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Raise the Bar Reading

A Reading Teacher's Blog

Teaching Narrative Writing in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grade

When teaching narrative writing in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade, there are so many writing skills to cover. They range from creating a sequence of events (beginning, middle, and end) to more difficult skills like building strong characterization. With a class full of students at such varying levels of writing, it can be overwhelming to think of where to start with your narrative writing unit.  

Narrative Writing in Elementary School

Narrative writing can be one of the most motivational types of writing for students since the topics can be something they feel connected to in their own lives.  Personal narratives allow them to talk about their own experiences they want to share, and fictional narratives let students create a story about absolutely anything that they want!  

As you can see in the chart below, students are expected to do a little bit more with narrative writing as they grow as writers from 1 st to 3 rd grade.    

Common Core ELA Standards for Narrative Writing

So, 1 st grade focuses on developing sequenced events (beginning, middle, end).   With 2 nd and 3 rd grade, the focus is creating a hook/opening, events (beginning, middle, end), and a closing. In 2 nd and 3 rd grade students also need to begin to develop characterization.

For young writers learning such a new, specific format of writing, it is really important to break it up into small, clear steps. 

Below is how I tackle narrative writing step by step:

INTRODUCE NARRATIVE WRITING:

First, I explain what a narrative is with visuals and examples.  I go through a pre-written narrative writing example.  These examples will differ depending on whether we are working on writing fictional narratives or personal narratives.

Narrative Writing Anchor Charts

We identify and discuss each part of the piece of writing.  For first graders that means the beginning, middle, and end.  For second and third graders, that means an opening, events (beginning, middle and end), and closing.

GUIDED WHOLE GROUP PRACTICE:

Narrative Writing Sentence Starters

I like to model the actual process of writing a narrative as well.  With modeling a personal narrative, I like to pick an experience we have had in school that year so that it is easy for students to participate.  I keep this model basic and clear so that students are not overwhelmed in what they need to produce in their first piece of narrative writing.  While modeling, I refer to the prewritten example that I provided earlier.  I also display sentence starters and transitions to use as a guide.   

INDEPENDENT NARRATIVE WRITING PRACTICE:

First, students can practice the narrative format by using picture prompts for beginning, middle, and end.  They use the visuals to describe what happens from the beginning to the end of their story.

Narrative Writing Prompts First Grade

Next, it’s time for students to begin fictional narrative or personal narrative writing from scratch!  At first, I usually provide a writing prompt for the entire class that is easily relatable.  The prompts will vary depending on if we are working on writing personal narratives (“Tell about a time when…”) or fictional narratives (“Write a story about…”).  However, you could also give multiple options or have students develop their own individual topics.  

During the prewriting phase of the writing process, students brainstorm using graphic organizers. 

Personal Narrative Writing Organizer

I like give students two graphic organizers – one for them to first brainstorm ideas for their drafts, and then one to organize their ideas into a narrative writing format.

Narrative Writing Graphic Organizers

While writing their drafts, students can refer to sentence starters to help guide them in writing their stories.  

After writing their drafts, I give students an editing checklist to use as a reference.  This makes it easier for them to make sure they have included each part of a piece of narrative writing.  

Narrative Writing Editing Checklist

TARGET NARRATIVE WRITING SKILLS:

As students are ready, I target specific narrative writing skills either as a whole class, or with just a small group that is ready for taking their writing to the next level. 

To introduce a particular narrative writing skill (i.e. writing narrative hooks), I display a poster that is student-friendly with visuals and examples.  Then, I have graphic organizers or practice pages that students can use to work through each strategy on their own.  

Most students will need help with the following narrative skills:

Writing a Strong Narrative Hook:

Breaking narrative hooks down by hook types is so helpful for giving them some tools for creating their own leads.  Grab the posters below and a couple practice writing pages for free here .

Writing Narrative Hooks or Leads

Writing a Strong Narrative Ending:

Similar to writing hooks, breaking down narrative endings by type is also a helpful way for students to try out different closings for their piece of writing.

Writing Narrative Ending Types

Small Moments Writing:

So often, personal narratives can just turn into a list of moments in order. By teaching and practicing small moments writing , students can see how much more powerful their writing becomes when they zoom in on the most important moment in their story.

Small Moments Writing

Describing Characters:

When teaching narrative writing in 2 nd grade, students need to learn to describe characters by their actions, thoughts, and feelings.  By 3 rd grade, the Common Core asks that students also use dialogue to develop characterization in their writing.

Describing Characters or Building Characterization

Describing Character Feelings

You can display a poster of different ways to describe similar feelings to build stronger word choice in their writing.  Students can use this poster to go through and edit their word choice in their own piece of writing. 

Describing Feelings Poster

Using Fiction Story Elements:

You can have students prewrite with story elements graphic organizers to ensure they hit each element in their own writing.

Fiction Story Elements Anchor Chart

ONGOING NARRATIVE WRITING PRACTICE:

I love using fictional narrative and personal narrative journals to provide students with tons of ongoing practice!  I use them as informal free-writes just for continual practice, but some or all of the entries could be used for writing pieces that go through the writing process (prewriting, drafting, editing, revising, and publishing) as well.  

