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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Possible Uses of Narrative Literature: middle school language arts

Middle and high school students should be able to identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the structures and elements of narrative literature. In order to successfully comprehend narrative text, students need to apply the structures of story grammar.  

Narrative literature can be defined as a literature which function is to tell a fiction story or a nonfiction story. Aristotle, in one of his works of literary analysis, suggested that “a story (narrative) has three key characteristics: an unfolding of events and actions over time; emplotment (the rhetorical juxtaposition of these events and actions to evoke meaning, motive, and causality); and trouble (peripeteia-the unexpected in the form of surprise, twist in the plot)” (Greenhalgh, 2005). Narrative texts deal indeed with a collection of six events that tell a story: setting, beginning, reaction, attempt, outcome, and ending (Mandler and Johnson as cited in Roe et al., 2004). 

Narrative text may be either fiction or non-fiction. Examples of fiction include “realistic fiction, science fiction, mysteries, folk tales, fairy tales, and myths.” Non-fiction is fact-based text such as “reports, factual stories, and biographies” (Jim Burke). Narrative text can have different purpose: (1) to entertain the reader; (2) to inform the reader; and (3) to persuade the reader.  There are many advantages of using narrative literature to middle school language arts and content area classrooms. According to Gillis & Olson (as cited in Klingner & Vaughn, 1987), “children develop sensitivity to narrative structure early.” Students feel familiar with the way narrative texts are structured. So, they remember their lessons better when they are organized in a pattern which is familiar to them. Therefore, Meyer (1984) pointed out that this knowledge can help them “(1) form expectations about what they will read, (2) organize incoming information, (3) judge the relative importance of what they read, (4) improve their comprehension, and (5) enhance their recall (as cited in Klingner & Vaughn, 1987). In addition, Fernando Romero (2005) suggested that “narrative structure may facilitate memory for global information.” For example, in history class, narrative literature will appeal more to the adolescents’ emotions. They will remember the main events easier if they are presented through a narrative text with a plot, characters, problems and themes. 

To illustrate, teachers can use the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” in order to teach students about the reality of slavery. Consequently, applying good narrative literature to middle school content area classrooms will definitely “brings into the adolescents’ consciousness images of life, people, and their actions” (Rosenblatt, 1978). Furthermore, a science teacher can use narrative literature in a science class in order to help his/her students to think critically, to make inferences, to analyze, and to summarize. 

Teachers can use “narrative as a captivating vehicle for representing and communicating scientific information.” The use of narrative literature in a science class would “permeate” students’ lives outside school. It will provide “excellent models for kind of writing students might experiment with outside school” (Irvin 2007). If teachers use narrative literature in a science class, it will help them make science approachable and meaningful to their students. So, it is important to use narrative literature in a science class because it will engage the adolescents’ readers. Through the use of good narrative, the students will even “collaborate” with their classmates and they will “consider their thoughts and ideas.” Therefore, by being in contact with good narrative texts, adolescents will “create meaning through their own experiences and imagination as they apply to” the narrative text at hand. 

Moreover, the use of narrative in geography teaching can be very useful in the middle school. Good geography narrative will stimulate the students’ imagination and it will promote their geographical knowledge. To illustrate, social studies teachers can use the novel “Things Fall Apart” written by Achebe in order to give students an idea of contemporary African geography by providing the class with maps of Africa before, during, and after colonization. Besides, narrative literature is very useful in order to help adolescents tackle themes and to deal with empathic questions. The study of narrative literature will help middle and high school students to have well-crafted and sustained insight into the character at specified moment in the text. They will be able to analyse the different voices in the text and it will help them to write informed personal response which engages with the task directly. Narrative literature in language arts will help adolescents identify their values and opinions by comparing their own experiences to the protagonist’s experience. 

Nevertheless, they are some disadvantages of using only narrative text. Some students are not into narrative texts, fiction, or stories. These students prefer to read informational texts because they feel that narrative texts do not “permeate their lives outside school.” They would rather study informational texts because they can use them as models for writing. These students prefer informational texts because they like to read about facts and use the discussion questions to develop their critical thinking. 

According to Romero, Paris & Brem (2005), middle school students prefer expository texts because they are “organized into statements that allow them to follow text through logic and causality.” As a result, non-narrative text will present various structures to the students: description, sequence, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, and problem and resolution. Teachers can use direct instruction when they are using expository texts in the classroom. Ivey (2006) has stated that good informational books can serve as model for writing. But he insists that teachers must “begin with explicit instruction” and that “over time students will gradually try the skills or strategy for themselves.”
In the same manner, graphic organizers support reading and writing. Teachers should construct a graphic organizer for use with narrative text within their practicum activities. Graphic organizers help the middle school students to remember concepts and to understand abstract thinking. They also help students organize their ideas. And through the use of graphic organizers, they can show the similarities and differences among characters. Therefore, graphic organizers are important tools because they help adolescents comprehend and interpret narrative texts
Plot Summary
Setting (Where?)



Falling Action

Point of View



Effective teachers should apply the strategies needed to successfully comprehend narrative text because fiction and nonfiction appeals to the students’ emotions. An understanding of the structure of narrative texts will improve the students’ “comprehension and it will increase the consistency in their writing skills.”


Anonymous said...

Great article! You make some really great points. Anyway you have some of your citations so that I can look them up for further reference for my paper? Thank you!

Fatma Ferdj's Classroom: Education is the guardian of Democracy. said...

Thank you! Ivey & Fisher(2006) Creating Literacy Rich: Schools for Adolescents