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Banner: Whats your story?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) at all grade levels state that students should be able to use narrative writing skills "to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences."   With each grade level the expectation is that students' narratives will become increasingly more complex and nuanced as they learn how tell stories, both real and imagined, using story structures and narrative language techniques.

Performance Expectations: Competent teachers of English Language Arts must demonstrate that they can: 

To write a narrative essay, writers need to tell a story (usually about something that happened to him/her) in such a way that the audience learns a lesson or gains insight. The skills needed for successful story telling are the same across all age groups, and they are often easiest for writers because stories are often all around them from an early age, whether from listening to or telling the history of self or family, from listening to or telling about undertakings and adventures, or from experiencing stories on big and small screens in one form or another. Teachers can help by drawing out many of writers' own stories and helping them to expand upon them and tell them with vivid description and dialogue.

Much narrative writing is descriptive writing. To write a descriptive essay, you'll need to describe a person, object, or event so vividly that the reader feels like he/she could reach out and touch it.

Tips for writing effective narrative and descriptive essays*:

This Youtube video will walk you through the steps of writing a strong narrative essay:

How to Write Vivid Descriptions

Having trouble describing a person, object, or event for your narrative or descriptive essay?  Try filling out this chart:

What do you smell?

What do you taste?

What do you see?

What do you hear?

What might you touch or feel?






Remember:  Avoid simply telling us what something looks like--tell us how it tastes, smells, sounds, or feels!

Consider this…

Using Concrete Details for Narratives

Effective narrative essays allow readers to visualize everything that's happening, in their minds.  One way to make sure that this occurs is to use concrete, rather than abstract, details. 

Concrete Language…

Abstract Language…

…makes the story or image seem clearer and more real to us.

...makes the story or image difficult to visualize.

…gives us information that we can easily grasp and perhaps empathize with.

…leaves your reader feeling empty, disconnected, and possibly confused.

The word "abstract" might remind you of modern art.  An abstract painting, for example, does not normally contain recognizable objects.  In other words, we can't look at the painting and immediately say "that's a house" or "that's a bowl of fruit."  To the untrained eye, abstract art looks a bit like a child's finger-painting--just brightly colored splotches on a canvas.
Avoid abstract language—it won't help the reader understand what you're trying to say!


Abstract:  It was a nice day. 
Concrete:  The sun was shining and a slight breeze blew across my face. 

Abstract:  I liked writing poems, not essays. 
Concrete:  I liked writing short, rhythmic poems and hated rambling on about my thoughts in those four-page essays. 

Abstract:  Mr. Smith was a great teacher.
Concrete:  Mr. Smith really knew how to help us turn our thoughts into good stories and essays.

 Show/hide comprehension question...

A student is developing a personal essay about learning to bake kolacky, an eastern European pastry. Which of the following versions of a sentence from the essay uses sensory language to convey a vivid impression of the student's experience?




I inhaled the buttery aroma of apricot kolacky that filled my grandparents' kitchen, basking in the warmth of home-baked pastries and my grandparents' love.