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(Re)desiging Narrative Writing Units for Grades 5-12

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Teaching writing is a powerful and effective means for learning across all grade levels and disciplines. This user-friendly resource provides practical recommendations, strategies, and assessments for designing units of study that center on both narrative nonfiction and creative writing. Throughout the book, readers can complete exercises that equip them to create a comprehensive narrative unit of instruction that is ready to pilot. It also provides narrative activities, assessments, sample tasks, rubrics, checklists, writing sample resources, and more for fifth grade to high school.

Learn how to design and maintain a unit that improves students' narrative writing skills:

  • Learn a sequential approach to building a narrative writing unit.
  • Review how to structure a narrative.
  • Reflect on past teaching approaches and revise for future narrative writing lesson plans.
  • Download free templates, checklists, rubrics, and narrative writing activities useful for designing a narrative writing plan and guiding lessons.
  • Access professional and student resources in print and online for understanding and teaching narrative writing.

Contents:
Introduction
Chapter 1: Building a Narrative Unit Map
Chapter 2: Formulating a Pre- and Culminating Assessment and Establishing Criteria for Success
Chapter 3: Enhancing Setting with Imagery Using Gradual Release of Responsibility
Chapter 4: Designing Lessons
Chapter 5: Studying an Author's Craft by Analyzing Text
Epilogue
Resource A: Narrative and Descriptive Characteristics and Associated Genres
Resource B: Elements of Literature
Resource C: Literacy Devices and Figurative Language

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Chapter 1

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CHAPTER

1

Building a

Narrative Unit Map

This chapter shows a narrative unit map example that features learning outcomes, specifically what you want students to know, understand, and do (KUD), along with guiding questions to frame your units and lessons. These components represent the beginning stage of backward planning. When you reach the exercise later in this chapter, you may download the featured narrative map (visit go.SolutionTree.com/literacy) and make revisions, or refer to it as a guide to develop your own map using the blank unit templates. As you read this book, each chapter will provide resources you can use to continue building this map and begin drafting lessons for the narrative genre you will teach. As mentioned in the introduction, should you need background information on narrative writing and what it entails—or perhaps want material to use within lesson planning— refer to appendices A, B, and C on pages 123–148.

To understand the map and the design process, you need to be familiar with backward planning. If this approach falls outside your knowledge and experience and the following section does not provide you with enough information, please consider reading The

 

Chapter 2

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CHAPTER

2

Formulating a Pre- and

Culminating Assessment and Establishing Criteria for Success

At this point, you likely read chapter 1, “Building a

Narrative Unit Map,” and began or finished identifying what students should know, understand, and be able to do (KUDs) and established guiding questions for a narrative unit. As you continue reading this book, feel free to revise what you have recorded on your map from the exercise Unit Map—KUDs and Guiding Questions on pages 22–28 and add other components as needed.

Proceeding with the backward-planning process, this chapter focuses on formulating a culminating assessment and determining the criteria to score it, plus designing a preassessment and ideas for launching the unit. There are four exercises in this chapter. I purposely placed the preassessment after the narrative writing prompt and writing checklist exercises so that you can design it with the foresight of the prompt and criteria in mind.

 

Chapter 3

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CHAPTER

3

Using Gradual Release of

Responsibility for Lesson

Design in Action

In the backward-design approach, educators devise units with a clear focus on learning outcomes before delving into lesson design. The following are the three components of backward planning; the previous chapters cover the first two.

1. Use content-area standards to identify what students should know, understand, and do in a specific unit of study and create guiding questions that emanate from them.

2. Create a culminating assessment so students can show evidence of understanding the learning outcomes. Devise a student checklist and scoring rubric to identify and articulate clear expectations for students.

3. Once in place, these clear intentions and success criteria steer designing lessons, which include other assessments to gauge student learning.

