Revising Narrative Texts: Organization | EL Education Curriculum

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These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • W.4.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
  • W.4.3a: Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
  • W.4.3b: Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
  • W.4.5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
  • L.4.2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
  • L.4.2b: Use commas and quotation marks to mark direct speech and quotations from a text.
  • L.4.3: Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
  • L.4.3a: Choose words and phrases to convey ideas precisely.

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can critique my writing partner's narrative for organization and provide kind, helpful, and specific feedback. (W.4.3, W.4.5)
  • I can explain how authors of narratives use dialogue to help the reader understand the thoughts, feelings, and responses of characters. (W.4.3, L.4.3a)
  • I can use commas and quotation marks correctly to show dialogue. (L.4.2b)

Ongoing Assessment

  • Choose-your-own-adventure narrative (annotated first draft) (W.4.3, W.4.5, L.4.2b, L.4.3a)
  • Narrative Feedback recording form (W.4.5)


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Reviewing Learning Targets (10 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Peer Critique of Drafts: Introductions (20 minutes)

B. Annotating Drafts for Revision (10 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Examining Models of Dialogue (20 minutes)

4. Homework

A. Complete two of the dialogue practices from your homework resources for this unit.

B. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt to respond to in the front of your independent reading journal.

Purpose of lesson and alignment to standards: 

  • Each day starting with this lesson, students revise their work using a different colored pencil for each different focus (W.4.5). See supporting materials and Work Time C.
  • The second part of this lesson helps students identify how authors of narrative text strategically use dialogue to show their characters' thoughts and feelings (W.4.3b). Students examine dialogue in two narratives and discuss why the author chose to use dialogue in a particular part of the story. 
  • The research reading students complete for homework will help to build both their vocabulary and knowledge pertaining to animals and specifically animal defenses. By participating in this volume of reading over a span of time, students will develop a wide base of knowledge about the world and the words that help to describe and make sense of it.
  • Students who finish quickly can practice writing dialogue for their narratives so far. Ensure that this is done in a separate document, not in their actual narratives yet. 
  • In preparation for Lesson 10, consider having students read others' narratives and give them ideas about what they imagine the characters saying while they read.
  • In this module, the habit of character focus is contributing to a better world. The characteristic they are reminded of in this lesson is: use my strengths as they critique a peer's introduction.

How it builds on previous work: 

  • In Unit 1, students built background knowledge about animal defenses. In Unit 2, student groups researched a specific animal. This is the first lesson in a series that will focus on revising the choose-your-own-adventure narratives.
  • Continue to use Goals 1-3 Conversation Cues to promote productive and equitable conversation.

Areas where students may need additional support: 

  • Students may not remember any of the dialogue work from grade 3. Be prepared that this may require more thorough re-teaching, depending on how much students remember.

Assessment Guidance: 

  • Copy the Mid-Unit 3 Assessments completed in the previous lesson so you can return these to students to work on in this lesson. When assessing and providing feedback to students on their drafts, use only row A of the rubric: Reading connection. Read students' drafts and Tracking Progress reflections from Lesson 8 side by side to determine next steps for instruction for individual students during the second half of this unit. Complete feedback on these drafts by Lesson 13 so students can incorporate your suggestions into their second drafts.
  • Consider using the Speaking and Listening Informal Assessment: Collaborative Discussion Checklist during students' peer critique in Work Time A. See the Tools page.
  • Consider using the Writing Informal Assessment: Writing and Language Skills Checklist (Grade 4) during students' writing in Work Time B. See the Tools page.
  • Collect in comic-strip homework (Lesson 7).

Down the road: 

  • In Lesson 10, students will learn the conventions of using dialogue (indenting, quotation marks, etc.), plan where to add dialogue for their narratives, and add dialogue with proper conventions. To further support students, you may consider providing additional dialogue models from other texts they have read as a class. Students will benefit from seeing multiple models of how authors use dialogue in narrative texts.

In Advance

  • Display anchor charts (see materials below).
  • Organize students in pairs to critique each other's writing.
  • Review the Peer Critique protocol (see Classroom Protocols).
  • Post: Learning targets.

Tech and Multimedia

  • Work Time C: If students are creating their writing on a shared document like a Google Doc, ask them to color code the revisions they make in green text or highlight revisions in green.
  • Work Time D: digital anchor chart: Instead of using chart paper, record students' thinking on a class Google Doc for them to refer to when working on their writing outside of class.
  • Closing and Assessment A: dialogue videos: There are a number of free videos about adding dialogue to writing on YouTube and Vimeo. Perform a video search for "using dialogue in writing" in a search engine. Carefully preview the video to ensure that it is age appropriate and meets the criteria of the lesson. Be aware that many free online videos contain advertisements that may not be suitable for children.

