Today, my students meet me on the rug, our classroom meeting place. I ask the student, “Boys and girls, do you remember the story we read yesterday together, called The Best Story, written by Eileen Spinelli?” My students nod and some say, “Yes, I remember it!” I say, “Okay, great! Why did we read that story? What did the author want us to understand from reading that book?” A student tells me, “The story was about remembering to use your own ideas when you write a story, otherwise it’s not yours really or as good to you as you might want it to be.” “Right, perfect!”, I say. “But boys and girls, we also talked about how it IS okay, or even a really good idea, to read other books, lots of books to see how other authors write stories! Learning the parts of a story and how authors fit those parts together help us learn to write our own stories using our ideas!”
I pull out a book that I plan to share with the students. “Boys and girls, take a look at the book I’m going to share with you today! It’s called Whales Passing, and it’s written by Eve Bunting. This is a great example of a narrative! Of a what?” The students repeat, “A narrative.” I say, “That’s right third graders, a narrative! A narrative is a story that is based on either a personal experience or an imaginary event. As I’m reading today, I want to you listen carefully and decide: do you think that this story is a personal experience or an imaginary event?” Then I begin reading!
When I’m finished reading, I say, “Okay, so, boys and girls, do you think this story is based on a personal experience, or on an imagined event? Turn to your neighbor, and talk it over!” I let students talk for a bit, then get our class back together and ask, “So, what did you decide?” A set of students say that they think this is based on an imaginary event because the whales in the story talk. Another partner pair says, “Well, we know that whales actually do communicate, but not in the way that they talked in the story, really, so we agree. We think it’s an imagined story, too!”
I flip to today’s anchor chart (see the Resources section here for a picture). I say to the students, “Fantastic thinking! A narrative could be either a personal experience, which some of this story could have been, but it also could be based on an imaginary event, which again, some of this story could have been! A narrative is a story that is clear to the reader and is told in chronological order, so starts with what happens first, then comes next, then comes last. A narrative is also made up of some specific parts.” I explain that a narrative has a setting, characters, a problem and a solution, which are represented on this chart as part of the coral reef. I also point out the jellyfish along the top. The jellyfish here are "other important parts" that can really make a story special! We talk about each component briefly. (We'll come back to this more later when we work on editing our written narratives!)
Now, I say to the students, “So, tell me, if we’re thinking about Whale’s Passing, what’s the setting?” A students says, “It’s near the ocean and also in the ocean.” “Great,” I say, “how about the characters? Who were the characters?” Students tell me that both the people and the whales are the characters in this story! “Awesome! What about the problem? What’s the problem in this story?” The kids tell me that both the boy and his dad are waiting to see the whales and wondering about them, but the whales are wondering about them, too! I say, “Okay, so then what’s the solution?” The kids tell me that the solution is that the boy and his dad got to see the whales and the whales got to see the boy and his dad, too!
To wrap up our lesson today, I say, “Excellent job finding all the parts of this narrative third graders! When we have more time, we’ll read some more narratives and see if we can find all the parts of those narratives, too!”