Contrasting Narrative and Non-Narrative Structure



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Focus Lesson Planning Sheet


Focus Lesson Topic

Contrasting Narrative and Non-Narrative Structure

(adapted from Calkins and Gillette, 2006)

Materials


An example of an essay (see example below)

An example of a narrative story (see example below)

Copies of narratives and essays for students to read and sort through while exploring with a partner

Anchor chart created prior to lesson to be referred to later in lesson (see below for text of that chart)



Connection





Yesterday we began looking at the genre of essays. You noticed several important characteristics of essays. One thing you noticed was how an essay is structured. Today we are going to look at that structure more closely.


Explicit Instruction



During several units this year, you have written what we call “narratives” which are pieces of writing which follow a certain story-based structure. You have written personal narratives, true stories from your own lives. You have written fictional narrative, stories you have created. But all of these stories follow a certain structure. Essays don’t follow this structure. In fact, essays are a type of NON-narrative writing. “Non” means not, so non-narratives are not like narratives. Let’s look at what that might mean.
Narrative stories tell what happened first, next, and next. Non-narrative essays don’t.
Narrative stories show a character- in your personal narratives, you were the main character- and what happens tohim or her. Non-narratives don’t.
Narrative stories lead the reader through a sequence of events. Non-narratives don’t.
Reveal anchor chart (below) created prior to lesson. Touch each point as you continue. Instead of being organized by time (first this happened, then this, then this), non-narratives are organized by ideas. They might go “I think this one thing about this topic, and I also think this other thought, and I think this other thing, etc. Or they might go, “This idea of mine is true because of one reason A, and also because of another reason B, and most of all because of C.”

Instead of being held together by a character who travels through the events of the story, a non-narratives are held together by an idea that is developed, or an argument that is advanced, across the whole text. Instead of being written so the reader can participate in the events with the character, non-narratives are written so a reader can think about the topic.


Guided Practice



Writers can write in either narrative or non-narrative structure and have to choose which structure makes best sense for what they are trying to say. They need to choose between the two since they are organized and written in different ways. Let’s take a look at two short pieces of writing, one written as a narrative story and one as a non-narrative essay. With your partner, read both pieces. Decide which is a non-narrative essay and which is a narrative story. Jot down your ideas on each about why you made your choice about its genre. Think about what we just discussed in order to do this.

Allow some time for this activity and then elicit discussion.



Send Off [for Independent Practice]

Today you are going to spend your independent writing time continuing to explore this new genre of non-narrative essay. Read writing pieces you have been given. Sort them into 2 piles, one pile for essays and one for narratives. Be sure to jot down your reasons for placing each in its pile. Especially notice the structure of each.

An alternate way to use this exploratory independent time might be to have students look only at essays and write what they notice about their structure.




Group Share

Students can discuss the way they sorted the pieces.

Characteristics of Non-Narratives (and of Essays)

-Non-narratives are organized by ideas.

-They might go, “I think this one things, I also think this other thing, I also think this other thing, and furthermore I think this thing.”

-Or they might go, “This is true because of A, because of B, and most of all, because of C.”

-Non-narratives are held together by an idea that is developed (or an argument that is advanced) across the whole text.

-Non-narratives are written so the reader can think about the topic.

After a long, cold winter, the first signs of spring are always a most welcome sight. The little daffodil and tulip leaflets poking determinedly through the brown stubble, promise lush green and growing plants in just a few short weeks. The first buds of the forsythia provide new color to the dull, gray background. Birds careening among the trees snatching up the first-awakened insects, tell us that all creatures are preparing for the plenty ahead. The sunlight, now longer and brighter in the sky, teases us with thoughts of sultry days to come. Children, removing their winter coats and mittens as they emerge from school, know that it is already too warm to be so snugly clad. Similarly, Nature, throwing off its winter vestments, reminds us that life renews itself once more.



As I walked into the park on that afternoon in late March, I was amazed to see what a change had occurred in just the few short days since I had last visited. That morning about a week earlier, I had hurried along, bundled up in my warm down jacket, wishing I hadn’t forgotten my mittens when I had set out. The others I passed that morning had been likewise clad and seemed in the same rush to get inside to a warm cup of tea. Now folks were laughing and greeting one another in a slow, relaxed manner, with hearty “Hellos” and “What a nice day!!” I felt my spirits soar as I observed the birds flying overhead, feasting on insects and preparing their new nests. I cautiously left the path and made my way over the newly greening grass, so recently a brown stubble. I noticed the small shoots of daffodils and tulips beginning to emerge near the edges of the garden. I approached the budding forsythia bush and admired the bright gold beginning to enwrap the branches. I took a long, deep breath of the fresh spring air and felt myself renewed.


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