For an essay scoring 4

Congratulations on your top-scoring narrative. To add polish to this kind of writing skill, try the following activities:

  • Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model closely. Compare it to your own narrative. Identify two ways in which your narrative and the model differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better narrative writer?
  • Create your own model essay. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model.)
    1. Consider other ways to open your narrative to get your reader’s attention. Vivid action, laced with sensory detail, is at the heart of narrative writing, so consider beginning with an attention-getting moment from your story, including at least one detail that appeals to the senses.
    2. Read your narrative closely, and highlight each detailed description of action, each vividly described thought or feeling, each sensory detail, and each snippet of dialogue. Is your story lacking in any of these types of narrative detail? If so, add more of what the story is missing. And remember to use a variety of sensory details—not just sight and hearing, but also smell, taste, and touch.
    3. Re-read your conclusion. Does it reflect on the meaning of the experience your narrative relates? Does it consider how the experience affected you (or the main character in the narrative) or what kind of lesson the narrative provided? If necessary, revise your conclusion so that your narrative finds meaning in the story you have told.
    4. Give your narrative an eye-catching title.
    5. Add annotations to your narrative. Label details of action, details of thoughts and feelings, sensory details, and dialogue. Then, share your narrative with a small group of classmates. Your annotations can help guide a discussion of your own model narrative.

For an essay scoring 3

Congratulations. You’ve written a successful narrative. But since there’s always room for improvement, try the following activities to strengthen your skill at this kind of writing:

  • Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model closely. Compare it to your own narrative. Identify two ways in which your narrative and the model differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better narrative writer?
  • Get inside the narrative. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model.)
Effective narrative writing invites a reader to share an experience from the inside out. In a personal narrative, for example, the writer remembers not only what happened but what he or she was thinking and feeling at the time. Think about personal experiences you relate to your friends. Almost always, you talk about how an experience affected you—about what you were thinking and feeling as an important event took place.
    1. Think about the event you wrote about in your narrative. How did the event affect you? What were you thinking and feeling when it happened? Answer these questions in two or three sentences. If you are telling a fictional story or a story that happened to someone else, focus on the thoughts and feelings of the main character in your narrative.
    2. Next, read your narrative carefully, and highlight phrases that describe your thoughts and feelings (or those of the main character in the narrative). Then, mark several places where you could add to your narrative by describing these thoughts and feelings.
    3. Using what you learned in the steps above, revise your narrative so that it will capture the story from the inside out.

For an essay scoring 2

Your score on this narrative shows some success with this kind of writing. What can you do to get better at narrative writing? Try the following activities:

  • Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model closely. Compare it to your own narrative. Identify two ways in which your narrative and the model differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better narrative writer?
  • Turn summary into narration. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model.)
Effective narrative writing requires details. While it is easier merely to summarize an event, a summary does not engage readers. Think about the stories you tell your friends. You spice them up with detailed descriptions of the interesting action, as well as your thoughts and feelings. And you often include parts of what was said during a remembered event.
    1. Read your narrative closely. How would you divide your story into parts? On a fresh sheet of paper, list 2–4 major parts of the story.
    2. Next, for each major part of your story, list:
      • The details of what was happening.
      • Vivid sensory details—words and phrases that appeal to the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch).
      • What you (or the main character in your story) were thinking and feeling at this point.
      • A vivid moment of conversation, if any.
    3. Using the material from step 2 above, revise your narrative. Remember, the story is in the details.

For an essay scoring 1

Your score on this narrative shows a need for further practice with this kind of writing. What can you do to learn more about narrative writing? Try the following activities:

  • Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model closely. Compare it to your own narrative. Identify two ways in which your narrative and the model differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better narrative writer?
  • Focus your narrative. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model.)
One of the most common mistakes in narrative writing is to try to include too much time in too little space. If you want to tell about an important day in your life and you try to include all of the day in a short narrative, you find yourself summarizing and leaving out all the details that make the story worthwhile. Effective storytellers focus on the important parts of the experience and leave out the rest.
    1. On the top of a fresh sheet of paper, list the event you chose for this narrative. In the space below, list three to five high points of the event—the parts of the story you’d want your friends to know about.
    2. Next, circle the most important high point on your list.
    3. Write a new narrative, focusing on the high point you circled. Make this moment come to life by using vivid description of the action. Include sensory details—words and phrases that appeal to the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch). Include your thoughts and feelings (or those of your main character). Try to use at least one piece of dialogue.

For an Unscorable essay

Your narrative has not been scored. The most common reason for this problem is that the narrative doesn’t focus on the assigned topic or doesn’t use the assigned approach to the topic. To improve your ability to interpret a narrative prompt and to write an effective narrative, try one of the following activities:

  • Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model closely. Compare it to your own narrative. Notice how the model focuses on the assigned topic. Notice that the model is narrative throughout—it tells and reflects on a story, as suggested by the wording in the prompt.
  • Analyze your prompt.

A narrative writing prompt usually assigns a broad topic but allows the writer to choose a particular event for the narrative. For example, a prompt that asks you to write about an embarrassing experience allows you to choose a particular embarrassing event for your narrative.

    1. Your prompt is at the top of this window. Print this window, and read your prompt closely. What kind of event does it ask you to narrate? The first step toward writing a successful narrative is taking the time to picture exactly what the prompt is asking you to do.
    2. Read the prompt a final time, and highlight the broad topic it assigns for this narrative.
    3. Next, make a list of particular events that would fit what you have highlighted. Concentrate on events that appeal to you and that you know really well. After you have listed several, choose the one you like best.
    4. Now, think about the event you have chosen. If you were telling a friend about it, what is the most important thing you’d want your friend to understand about it? Write your answer in one sentence. It will be the beginning of a new and more successful narrative.
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