How to Teach Narrative Writing to Sixth Graders

Sixth-graders should learn how to incorporate dialogue into their narratives.
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Sixth-graders need to learn about narrative writing, so they can write personal or fictional stories that include characters, a setting and a structured plot line. As a teacher, parent or tutor, strive to help students learn how to develop an effective narrative writing style that contains exposition, a climax and a resolution. Sixth-graders should also incorporate details and important themes into their narratives.

1 Define Narrative Writing

Explain the definition of narrative writing so that sixth-graders know how it differs from report writing and research assignments. Explain that narrative writing always tells a story and that the story can be about real or imaginary events, but it must include characters and a logical sequence of events. Narrative writing should also include descriptive language and sensory details that help readers connect with the setting, characters and story line. Explain to the students that they can use the first-, second- or third-person points of view when writing narratives, and provide examples of each.

2 Perform Prewriting Exercises

Encourage sixth-grade children to practice narrative prewriting exercises that make it easier to construct their stories. Use graphic organizers, such as Venn diagrams, writing webs or sequence ladders, to help them create character profiles and plot outlines. Have your students make a Venn diagram showing similarities and differences between two primary characters in their stories, such as siblings or friends. Instruct them to use the diagrams to incorporate character development into their narratives. Ask your sixth-graders to create writing webs to organize the chronological events in their stories -- each bubble in the web represents a specific event. Prewriting exercises help students brainstorm and develop logical plot lines.

3 Explain the Five-Part Plot Structure

Teach students the five parts of the plot that should be included in any narrative -- exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. These five parts flow smoothly to create a well-structured story. Before class, create a handout that lists each of the five categories with blank space beneath each one. Ask your students to provide details about their story plots under each category. For example, under the "exposition" category, a student might write "Ann learns to deal with her anger after her parents divorce by joining a karate club" or "John goes to live with his grandparents in Missouri to help with the farm after his grandpa suffers a stroke." Explain how the climax creates a high point in the story and results in a turning point for the characters. Students should use their completed five-part plot handouts as an outline for writing their narratives.

4 Include Storytelling Devices

Instruct students on ways to incorporate storytelling devices, such as imagery and symbolism, into their narratives. Ask them to think of a physical object that relates to their story -- such as a key, book, necklace or animal -- and draw a picture of it. For example, Suzanne Collins uses the mockingjay to symbolize freedom in "The Hunger Games" trilogy. Have your sixth-graders list 10 words or phrases on the backside of their drawings explaining how their chosen symbol represents themes or messages in their narratives. Encourage your students to interweave those phrases into their stories.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.