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Writing Part 1: The Narrative Task. NARRATIVE ESSAY TASK:. Narrative writing is when you speculate/tell a story. The story you write on the NJ ASK may be true or fictional.

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narrative essay task
  • Narrative writing is when you speculate/tell a story. The story you write on the NJ ASK may be true or fictional.
  • The narrative prompt presents a brief scenario which students use as a springboard for writing a story, drawing on stories they have read as well as on their own experiences to develop ideas.
  • Student will have 30 minutes to write their narrative story.
  • As students plan for their writing, they should describe a clear setting, develop characters with vivid personality traits, and unfold a plot that includes a story problem, rising action, climax, and concludes with a solution.
sample narrative writing prompt

When Tony arrived home after school, the large package was there waiting for him on the kitchen table. He had been waiting for days for it to arrive, and now he had it in his hands. Quickly, he tore open the package and examined the contents.

Write a story about the reason for Tony’s excitement.

create a story map

What is the story?

Who/what is

the main character?

What is the

main action?

Where is the

action happening?

Details about

the place:

What does the

action show?

Details about the

main character:



About the main




the place:



the action:



  • Speculate means “to guess.” Use your imagination and experiences to tell a story or describe what is happening.

2. Organize essay into a three-part story: a beginning, middle and end or a before, during and after. Write a lot!

3. Write about mood, people, objects, events, messages revealed using precise words.

4. Try to relate the prompt to any story, novel, television show, or movie you have seen.

5. Revise and edit your story using the Writer’s Checklist.

6. Use dialogue within your story and end with a theme!

eight golden rules for a successful narrative prompt
  • You need to tell a STORY--with a beginning, middle, and end. Don’t just describe. The directions are really asking for a story!

-The beginning should make your reader want to keep reading. Start with an interesting question, unusual fact, or exciting statement.

-The middle tells what happens in the story. How do your characters solve the problem?-The end should leave your reader feeling satisfied with the solution. Strive for an ending the reader will remember.

  • Don’t worry about telling the CORRECT story. There is no correct story—and there is always more than one story buried in the prompt. You will not be wrong as long as your story is reasonable and connected to the prompt.
  • Tell the events of the story in a clear sequence. The events should be arranged in time order.
  • Use details that help the reader see the characters and their actions. You can describe how things, look, feel, sound, taste, and smell. This helps the reader to form a picture in his/her mind. Try to create suspense in your story.

5. To keep things interesting, add a plot complication—something else that has to be solved or overcome. After all, no action-adventure movie worth its summer success has only one plot complication.

  • 6. Dialogue shows what the characters are thinking and doing. It grabs the reader’s attention. (i.e. “Grandpa!” I exclaimed. “You have to wake up! The boat is going to capsize!”)
  • The story shouldn’t just stop. Give the reader a chance to see how the characters think and feel after the main action is complete. A clear ending helps by showing the significance of the event. Think of it as the theme or point of the story.
  • Interesting words, especially verbs, make your writing more exciting. For instance, instead of having a character leave, let your character storm off, exit in a hurry, jump on a skateboard, or slip away silently.
compositional risks use these techniques to raise your score
COMPOSITIONAL RISKS(Use these techniques to raise your score!)
  • “Showing not telling”
  • The many uses of “said” (i.e. yelled, whispered…)
  • The use of “imagery”—words and phrases that appeal to the senses.
  • Simile, metaphor, and personification usage to create comparison.
  • The use of common, favorite, or famous quotes related to the topic.
  • The “extended metaphor” approach.
  • The use of dialogue in moderation.
  • The use of sentence variety.
  • The inclusion of personal anecdotes or examples related to the topic.
  • The use of extensive vocabulary. (Add 2/3 “big” words)
  • The use of appropriate humor and/or irony.
writing a great beginning
Writing a “Great” Beginning:

The beginning of your story should be interesting, so that the reader will want to keep reading. Here are some ideas. Make sure the beginning is appropriate for the story.

