Genre of Narratives and Recounts


Activity 1

Today, we're looking at the genre of storytelling. Narratives and recounts are two ways of describing events.

What do you think is the difference between narratives and recounts?

Narratives and recounts both relate events that took place in the past and which occur in a logical order.

The difference is that narratives try to make sense of what happened and link the events through cause and effect. Also, recounts tend to be factual, but narratives are usually fictional.

Read the following text. Is it a narrative or recount?

Narrative or Recount?

  • Yesterday I got up at 7.30, showered, got dressed and had breakfast of fried egg and bacon. Then I went to school. At school we had English and then Maths and then PE in the afternoon – the boys played football and we did netball. After school I had my piano lesson. I hate scales. I did my homework and after spag bol for dinner I watched telly. I went to bed at 9.

This text is a recount. It just tells us a series of unrelated events not linked by cause and effect. The only structure is the time sequence indicated by “then” and “after”.

Activity 2

Read the narrative called Nature can be kind.

How is it different from the recount?

Nature can be kind

It was a sunny day that was unbearably hot and a heron was flying around searching for food.

The clever heron saw a fish in a big pool, and dropped down so fast that the fish did not notice anything. So dangerous!

The heron opened her beak and it took a second for the fish to realize that she was going to eat him. The fish said, very afraid:

“No, please don't eat me! I have a family and I really really love them. I don't think I'm a good enough feast for you. Aren’t other fish much bigger?”

The words moved the heron, who said:

“Okay, little friend, I won't eat you. We will become good friends from now on”.

How lucky the fish was! If he hadn’t pleaded with the heron she might have eaten him up.

From then on, the thankful fish recommended other things that the heron could eat from the pool. The heron visited him when she could, because she was very thankful for the good advice that his new friend gave her.

What is the discourse structure of the narrative? What are the main elements of the story? What order are they in and why?

Narratives often follow a discourse structure with the following elements:

  1. Abstract
  2. Orientation
  3. Complication
  4. Resolution
  5. Coda

Use the handout to find the meaning of each element.

These are all phrases taken from the narrative. Put them in the correct order from top to bottom (beginning to end). Remember to follow the order: Abstract, Orientation, Complication, Resolution, Coda.

A)"Okay, little friend, I won't eat you"
B) A heron was flying around
C) It was a sunny day that was unbearably hot
D) The thankful fish recommended other things that the heron could eat from the pool
E) Nature can be kind
F) The clever heron saw a fish in a big pool

Activity 3

The genre of narratives is not only defined by its discourse structure. Each element of the narrative also tend to contain particular features of register which are used to achieve the desired effects.

What language features do you notice in the text? Where do they appear in the story?

Match the example to the correct term. Then, check where each example appears in the narrative. Why do you think each one appears where it does? What is the intended effect on the reader?


Each statement below explains the use of a grammatical feature from the previous activity. Read each statement and decide which grammatical feature it matches with before revealing the correct answer with by clicking the buttons 1-4.

State verbs like 'be' or 'have', tend to appear in the orientation. This is because they set the scene by describing the place, time, weather or characters.

Verbs in the progressive aspect also tend to appear in the orientation. This is because they describe an ongoing action which is then interrupted by the main events of the story.

Verbs in the simple past tense tend to appear throughout the rest of the complication and resolution. This is because this construction is used to narrate completed events in order. These tend to use speech or action verbs, rather that state verbs.

Adverbials of time can appear throughout the narrative. They also help to show the order of the story. This example, From then on shows how the state of affairs has changed.

Activity 4

There is one other element of narratives to examine: evaluations. These are different since they can occurr in any section of the story. Evaluatoins don't advance the narrative, but show what characters' thoughts and opinions on what's happening. 

For example:

  • So dangerous!

What other evaluations can you find in the narrative? What discourse features are used? 

Here are some other evaluations you may have found: 

  • lucky, clever, good
  • Aren't other fish much bigger?
  • I won't eat you
  • She might have eaten him up

What discourse feature does each example belong to?

What discourse feature does each example belong to?


Question, comparative

Negated modal verb

Modal verb of possibility

What do these features have in common? Why are they used for evaluations? 

What do these features have in common? Why are they used for evaluations? 

These features are used for evaluations because they show the author's or a character's opinion or thoughts. Adjectives, modal verbs and negatives express value judgments and possibilities, rather than simply telling the events of the story.

Activity 5

Look at the Jumble Narrative in the handout. This is a new narrative, but the sentences are placed in the wrong order. Put the sentences into the correct order. There are more than one correct way to order the sentences. However, you should use the discourse structure and features of register to make a meaningful narrative.

Act in haste, repent at leisure

A young woman had a pet mongoose.

It was very faithful.

One day she went to the market, and left her baby in the care of the mongoose.

At that time a big cobra entered the house.

The mongoose fought it fiercely for a long time and eventually killed it.

When the woman came back she saw the mongoose lying at the entrance with its blood-covered mouth.

Assuming the mongoose had killed her baby, in a moment of sudden fury, the woman threw the water pot at the mongoose and killed it.

Then her baby laughed loudly from the next room.

She ran there and saw her baby playing cheerfully and a big cobra lying dead nearby.

The woman shed tears of grief stroking the dead body of the mongoose.

“I wish I had not been so hasty,” she cried.


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