Teaching Students to Compose Strong Narrative Leads

We recently finished our writing unit on personal narratives.  As with all of my units, I like to take a little time to reflect on what went well, as well as what I would like to do differently.  Today I’d like to share my thoughts and strategies on narrative leads.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing how to compose narrative leads that hook readers.  Overall, I was very pleased with the leads my students used for their narratives.

First, I went back and talked about the leads in several of our past read alouds.  I have used a variety of narratives mentor texts over the years.  The image below shows three of my all time favorites: Thundercake, Bigmama’s, and Shortcut.

Mentor texts with strong narrative leads
After going over these leads, we discussed the different strategies authors used to hook their readers.  I gave my students the list below to glue in their notebooks and to use as a reference.   (You can download a copy here.)
These great charts for writing strong leads are perfect for interactive notebooks!  They are a free download on this post.
I also gave them this list to play “Name that Lead”.  
Students practice identifying strong narrative leads.  This activity is a free download.
I made two copies of each of the leads below and placed them in various spots around the room.  Students worked with their writing partners to discuss and name the strategy for each lead.  Students placed the number of the lead next to each strategy on the recording sheet above.  Then, I displayed the leads on the SMART Board, and we had a discussion about the different types of leads.  Students weren’t always in agreement, but that’s okay.  The purpose of this activity was to expose students to the different types of leads and encourage them to apply the strategies to their own personal narratives.  I was not super rigid on coming to a whole class consensus on each lead.  
You can download a copy of “Name that Lead” here.

We will continue to address composing strong leads as we write different genres throughout the year.  One of the things I like best about teaching second grade is the huge growth that I see in my students as writers.  I am looking forward to seeing how they take what we have learned and apply it to future writings. 

I would love to know if you have a favorite mentor text for teaching narrative leads.  I am always on the lookout for great books!
Great resources to help your students compose strong narrative leads!
Thank you!

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Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.