How to Teach Narrative Writing

In this post, I share 5 tips for How to Teach Narrative Writing and provide details about the Narrative Writing Units I have created for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students. Be sure to download 3 FREE narrative writing graphic organizers!

As teachers we spend a tremendous amount of time teaching our students to write. And for good reason! The ability to clearly express one’s thoughts in writing is an essential academic and life-skill. Study after study has shown that students who are able to master writing skills early on struggle less in overall literacy and communication.

The Common Core writing domain focuses on three big types of writing: informative, opinion and narrative writing.  Each genre serves a unique purpose and follows a specific structure which we must explicitly teach our students.   

In earlier posts I shared tips and resources for teaching Informative Writing and Opinion Writing.  Today I’m excited to move on to the final genre, Narrative Writing.  

I love to teach narrative writing.  Personal narratives are a great genre to start the year with because they allow you to get to know your students a little bit better.  Most kids love to tell us stories about their lives, so writing personal narratives often comes naturally to them.  

Imaginative narratives, on the other hand, allow students’ creativity to shine!  Many students find it very motivating and engaging to be allowed to write the stories they create in their own mind. 

Today I’m sharing 5 tips for teaching narrative writing, as well as details about my narrative writing resource. It is a writing unit that has everything you need to bring narrative writing into your kindergarten, first grade, or second grade literacy centers! 

Tips for Teaching Narrative Writing

1.  Read Narrative Writing Mentor Texts 

Before you can ask your students to write in a genre that is new to them, you must first immerse them in it.  So to begin your unit, you’ll want to share examples of narrative writing with your students.  These mentor texts provide students with examples of excellent narrative writing. 

As you read them aloud, highlight the way the author structures their writing.  Identify the author’s purpose, the topic, the order of the events, and how the author felt.  All of these things will help students better understand what type of writing we are asking them to do.    

When you’re picking narrative mentor texts to share with your students there are a few things to consider.  First, do you (the educator) think it is excellent?  Second, is it easy for your students to understand?  And finally, is it relevant to the type of writing you are teaching?  If you answer “Yes!” to all three, then you’re good to go!

To help you out I’ve created a list of excellent mentor texts you can use when teaching narrative writing to kindergarten, first, or second grade students.  

Note: This link contains affiliate links. This means that, at no cost to you, I earn a few nickels should you choose to make a purchase through a link.

A List of Narrative Writing Mentor Texts:

  • New Shoes – Chris Raschka
  • Jabari Jumps– Gaia Cornwall
  • Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale– Mo Willems
  • Library Mouse– Daniel Kirk
  • Rocket Writes a Story– Tad Hills
  • Diary of a Worm– Doreen Cronin
  • The Night I Followed My Dog– Nina Laden
  • Rubia and the Three Osos– Susan Middleton Elya
  • The Three Snow Bears– Jan Brett

I’ve saved all these titles on one board so you can easily take a closer look at these mentor texts.  Click here to see this list on Amazon.

2.  Model Your Own Narrative Writing

When modeling your own narrative writing I suggest you use an experience you’ve shared as a class.  It could be as simple as a short nature walk outside the school building, a field trip you went on, or a class celebration you had.  Show your students that narratives don’t have to be about big events.  Small moments, like a walk outside, can be stretched out and turned into a great narrative writing piece! 

Next, model how you plan your writing using a graphic organizer.  Highlight how you have a topic, use temporal words to order your events, details and a closing sentence.   Don’t be afraid to put the events out of order!  Let the students catch the mistake and help you fix it!   

Model how you use the graphic organizer to guide you as you write out your full piece. 

Finally, reread your work aloud to ensure it makes sense and that the events are in the correct order.  Check for any silly mistakes and come up with a fitting title! 

3. Use Anchor Charts

You want your students to know that when they write a narrative piece they are writing a story to entertain the reader.  It can be a true, personal story from their life, or an imagined fictional one.  Creating an anchor chart with this information helps to remind students their purpose for writing.

Create a second anchor chart that reviews temporal words.  Words such as yesterday, today, first, next, or last describe time or order of events and help make a narrative story more clear for the reader.  

When writing fictional narratives, an anchor chart of fictional sentence starters can help students to get ideas for a story.  

