A confession – I used to dread teaching narratives. Just the mention of the word brought visions of the dreaded “bed to bed” tales or narratives filled with “and then . . . and then . . . and then.” Now, with a solid plan on how to support my students, I am as excited as they are when I say the words, “Hey, friends, it’s time to write a story!”
Prior to writing a narrative, I wanted to review the parts of a story. To accomplish this task, I used the classic book, The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Woods. This easy-to-read and yet incredibly engaging book, contains all the parts of a story. The students could quickly identify the characters and setting. Most importantly, this picture book was a natural way to introduce the most crucial part of any narrative plan – What is the problem the characters are attempting to solve? As we worked at summarizing the story’s problem, we determined that a problem must always begin with the word “How.” Until the Mouse wanted to hide the strawberry, the Bear and the strawberry were simply a part of the setting. Now, both were critical parts of the problem. Students easily identified the problem the little Mouse was facing; How can Mouse hide his strawberry from the big hungry Bear?
Now it was time to write our own plan. To begin, I provided the students with the narrative’s characters (you and your family) and setting (camping in the woods, a bear by your tent.) Immediately the students wanted the bear to be the problem. This led into a discussion of whether a bear in the woods was a problem or merely a part of the setting. One student suggested we put the bear between the story’s characters and their tent. By moving the bear and having him block the tent’s entrance, he moved from being a part of the setting to becoming the story’s problem. The problem was written – “How can we get the bear to leave our campsite?”
Focused on the problem, it was now time to write our story’s events. In a narrative plan, we attempt to solve the problem three different ways. The first two solutions do not work. It is only upon reaching the third possible solution that the characters are successful. Knowing that our first idea is not necessarily our best, students were given two minutes to think of possible ways to get the bear to leave. Choosing the best three solutions, students place their final, successful solution in the third column of their plan. They now needed to think of reasons that the first two solutions are not successful. Each of these possible solutions and the reasons they were not successful were placed in the second and third column of our plan.
As students shared their responses, I was delighted with their creativity. Their excitement in writing a narrative was evident by the energy in the room. There were sighs of disappointment as we put our plans away until tomorrow. Everyone was eager to take the next step of our narrative – writing an attention-grabbing introduction!