Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Narrative and Expository Text

Today, we talked about the differences between narrative and expository text. This is tough for fourth graders! When we look at books, they are pretty good at figuring out the difference between the narrative and the informational, the fiction and the nonfiction. However, with shorter pieces, they are struggling.

My fourth grade colleague (thanks, Colleen!) suggested that we look at variations of nursery rhymes, and try to figure out what kind of text they are.

Text 1
THE HILL-Two children were injured today in an apparent fall down a hillside.
The children, named Jack and Jill, were going up the hill to get a pail of water. At some point in their climb, Jack fell down. Jill soon followed. Witnesses say that she "tumbled" down the hill.
"All I wanted was a glass of water," Jill said. "But I didn't get it."
The children received minor injuries, but are reported to be doing well.

Text 2
I have never realized what a dangerous game tag could be. When my brother suggested that we go and get water, I said, "Sure!" I like going up the hill. Jack and I decided to play tag as we went up the hill.

But this wasn't a good idea. Because Jack was running, he didn't see the big rock on the hill. He tripped, and then I fell too. It was so embarrassing! I couldn't stop myself and just kept crashing and turning. It was also painful.

When I got down to the bottom, I looked at Jack. He had a cut on his head! (He was also crying.) I ran home to get our parents. I've learned an important lesson--never play tag on a hill.

What did students think? Well, as I predicted, they found these two texts to be challenging. Part of the problem is that both texts have quotations. Both also, in a sense, tell a story. Another problem is that the big feature of a newspaper article, the dateline, was of no significance for students.

The big difference between the narrative and the informational piece, as I told students, is in how they relate the events. A narrative, at its heart, reflects on events. A narrative doesn't just tell what has happened. Instead, it examines and considers the events, reshaping them and showing their significance. The fact that Jill ends the narrative by reflecting on a lesson learned shows this (in a very rudimentary form, of course!)

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