Leading the Personal Narrative with Suspense

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SWBAT to revise draft of personal narrative to have a more interesting beginning or lead.

Big Idea

This lesson helps students make connections between mentor texts and their own writing. It introduces them to strategies professional writers use in their writing that they can also use.


5 minutes

I find that most of the years that I teach 4 grade, rarely do students begin the year thinking about their writing as something for others to read and enjoy. They don't really make the connection between what they love about the books they read and how they write their stories. This lesson is an introduction to a specific skill that they can learn from mentor texts. 

I bring students to a central meeting area and indicate that I am going to start reading a new book. I begin to read a very interesting, suspenseful beginning of a book that they have not read or hear of before. Right when I've read a cliff hanger sentence, I put the book down. Typically the students would be upset that I didn't keep reading. I ask them why they are so interested in this book. They tell me that its because of the way it starts. I define what they are describing by telling them that this author, and many great authors, write a beginning or a lead of their book in a way that makes the reader want to hear more. 

Today they are going to revise their stories to include interesting leads, but first we need to research what other authors do.


5 minutes

I then tell them that I'm going to read the beginnings of a few books that we have either read in class or are popular books that kids might already have read or know of. I want them to listen to what the authors do and then we will make a list.

I find books that have beginnings that describe the setting, a mood, an action, or a dialogue.

I lead students to identify these strategies and then I list them.

Guided Practice

5 minutes

I then show them one of their drafts that have been volunteered to used in class. I use it to show how to revise using each of the strategies.

Please see the examples attached.

I also ask the students to help me revise the leads using any of the strategies.

Independent Practice

10 minutes

At this point, I ask students to practice revising their writing using the different strategies.

Typically, students ask if they have to use all of the strategies. I explain to them that writers sometimes know exactly what they want to write the first time they think about it but usually they have to try out a few different ways of writing before they find the best one. I encourage them to be like professional writers and try out a few different strategies.


5 minutes

After a period of independent time, I invite a few students to share their writing. I ask other students to identify which strategy the sharer has used in their writing. I try to find examples of each strategy.