as a job, what would you choose?
  • Every day of the year is the same holiday, which day do you choose and why?
  • You are gifted $1000, what are you going to use it for?
  • Pretend you have a personal genie who can grant you wishes. What three wishes would you make and why?
  • When you get older, what do you hope to accomplish?
  • Write about a dream you remember having recently. Do you wish what happened in the dream would come true?
  • If you could make one wish come true for a friend, what would it be?
  • You have always wanted to go on a game show. Which game show would you go on and did you win?
  • Describe something you are good at or hope to be good at one day.
  • Write about your dreams for the world in the future? What do you hope changes?

Narrative Writing Prompts for Upper Elementary

Narrative writing comes easily to some students, but takes time for others. Hopefully using these fun narrative writing prompts will encourage your students to write about their life experiences as well as some fictional topics. Use these 55 topics to really get them thinking.

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Try my  Weekly Writing Prompts  as well! They are perfect for the classroom and come in print and digital downloads. You can purchase them directly on this site .

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examples of narrative writing for elementary students

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Elementary Narrative Writing Lessons and Activities

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Children begin writing narratives in class at an early age. Each year of elementary school, students increase their ability to write more thorough, detailed descriptions while setting an overall tone for their stories. Help your child improve his or her writing skills by creating practice lesson plans and activities to be completed at home.

How to Teach Elementary School Students Narrative Writing

When elementary students practice narrative writing, they should focus on writing essays and stories with strong introductions, detailed descriptions and thought-provoking conclusions. Starting as early as kindergarten, your child has been exposed to narrative writing in the classroom, but providing additional at-home activities and lessons will encourage skill development and understanding. The sample lessons provided are meant to be used as your child advances in his or her narrative writing ability.

Narrative Writing Activities by Concept

Sequence of events and descriptive details.

As your child becomes more comfortable with narrative writing, it's important for him or her to continually increase the amount and depth of details included in each piece. In order to produce a quality story, your child should learn to clearly describe the actions, thoughts and feelings of each character. A common activity used in all grades in elementary school is a writing prompt. Creating prompts on topics relevant to your child helps spark an interest in storytelling, provides basic structural guidelines and encourages use of detailed descriptions.

Writing Prompt Sample

Think about the most recent trip you took with your family. It could have been a long vacation or a short trip to do something fun, like camping or skiing. Write a narrative essay describing the trip to a friend or family member who wasn't there. Try to paint a picture in your reader's head by including details about who you were with, the activities you did, anything out of the ordinary that may have happened and why you enjoyed it.

Characters, Dialogue and Organization

Around third grade, students learn more about plot, characters and dialogue. However, developing the different aspects of a narrative from scratch may prove difficult or confusing for some. In order to help your child better comprehend the elements of a plot, such as character introduction, rising action, climax and resolution, have him or her brainstorm a topic and write an original story.

Plot Outline

One activity that may be helpful for your child when writing his or her own narrative story is to first create an outline. Outlining worksheets can be found online, but you can easily create your own. Start by drawing a four by five grid. Label the columns as 'Actions,' 'Characters,' 'Setting' and 'Dialogue.' Then, label the rows as 'Introduction,' 'Rising Action,' 'Climax,' 'Falling Action' and 'Resolution.'

Allow your child to fill in each row with the appropriate details. This will help provide a better understanding of each step in the plot and how events should be organized within a story. Once complete, you can help your child use the outline to write and illustrate the story on paper. You may choose to bind your child's final copy so he or she can keep the story and show it off to family and friends.

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Your child may have no intention of becoming a farmer. Perhaps even having a garden as an adult is unlikely. Still, as students around the country are learning, when schools add farming to the school day, students benefit in numerous ways.

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Student Writing Samples and Analysis for Elementary, Middle School, and High School: Complete Collection

examples of narrative writing for elementary students

How do you bring objectivity to teaching writing? Authentic student writing samples from state writing assessments are an excellent tool that helps teachers bring objectivity to teaching writing. Of course, it sure helps if the writing samples are accompanied by objective analysis, scoring, and commentary. You will find all of that and more on this page!

Many teachers evaluate their students’ writing progress by examining what they can get their students to produce as an end result. They look at what they can get their students to produce in a lesson, and they place great importance on what they can get their students to produce to place on a bulletin board. Certainly, I care about those things, too. But I primarily measure my students’ writing progress by examining and monitoring their independent writing. It’s not about what I can get them to do—it’s about what they do when left to their own devices.

We have three types of independent student writing:

1.   daily writing across the curriculum 2.   state and district writing assessments 3.   independent writing assignments

My purpose here is not to discuss independent student writing, but instead to explain why the following collection of objective, authentic student writing samples are so valuable and helpful. Usually, when we see samples of student writing (other than our own students’ writing), they are polished examples, and we have no idea of what went into creating them. How much time? How many drafts? Who guided the piece of writing? How much guiding? What forms of guidance?

pencil and paper

In contrast, we all know exactly how these state writing assessment samples were created; we all know the exact writing situation in which these pieces of writing were created; we all know that no teacher had any influence on any of these pieces of writing once the assignment was given. This writing is what students produced when given plenty of time and left to their own devices.

