3 Ways to Teach Narrative Writing

Why Story Maps Work!

Teaching Narrative Writing in 1st and 2nd Grade can be very easy for you and your students when you teach them how to use story maps to map out their stories.

“The story starter pictures and sentences really helped my first graders get some ideas for their writing. I like that there were variations included for lower/ higher kids.” 1st grade teacher

Step 1 Story Maps

When teachers show students how to use story maps it helps the students to be able to develop a narrative story in a much faster turnaround. Story maps help students take their thoughts and put them down on paper. Students then take these notes and use them to make a story.

As students get more and more familiar with the process, it will get easier. This is also a great method for ESL learners as there are symbols so they can easily recognize what step is next. 

If you have been following along on our adventure for teaching Narrative Writing, you are in the right place for the next step. If not, CLICK HERE to go back to the first of our series in Narrative Writing.

So far students haven’t used pencils in their story writing at all. It seems strange for those who teach another way, but this is our students’ natural way of learning; talking and telling stories without a pencil. 

We have been working on writing without a pencil so far, the students have used their story starter cards and they have verbally made sentences for them so far. 

Now it is time to actually start writing.

I have a variety of story maps that I use for my students so that I can differentiate.  I will be just introducing the simplest one here today. This is actually the best place to start with the newer writers.

As with the other concepts that have been taught, it is best to model filling out the story map first. Use your story and show how you take it from being verbal to writing it out. Model your thinking to figure out which sentence goes in each box. 

1st grade Narrative Writing Story Maps

You can also go step by step and you do a section and then have them do that same section.  

  • First, I will have the students lay out their story starter cards next to their story map.
  • They say the first sentence and see which box it fits into.
  • Then they will write their sentence in the box they see it fit. Most likely it is in the box with the house that says “Where”.
  • Then they grab their next card and say the sentence and find where it fits. Most likely it will be in the “Who” box with the girl.
  • They will keep going until they used up all the sentences in their little story that they created in their head. 
We filled out the Story Map!

Step 2 Rough Draft

Now what?

If students use complete sentences, which I encourage them to do, they will read the sentences in their story map and can transfer it right to their rough draft paper.

Differentiation Tip

For my students who are really low, or are ESL, they might be just adding some words to their story map. For these students, it will be harder for them, but I suggest helping them to create a sentence right on their story map. This can be something that an aid or teacher would help them write at first, guiding them with the words. Once they see the pattern, you can scale back the scaffolding.

Sometimes the sentences don’t fit quite right and they need to add words to them. I also encourage students to add details at this point. The more experience they have with this concept the easier it will be to add details

Step 3 Editing for the Final Draft

This paper can be their rough draft or their final draft. I make it their rough draft because I want them to be editing it with a peer and with me. Also, the students are still trying to see how it sounds as a story. Hopefully, as they read it they will want to add more details, it does take time for them to get to that point.

The final draft will have all the new edits and will be in their best handwriting. I like to use the paper that has room for a picture on top, so they can also add a picture to their final draft. In my classroom the picture is done last, it is the dessert, and it’s also not required. Some students just don’t want to draw anything. I don’t force the issue.

Why this method works

I have found when I use Story Starter Cards and then move onto the story map and then the rough draft, it really helps my students to not only come up with ideas but start to understand the writing process. I use this method for all students to start, we do it for a few stories, at which some students are ready to move onto the next level, which is not using the story starter cards or not using all of them. This is differentiation.

I love that this method builds a foundation for students to use, when they get stuck, we can come back to the basics and practice.

I follow the Writer’s Workshop model when I do writing in my classroom. For more on how Writer’s Workshop works in the classroom, check out our article on “How to do Writer’s Workshop” CLICK HERE or you can watch this YouTube Video that I created, CLICK HERE.

2nd Grade Narrative Writing Story Maps

If you are interested more in How to teach Narrative Writing to 1st and 2nd grades, check out our Writing Curriculums below.

1st Grade Narrative Writing

2nd Grade Narrative Writing

1st Grade Writing Curriculum

2nd Grade Writing Curriculum

Have a Great Week!

Heather McKinsey


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