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 4.I.A.1, 4.I.A.2, 4.I.A.3, 4.I.B.5, 4.I.B.6, 4.I.B.7, 4.I.B.8, 4.I.C.10, 4.I.C.11, 4.I.C.12, 4.II.A.1, 4.II.B.5

Important points in the lesson itself

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs with opportunities to discuss the meaning of peer writing and the ways writers create dialogue.
  • ELLs may find it challenging to understand portions of other student language during the narrative peer critique, much less the plot structures of narrative texts. Allow students to focus on orally negotiating the meaning of critical portions of the draft, such as when the animal encounters the predator. As students participate in the valuable process of inquiring about, explaining, and clarifying the meaning of specific phrases and sentences, both reader and writer will further develop their language ability.

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • Ask students if there are equivalents of capitalization, quotation marks, and punctuation in their home language. Invite them to write samples on the board to compare them with English. All students are often fascinated to learn about the home languages of their peers.

For heavier support:

  • Show students a short excerpt from a video that clearly contrasts dialogue with exposition. Have students orally retell the video story, then write a brief version, using correctly punctuated dialogue to mimic the video. You might choose a video in the students' home language if all students share the same home language. Or you could ask a student with advanced language proficiency to translate the dialogue for students with a different home language. Then, all students could write (a version of) the dialogue with correct punctuation. If students are unfamiliar with English punctuation, consider showing the video, inviting them to tell you to pause the video every time there's dialogue. Finally, ask students to retell the video story.
  • Using the guidelines on the Writing Dialogue handout, allow ELLs to find examples of each punctuation feature in "Powerful Polly." Ask them why the author used that punctuation.

Universal Design for Learning

  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): In this lesson, further support students in understanding how authors use dialogue in narrative texts, consider providing additional examples after this lesson from narrative texts that are familiar to the class.
  • Multiple Means of Action & Expression (MMAE): Some students may need additional support building understanding around the "non-negotiables." Consider taking extra time to have students work in four (or eight, depending on class size) smaller groups to create a skit that shows what one of these four non-negotiables looks like in action. 
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): Consider meeting in advance with students who are likely struggle with critique. Model appropriate ways to give kind, helpful, and specific feedback. Consider allowing some students to get a "sneak preview" of their partners' narrative. If necessary, read it aloud to them so they can spend their time and energy during the critique on critiquing rather than trying to read and comprehend their partners' work. You may also consider preparing students to work with the Narrative Feedback recording forms by sharing what sorts of things they would write in each box. Additionally, students may benefit from seeing you demonstrate annotating a draft for revisions, using a specific color for a specific revision focus.


Key: (L): Lesson-Specific Vocabulary; (T): Text-Specific Vocabulary; (W): Vocabulary used in writing

  • organize, events, makes sense, critique, specific, dialogue (L)


  • Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Narrative anchor chart (begun in Lesson 1)
  • Performance Task anchor chart (begun in Lesson 1)
  • Steps for Planning and Drafting My Narrative anchor chart (begun in Lesson 4)
  • Narrative Writing Checklist (from Lesson 3; one per student and one to display)
  • Peer Critique Protocol anchor chart (begun in Module 1, Unit 3)
  • Narrative Feedback recording form (one per student and one to display)
  • Choose-your-own-adventure narrative (first draft) (from Lesson 8; one per student)
  • Expert Group Animal Narrative Planning graphic organizer (from Lesson 5; one per student)
  • Introduction Expansion graphic organizer (from Lesson 7; one per student)
  • Contributing to a Better World anchor chart (from Unit 1, Lesson 1)
  • Green colored pencils (one per student)
  • Steps for Revising My Writing anchor chart (begun in Unit 2, Lesson 10)
  • Writing Dialogue handout (one per student and one to display)
  • "Powerful Polly" pufferfish narrative (from Lesson 3; one per student and one to display)


Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reviewing Learning Targets (10 minutes)

  • Draw students' attention to the posted anchor charts: Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Narrative anchor chart, Performance Task anchor chart, and Steps for Planning and Drafting My Narrative anchor chart.
  • Display and invite students to take out their copies of the Narrative Writing Checklist and read the following criterion:
    • W.4.3c
  • Review vocabulary from this criterion by asking:

"What do we mean by organize?" (how a piece of writing is ordered)

"What do we mean by events?" (the action of the story, or the parts of the plot--the introduction, rising action, problem, solution, and conclusion)

"What do we mean by makes sense?" (is not confusing to the reader)

  • Remind students that when they drafted the introduction to their choose-your-own-adventure narrative for the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment, they had to organize the events in a way that made sense to the reader. For example, in real life the animal wouldn't activate its defense mechanism until there is a predator it needs to defend itself from, so their narrative needs to do the same.
  • Ask:

"Are there any specific criteria about organizing the events in this narrative that you should be aware of and list in that column on the checklist?"

