Recounting Some Thoughts On Writing Recounts

In the early years of writing many teachers require young writers to create personal recounts of particular events and incidents in which they have been involved. The aim of the recount is to relate experiences or retell events. The writer is aiming to either inform, entertain or reflect. In the piece the writer needs to create a relationship between themselves and their reader. While recounts can also be factual and imaginative, generally  the teaching focus in these  initial years is on personal recount.

In order to write a satisfactory recount students need to know:
  • How the text is structured 
  • How language features are used to achieve the purpose of the writing.   
  • An awareness of consistently using simple past tense in conjunction with expression of time and place. 
  • The use proper nouns or pronouns when making reference to participant

The word choices the young writer makes should be influenced by certain factors:

  • What do I want my writing to do?  ( it needs to be an accurate retell of the event)
  • Who is going to read this? ( awareness of audience)
  • What voice do I use? ( reporter? expert?)
  • How will I make my readers feel? (happy?, sad? informed?)

Writing a recount is easier than writing a narrative, even though recount utilizes a narrative style. My suggestion is, transition as quickly as possible from recounts to explicit instruction around narratives.  In doing this you will be taking action that enhances student writing development more rapidly. Writing narratives requires the writer to establish a conflict/problem situation and show how this leads to resolution. Events are presented to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship. The thinking required of the narrative writer therefore runs deeper. Characters, setting and tone require greater consideration from the writer. The teaching of narratives also requires more from a teacher, it must be said. The good news about teaching narratives is the existence of an extensive body of literary exemplars to assist the writing teacher. Great mentor texts are all around us.

So, if you are currently teaching young writers to produce recounts, they must be still given plenty of pre-writing time to develop their writing intentions. Writers are essentially story tellers, so, these inexperienced writers must be afforded an opportunity to clarify their thoughts, rehearse the words they might choose to include, and practice retelling the events in a way that addresses, -who, what, where, when and why.  The writer may also unpack in some detail the main event or experience forming the recount

The ultimate quality of the resultant recount will be enhanced by investing adequate time in pre-writing and rehearsal prior to the act of writing. Equally, it is important to let students view examples of good quality recounts to see for themselves how the organization of ideas, the vocabulary selection and the voice contribute to the writing of the piece. 

Many teachers lament that the recounts student present are often dull and formulaic. Well, just as a balloon is flat  until we breathe life into it, the recounts student produce require some explicit and mindful instruction in order to become something worthy of a reader's attention. 

Example of a Grade 3 Recount

Last Saturday I went to Shoreham with my family. In the morning we packed the car. At about 10 am we started the trip to Shoreham. It seemed to take a long time. After about an hour we finally got there. 

At the beach we swam and surfed all morning. Then we played beach cricket for two hours. At lunch time we ate fish and chips. In the afternoon I sat on  the rocks near the reef and searched for crabs. My Dad went fishing on the rocks. He didn't catch any fish, but he said it was very relaxing. Later we sat in the shade of a tree and ate an ice-cream. Finally we packed up for home just as the sun was beginning to set. Our day at Shoreham beach was one to remember.


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