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5 Mini-Lessons You MUST Teach for Creative Narrative Writing

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Mini-lessons are a great way to teach students about small tidbits of writing without overwhelming them. These sessions are 10-15 minutes long, which is the perfect amount of time to engage elementary students without them losing interest. In my post about Writer’s Workshop, I stress the importance of teaching writing through mini-lessons.

Here are the 5 mini-lessons you MUST teach during your creative writing unit!

Character Development

Your students all know about character traits, right? Build off of this knowledge to talk about character development in your creative narrative. Character development occurs when the author writes character actions or dialogue that gives us clues about the character’s traits, interests, and background.

In our creative narrative unit that also connects to science and reading standards, students spend time during brainstorming coming up with a strong lead character, who happens to be an astronaut on the international space station. We use this brainstorming to help us write our rough draft, which includes character development. This is a great organizer to use after your mini-lesson to help students develop their main character.

A photograph of an example of a character development activity in creative narrative writing

Setting Development

It’s imperative to teach your students to develop their setting using descriptive words and phrases. Put up photos of different places and have students come up with words and phrases to describe them. Have them orally share with a partner as if they were introducing the place to someone that has never seen it. Have students close their eyes and describe a setting to them, then have them draw a picture of how they saw the setting in their mind. There are so many fun ways to teach setting development in a 10-15 minute mini-lesson!

Sequence of Events

Your students will probably remember the sequence words they’ve learned in past grade levels: first, next, then, last, etc. This mini-lesson is a great time to reintroduce those words to show that a creative narrative has a sequence of events. Give them an example creative narrative text and then have them retell the story using these sequence words. I love to use the story Amazing Grace for this mini-lesson, as well as my mini-lesson on character development.

A screenshot of the cover of the book Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
After you retell the sequence of events using those order words, change those words to stronger transition words. My favorite list of transition words can be here.

First Immediately

Next By Now

Then Meanwhile

Finally Ultimately

After this mini-lesson, I send my students back to their seat to independently create a sequence of events for their own creative narrative. I encourage them to use transition words and we continue to work on these throughout our rough draft and revision stages.


Dialogue is one of the most important pieces of a creative narrative. It’s also one of the most difficult for students. I’ve often found myself asking, “Why can my students identify dialogue so easily, but they can’t write it correctly?” It’s all about practice, which means they need to be writing a lot of dialogue in their creative narrative writing!

For this mini-lesson, give students the rules to writing different types of dialogue.

They’re going to need to know:

  1. When a new speaker talks, it needs to be on a new line.
  2. The punctuation rules are different if the attribution is in the beginning, middle, or end.
  3. There’s always a beginning and ending quotation mark to indicate the part of the sentence that is being spoken (or thought, if someone is thinking to themselves).

I send students back to their seat with the bookmark below (from the creative narrative unit), so that they have all the rules with them. I’ve also found that they are more much more likely to use a bookmark as a resource than turn to a page of notes in their notebook – crazy, right?

A photograph of a dialogue bookmark for creative narrative writing

Strong Endings

Students really struggle with how to write a good, strong resolution to their story. You may notice that many of their stories either abruptly end, or end with “and that’s what happened” or “the end.” Teach your students about how experienced authors end their stories. Grab an ending or two from one of the short stories your class has read this year. Analyze the ending with your class during your mini-lesson and brainstorm the different parts of a strong ending.

A photograph of a sample web to teach strong endings in creative narrative writing

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Written by
April Smith