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Genre (Text Type)

Narrative Text in Teaching English

Narrative text is one of the genres taught for the eighth and ninth grade students at Junior High School. According to Rebecca (2003), a narrative text is a text, which relates a series of logically, and chronologically related events that are caused or experienced by factors. She, furthermore, states that a key to comprehending a narrative is a sense of plot, of theme, of characters, and of events, and of how they relate. In addition, Anderson and Anderson (2003a) explain that a narrative is a text that tells a story and, in doing so, entertains the audience. It has character, setting, and action. The characters, the setting, and the problem of the narrative are usually introduced in the beginning. The problem reaches its high point in the middle. The ending resolves the problem.

The verb to narrate means to tell, to give all account of. Writing narrative is really just putting what happen to somebody on paper (Widayati, 2003). In narrative, the incidents that make up the story are usually told in the order in which they would really happen. A narrative can tell what happens in a matter of minutes or years.A narrative text usually contains with features of characters, main character(s), setting, time, problem(s), solution, and a plot (structure). Some authors use plot, structure, or rhetorical step interchangeably. According to Diana (2003), a narrative text usually has description of features and rhetorical steps.

a. Plot

The plot answers the questions “What is happening in the story?” and “What is the sequence of events?” Some stories have simple and straightforward plots. Others have complex plots that make the reader think and ask questions: Who solves problems? Stories that flow well keep the reader involved and interested. Additionally, Rebecca (2003) says that plot is the sequence of events showing characters in action. This sequence is not accidental but is chosen by the author as the best way of telling his or her story. If the writer has chosen well, the plot will produce conflict, tension, and action that will arouse and hold the reader’s interest. Children want what most adults want in literature: action, happenings, questions that need answers, answers that fit questions, glimpses of happy and unhappy outcomes, discovery of how events grow and turn. According to KTSP 2006, plot (rhetorical step) is more than the sequence of actions or conflict. It is also the pattern of those actions. If the plot pattern is oversimplified by diagram, it is visualized as follows.

Rhetorical Steps of Narrative Text

The Diagram of Rhetorical Step of Narrative

Narrative order in fiction, the order in which events are related, may follow several patterns, but the most common pattern in young children’s literature is the chronological arrangement. If a story relates events in the order of their happening, their story is in chronological order, perhaps moving with the characters from one place of action to another and yet chronological. Order is easy for children to follow if within their experience; chronological order is therefore more frequent.

Rising action begins with the situation that must be shown and explained. This explanation for the situation and the characters’ condition is called exposition. It is placed in the beginning. In most stories for children, it is woven into early section so that attention is caught immediately and held. Then, this early action grows into a suspense that holds them to read. Early readers like the suspense of “What’s going to happen?” The writers for children must decide how much suspense the child can sustain and how much reassurance is needed to balance suspense. The peak and turning point of the conflict, the point at which we know the outcome of the action, is called the climax. In a progressive plot, suspense pulls the reader through the rising action to the central climax, where conflict is resolved in a manner foreshadowed and inevitable; the last questions are usually answered in a denouement, with its closed ending.

b. Characters

Characterization addresses the questions “Who are these people?” and “Are they believable?” Characters need to be authentic for the reader to connect with them. Readers seek characters whose humanity touches theirs. Characters are also easy to relate to and believe in. Characters some to life for the readers through what they say, their actions, and what others say about them.

c. Setting

Setting informs the reader of where the story is taking place. It answers the questions “Where am I?” and “What will I see if I walk around here?” More frequently, the setting falls into the background, and the reader is not particularly aware of it. Readers know immediately, however, when the setting is not well drawn, because they cannot feel the sense of where they are.

Meanwhile, Anderson and Anderson (2003b) explain five steps in constructing a narrative text. They are orientation, complication, sequence of events, resolution, and coda.

