Tips for writing a narrative for primary school students

Published on 17th June, 2022 by Ms. Mathana Vishnu

Tips for writing a narrative for primary school students

Have you ever seen this situation before? The student who sighs once a piece of writing homework is being handed to him. Another one who keeps wanting to go to the toilet to take breaks during writing exercise. One who stares blankly at the paper and another who diligently hands up his piece of writing but it is clearly incomplete and disorganised. Sounds familiar? All these signs point to struggling writers.

Just like how every child is different, not all struggling writers are the same. Some students struggle with writing because they are stuck for ideas. They do not know how to get started and what to write about. Other students struggle because their writing is disorganised and lacks structure. These students will write but their writing would be disorganised and their ideas would be all over the place. It would be hard to follow their storyline. They would also claim to have finished their assignment even though it is incomplete.

With some scaffolding and guidance, there are many strategies that can be implemented into a piece of writing to help support struggling writers.

1. Basic structure for writing a narrative

Narrative is just like story-telling. The student is basically narrating a sequence of events from a plot that he has come up with. There are 4 parts to a basic structure:

  • Introduction: Introduce the setting, characters, set the tone, have a hook and lead into the next paragraph.
  • Conflict: The main crux of the story. The characters must be trying to overcome a problem related to the story.
  • Resolution: This is where the conflict is resolved.
  • Conclusion: The ending of the story and closure is provided.

2. Planning

Planning is the first step that the student must attempt to do before jumping into writing his first draft. He has to jot down his thoughts and ideas that come to his mind while he brainstorms about the topic. This should not take more than 5 minutes. The student should be answering these questions while scribbling their ideas:

  • Who is/are the main/supporting character?
  • What is the main problem?
  • How does the story end?
  • Then organise the points according to the basic structure.

Failure to plan may lead to these issues:

  • Confusion in plot- loopholes in story
  • Introduction maybe loose/uninteresting (describing the weather etc)
  • Sudden change/introduction of characters
  • Inability to resolve or conclude the story seamlessly

Thus, planning is a very crucial phase in writing. Students can use the story mountain template to plan their story.

3. Writing the first paragraph

Many students struggle with writing the first paragraph. The purpose of the first paragraph is to:

  • Engage audiences within the first few sentences
  • Capture and hook the reader’s attention
  • Generate interest
  • Relevant to the storyline

Here are some introduction tactics that can be used for the first paragraph:

  • Dialogue

A conversation involving two or more characters in the story. It is important to keep it brief/attention grabbing and to the point. Bear in mind the 5Ws 1 H; who are the characters speaking to, how are they related to the story, when_ and _where this is happening and what is the character doing and why is the dialogue happening?

“Do not take a step closer to me! Else, I am calling the cops on you!” Martha screamed at the top of her voice as she pointed the kitchen knife with her shaky hands at the two masked intruders standing before her in the kitchen hallway.

The dialogue between the main character; Martha and the two intruders gives the readers a sense of excitement and urgency to keep reading on. They would want to find out what will happen.

  • Action

Using relevant verbs that would lead to the conflict or climax in the story.

Cautiously, I placed my foot on the wooden floorboard and it let out a huge creak. I held my breath and slowly peered down the spiral staircase to see if I could catch a glimpse of the masked men who had held me captive in my own house for the past two days.

Using precise and descriptive language, it builds a thrilling start to the story which would make the audiences captive and read till the end.

  • Sound

Using sound to begin an introduction is often considered cliched, especially when students use very simple sounds. It should reflect the action done and can be inserted into various parts of the sentence.

The wooden door opened with a faint “creak.”

  • Setting

This is a common starter used by students. They may describe the time and place where their story begins. Describing the weather may only be effective if it is relevant to the introduction and if it affects the main character.

4. Writing the problem/conflict

All stories should have a main problem or conflict where the characters would be striving to resolve. This is where the students have to spend most of their time. They have to describe in detail at this portion of the story and it should be at least one to two paragraphs long.

Encourage students to use the five senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch) chart to describe and narrate the details clearly. The description must accomplish a clear purpose. Students should build the suspense and make the reader worried, nervous or excited to read the climax of the story. It should evoke an emotion where the reader would feel a sense of hopelessness towards the end.

5. Writing the resolution

Students have to resolve the problem/conflict in a logical manner. The main character could solve the problem or it can be solved in other ways; community, by luck etc. It will be key to be creative and logical.

6. Writing the conclusion

Usually students will want to rush this portion and simply write one or two sentences on how they have ‘learnt a lesson’. There are more details that a proper conclusion deserves:

  • It should tie up loose ends within the story
  • Reflective of the issue that happened in the story
  • How will the character’s life be different from then onwards?

Students should spend a bit more time in this portion and ensure that the story gets a proper closure.

This article covers the basics of writing a narrative piece. There are more details such as grammar, good sentence structure, using good vocabulary words, insertion of idioms/good phrases, content, organisation, paragraphing etc that has to be taken into consideration when writing.

Ms. Mathana Vishnu

About the Author - Ms. Mathana Vishnu

Mathana, Educational Therapist, is a trained Orton Gillingham practitioner who uses the approach to design and execute lesson plans for a range of students with phonological, reading, spelling, writing and numerical challenges. It is her desire as an educator to help individual meet their fullest potential in these areas by providing an environment that is safe, supports risk-taking, and invites a sharing of ideas.

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