K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • learn to identify good beginnings of narratives.
  • explain why some beginnings are better than others.
  • write a good beginning for a common class topic.
  • write three good beginnings for their own narratives.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


  • Overhead transparency (or a board) and markers
  • Stickers–three for each student
  • Several good books with a variety of beginnings (see supplementary resources)
  • Classical music to play while students write
  • Great Beginnings sheet for note taking

Technology resources

Overhead Projector



  1. Tell students that you are writing a story and that you are going to write 3 different beginnings. On the overhead transparency, write 3 different beginnings, including one negative example. For example:
    • “Last summer I went to the beach. We had a lot of fun.”
    • “I woke up and looked out the window. It was a beautiful day. When I went downstairs, I said to my kids, ‘Let’s go to the beach today!’”
    • “It was only 6:45 am and already the temperature was over 80 degrees. I couldn’t take another day of swimming in my own sweat! There was only one solution. I hollered up the stairs: ‘Hey guys, who wants to go to the beach today?!’”
  2. Have students pick the beginning that would make them want to read more. Discuss reasons that the beginning they chose is more interesting than the other beginnings.
  3. Distribute the Great Beginnings sheet to students. Read the first sentence or two of several books that you have chosen as models of good beginning to your class and discuss why you like them. Remind students to take notes on the Great Beginnings sheet as each beginning is discussed.
  4. After reading, have students share their notes and mention that good beginnings hook readers and make them want to read more.

Guided Practice

  1. Tell students that they will write the beginning of a story. Have them brainstorm a topic, perhaps a field trip or common class activity. List these ideas on the board. Let students vote on or select one idea.
  2. Tell students to turn their notes sheet over to the back. Ask them to think of a great beginning for the story topic selected. Tell students as they write you will place two stickers on their desk. They will be given instructions for using the stickers a little later. Remind students to think of the beginnings they heard earlier. Refer to their notes if necessary. Start the music and pass out the stickers. After 3-5 minutes, stop the music.
  3. In small groups, ask students to read aloud their beginnings. Ask students to take their two stickers, and place them on the papers in their group with the two beginnings they like best. Students count the stickers on their papers. Ask groups to share their two best beginnings with the class. Discuss what makes each beginning interesting.

Independent Practice/Revision Conference

Have students select one story from their writing folder. Have them write 3 different beginnings for their story. Then have them read their beginnings to a partner and have the partner pick the beginning that would make them want to read the rest of the story.


  1. Can students explain why some beginnings for narratives are better than others?
  2. Can students write a good beginning for a collaborative narrative about a shared event?
  3. Can students write a good beginning for a personal narrative?

Supplemental information

Books with Good Beginnings/Good Endings

  • The Gentle Giant Octopus by Karen Wallace
  • Bat at Night by Nicola Davies
  • Look Out Jack! The Giant is Back! by Tom Birdeye
  • A Storm on the Desert by Carolyn Lesser
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Because of Winn Dixie by Kate Dicamillo
  • My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston
  • Bubba, The Cowboy Prince by Helen Ketteman
  • Stop That Dog! The Great Gracie Chase by Cynthia Rylant
  • The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
  • Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin (Illustrator)

Other Information

  • Writing Feature: Organization
  • Writing Process Stage: Planning, Revising
  • Writing Environment: Expressive
  • Writing Genre: Personal Narrative

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Writing

        • Grade 4
          • 4.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 4

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus revision on a specific element such as:
      • word choice.
      • sequence of events and ideas.
      • transitional words.
      • sentence patterns.
  • Goal 5: The learner will apply grammar and language conventions to communicate effectively.
    • Objective 5.08: Demonstrate evidence of language cohesion by:
      • logical sequence of fiction and nonfiction retells.
      • time order sequence of events.
      • sustaining conversations on a topic.