Teaching third-graders how to write narratives may sound simple because they naturally love stories, but a narrative writing lesson plan must include several components. The Common Core Standards now in place in many states have raised the bar for what third-graders should be able to do when they write narratives.
Writing Prompts – Fiction and Nonfiction
Many third-graders are eager to take writing prompts that spark their imaginations and run with them. For example, ask students to imagine they are taking a walk and come upon a mysterious bridge or an unexpected path. They can think about how they would approach the bridge or path, where it might lead them and what adventures they might have if they take that route. Ask them to write down their ideas. For nonfiction narratives, ask students to complete a sentence that is relevant to their lives, such as "The first time I played at a friend's house, I ..." or "On my very first day of school, I felt ..." Once students have a basic idea of the story they want to tell, you can talk to them about story elements such as character, plot, dialogue and setting and structural elements such as introduction, evidence or examples and a conclusion.
Learning How to Organize Ideas
To follow Common Core State Standards, students should know how to come up with a compelling story idea, organize the narrative into a structure with a beginning, middle and end and show character and plot development. Students can use an outline to plot out the main idea for the story, when and where it takes place, who the characters are, what events happen and in what order and how the story ends. Provide a worksheet to help students take notes on their ideas and narrative elements.
The Parts of a Story
To teach the main parts of a story -- character, setting and plot -- make each element concrete and visual by using pictures. For a class activity, gather images of a number of faces or characters, along with several pictures of diverse places and illustrations of different kinds of situations. Place each group of images into a paper bag and shake them up. Ask a student to choose two images from the bag of characters, one from the bag of places and one from the bag of situations. As a group, talk about how the images chosen from the three bags can be combined to make up a story. Students can see how essential each of the three elements is to the story and discuss various ways they can be combined to create very different narratives.
Prewriting and Editing
Third-graders should be advanced enough to learn how to edit their own work or to use prewriting to begin the work of constructing a narrative. The worksheet they used to plot out their story ideas also can be used to flesh out the narrative by including questions about characters' reactions to their experiences or why one incident leads to another. Prewriting is a way to generate and try out ideas, and students should be allowed to write freely in this phase of narrative construction. Editing or revising is based on teacher and peer feedback and involves more than just rearranging a few words or correcting misspellings. Editing should involve a reassessment of how well the narrative works and often can result in a complete rewrite of the piece.
- Great Schools: Your Third Grader and Writing Under the Common Core Standards
- TeacherVision: Writing a Personal Narrative (Gr. 3)
- Web English Teacher: Elementary Narrative Writing Lesson Plans and Other Teaching Resources
- Mrs. Heath's Third Grade Classroom: Narrative Writing
- Ken Baker, Children's Author: Narrative Writing & Reading Core Skills Lesson Plan
- Kraig Scarbinsky/Photodisc/Getty Images