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Writing the Hot Spot First

A 4th grade teacher and I were experimenting with notebook entries during a unit on narrative writing.

One of the teacher’s concerns was the students’ selection of detail.   It seemed they did not know which details were okay to leave out of their stories.   She had noticed that students often included unnecessary detail, which resulted in “bed-to-bed” stories that lacked focus.  How, she wondered, could we get them to write more focused narratives?  And what types of entries could they make in their writer’s notebooks to help them with this process?

One of the instructional strategies we tried was to have them write their “hot spot” first.  The hot spot is the climax of the story, the most exciting part, the crescendo.  Before we wrote any of our other notebook entries, we wrote our hot spots.  It was the first bit of writing we did after choosing our topics.  This was a new way to enter into the narrative for us.

Here is my notebook entry from my imagined narrative about a Halloween when my two daughters actually became their Halloween costumes.


(The bottom of the page shows a revision technique.  Choose one sentence, circle it, and on the bottom of the page, write 3 more sentences off of it to add detail.)

The results of having the students write their hot spots first were positive.  After reviewing their final drafts, the  classroom teacher and I noticed that:

  • There were very few bed-to-bed stories.
  • The hot spots were described with sufficient detail and specificity.  We attributed the depth of detail to both writing the hot spot first and also the use of the revision technique of “Add 3 More” (seen in my notebook entry above.)
  • The hot spot was easily identified by the reader.

We were pleased with the results.  Writing the hot spot first is one way to enter into a narrative.

Dana Murphy View All

Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer

12 thoughts on “Writing the Hot Spot First Leave a comment

  1. I’m going to try writing the hot spot first in my own writing. I think I (and many writers) often get so caught up trying to write the perfect introduction that we lose it once we get to the climax of the story. What an important lesson for us all!


  2. I love this Dana. Coincidentally, I was just discussing this with my students TODAY. Details and the time frame of events in a narrative… my students were critiquing a mentor text and didn’t appreciate how the climax was so brief, “He died then, Bam. Over,” I think were the exact words of my student, Andrew. Yes. yes, and yes. I am trying this this week.


  3. I am going to try that with my own writing, like you did in your notebook. Sometimes I just don’t know what my story is really revolving around – this will really help. Thanks!!


  4. Thanks for this idea. I will definitely apply it with my students. I get tired of reading personal narratives that start with first and go on to then, then, and then. Some of our writing tools become good writing killers. This is true for sequencing words. Starting with a “hot spot” will surely help them get away from this and help them write more interesting stories.


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