I know. We feel a lot of times that the focus for standardized testing is on explanatory or informational writing. And a lot is, but narrative writing still shows up and it's going strong, I promise! So not only is narrative writing necessary to teach and practice, but it's fun!
If you teach multilingual learners, or English learners, we can definitely add in some scaffolds to a regular ELA teacher's routine to teach writing, but if you are an ELA teacher and you have some MLLs (multilingual language learners) in your class and you aren't sure what to do, it's not hard to include them! Our scaffolds help our instruction and tasks to be comprehensible for our ELLs/MLLs and gives equitable access so they can be engaged in the content the same way a native English speaker might be.
Here's a step-by-step guide for if you teach an ESL class or an ELA class:
1. Pre-teach vocabulary and grammar or sentence-structure
Multilingual learners need explicit instruction when it comes to vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. It also needs to be short and sweet or in chunks (not too much at one time or break it up into turn and talks and then another chunk!). I like to pre-teach vocabulary using Margarita Calderón's 7-Step Vocabulary Strategy.
According to Effective Instruction for English Learners by Margarita Calderón, Robert Slavin, and Marta Sánchez, "for English learners, vocabulary instruction must not only be long term and comprehensive, but also be taught explicitly in all subject areas before, during, and after reading." And we all know that we try to include all language domains in every lesson, so we can assume they will be reading at some point during our narrative writing lesson!
I always include as an "I Do" of the gradual release of responsibility for my lessons and explicitly pre-teach of vocabulary I want them to use in their writing or tier 2 words that might come up during our task, like revising and editing.
When choosing which grammar or sentence structure I want students to use while writing, I first think about what I have previously taught and what might be a logical order to teach next. I also take into account things I notice that they need based on previous writing samples. For example, I may have taught present and past tense verbs already and now I need to teach the future tense to my multilingual learners.
2. Provide a model writing
I like to give a model writing example before they write so students know what I'm looking for. In my lesson plan, Winter Narrative Writing for ESL/ELD Class, I provide an example and students also use it to practice using transition words. They use the example as a fill-in-the-blank and are provided a word bank of transition words to do this.
Now, they are reading how I use the targeted vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure that I pre-taught at the beginning of the lesson and they can refer back to it when they are writing their narratives.
3. Make a storyboard
In my narrative writing lesson plan, I have students do a little warm-up to get them excited about our writing experience. I like to use Google Slides since I can easily teach this digitally or I can print out the slides if I want them to work with it on paper. We do a fun "Would You Rather" as our warm-up and they get to drag and drop the items that might be their ideal winter day since that is what they will be writing about (ideal happens to be one of our vocabulary words!).
I give them options of cozy winter things like hot chocolate, a fireplace, and throw blankets, or they can choose from summer things like a beach, a beach towel, or sunglasses. They drag and drop their items into a polaroid frame.
After they do the warm-up, they now have a better picture about what their ideal winter day is. They then complete a storyboard about their ideal winter day. Recently arrived students, or newcomers, and lower expanding students can complete three boxes while students in the expanding and bridging proficiency levels can complete six.
4. Add captions
After they've drawn their beautiful masterpiece storyboards, they can then add captions. Our MLLs, especially our emerging/beginning proficiency level students, need sentence frames or stems and possibly a word bank. You could also provide stems or frames for scaffolding to expanding and bridging students, but I would make sure to model compound or complex sentences for them. This is also a great place to reinforce the explicit teaching you did with them for their grammar or sentence structure focus!
5. Stretch the captions
They've made their captions, and now it's time to stretch them out! Let students practice adding more details by answering who, what, when, where, why, and how about their captions. Let them review each other's captions and practice asking and answering questions about their writing, too! Then you're adding in the speaking domain.
6. Add transition words
Now that they've got more details, it's time to put it together and add in those transition words for coherence and cohesion! In the Winter Narrative Writing lesson plan, I have a slide with transition words they can choose from. For your recently arrived and expanding students, they may not choose a transition word that makes 100% sense, and that's okay! The point is to get them practicing and using these regularly. Have them handy to return back to and practice during bell work and exit tickets too! Practice makes progress.
7. Keep revisions and edits focused!
Now it's time to switch papers and do some revisions and edits! This can definitely feel daunting. It's easy for both teachers and students to feel overwhelmed with this process. One thing that I have found helpful is keeping those revisions and edits focused. In other words, students don't have to look at all of the things like spelling, punctuation, subject-verb agreement, and capitalization for editing. Use the KISS model- Keep It Simple Silly! Have students focus only on what the grammar or sentence structure focus was for the lesson, or if you know that they struggle with end punctuation, have them focus on that!
The same is true for revising. Check out the directions slide below from my lesson to get an idea of how it might look in your classroom.
We all have our unique ways that we teach certain concepts and skills, and this is just one way that I have found is successful for me and my multilingual learners. If you are an ELA teacher, I encourage you start thinking about how these scaffolds could be easily integrated into what you are already doing when teaching narrative writing. Could some of these scaffolds support all of your students who are not MLLs or ELLs?
Let me know in the comments what you have found helpful when teaching narrative writing!
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.