intergenerational communication

We are all stories


As we talked about in our previous blog, there are two categories of writing, expository and narrative. We took a big picture view of expository writing. Now we’ll look at the big picture of narrative writing.

Narrative writing is typically easier to read. Unlike expository, with its many different structures, all narratives have the one basic structure. There will always be the following in a narrative.

  • Characters – who is in the story
  • Setting – time and place of the story
  • Plot/Problem – events that revolve around a conflict
  • Theme – lesson(s) learned from the story

Another reason narrative writing is easier to read is because we all live narrative lives. We are all stories. We are characters that live in a certain time and location. We all have conflicts, which cause problems in our day-to-day lives. We learn lessons from dealing with the problems, not always good lessons, but we always learn something. It is called ‘experience’.

Although narratives have one basic structure (blueprint), there are different genres or types of narratives (buildings.)

  1. Fiction: imaginative or made up writing
  2. Narrative nonfiction: factual matter is presented using the narrative structure
  3. Folklore: stories once passed down orally
  4. Poetry: stories that are told using poetic devices.
  5. Drama: a play or script

Again, for those of you who teach, have, or are around young children (grandma and grandpa) – This is for you, too!!!

 Let’s look at an example. After reading or telling the story of “Little Red Riding Hood”, ask your little one the following questions.

Characters: Who is in the story?

– Little red riding hood, the big bad wolf, grandma, woodcutter

Setting (place): Where are they?

– In the forest and at Grandma’s house

Setting (time): When did the story happen?

– Once upon a time…

Problem/Conflict: What happens to Little Red Riding Hood?

– the wolf wants the basket of food that Mary is bringing to her ill grandma and Mary doesn’t want to give it to him.

Theme (lesson or moral) – don’t talk to strangers…don’t walk by yourself…

As you can see, even the simplest stories have this basic structure. Helping young children to discover this basic structure in the first stories they hear/read will help them when they tell/write their own stories. When they move into more complex stories with multiple story lines, identifying these pieces makes comprehension and retention easier much easier.

Keep in mind; these two blogs about expository and narrative are the big picture, like a view of the earth from outer space. We will travel closer and learn more details.

There is a very important lesson to learn here. When teaching a concept, in this case, learning to become a better reader and writer by understanding text structure, always start with the big picture. Then as you get into more detailed information, show your learner where these details fit into the big picture. This anchors the details. It lays out the relationship between details and the big picture.

As the lessons continue, and there are more and more pieces of information, return often to the big picture to show where the new information fits. Each lesson should begin by returning to the big picture – the picture on the box cover of a 1000 piece puzzle – if you will.

This is an outline of the big picture.

  1. Expository and Narrative Text Structure
    1. Expository
      1. Many Structures / Blueprints (roads, airplanes, new companies, etc.)
        1. Compare-Contrast
        2. Cause-Effect
        3. Sequence
        4. Chronological
        5. Problem-Solution
        6. Descriptive
      2. Narrative
        1. One Structure / Blueprint
          1. Character, Setting, Plot, Theme
        2. Genres – types of buildings (house, apartment, offices, etc.)
          1. Fiction
          2. Narrative nonfiction
          3. Folklore
          4. Poetry
          5. Drama

We will continue learning the elements of text structure – the puzzle pieces – but will keep that big picture on the puzzle box in view at all times.


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