Generate Narratives in Response to Reading
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 produce one of five types.
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. This requires students to know which plot details to repeat and what facets to elaborate on.
After reading a story, students might be asked to predict what the characters might do the next time a similar situation occurs. Assuming the character(s) learned a life lesson, this second story should demonstrate a parallel problem but see the solution come much more quickly.
The third narrative-response option asks students to insert a missing part where the original text may have a gap. Such “gaps” occur when time moves quickly between actions, when events are merely mentioned, or conversations simply referenced. Students are inserting in 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.
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 sprinkle those details into a plausible problem for the character to solve. Maintaining accuracy within the time period is important for the setting, too.
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 weave in facts learned from the nonfiction passage.
These tasks are difficult and require lots of practice. Look for more opportunities to have students generate short narratives based on recently read text rather than only drafting stories based on personal experience.