Right before break, I spent some time giving my students some background knowledge on personal narratives to set them up for a project they’ll do in Spanish after Christmas. It’s Monday night and I’m on winter break, but I’ve been meaning to share with you what we did!
We started with exposure to personal narratives. I read multiple personal narratives through the course of a week and we discussed the important vocabulary we need to know to understand personal narratives. These words made it up on our word wall and include not only pictorial representation, but TPR hand motions, too!
Once students had the vocabulary and exposure to what a narrative is, we discussed key elements of a narrative — essentially, what makes a narrative a narrative?! To make things a little more interesting and aesthetically pleasing, I decided to run this activity using sketchnotes. Students told me what the elements of a narrative are, and I wrote them down and sketched a drawing to match our words.
From here, we engaged in an interactive writing kind of activity, which is called a Language Experience Approach (LEA) activity from the Biliteracy Unit Framework (BUF). In an LEA, you look at an experience that is shared by every child in the classroom so that you can write together about it. For this particular LEA, we wrote a personal narrative about our class field trip to the Morehead Planetarium (this worked as a great extension from our solar system and space flight unit we finished a couple weeks ago).
The next day, we looked at our LEA again. This time, students had to work in pairs and revise our personal narrative by adding details to make the narrative stronger. I gave each partnership a copy of the story, and they worked together to add and subtract pieces to the writing. At the end of the class period, we shared our new narratives and discussed the importance of details!
Reasons why I would do a lesson similar to this again:
- Engagement: My kids really enjoyed working in partnerships to revise our class narrative. It was amazing to hear some of the details they remembered, and it also made for a great teaching point — when we add details, we make it so that the reader is on the story’s journey with us! I didn’t have to redirect one kid during their time working together on this activity, which is always a plus!
- Relevance: I’m really big on making learning relevant for my kids, and this narrative-writing experience really did just that. We looked at an experience that the kids had, one that they enjoyed, and we wrote about it. There were so many connections we were able to make in discussing narratives, too (like they can be real or imagined, and we see examples of narratives in fiction and nonfiction (biographies), which opens up a completely different door for student learning.
How do you build background for students when introducing a new topic? What successful activities have you tried this year that you’ll do again in the new year?