audience · narrative · purpose · writing workshop

Narrative Writing Makes a Beautiful Gift

This post was written by guest-author Heather O’Connor, a third-grade teacher in Simsbury, CT.

“Have you ever taught a mini lesson about giving writing as a gift?” whispered my district writing coach, Melanie Meehan. That’s how she inspires my thinking … in a whisper.

At home, my husband wrapped an empty box with striped holiday paper. No label and no bow. The next morning I placed the gift below my chart-paper easel.

Upon entering the classroom, my students immediately spotted the gift.

“What is it?” “Who is it for?” “Is it someone’s birthday?” “What’s inside the box?” students asked. “You’ll have to wait until writing workshop … ” I said.

2:30 p.m. seemed so far away.

As the day continued, the students continued to talk and speculate about the gift. The energy for writing workshop was building. I love that energy.

When the students sat on the rug for workshop, they sat closer to my rocker and leaned in.

As I lifted the box up off of the floor, you could feel the energy.

In a whisper, I asked, “How many of you love receiving a gift?” Thumbs went up. “How many of you have made a card for someone?” Thumbs went up. “How many of you have made a craft for someone?” Thumbs went up. “How many of you have ever given a piece of writing as a gift?” No thumbs, but they were intrigued.

So I began to retell one of my small-moment stories that my students know well.

Do you remember my broiled cake story?

Simply put – When I baked my first cake, I broiled it by mistake. My dad ate it any way.

“Why might I want to give this story to my dad now?”

Answers included – it’ll remind him of a memory. It will make him laugh. It’ll make him realize that you know how much he loves you.

Excitedly, I revealed that I have so many gift stories to write – for my mom, my daughters, Nurse Bonnie.

Heather's picture 2

The students were eager to write their own “gift” stories. As they each made a chart of their ideas, they discovered that they have “gift” stories to write too.

This gave their writing purpose and intention over the next week.

Multiple pieces were about how someone helped them overcome a fear. Other stories were about funny moments with friends. A few stories were about mishaps.

All of the stories had an intended recipient.

The students wrapped their writing in an array of wrapping paper, and they left my classroom eager to share their gifts – the gift of words.

Heather's picture 1
Students wrapped their stories with paper I brought in to school.



11 thoughts on “Narrative Writing Makes a Beautiful Gift

  1. My (adult) writing club friends and I sometimes write as a gift, or else we write something and one of us will say- you have to give it to (that person in the story.) We agree that even if we are not published writers we have shared our writing in a meaningful way. I love this idea, of deciding the recipient and writing for them. So authentic and meaningful, and a great way to inspire- for students and every writer.
    I’d also love to hear ideas for “packaging” the writing.


  2. I love this idea! I think it could help add more meaning and focus for their small moment stories. I can’t wait to try this! Thank you for your brilliant post!


  3. Heather, love this idea! In a world of ‘giving things’, it’s such a great lesson to be introducing our students to the idea of ‘giving words and memories’.


  4. I absolutely love this! With Thanksgiving right around the corner and other holidays on its heels, the possibilities are endless! Ss also just completed thank you notes to teachers as a culminating activity after reading Fish in a Tree and Thank You, Mr. Falker. Wondering if wrapping these letters may be a fun way to deliver them this year? Who doesn’t love a gift? Thanks for the wonderful idea and post!


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