  • Listen for students to suggest that they don't need to add anything here, as this criterion is clear enough as it is.
  • Invite students to record 'Y' for 'Yes' and the date in the final column of their Narrative Writing Checklist if they feel the criteria marked on their checklists have been achieved in their writing from the mid-unit assessment.
  • Read aloud the learning targets: 
    • "I can critique my writing partner's narrative for organization and provide kind, helpful, and specific feedback."
    • "I can explain how authors of narratives use dialogue to help the reader understand the thoughts, feelings, and responses of characters."
    • "I can use commas and quotation marks correctly to show dialogue."
  • Ask students to identify parts of the learning targets that are unfamiliar or confusing. Pay particular attention to the meanings of the words specific, critique, and dialogue as you clarify the meaning of the targets with students.
  • For students who may need additional with writing fluency: Provide a sentence starter in the student criteria column of their checklist. (MMAE)
  • For ELLs: Allow students to pair-share an example of how the events in their narratives are organized in a way that makes sense.
  • Students may benefit from finding an example of dialogue in "Powerful Polly." Ask them what this sample helps them understand: thoughts, feelings, or response. (Some of the samples may fulfill multiple functions.) Then, students can search "Powerful Polly" for examples in three categories: dialogue that helps the reader understand thoughts, dialogue that helps the reader understand feelings, and dialogue that helps the reader understand responses. (MMR)

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Peer Critique of Drafts: Introductions (20 minutes)

  • Turn students' attention to the Critique Protocol anchor chart and review the main components of a successful critique. 
  • Remind students that giving and receiving critique and feedback is something they practiced earlier in this unit and in Module 1. 
  • Tell students that today they are going to listen to their partners read their choose-your-own-adventure narrative drafts twice. Tell them that each time they hear their partner's narrative, they will focus their feedback on a specific criterion of the Narrative Writing Checklist. Invite students to draw a star next to this criterion:
    • W.4.3a
  • Explain that pointing out misspelled words or incorrect punctuation will not be helpful at this point in the writing process. Instead, they should save that for the editing stage and focus more on content today. 
  • Distribute the Narrative Feedback recording forms. Explain that this is where students will record their partner's feedback and their next steps.
  • Have students read the directions on the Critique Protocol anchor chart.
  • If possible, partner students with a classmate from the same expert group (monarch butterfly with monarch butterfly, gazelle with gazelle, etc.).
  • Return students' original copies of their choose-your-own-adventure narrative (first drafts) from the mid-unit assessment. Invite them to take out their Expert Group Animal Narrative Planning and Introduction Expansion graphic organizers. 
  • Address any clarifying questions and then invite students to begin.
  • Circulate to support the critique process, helping students to follow the protocol and focus their feedback using the relevant criteria on the checklist.
  • Focus students on the Contributing to a Better World anchor chart, specifically use my strengths. Use a checking for understanding protocol for students to reflect on how they used their strengths when giving and receiving critique.
  • For students who may need additional support with peer critique: Consider modeling with the model paragraph from the millipede narrative. (MMAE, MME)
  • For ELLs: Consider giving students support in critiquing the language of ELL narrative drafts. Sentence frames can help focus critiques in a kind, specific, helpful way. Examples:
    • "I'm not sure what this phrase means. Can you explain it to me?"
    • "I'm confused about the order of events. Maybe you could use the words started by and then to put them in order."
    • "Do you mean _____?"
    • "Maybe you could change this word so that it happened in the past. You can add -ed."
    • "I like that you used the past tense here."
    • "I like that you used the word then here. You might consider adding then here, too."
    • "I like that you used was _____-ing here. It shows that this event was happening at the same time that the other events happened."

