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9 — The structure of narrative texts and information reports

An oil painting by Renoir of two girls on a chair with a book open on one girl's lap

Above: Portrait of Jean and Geneviève Caillebotte by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1895, photo by the Yorcke Project. Public domain image, no copyright

This learning sequence explicitly focuses on the comparison of informative texts with imaginary texts and guides students to contrast the two genres in terms of their purpose and structure. Depending on how familiar students are with the structure of the narrative genre, it may be necessary to teach this sequence over several lessons.

Teacher resources

Introduction

Ensure that the students have experienced several guided reading sessions and/or independent reading of narratives, as they will be closely analysing the structure of narratives in Activity 2. Provide an opportunity for the students to discuss the characters, settings, plots and themes, and to express their opinions and preferences about the stories and characters. ACELT1591ACELT1589

Ask the students to sit in a circle on the floor, spread the books in the middle and give the students time to look at them and talk about them. When they have had enough time to examine at least three or four books each, initiate a discussion that will lead them to classify the books into two groups: story books (or narratives) and information books. Encourage the students to justify their choices, based on illustrations, font type and structure (for example, classification in an information text and orientation in a narrative) and the language and words used. Jointly come up with the purpose of each genre and display this in the room for future reference. Refer to the definitions below for guidance on this:

(Adapted from Christie, F (2005) Language Education in the Primary Years, UNSW Press, Sydney.) ACELA1463

Activity 1: Thinking about the narrative structure

Revisit the structure of an information report (factual description). Give the students, in pairs or teams, an information report that has been cut up, ask them to order it correctly and match the labels with the different stages. You can use the Sample information report on chickens worksheet or a student’s information report for this purpose. Select a good example, ask the student for permission and type it up to photocopy and cut up the copies. Elicit from the students the ways in which a narrative differs from an information report and write their responses on the board under the headings: Narrative and Information report. Inform the students that each text type has its own particular structure.

Introduce the students to the Basic structure of a narrative worksheet and model how the story of Guji-Guji can be deconstructed using the worksheet (also see the Basic structure of a narrative worksheet suggested answers). Read Guji-Guji to the students again and together fill in a large version of the worksheet, either on butcher’s paper or on the interactive whiteboard. If this is the first time they have examined the structure of the narrative genre, each section should be taught separately over the period of a week (or more).

Activity 2: Ordering jumbled narratives

In groups of two or three, the students analyse a familiar, simple story and match labels with parts of the narrative. Hand out the packs of Jumbled narratives and labels to pairs or groups and ask them to order them and put a label with each stage. Alternatively, construct your own jumbled narratives and labels using stories from your classroom, or stories the students are reading in guided reading sessions. Again, you will need to circulate between the groups as they work, clarifying and supporting reading where necessary. 

The class then gathers together and groups read out their findings to the rest of the class. Encourage the students to expand on the overview of the structure given in their outline in order to retell the story more comprehensively. Students’ responses to this task can be used to assess their ability to retell a narrative using an appropriate structure, and their comprehension of the story. ACELT1591ACELT1589

You may wish to expand the students’ understanding of the narrative genre by elaborating on each of the stages using the Detailed narrative analysis of Guji-Guji. For example, the orientation generally tells the reader who is in the story, when the story occurred and where it took place.

Reflection

Ask the students to reflect on story endings. What endings do they prefer: happy endings, endings with a moral or endings that make you think the story could continue? ACELT1590