English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Digital Devices
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Psychology
  • Rutledge
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Narrative Writing Assessment

    Narrative Writing Assessment


    Today, you and your classmates will show what you have learned about narrative writing by taking a quick assessment. You will also read and compare two articles that offer a positive take on the ways young Digital Natives are using technology.

    In this lesson, students will take the third in a series of three Cold Write assessments in the narrative writing genre. The Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) is an unassisted and unrevised piece of writing whose purpose is to provide a quick gauge of the student’s mastery of the characteristics of a given genre. Today’s Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) measures and provides a benchmark of students’ mastery of narrative writing.

    Students will also read and compare two articles that offer a positive take on the ways young Digital Natives are using technology.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Think of ways to help students recall what they already know about writing a narrative piece.
    • Familiarize yourself with the writing prompt and the scoring guide.
    • If you have students on an IEP or other accommodations, check to see whether they receive extended time or need an alternative test setting. Work with the professional supporting SWDs to make sure student needs are met.
    • Prepare activities for students who finish early.
    • Find the articles “Secret Messages in the Digital Age” and “The New Literacy,” both by Clive Thompson, on the Wired magazine website and share them with your students.

    Narrative Writing

    • The purpose of this Benchmark Assessment is to assess what students have learned about narrative writing since you last tested them.
    • Have a conversation with students about what they already know about writing a narrative piece. Tell them that a narrative is often called a story. If students have trouble identifying what they already know about writing a narrative piece, gauge their recall by asking what stories they have read or what stories they have written.
    • In the next task, students will take the assessment. Be prepared to do the following:
      • Answer any questions that are not of a substantive nature, providing no additional guidance about the prompt.
      • Do a quick thumbs-up/thumbs-down check to ensure that students understand the prompt and are ready to begin writing. Remind students that they will have only 20 minutes to write.
      • Tell students to begin working. When the allotted time has elapsed, tell students to stop working.
      • If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.


    Since you began school, you’ve used your imagination to write many stories. These stories are called narratives .

    Today you’ll write a narrative so that your teacher can see how much you know about writing a good story.

    Write a brief response to this question.

    What do you know about narrative writing?

    Open Notebook

    Share with the class.

    Benchmark (Cold Write): Narrative

    • Direct students to take the assessment. They will be responding to the following prompt:
      • Every ending in life also marks a new beginning. Write about something or some event in your life that marked an important ending for you. Include details about when and how this event occurred in your life and why it was significant. Include enough details so that readers can understand the importance of this event.
    • Students have had opportunities to do narrative writing throughout the year. Compare the information you gain from scoring this benchmark piece of writing with previous Cold Writes to see each student’s growth over time in the genre.
    • If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.

    Work Time

    Now you will write your narrative. Remember that a narrative is a story about events, both real and imaginary.

    You will have 20 minutes to write you narrative.

    • Write a brief narrative in response to the prompt.

    New Literacy

    • Students should start out in their small groups, even though they're reading individually at first.
    • As faster students begin to finish the process of reading and annotating, help them transition together to the next reading and provide individual support where possible to the students who are moving more slowly.
      • SWD: Make sure to confer with any struggling readers who may be behind so that they can catch up to the rest of the class. If needed, invite your professional supporting SWDs to meet with any students who need help finishing.
        • ELL: You can use this task as an opportunity to discuss with students the way that appropriate language shifts based on the context. ELLs are probably already code switching or modifying their language based on their audience (a friend versus a teacher, for example), but this can be a good time to discuss how that happens in English and why it’s important.

    Work Time

    In your small group, read “The New Literacy” by Clive Thompson. Note passages that stand out to you as surprising, confusing, or intriguing.

    After you finish, reflect on the questions below.

    • How frequently do you communicate in writing?
    • What percentage of your own writing is school-related?
    • For you, what is the main difference in writing for peers versus writing for your teacher?

    Open Notebook

    Then discuss your answers with your small group members.

    Secret Messages

    • Give students enough time to compare the main ideas in the two articles.
      • ELL: These articles feature some advanced vocabulary ( steganography , for example). If time allows, introduce the vocabulary before students begin reading, and check in with ELLs to be sure you define words they don't understand.

    Work Time

    Staying with your small group, read “Secret Messages in the Digital Age.”

    Note passages that stand out to you as surprising, confusing, or intriguing.

    After your first read-though, reflect on the questions below.

    • Why does Thompson compare modern teenagers to ancient Greek spies?
    • What is “youth steganography” and why does the author suggest it is a positive development? Do you agree?
    • Can you think of a time when you have sent a digital “secret message”? Describe the message and whether it was received as you intended.
    • What similar points are the two articles you have read in this lesson making? Sum up your answer in a few sentences.

    Open Notebook

    When you finish, discuss your answers with your small group members.

    Technology Quick Write

    • Give the students a few minutes here to reflect on the conversations they've had so far so they can connect these new ideas to their own experiences.


    In a Quick Write, gather your thoughts and impressions so far on the role technology plays in shaping our lives. Focus on the articles you’ve just read.

    • In the digital world of the modern teenager that Thompson describes, what is similar to your own experience? What’s different?

    Open Notebook

    Digital Disconnect

    • Remind the students that they should tell the relevant adults in their lives about their plan to disconnect. The due date is set as Lesson 7 , but you can choose to push it back if your students need more time to find an appropriate evening for the experiment.
    • Remind students that there will be an array of valid experiences, as some teens are very digitally connected and others are not.
      • SWD: If you have students who use assistive technology, confer with them at this point to determine what disconnecting will mean for them. The goal of this exercise is to give students the experience of disconnecting from technology that, though we often consider it essential, is actually optional. The disconnect does not extend to any assistive technology students with disabilities may require.


    Sometime between now and Lesson 7, you’re going to try an experiment in disconnecting. Choose an evening and digitally disconnect yourself. Stay off the Internet, phone, and anything else that keeps you digitally and instantaneously connected. Stay off for the whole evening if you can, and if you can’t, explain why you couldn’t.

    Make sure you let your parents or guardians know in advance about your plan to disconnect. You don’t want to scare anybody. After your evening of digital disconnection, you’ll reflect in writing on the questions below.

    • How hard was it to stay disconnected? Why was it so hard or easy?
    • How did other people react to your disappearance? Did anybody “miss you” online?
    • Were there any positive consequences to disconnecting?
    • Were there any negative consequences?
    • For how long were you able to disconnect?
    • If you had to reconnect before the evening was over, explain why.
    • Be sure to make a note of any part of this experience that might provide personal evidence for your argument paper and add it to the document you began at the beginning of Lesson 3.

    Open Notebook