Essay Narrative Conventions

Focus Question: How can we use the revision and editing steps of the writing process to improve a narrative essay?

Part 1

“You have all done a lot of work to study the elements and devices in your drafts, and you’ve worked in groups to develop your theme. Now you will use the Narrative Essay Revising and Editing Guidelines to review what you have written. In your small groups, give and listen to feedback on the use of the guidelines.” Give each student a copy of the Narrative Essay Revising and Editing Guidelines (LW-7-3-3_Revising and Editing Guidelines.docx). Place students in small groups and explain that they will be giving and receiving feedback on their narrative essays using these guidelines to evaluate the essays. Students should also have their completed graphic organizers for reference. Tell them they will use the feedback they receive from you and from their peers to write a final draft of the essay.

Explain the purpose of the peer editing process: to uncover weaknesses in the essay so that the writer can strengthen the essay before writing a final draft. Students should also point out the strengths of the essay or what they liked most. Explain that feedback is most helpful when it is specific. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t like the ending,” say, “I really don’t understand how the problem was solved,” or “I’m not sure the main character learned the lesson that you hinted at.”

After students have given an overall response to the essay, they should use the highlighters to point out specific parts of the essay that need work. A different colored highlighter can be assigned to each section of the revision guidelines (for example, yellow for organization, pink for focus and content, etc.). Make sure that students take plenty of time with this step. Monitor the groups to ensure that they make good progress.

Part 2

When the groups have completed their editing, students are now ready to write the final draft. If you feel that students have too many edits to make based on so much feedback, divide the process into two rounds of revisions, one that focuses solely on your suggestions from the end of the last lesson, and one that incorporates their peer edits from this lesson. Explain that they should make major revisions first—e.g., content and organization—before fixing errors in grammar and conventions.

“You’re now ready to write your final draft. There are many comments and editing opportunities to consider. Before you begin to make grammar and conventions edits, make the necessary revisions on content organization. Your content’s organization is what will tie the essay together and make it feel complete. If your content organization is strong, making edits to grammar and conventions will make the essay feel polished.”

If appropriate, help students review correct usage of quotations with dialogue.

Give students copies of the PSSA Grades 6–8 Narrative Scoring Guidelines (LW-7-3-3_PSSA Grades 6–8 Narrative Scoring Guidelines.docx). Explain that these rubrics are what you will use to evaluate the essay. They should refer to the guidelines as they write their final drafts to make sure that they have included all aspects of the rubric.


  • Have students publish their narratives online. (ClassChatter is a free Web site that will allow students to read and comment on each other’s stories. Only those with the teacher-created password will be allowed to read and comment on the posts.)
  • Students who need additional opportunities with revising will benefit from seeing an example of a revised/marked-up essay.
  • Students who are stalled during the revising and editing stages may make appointments to conference one-on-one with you.
LEO: Literacy Education Online

Narrative Essays

As a mode of expository writing, the narrative approach, more than any other, offers writers a chance to think and write about themselves. We all have experiences lodged in our memories which are worthy of sharing with readers. Yet sometimes they are so fused with other memories that a lot of the time spent in writing narrative is in the prewriting stage.

In this stage, writers first need to select an incident worthy of writing about and, second, to find relevance in that incident. To do this, writers might ask themselves what about the incident provided new insights or awareness. Finally, writers must dredge up details which will make the incident real for readers.

Principles of Writing Narrative Essays

Once an incident is chosen, the writer should keep three principles in mind.
  1. Remember to involve readers in the story. It is much more interesting to actually recreate an incident for readers than to simply tell about it.
  2. Find a generalization which the story supports. This is the only way the writer's personal experience will take on meaning for readers. This generalization does not have to encompass humanity as a whole; it can concern the writer, men, women, or children of various ages and backgrounds.
  3. Remember that although the main component of a narrative is the story, details must be carefully selected to support, explain, and enhance the story.

Conventions of Narrative Essays

In writing your narrative essay, keep the following conventions in mind.
  • Narratives are generally written in the first person, that is, using "I." However, third person ("he," "she," or "it") can also be used.
  • Narratives rely on concrete, sensory details to convey their point. These details should create a unified, forceful effect, a dominant impression. More information on sensory details is available.
  • Narratives, as stories, should include these story conventions: a plot, including setting and characters; a climax; and an ending.

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© 1995, 1996, 1997 The Write Place
This handout was written by Judith Kilborn for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

Last update: 28 September 1997



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