Filling in the Gaps

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SWBAT add detail to narrative writing.

Big Idea

Why DID Jack and Jill go up that hill anyway?


10 minutes

Give the students a copy of a simple story or nursery rhyme like ”Jack and Jill”.  Read it to the students and have them work in groups of 2 or 3 to make a plot map for the story showing the basic events.  For example:

Jack and Jill went up a hill        

Jack fell and got hurt    

Jill fell down

sample flow map

I have students stick to 3 main events for the map they make, although some will want 4 and some will want 2.  Deciding on the number of events ahead of time forces students to think critically and make choices about what is really important and what is really an event.  Some students may have trouble starting, so make sure to circulate and ask questions like, "What happened first?" 

 When everyone is finished, I ask groups to share their flow maps, which are all typically the same.  I use this information to make a flow map on the board.  

In the first box I'll write, Jack and Jill went up the hill to get water.

In the second box:  Jack fell

In the third box:  Jill tumbled after

I like to have students do this on a large white board or large piece of paper so that they have lots of room to add detail later and that all group members can see and contribute.  

Using an easy nursery rhyme for this activity helps the students have fun with task at hand without being intimidated.













30 minutes

Ask the students these questions:  

How much do we really know about this story? The plot is pretty sketchy.  

How can we add more detail?

I look at the first box of the flow map:  Jack and Jill went up the hill to get water, and I start questioning my students.  

  • What were Jack and Jill doing before they went up the hill?
  • Why did they need water?
  • What were Jack and Jill’s personalities like?
  • How old were they?
  • Where were the parents?
  • Why was the water up on a hill?
  • What did the hill look like?
  • Where was it located?

I record their responses underneath that square of the flow map (see resource in lesson opening)  

When we are finished, I summarize their story.  

Next, I ask them to finish filling in the gaps of the story on the second and third boxes.  I circulate to ask questions and make sure that their new story doesn't create more gaps.  

Students Working


This technique works because it is based on a story that most every student knows.  They have a great time adding outlandish details and hardly realize that they are writing in the process.  It is then easy to transfer to their own writing.  





20 minutes

Once students are finished, I ask them to write their map into a story.  It should only be a paragraph or so long.  This year I had them partner write, but in the past I have had students each write their own story.  

Last year my students enjoyed this activity so much that they asked if they could do one on their own.  We pulled up a list of nursery rhymes, and they each chose their own to fill in gaps.  

After they are finished writing their stories, they always want to share them, so I allow for about 10 minutes for them to share stories on the document camera while reading aloud.  

This is one of those lessons that the students really enjoy and then noise level does get a little loud, but in my experience, they are working and enjoying it at the same time.  

The reason I do this lesson is to reinforce the idea of adding detail and going slow motion through writing.  We will be applying this strategy to our narrative pre assessment prompt.