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Teaching ELL Students Narrative Writing

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  • 0:04 How Narratives Help
  • 0:46 Preparing to Write
  • 2:09 Narratives in Use
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

While sometimes overlooked, narrative writing can be a valuable academic tool in an ELL classroom. This lesson outlines how teachers can use narrative writing to enhance and improve ELL writing skills and understanding.

How Narratives Help

Narratives, which can be fiction or nonfiction, offer several benefits to ELLs (English Language Learners). First of all, narratives are useful for teaching structure, plot, and character development. When ELL students utilize narrative writing, they're essentially creating a story that's meant to both inform and entertain the reader. Secondly, narratives give students an opportunity to develop prewriting skills. When ELLs prewrite, they can make use of vital writing tools such as brainstorming and outlining. Finally, narratives enable students to communicate with the teacher and each other on a more personal level that other academic forms of writing simply do not allow.

Preparing to Write

As a teacher, students look to you for guidance. In fact, ELL students typically place even more emphasis on teacher guidance than native English-speaking students. This dependence stems from both uncertainty about elements such as vocabulary and grammar as well as a desire to learn and improve. The following guidelines can be helpful when you introduce narrative writing to ELLs:

  • Provide students with various level-appropriate examples of narrative writing. Be sure to include a mix of short, long, fiction, and nonfiction options. It's also beneficial to allow students to choose their own narratives, as they're more likely to engage with a topic or story that's of personal interest.
  • Analyze a narrative as a class. This process can be extremely helpful because it allows students to break down a larger work into smaller, more digestible elements. You can also put students into small groups and assign each group a narrative to analyze. An analysis of a narrative should include discussions about the structure, format, tone, and message of the text. You might also parse the vocabulary choices, sentence structure, and literary devices the author employs.
  • Ask students for personal critiques of narrative works. The opportunity to give personal perspectives can help students learn how to support and defend their opinions.

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