Although writing a narrative essay might seem overwhelming to a 12-year-old, it is not difficult if the student understands what distinguishes a narrative essay from other writing. A narrative essay is a story the author tells. It typically centers around a memorable event that stands out in the author's mind, and is usually written in first person point of view.
Help the 12-year-old identify memorable experiences in his life. Often, 12-year-olds have trouble finding a topic or story. Encourage him to think about a memorable school, camp or sports team experience. For example, going on a family vacation or winning a gingerbread contest can be topics for a narrative essay.
Ask the 12-year-old why the story is memorable. Perhaps she learned a lesson from it, or maybe it changed a relationship she had with another person. This will help determine the purpose of the story so the 12-year-old can explain why it is important and grab the reader's interest in the opening paragraph.
Brainstorm details and instruct the 12-year-old to jot down notes to write a rough draft of the story. Encourage him to answer reporters' questions: "who," "what," "where," "when, "why" and "how" to help him remember as many details as possible.
Teach the 12-year-old how to sift through his brainstorming exercises to select the information he needs to create his essay. Use that information to create an outline, remembering to keep one topic per paragraph.
Show the 12-year-old how to create an introduction with a hook to grab the attention of the reader. According to Beacon Learning, she should provide background information, inform the reader of the central topic, provide clues about future information and give general framework for the story.
Ask the 12-year-old to write the body of the rough draft so it provides the details of the story. The conclusion should reiterate the importance of story so the reader takes time to reflect on its significance. Encourage the 12-year-old to use transitions so the story flows smoothly and each section ties together.
Read over the draft and ask the 12-year-old to provide additional information that may be needed. Tell the student to include details that make the reader feel as though she is experiencing the event. Point out where multi-sensory details and specific verbs can be stronger to help the reader visualize the event. For example, incorporate the smell, feel and taste of items when possible. Show the 12-year-old that dialogue can help make the reader feel like the activity is occurring in the present. Make sure the dialogue is brief and to the point.
Advise the 12-year-old to read the essay herself to identify where it could be stronger. If she wrote the essay by hand, she should type the final version on a computer. If the rough draft is already on a computer, she can revise grammar and content mistakes, but may want to copy the rough draft so the two versions can be compared after the revision. Even after the narrative is revised, she should read it one last time.
- Provide the 12-year-old with some samples of well-written narrative essays.
- Encourage the 12-year-old to let someone proofread the paper. A writer naturally fills in missing information in his mind, but a person unfamiliar with the story cannot.
- Let the student orally tell you the story before she writes it. This can be practical in a small group, but may be more difficult if you are teaching a large group how to write a narrative.
- Avoid using "said" redundantly. Try using words like "whispered," "shouted" and "declared" that tell the reader how the person is speaking.