To explicitly teach an unfamiliar skill, strategy, or process in a way that yields success, you can design lessons using gradual release of responsibility (GRR), an instructional framework for new learning (Pearson &

 

Chapter 4

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CHAPTER

4

Designing Lessons

Teachers should design lessons that empower students to master one or more intertwined learning outcomes as shown in the unit map. In Marzano’s (2017) The New

Art and Science of Teaching, he articulates the relationship between lessons and units and their intrinsic links.

He emphasizes that lessons are isolated and make sense only within the panoramic framework that a unit can provide:

• Imagery and setting (see also chapter 3, page 49)

• Mood

• Character physical description

• Plot elements

• Theme

• Narrative introductions

A teacher executes a lesson within the

• Dialogue

context of a set of lessons, oftentimes

• Sentence structure

referred to as a unit, that serve a common

• Narrative prewriting

purpose. . . . I believe it is not effective practice to plan one lesson at a time.

Instead, teachers should plan from the perspective of the unit, which should provide an overarching framework for instruction.

 

Chapter 5

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CHAPTER

5

Examining Text to

Appreciate Content

Reading and writing are complementary forms of literacy that interconnect, and students require exposure to many narratives within your writing unit. Teachers understand the efficacy of creating experiences designed for students to study authors’ works so they can translate what they learn to their own writing—a repeated refrain in this book. Steve Graham and Dolores Perin

(2007) cite these opportunities as one recommendation in their report Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High

Schools. They state that “students are encouraged to analyze these examples and to emulate the critical elements, patterns, and forms embodied in the models in their own writing” (p. 20). (In The Fundamentals of (Re)designing Writing Units (Glass, 2017a), you can read about the other recommendations from this report in more detail, or you can access the report yourself.)

Aside from examining aspects of a writer’s style, students also need to analyze and demonstrate understanding of the content of complex text at the center of instruction. Although some suggestions in the previous two chapters clearly require students to examine texts, the primary focus is to steer writing instruction with comprehension as a byproduct. In this chapter, I focus squarely on presenting myriad ways students can glean insight from content. Conducting reading and writing lessons caters to the intrinsically linked nature of these strands of literacy.

 

Epilogue

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Epilogue

Once you finish writing the unit, you may be tempted to teach it and move on to another one. I urge you to make the time while teaching it, and shortly afterward, to participate in the suggestions in this epilogue. You will thank yourself later when the next year rolls around and you teach narrative once again—this time with a stronger version.

Next Steps

As teachers—and professionals in other fields as well— we create, revisit, massage, pilot, rework, learn from results, and try again. It is a constant cycle of implementation, reflection, and revision, though not always major revision. Sometimes we get it right or make minor adjustments and take what we learn to apply to the next unit.

Once you finish your narrative unit, follow the suggestions in The Fundamentals of (Re)designing Writing

Units (Glass, 2017a) for piloting it, participating in calibration sessions with colleagues to collect anchor papers, and reflecting on your unit using granular-level questioning. In addition, when you initiate the unit, you can engage in a number of tasks.

 

Appendix A

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Appendix A

Narrative and Descriptive Text Types

For this section of the book, I offer an overview of narrative and descriptive text types (also called modes or categories), plus an in-depth discussion about narrative genres and subgenres. I intend the explanations and examples in this appendix to help you plan a standardsbased narrative unit of instruction. As mentioned in the introduction to this book, if you are familiar with narrative and descriptive text types and all they entail, you might skim this material or forgo reading it altogether.

Since what I present here are expansive topics, sometimes authors and educators disagree on definitions and classifications. For example, are tall tales a legend or fantasy? What constitutes contemporary in contemporary realistic fiction? What is the difference between autobiography, personal narrative, and memoir? Therefore, after reading this appendix, you might confer with colleagues in your school or district to agree on the characteristics and elements specific to each genre that you will teach so there is consistency for students.

 

Appendix B

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Appendix B

Elements of Literature

This section details the elements of literature and how they are used in narrative fiction and nonfiction.

