A successful narrative essay has strong ideas, a consistent voice and careful organization. Teaching children to write short narrative essays begins with careful modeling and planning. You can use your favorite storybooks to discuss the elements of narration: setting, characters, point of view and plot. Guide children to pre-write their essays and organize their ideas before beginning a draft. Help children revise their essays not only for correct grammar usage, but also for an introduction and a conclusion that make a strong impact on the reader.
Children enjoy stories but are often unaware of the elements needed in crafting a narrative of their own. Use model picture books to help students pick out the setting, characters, problem or conflict and series of events. WritingFix.com offers suggested titles by age group, along with brief lesson plans on narrative elements. For example, a third grade lesson on the picture book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judy and Ron Barrett guides children to construct a day of raining food, using the elements of narrative writing. Once children are aware of the elements of a narrative, guide them through the writing process using the "Show Me Your Story" print guides. These step-by-step narrative essays are useful examples for children just beginning to grasp the fundamental elements of narration. Each example is scored for its ideas, voice, organization and grammar.
Even after children understand the elements of narrative writing, they will need help organizing their ideas into an essay format. Plan sheets such as Kent Cygan's narrative planning sheet help to guide students on what to write in each section of their essays. Help children select a point of view, either first person or third person, to guide their narration. Make sure children have a clear problem and logical order of events before they start writing. By brainstorming ideas and organizing them before writing, children will be more likely to stay on topic and finish a narrative essay.
The beginning of a narrative should be active and hook the reader into reading the rest of the essay. Help children write engaging beginnings by practicing crafting the first sentence of a story to include the main character, the setting, and an action that starts the series of events to follow. Scholastic.com offers a series of practice exercises that help children revise beginnings to engage the reader. Practice writing exciting beginnings on other topics to help children become comfortable with writing a narrative style essay.
The ending of a narrative essay should reveal how the main character has changed or grown over the course of events in the writing. Scholastic suggests focusing narrative endings on the main character’s memories, decisions, actions, and feelings at the end of the events. For example, a narrative essay on a most embarrassing memory may want to end with the feelings of the main character and the lasting affect of the events. A strong narrative ending clarifies the lesson or moral of the story and links the story to the essay prompt or assignment topic.
Based in Winchester, Va., Karen Hartless has 10 years of teaching experience in the areas of English, creative writing and public speaking. She earned a Master of Education degree as a reading specialist from Shenandoah University, focusing on teaching, reading, and writing clear, concise text.