1. Make a creepy statement: An eerie chill filled the room, drifting like a silent ghost.

2. Describe the location of your subject: Out behind the shed was an old rusty, wrecked Ford truck.

3. Describe what someone was doing: Mrs. Johnson was shouting at me!

4. Begin with a question: When did you first notice he was missing, Mrs. Green?

5. Take readers back into the past: When I was a little girl, I loved to visit Grandpa.

6. Use foreshadowing: If James had only known what he was getting into.

7. Begin with a sound: Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

8. Describe the weather: Rain spattered against the windows.

9. Begin with a thought: I always thought I would grow up to be a doctor.

10. Begin with an exclamation: “Watch out, Kate!”

11. Describe your setting: West Ninth Street was quiet that day.

12. Pinpoint a specific time: The tragedy occurred on December 11th at 4:00 PM.

13. Begin with a startling statement: I had no intention of losing my little brother

that day; it just sort of happened.

14. Begin with a tense situation: We had been trying to find our way out of the

jungle for days.

15. Begin with a smell: The kitchen was filled with the sweet aroma of chocolate

chip cookies.

16. Begin with an emotion: Brian had an unpleasant feeling about the test that day.

narrative prompt essay based on a topic
Narrative Prompt – Essay Based on a Topic:


Imagine that your friend has a great tree house. There is only one problem. The key is missing!

Writing Task:

Write a story about how you and your friend solve the problem. Make sure to fill in missing information. It’s a good idea to include details, interesting words, and dialogue. You have 30 minutes.

story map for the narrative prompt
Story Map for the Narrative Prompt:

What is the story?

Who is the main character? Tammy

Details about the main character: She is a young girl who finds a key with a note hanging from a tree while playing hide-and-seek with her friend Amy.

Hypothesis/questions about the main character: Where did the key come from?

Where is the action happening? In Amy’s backyard.

Details about the place: It is a warm afternoon and there are a lot of trees in Amy’s backyard. One of the trees has an old tree house on top.

Hypothesis about the place: Was there something special inside the tree house?

Main action? Climbing the rope ladder to see what was inside the tree house.

What does the action show? The girls want to see what is in the tree house; however, they are a little bit afraid.

Hypothesis about the action: Perhaps there is something fun they can do inside the tree house.

model narrative story

As the sun shone on a warm spring afternoon, I searched for a place to hide. My friend and I were playing hide-and-seek in her backyard. I wanted to find a big tree to hide behind, so I explored the yard until I found one. I crouched behind the tree in the refreshing shade right before my friend finished counting.

As my friend Amy was looking for me, I started getting bored, so I glanced up. What did I see? I saw a big surprise! There was a shiny key hanging from a low branch, and it had a note attached to it.

Right away I read the note. The note said we were supposed to find the old tree house. I was glad when Amy tagged me. That way I could show her the note!

“Do you have any tree houses?” I asked excitedly.

Amy’s jaw dropped when she saw the note.

“Wow! Follow me and I’ll show you!” she yelled as she took off.

Amy started running like a cheetah! I followed her to the back of the yard where there are dozens of trees, almost like a forest.

Amy said, “I am so glad you found this key! I tried to open this tree house once before, but it was locked. I couldn’t figure out how to get in.”

We scrambled up the thick, scratchy rope ladder to the tree house, and we tried the key in the lock. It turned squeakily on the second try. Then we were terrified to open the door because we didn’t know what was going to be inside.

“Maybe we should wait,” I told Amy.

“No, go ahead,” she said.

We looked at each other and decided to be brave. We slowly opened the door and saw the most spectacular tree house we had ever seen! There was a rocking chair and a soft rug. There were lots of toys and games, and there was even a window seat. Amy thanked me and told me that I could play in the tree house anytime I wanted because I was the one who had found the key. After that, we spent many fun days playing in the tree house.

commentary on the story
Commentary on the story:
  • The story is told in a clear, logical order/sequence.
  • There are plenty of details (i.e. warm spring afternoon; shiny key; it turned squeakily; spectacular tree house)
  • Suspense (i.e. We were terrified to open the door because we didn’t know what was going to be inside.)
  • Dialogue throughout the essay.
  • Clear ending.
A Checklist of Questions Students Should Be Thinking About As They Think About and Write Their Essay
  • What am I being asked to write about?
  • What form should this take?
  • Who will be reading this?
  • How should I plan my writing?
  • Is there anything in particular I have to include in my writing?
  • How much time should I spend on planning?
  • Am I ready to write my draft?
  • Do I think I’ve written enough?
  • Have I addressed the prompt?
  • Can I improve some of my word choices?
  • Is there variety in my sentences and paragraphs?
  • Have I checked my work?