In orientation, the narrator tells the audience who is in the story, when it is happening, where it is happening, and what is happening. In complication, the narrator tells about something that will begin a chain of events. These events will affect one or more of the characters. The complication is the trigger. Then, in the next step, sequence of events, the narrator tells how the characters react to the complication. In this step, the feelings of the character and what they do are included. In addition, the events can be told in chronological order (the order in which they happen) or with flashbacks. The audience is given the narrator’s point of view. In resolution part, complication is sorted out or the problem is solved. Coda is an optional structure in a narrative. In this part, the narrator includes a coda if there is to be a moral or message to be learned from the story.

To make it brief and easier to understand, essentially the generic structures of a narrative comprise three points: orientation, complication, and resolution. The other two components as proposed by Anderson and Anderson (2003b) are just variations or can even be considered as optional since the two are not differently essentially.

Narrative can be presented as written or spoken texts. Written narratives often take the form of novels. The story is usually told by a narrator. If the narrator is one of the characters in this story, the story is said to be told in the first person. If a person outside the story is the narrator, then the story is being told in the third person (Anderson & Anderson, 2003b).

In addition, narrative text may take many kinds or forms. They are myths, fairytales, aboriginals, science, fiction, dreaming stories/bedtime stories, and romance novels. Among those forms, fairy tales or fairy story has lots of sub-forms: fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and talking animals.

Gurney in Carnine (1990) believes that stories have their own structure called story grammar. This structure often resolves around the conflicts or problems faced by the characters in the story and the characters’ attempts to resolve the problem. The story grammar components of (1) conflict, (2) goal, (3) resolution of the conflict, (4) plot, and (5) the character’s thoughts and feelings are common to many stories. By keying on the presence of these components of a story, the reader is better able to comprehend the story. The structure of a story can be simple (e.g., the components are few and written in a predictable sequence) or complex (e.g., the components are numerous and their sequence unpredictable).

Additionally, Anderson and Anderson (2003a) state that narrative usually include the following grammatical features:

a. nouns that identify the specific characters and places in the story.

b. adjectives that provide accurate description of the characters and setting.

c. time words that connect events to tell when they occur.

c. verbs that show the actions that occur in the story.

The primary rule for developing a sequence for introducing stories is to progress from simple stories to more complex stories. Factors to consider are (a) the number of characters, plots, goals, and sub-goals, (b) the number of attempts by characters to achieve the goal, (c) the explicitness of the story grammar components (the main characters, goal, and conflict), (d) the length of the story, (e) the readability of the story, and the amount of background knowledge required by students.

The purpose of a narrative, other than providing entertainment, can be to make the audience think about an issue, teach them a lesson, or excite their emotions. In well-written narration, a writer uses insight, creativity, drama, suspense, humor, or fantasy to create a central theme or impression. The details all work together to develop an identifiable story line that is easy to follow and paraphrase.


Anderson, M. & Anderson, K. 2003a. Text Types in English 2. Macmillan Education Australia PTY LTD.

Anderson, M. & Anderson, K. 2003b. Text Types in English 3. Macmillan Education Australia PTY LTD.

Carnine, D. et.al. 1990. Direct Instruction Reading. (2nd ed). Saint Louis: Merril Publishing Company.

Diana, M. 2003. Children’s Literature: An Invitation to the World. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Rebecca, J. L. 2003. A Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature. Massachuset: Pearson Education, Inc.

Widayati, S. 2003. Pembelajaran dan Evaluasi Writing. Jakarta: Departemen Pendidikan & Kebudayaan Direktorat Jenderal Pendidikan Tinggi.


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3 thoughts on “Narrative Text in Teaching English

  1. Hi there, everything is going fine here and ofcourse every one
    is sharing facts, that’s truly excellent, keep up writing.

    Posted by High school teachers | April 24, 2013, 4:46 pm
  2. Thanks for the comment and the link. It is invaluable link for my students and English teachers.

    Posted by Teaching English 4 All | May 30, 2011, 4:33 pm


  1. Pingback: If there is a will, there is a way! | Miss Attinger: Learning to teach - May 29, 2011

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