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Generate narratives in response to reading

december 13, 2022

For most states, the writing portions of standardized assessments are now all rooted in reading. Students aren’t writing about finding a secret door in the classroom or thinking of embarrassing moments that happened in their lives. No longer are they writing personal narratives based on background knowledge.

Instead, when required to write a narrative response on a state assessment, their writing is based on provided text(s). Such narrative prompts typically produce one of five types.

Writing About Reading: Narrative Writing Task

1. Rewrite from a different character’s viewpoint.

After reading a fictional text, students may be asked to rewrite the same story, with the same problem, ending in the same way, but from a different character’s viewpoint. Compare this to fractured fairytales. This written response requires students to know which plot details to repeat and what facets to elaborate on.

Fractured Fairy Tales - Book series

2. Continue the story.

After the Fall by Dan SantatAfter reading a story, students might be asked to predict what the characters might do the next time a similar situation occurs. This is often compared to book sequels where the same characters face another problem. After the Fall is a great example of this, as it begins with Humpty Dumpty walking out of the hospital after his preview accident. Assuming the character(s) learned a life lesson, this second story should demonstrate a parallel problem but see the solution come much more quickly.

3. Insert the missing part/page.

The third narrative-response option asks students to insert a missing part where the original text may have a gap. Think of these like the deleted scenes from movies. Such “gaps” occur when time moves quickly between actions, when events are merely mentioned, or conversations simply referenced. Students insert the missing part into the middle of the plot.

This type of narrative writing task is difficult because it requires students to include details about what is known from the beginning of the text but not change what will happen after the inserted page. Students must stay within the parameters of the original text, honoring plot, setting, character traits, etc. Again, like deleted movie scenes, these only ADD information, they do not alter or change the outcome.

4. Write a historical fiction.

The first three narrative writing tasks are all based on literature. However, students might be asked to write a narrative after reading informational text. Using the facts learned about a historical event, students have to generate a plausible character problem that fits the context of the setting described within the text.

5. Write a sci-fi.

The same approach used with social studies texts above can be applied to science, too. After reading informational text about a science concept or principle, students generate a science fiction. Again, their narratives have to include a character who faces a problem that gets solved. Within the problem and/or solution, the writer must incorporate facts learned from the nonfiction passage.

These tasks are difficult and require lots of practice. Look for opportunities to weave these read-write responses into your narrative units, rather than only writing stories based on personal experience.

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