Getting a student to write a well developed story is a challenge. Young writers need to be so focused on a variety of things as they write: spelling, punctuation, topic development, sequencing, and handwriting to start. Often, because they are working so hard on putting all these things together, they lose focus on the story itself, the plot. Often they can get so wrapped up in telling the story that they tell too much. Part of my approach to having students be able to write a focused narrative this year has been to have them first focus on and develop the climax.
Using a roller coaster graphic organizer to help them visualize the rising and falling action surrounding the climax, students first decide upon their climax and write it in at the top. That way they can start to see how their entire story needs to work around that important moment they have chosen. My own students are starting to see how a good story doesn't have to span a lot of time or tell about every event, but it does need to stay focused and detailed.
After writing in their climax, they fill in their beginning sections of the plan. Once that is done, it is easy to see how all the other parts of the story center around the climax.
This has helped many students see how a story's plot is developed. We have even practiced simply planning out narratives to get a feel for how good stories really do focus on that climactic moment. Here's one you can try:
Find some paintings or photos with people in them. Have students look at and discuss the visual by describing the characters and setting they see. Then tell students to find the climax in the story surrounding the picture. Maybe the picture takes place just before or right after the climax (hence it illustrates the rising or falling action) or maybe it shows the climax of the story. Regardless, have students describe the climax of the story and then work their way around the climax by describing the rising and falling action. Finally, have the students fill in a roller coaster graphic organizer to help them further develop their ideas before writing the narrative up on paper.
The key to a really good story is the climax. How else can you help students to develop that important part of the story?