However, a narrative rarely rests on just these elements alone. When authors compose their work, they enhance these characteristics through a range of literary devices and figurative language—the focus for appendix C. For example, an author might use imagery to create a descriptive setting to elicit a mood. Or, he or she can incorporate flashbacks in a plot to add dimension to his or her work.

The purpose, task, audience, genre, and other factors drive these decisions. For activity, assessment, and lesson ideas to teach these elements, see chapters 3 (page 49), 4

(page 55), and 5 (page 111).

Elements of Literature in

Fictional Narratives

The elements of literature—or narrative elements— are the heart and soul of fictional narrative. They include characters, setting, plot, point of view, and theme. Without them, a work of fiction seems incomplete, undeveloped, or inadequate. Most standards include them in their list of reading and writing expectations. (Elements as they pertain to nonfiction narrative appear later in this appendix on page 135.)

 

Appendix C

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Appendix C

Literary Devices and

Figurative Language

This appendix provides a comprehensive overview of literary devices and figurative language that authors select and employ to suit the purpose for which they are writing and enhance a work of narration. (Some sources include figurative language under the umbrella of literary devices, whereas I choose to give them equal attention.)

I share literary examples throughout this appendix; use them for your own professional learning, if needed, or embed them within lessons to share with students. Solicit students to find examples in texts they are reading independently or as part of classroom instruction. Encourage them to or expect that they will invent their own examples in writing they compose. When making decisions about which devices and types of figurative language to teach, defer and be accountable to your grade-level content standards. For activity, assessment, and lesson ideas around some of the material in this appendix, see chapters 3 (page 49) and 4 (page 55).

 

Appendix D

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Appendix D

Sentence Structure: Complex Sentences

This appendix provides a synopsis of the mechanics of clauses and the complex sentence as an aid in teaching sentence variety. For more in-depth information about clauses and other sentence structures and to address pertinent content-area standards, you might access grammar resources like Grammar Monster (www

.grammar-monster.com), the Purdue Online Writing

Lab (https://owl.english.purdue.edu), or Walden

University Writing Center (http://academicguides

.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/composition).

A complex sentence includes one independent clause, one or more dependent clauses, and perhaps other words and phrases like modifiers or prepositional phrases. An independent clause is essentially just a simple sentence, such as the following: The dog barked. Mrs. Rothmann adheres to a regimented schedule. My son, Marshall, was accepted into a master’s program.

A dependent (or subordinate) clause, as the word denotes, depends or relies on something else. It cannot stand alone as a sentence unto itself since it does not represent a complete thought, such as the following: When

 

Appendix E

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Appendix E

Professional and Student Resources

The resources in this appendix are for your use while designing (or redesigning) a writing unit and to share with students, as appropriate. Visit go.SolutionTree.com/literacy for live links to these resources.

General Writing

The following links provide an inventory of useful writing resources for any unit, such as researching, genre elements, writing process, audience, grammar, sentence structure, and more. Navigate around each site to search for materials that will support you in designing your narrative unit. You might also discover some handouts are excellent tools that you can embed within instruction and share with students.

• Dartmouth’s “Institute for Writing and Rhetoric” (http://writing-speech.dartmouth.edu/learning

/materials-first-year-writers/attending-grammar)

• Duke (University) Thompson Writing Program (http://twp.duke.edu/twp-writing-studio)

• Google differentiated search lessons (www.google.com/intl/en-us/insidesearch/searcheducation/lessons

 

Appendix F

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Appendix F

List of Figures and Tables

Table I.1: Narrative and Descriptive Writing Overview* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Figure 1.1: Unit-planning components of backward design* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Table 1.1: Sample Grade 8 Excerpts of Writing Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Table 1.2: Narrative Writing Unit Map Item Options—KUDs and Guiding Questions* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Table 1.3: Detailed Unit Map Excerpt—ELA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Table 1.4: Detailed Unit Map Excerpt—Interdisciplinary ELA and History . . 19

Figure 1.2: Unit map blank template (option 1)* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Figure 1.3: Unit map blank template (option 2)* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

 

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