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. But when they actually have to put words on paper, they forget their storytelling abilities: They can’t think of a topic. They gather at lockers to talk about that thing that happened over the weekend.
This just happens to be a process that has worked for me. They omit relevant details, but go on and on about irrelevant ones. They sit at lunch and describe an argument they had with a sibling.
Here are some examples of what that kind of flexibility could allow: 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.
But when we study storytelling with our students, we forget all that. 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 didn’t bother to tell them that the ability to tell a captivating story is one of the things that makes human beings extraordinary. If we can pass that on to our students, then we will be going beyond a school assignment; we will be doing something transcendent. I used this process with middle school students, but it would work with most age groups.
When teaching narrative writing, many teachers separate personal narratives from short stories.
As always, I recommend using a single point rubric for this.
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.
“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.