Narrative Writing Journals

All of the materials shown in this blog post for teaching narrative writing in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade can be found in the Narrative Writing Unit in my TpT shop!

Next: Teaching Opinion Writing in the Primary Grades

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3rd grade writing

by: Jessica Kelmon | Updated: August 4, 2022

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Your 3rd grader's writing under Common Core Standards

This year, your child’s stories will amaze you, showing character development and dialogue. Your child’s opinion pieces and informational writing will be more organized. With this new writing prowess, your child will be using more sophisticated language and better grammar.

Building 3rd grade study skills

Third graders are expected to use books, websites, and other digital sources to do research projects and to build knowledge about different topics — both on their own and as part of group work with their peers. But there’s a new skill to learn this year: taking notes. Third graders need to start writing down what they learn from each source they use, keeping track of the source name and page so they are able to find it again, and then practice sorting any evidence they find into relevant categories.

3rd grade opinion pieces

Of course your child has an opinion — and here’s how they learn to share it in writing! Opinion pieces will likely start with your child reading a couple of books and responding to what they’ve learned. Your child should start their opinion piece by clearly introducing the topic, stating their opinion, and then giving multiple reasons to support their opinion. Kids should practice using linking words (e.g. because, therefore, since, for example ) to connect their reasons to their opinion, and then end their writing with a conclusion.

3rd grade informative writing

The purpose of informative writing is to convey facts and ideas clearly. After introducing their topic, kids should group related information into a few clear, well thought-out points. They should develop these points using facts, definitions, and details and using linking words (e.g. also, another, and, more, but ) to connect their ideas within each point. Your child can also include illustrations when they may help make or clarify a point. Finally, kids should end their work with a concluding sentence or two.

Can your 3rd grader write an informational essay?

YouTube video

3rd grade narrative writing

Narrative is just a fancy word for story — and this year your child’s stories will be much more complex. Using a narrator, characters, dialogue, and descriptive details, your third grader’s writing should show a story unfolding — including how the characters feel and respond to what happens. The sequence of events should be clear. Be sure not to let your child’s story simply stop by writing “The End”. Instead, the story should read like it’s coming to a close.

Check out this related worksheet: •  How to write a story

bttr, better, best!

Expect to see your child spending more time writing this year, whether it’s in the planning, writing, revising, or editing phase. While planning , your child may read or reread books on the topic, discuss their ideas aloud, brainstorm ideas, gather and organize information visually, jot down notes about the points they’ll make, and start to think about the structure of the piece. Once a first draft is in, the teacher or other students will go over it with your child. They’ll ask questions and suggest details or facts that could be added, clarified, or improved. Do the word choices convey what your child really meant? Is there an introduction and a conclusion? Are the story’s events in order? Using all these questions and suggestions as guidance, your child will do a revision , adding to, reordering, and improving the content. After one or more revisions, the teacher might help your child with the final edit — focusing on spelling and grammar, capitalizing proper nouns, ensuring nouns and verbs are in agreement, and checking that periods, commas, and quotation marks are used correctly. Following these steps — planning, writing a first draft, revising their work, and editing the final piece — teaches third graders that gathering information, organizing their thoughts, strengthening and clarifying their ideas, and improving grammar and presentation are all key to quality writing.

See what 3rd grade writing looks like

YouTube video

A red-letter year for grammar!

This year your child will learn the functions of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs — and what role they play in a sentence. By year’s end, your child should be using regular and irregular verbs in simple past, present, and future tense (e.g. stopped/stop/will stop and knew/know/will know ) — all while ensuring subject-verb agreement (e.g. I know/he knows ). Your child should also use comparative adjectives and adverbs (e.g. big/bigger/biggest and quickly/quicker/quickest ) and choose between them based on whether they’re modifying nouns (adjectives) or verbs (adverbs). In writing compound and complex sentences, your child will use conjunctions that show connection (e.g. and, or, but ) and dependence (e.g. if, when, because ).

Check out these related worksheets: • Big, bigger, biggest • Verb machine! • 3rd grade spelling list #15: irregular plural nouns

Third graders should use increasingly precise words. This means understanding root words (e.g. knowing that add is the root of addition and additional ), choosing the right word from synonyms (e.g. knew, believed, suspected, heard, wondered ), and using words to signal timing (e.g. after, then, later ). With all this focus on word nuance, your child may need a thesaurus handy.

Related: Print this list of 3rd grade academic vocabulary words .

Check out these related worksheets: •  3rd grade weekly spelling lists • Prefix practice • Writing practice: alternatives to “said”

And it’s live!

When the research is done — and the planning, writing, revisions, and edits are complete — the final step for some of your third grader’s writing is to publish the work. Your third grader should have some keyboarding skills by the end of the year. It’s a new level of independence and tech savvy. And while adults should be there to help out, your child should become comfortable taking the lead.

What about cursive?

Penmanship matters. Traditionally, third grade is when students learn cursive, so it’s a great idea to ask the teacher whether or not they’ll be learning cursive in class. If not, you may want to work on this skill with your child at home.

Updated August 2022

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