An Awesome Collection of Released Student-Writing Samples with Analysis and Commentary

I have always linked to valuable collections of resources that I have come across that can help teachers teach writing and achieve success on writing assessments. Here are two of the best:

1.  Released Writing Prompts for State Testing

2.  State Writing Assessment Tools and Resources : This page contains links to all of these valuable resources from many state writing assessments: 1) released writing prompts, 2) scoring rubrics, 3) anchor papers, scoring commentary, student writing samples, 4) teacher guides and/or test directions, 5) and more!

Below you will find another collection of valuable resources—a collection of released student writing samples. Since creating Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay , I’ve interacted with teachers from all over the country—and even the world. A kind teacher up in Oregon who is using Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay sent me these links. She is thrilled that the number of her students scoring high on the Oregon State Writing Assessment has doubled since she began using the program.

This collection of released student writing samples has five great qualities:

1.   It includes writing samples for grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10.

2.   It includes scoring analysis for every single essay in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10.

3.   It includes writing samples for four important genres: 1) expository, 2) narrative: personal, 3) narrative: imaginative, and 4) persuasive (starts in grade 5).

4.   It includes writing samples for five scoring levels: 1) low, 2) medium-low, 3) medium, 4) medium-high, and 5) high.

5.   In total, the collection contains about 325 pages of released student writing samples and scoring analysis!

Here’s the Collection!

Please Note: I used to link to the scoring guide and rubrics, but the files seem to have been moved. Truthfully, they are not necessary at all. Furthermore, you will find links to many excellent Six-Trait rubrics here , including the original Six Traits rubric from Oregon (where it all began).

This collection scores papers using the Six Traits of Writing: 1) Ideas and Content, 2) Organization, 3) Voice, 4) Word Choice, 5) Sentence Fluency, and 6) Conventions. Since the rise of the Common Core, Oregon has used a couple of different scoring models that use different traits, including a few genre-specific traits. However, this collection of student writing samples remains one of the best available.

•  Grade 3 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis

•  Grade 4 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis

•  Grade 5 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis

•  Grade 6 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis

•  Grade 7 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis

•  Grade 8 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis

•  Grade 9 There aren’t any.

•  Grade 10 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis

Common Core Update: 686 Pages of K-12 Common Core Student Writing Samples

Are you interested in 686 pages of K-12 Common Core student writing samples? If you are, be sure to download this awesome collection! To be honest, I was surprised when I clicked on the link and discovered this wonderful bounty.

•  In Common: Effective Writing for All Students Collection of All Student Work Samples, K-12

Are You Interested in Paragraphs?

Now that you have your student writing samples, I pose this question to you: Do you want to understand how the best writers and the lowest scoring writers created their paragraphs on those writing samples? If you do, be sure to read the following two resources. The above collection of student writing samples played a role in both of these:

1.  Paragraph Length: How the Best Student Writers Create Paragraphs on State Writing Assessments   2.  The Ten Stages of Paragraph and Multi-Paragraph Mastery eBook

How to Use These Student Writing Samples to Teach Writing

“Habit #2: Start with the end in mind.” Stephen R. Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Primary Purpose: The primary purpose of these student writing samples is to help teachers become experts in analyzing student writing. Furthermore, these student writing samples help teachers figure out how to begin with the end in mind. Teachers must begin with the end in mind if they want their students’ writing to end up where they want it to be.

Furthermore, teachers can use these student writing samples in the classroom to teach students about creating, analyzing, and evaluating writing. Here are ten ideas to get you started:

1.   Choose and print out a few essays and commentary that you want to focus on.

2.   Examine the essays and commentary. What are your students doing correctly? What are your students not doing correctly? What do your students need to learn? Read the commentary and make a list of skills that you want to teach your students. Plan out how you are going to teach those skills.

3.   Use a Six-Trait rubric go over a number of essays with your students. (You will find links to many different Six-Trait rubrics here .) Teach your students what scorers are looking for. What makes for a high scoring essay and what makes for a low scoring essay? What went right with the high-scoring essays? What went wrong with the low-scoring essays?

4.   Create or find a few student-friendly rubrics . Have students score at least a few essays using these rubrics. Make sure your students understand the rubrics, and if you have the time, you may want to have your students help create a simple rubric.

5.   Compare and contrast the genres. This activity is a great way to show students different types of writing and different styles. Play the game, “Name the Genre.” What are the qualities and characteristics of the writing genre that you see in the sample essays? How can you tell it is a particular type of writing? (Note: “Name the Genre” is also an effective strategy to use with writing prompts, and in particular, with released writing prompts .)

6.   Have students compare and contrast essays that have different scores. Have students compare and contrast essays with the same scores but from different grades levels.

7.   Use the low scores to show your students how good their writing is. Use the high scores to show your students where they need to improve.

8.   Have students edit or build upon one of the sample essays. Take one of the low scoring essays and have your students transform it into a high scoring essay. You can do this with each genre of writing. Help your students see the similarities and the differences across different types of writing.

9.   Demonstrate how neatness matters. Some of the sample essays are messy. Even a few high scoring ones are messy. Discuss how difficult it can be for scorers to fairly assess messy writing. Note: Students will often see messy writing on a decent paper and think that the paper is a low scoring paper. Explain that while rubrics do help prevent this rush to judgment, they do not eliminate it. This exercise also helps illustrate how important rubrics are, and how students must, in one sense, write for the rubric.

10.   Show your students how all of the important writing skills that you have been teaching them are found in the high-scoring papers and are missing from the low-scoring papers.

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