Finally, you’ll want to create an anchor chart using the writing you model. This will serve as another example of excellent narrative writing.  As a class, add labels to identify the title, the topic, temporal words, details, and the closing sentence in your shared writing.  

All of these anchor charts can be posted in your writing center. Encourage your students to refer back to them and use them as support as they write their own pieces.

4. Allow students to edit and share their writing

Provide a good writers checklist at your writing center.  For narrative writing you’ll want the checklist to include items such,  “Does my writing have a title?”  “Is there a clear beginning, middle, and end?”  “Did I use temporal words?” as well as reminders to check for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors.  

You can also create a rubric specific to the genre. Model how you use it to assess your own work and how it can be used to provide feedback to others.   

Give students the opportunity to share their writing with others!  Pair students with partners and let them read their pieces to each other.  Encourage them to provide feedback using the editing checklist and the rubric as a guide.  

5. Provide Daily Opportunities for Students to Write

As with all things, writing takes PRACTICE!  Students need dedicated instructional time to learn the skills and strategies necessary to become effective writers, as well as time to practice what they learn. 

When you think about your daily instructional schedule, make sure you are giving your students ample opportunities to practice their narrative writing through whole group instruction, small groups, and/or through independent practice in writing centers. 

Narrative Writing Units For Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade Students 

Today I’m excited to share with you the details about my Kindergarten Narrative, 1st Grade Narrative, and my 2nd grade Narrative writing units!  I love them because they have ALL the resources you need to give your students the practice needed to master narrative writing.  

These narrative writing units were developed with standards-based research specific to each grade. You can use them within whole class or small group lessons, or as a literacy center activity where students can practice narrative writing independently!  

Let’s take a closer look at each one…. 

Kindergarten Narrative Writing Unit

The kindergarten resource has everything you need to incorporate narrative writing into your literacy centers all year long!  

To help your students better understand the genre you’ll get two mini-lessons, one on personal narratives and the other for imaginative narratives.  I recommend focusing on personal narratives at the start of the year and moving onto imaginative narratives in the second semester.  

You’ll also get a list of suggested mentor texts and online resources, academic vocabulary posters, printable anchor charts, graphic organizers and differentiated writing prompts.  

These seasonal and all-year-long writing prompts come in 3 differentiated versions to meet your Kindergarteners where they are developmentally throughout the year.  Each writing prompt comes with a vocabulary word web to assist young writers in brainstorming ideas and spelling words while writing.

Finally, you’ll get a narrative writing editing checklist appropriate for the kindergarten level. 

First Grade and Second Grade Narrative Writing Units

The first and second grade resources were designed with standards-based research specific to grade.  You’ll get a personal narrative mini-lesson and imaginative narrative mini-lesson to use as a review of the genre.  You’ll also get a list of suggested mentor texts and online resources, academic vocabulary posters, anchor charts, graphic organizers and seasonal writing prompts! 

You won’t hear students say, “I don’t know what to write about!” when they are using this resource!  The seasonal writing prompts include choice boards for personal narratives and imaginative narratives, as well as sentence starters and vocabulary banks to assist in brainstorming ideas and spelling words while writing.

The personal narrative and imaginative narrative seasonal prompts are both PRINTABLE & DIGITAL. The digital version has been PRELOADED for you, with 1 click add them to your Google Drive or upload them to SeeSaw.

Finally, you’ll get self-editing checklists and rubrics for both personal and imaginative narrative writing.  The rubric makes a great self-assessment tool and can be used as a guide for peer feedback.     

I love these resources because they can be used in so many different ways.  They offer opportunities for students to practice both personal and imaginative narrative writing as a whole class, in small groups, as a literacy center activity, for homework, or as a meaningful activity for when they have a substitute teacher!  

FREE Narrative Writing Graphic Organizers

Are you ready to begin teaching Narrative Writing in your classroom? To help get you started, I am happy to offer you 3 FREE narrative writing graphic organizers! You can download them here.

Writing is an essential skill that benefits students well beyond the walls of our classrooms. As teachers, we work hard to plan engaging activities that we hope will build our students’ confidence and help them to develop a lifelong love of writing.

I hope the information and resources I’ve shared on narrative, opinion and informative writing will help to bring stronger instruction and more meaningful writing practice to your kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms!

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