Generate Narratives in Response to Reading

Posted on April 18, 2017

Generate Narratives in Response to Reading

Posted on April 18, 2017

Generate Narratives in Response to Reading

The writing portions of standardized assessments are now all rooted in reading. No longer are students asked to write about finding a secret door in the classroom or to think of an embarrassing moment that happened in their lives. No longer are they writing personal narratives based on background knowledge.

Instead, if students are required to write a narrative response, their writing will be based on provided text(s). Such narrative prompts come in one of five types.

Writing About Reading: The Narrative Writing Task

After reading a fictional text, students may be asked to rewrite the same story from a different character's viewpoint.

After reading a story, students might be required to continue the story. Students may have to predict what the characters might do the next time a similar situation occurs.

The third narrative-response option asks students to insert a missing part, page, or section where the original text may have a gap.

Consider what this might look like if students were asked to read The Big Orange Splot. In this picture book. Mr. Plumbean lives in a neighborhood where everyone's house looks the same. For an unrevealed reason, a bird with an orange paint can drops a splot of paint on Mr. Plumbean's roof. All of his neighbors expect he will fix it. However, Mr. Plumbean embraces the bright splot and uses it as inspiration to repaint his entire house.

One night, one of his neighbors (introduced simply as "The man" in the original text) visits Mr. Plumbean. They sit and talk all night long, but the author does not indicate what they talked about.

On the next page, the reader learns that the man who visited Mr. Plumbean has now painted his own house!

Imagine after reading The Big Orange Splot, students had to insert the missing page. Older students could write about what the man and Mr. Plumbean likely talked about all night long that would cause the man to redecorate his own home. (Primary writers could draw the illustration and add a caption.)

This type of narrative writing task requires students to think about what they learned in the beginning of the text and what they know will happen after the inserted page. This requires students to stay within the parameters of the original text, honoring plot, setting, character traits, etc.

The first three narrative writing tasks are all based on literature. However, students might be asked to write a narrative after reading nonfiction text. The next two tasks represent nonfiction responses.

It's not unusual to be asked to write a narrative using the facts gleaned from a nonfiction passage on a historical event. Using the details they learned from the reading, students would need to describe, in a story form, what it would have been like to live during that time.

Similarly, an assessment requiring students to write a science-fiction narrative often starts with reading informational text about a science concept or principle. Imagine the text provides information about a single planet or gravity in space. The prompt might ask students to write a sci-fi story about living on that particular planet or the adventures of a day in weightless space.

These tasks rooted in reading are difficult. Before students can generate a narrative about a text, they have understand story organization in general. Teach these components during your reading instruction:

  • Character development and setting concepts.
  • Facets of plot exposition: how rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution comprise the beginning, middle, and end of a story.
  • General concepts of perspective and point of view.

After teaching these concepts via reading instruction, then transition to writing. Have students generate pieces based on recently read text rather than only drafting narratives based on personal experiences.

Article originally posted October 7, 2016.