B. Annotating Drafts for Revision (10 minutes)

  • Have students thank their partners and move to their own workspaces. Explain that they will now use their partner's feedback and their reflection from the Narrative Writing Checklist from Opening A to make revision notes on their drafts.
  • Be sure that every student has a green colored pencil. Post the Steps for Revising My Writing anchor chart:
  1. Choose the correct colored pencil. Today's color is _____.
  2. Decide where you are going to add a revision note based on feedback or new learning.
  3. Write your revision note in the space above the sentence you want to change.
  4. Read through your entire narrative and continue to record your revision notes.
  5. Review your revision notes to be sure they make sense.
  • Tell students that you would like them to add notes to their drafts using the green colored pencils today. (This step in the anchor chart will vary from day to day depending on the color used for revisions. See the Teaching Notes of each subsequent lesson.)
  • Explain to students that since they skipped lines when they wrote their drafts, you would like them to write their revision notes--telling what they will add or change--on these blank lines. Explain that this will allow them to easily read and reread their drafts and note changes at the same time without erasing or crossing things out.
  • Circulate to confer and support students as needed.
  • For students who may need additional support with information processing: Invite students to annotate each type of revision of their drafts (e.g., ideas, organization) with a different colored pencil. This will allow them to keep track of the focus of each revision. (MMR, MMAE)
  • To support visual learners, consider displaying a few sentences written with skipped lines to demonstrate this note-taking technique. (MMR)

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Examining Models of Dialogue (20 minutes)

  • Display and distribute the Writing Dialogue handout. 
  • Briefly review how to punctuate dialogue. (Students should have learned this in grade 3.) Ask: 

"How does a writer show you when a character is speaking?" 

  • Listen for students to mention commas and quotation marks. Demonstrate briefly by focusing them on the example sentences on the Writing Dialogue handout: 
    • The teacher said, "I am glad to see you today, Joe."
    • "I'm happy to be here!" replied Joe.
  • Explain that these examples show that someone is talking.
  • Ask students what they notice about the examples. They should notice:
    • Quotation marks around the actual words the characters said
    • Comma at the end of speech when the sentence isn't finished
    • Comma before speech to show speech is coming
    • Punctuation (period, comma, exclamation mark, etc.) within the quotation marks
    • Capital letter at the beginning of the words that were spoken
    • New paragraphs are started when a different character is speaking.
  • If they don't notice each of these features, ask questions to guide students to those features and connect them to the list on the handout.
  • Ask: 

"Are the words 'said the teacher' what the teacher said? How do we know?" (No; they are not within the quotation marks.)

"Are the words 'Joe replied' what Joe said? How do we know?" (No; they are not within the quotation marks.)

  • Remind students that when authors want to show that a character is speaking, they use quotation marks to show the words spoken by the character. 
  • Ask students to get out their copies of "Powerful Polly." 
  • Invite them to chorally read it aloud with you.
  • Explain that you are going to read it aloud a second time, and this time students should look for examples of dialogue.
  • Ask students to complete the following the process with a partner:

1. Read the text and underline any examples of dialogue you notice.

2. Discuss with your partner: "What does the dialogue show a reader in this text?"

  • Focus students whole group. Ask students to share what they noticed. They might notice, "The dialogue helped the readers to understand how Polly was feeling about seeing the shark and what her thoughts were about what to do next." 
  • Ask:

"Why do authors use dialogue?" (Responses will vary.)

  • Connect students' responses to the list on the handout.
  • If productive, cue students to listen carefully and seek to understand:

"Who can tell us what your classmate said in your own words?" (Responses will vary.)

  • Tell students they will come back to this handout during the next lesson.
  • Focus students on the learning targets. Read each one aloud, pausing after each to use a checking for understanding protocol for students to reflect on their comfort level with or show how close they are to meeting each target. Make note of students who may need additional support with each of the learning targets moving forward.
  • Repeat, inviting students to self-assess how well they used their strengths in this lesson.
  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with fluency: Make sure students know that quotation marks and commas are read differently from the way letters are read. Commas tell us to pause. Quotation marks tell us a character is saying something, and we can read in the "voice" of that character. (MMAE)
  • For ELLs: Allow students to refer back to the samples of dialogue they categorized in Opening A. 
  • For ELLs: To reinforce punctuation conventions and prepare for the end of unit assessment, invite students to complete and discuss this multiple choice question: 

Choose the sentence that is punctuated correctly. (L.4.2b)

1. Marty looked up nervously and "thought to himself, What was that?" 

2. Marty looked up nervously and thought to himself, "what was that!"

3. Marty looked up nervously and thought to himself, "What was that?"

4. "Marty looked up nervously and thought to himself," What was that!

To expand, invite students to add a line of correctly punctuated dialogue where the toad responds to Marty's question.


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs

A. There are three dialogue practices in your homework resources for this unit. Complete at least two of them.

B. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt to respond to in the front of your independent reading journal.

  • For ELLs: To facilitate success for students who need heavier support in the dialogue practice, make sure students have a copy of the guidelines on the Writing Dialogue handout. Provide the correctly punctuated versions of some of the sentences on the homework in addition to the versions with errors. Students can identify and explain the corrections. Also, provide models for homework tasks in which students have to rewrite sentences from scratch.
  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with reading and writing: Refer to the suggested homework support in Lesson 1. (MMAE, MMR)

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