Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Text Features: Narratives

It can be easy to overlook teaching the text features of narratives. After all, kids usually seem to have an easier time understanding narratives. Also, the text features of novels and stories are not usually as obvious as the text features of expository text.

But young readers, especially those making the leap into books without many pictures, need to learn how to navigate narrative text features. During read aloud, I've been showing students some of the features of the books we've been sharing.

New paragraph for change of speaker: While it is obvious to skilled readers, young readers often have trouble  tracking the speaker in a conversation. Recognizing that authors show the speaker by starting a new paragraph helps readers to understand who is talking.

Breaks to show change of time or place: When the action in a narrative shifts, writers often signal this with a space. This tells a reader to be prepared for a change.

Different fonts to signal point of view shift: Many stories are told by alternating narrators. Authors usually show this with different fonts or styles. In The Magic Thief, for example, there are occasional excerpts from Nevery's journal. These are printed on gray paper with italic text. Readers need to be able to recognize the print features that point to the narrator shift.

Dates in diaries: When a narrative is told through a diary format, the author shows the passage of time with dates. These are usually written in a bold print to draw the reader's eye.

Looking at these narrative text features is helping my students to add features to their writing, as well. Today, a student said, "Hey." He waited patiently at my elbow until I finished with answering another student's question. Then he showed me his journal. "I'm having two people talk in my story. And I'm using a different kind of writing to show that they are different people. Look." His handwritten attempt at a different kind of font was to make the r's backwards! What a creative way to personalize the text feature.

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