Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
After looking at craft techniques in personal narratives, the next step is to move on to qualities of personal narratives. These qualities are what makes up a personal narrative and gives them the basic structure while craft techniques are how the piece is written. While some may say I do it backwards, I find that going into qualities second works for me. It helps students to build up to the bigger picture. By pinpointing the smaller aspects first (craft techniques), they can see the function they serve as they relate to the qualities of the piece. Today's lesson focuses on looking at the qualities of narrative writing and then seeing them in context.
We begin the lesson with the Writing Narrative Qualities Powerpoint, which will serve as our framework for the next few days. I have students copy down notes from the first seven slides. These slides break down each of the qualities of narrative writing into their core components:
I give the students all the notes at once. Some may prefer to break down each quality into a separate lesson and there are definitely merits to that. For me, I want my students to have all the information readily available to them as I don't always like isolating certain concepts. When I do, I find that students don't always internalize them as easily. Also, these are qualities that students have seen before throughout the years so none of it's really new. This video explains each of those qualities: Qualities Powerpoint Explanation.
Most of the qualities are clear enough in their description. I find the hardest one for students to really understand is voice. It's hard for them to think abstractly as to what makes the writing sound like the writer. When students are really struggling, we look at the article Voice In Memoir. This helps as it gives specific and clear examples of voice.
After students copy down the notes, we will then move on to looking at these qualities in personal narratives/memoirs.
Once students understand the qualities of narrative writing, we then look at examples of these qualities in action. This is a perfect example of using mentor texts. Students learn about a concept and then see how writers have mastered that concept. This really helps students to see what they will need to do when they work on their own personal narratives. Since personal narratives tend to break the rules at times and they lines of what constitute a narrative is not so structured, I want students to understand the basics so they can, hopefully, master the basics as they write.
We refer back to the narrative "Pets" that we read for the lesson on craft techniques. I purposely choose a narrative that we have already read since students already know the basic idea behind the narrative. We don't have to worry about spending time reading or reviewing anything new in terms of the content of the story.
I tell students to take out the narrative as we will be looking for the narrative qualities within this narrative. Most of the time, I will begin by highlighting certain examples and qualities from the first two pages. Here are some of my notes from the narrative: Pets Notes. I show students how we can look at a narrative to see the qualities in action. I do refer back to the Writing Narrative Qualities Powerpoint throughout this when I need to clarify an example.
Once I feel the students have a basic understanding of how to look for the qualities, I then have them work in pairs to work through and annotate the rest of the narrative looking for the qualities. We will then wrap up the class by talking about the piece as a whole and how the writer uses the qualities throughout the piece.
There are definitely ways to adjust this lesson. You can easily assign a certain quality to a certain group. This will be great for differentiating instruction. You then can have students share the notes they took on that quality with others in the class. This allows the students, in a sense, to become the expert on that quality.