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Teacher Tips and Answers

Prewriting for Historical Narratives

Prewriting is your first step in writing a historical narrative. These prewriting activities will help you select a topic to write about, research important details about the topic, and organize your thoughts before you begin a first draft.

Prewriting for a Writing Topic

Explore writing topics.

What historical moment will you bring to life? Begin your exploration by listing historical people, places, events, and time periods that interest you. Add a short detail about each. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.




Time Period

Meriwether Lewis (explorer of the West)

Independence Hall (Philadelphia)

March on Washington (“I Have a Dream” speech)

American Revolution (1776)














Meriwether Lewis (explorer of the West)




Independence Hall (Philadelphia)




March on Washington (“I Have a Dream” speech)



Time Period

American Revolution (1776)



Choose your topic.

Look over your list and pick the topic that interests you the most. This idea will be the starting point for your narrative. List things you already know about the topic. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

Prewriting to Gather Factual Details

Create a fact sheet.

Search your history book to find facts about your topic. Then check other reference books, search the Internet, or watch a video. List the important details that you discover in a fact sheet. These facts can help you tell your story more accurately. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

Fact Sheet


Lewis & Clark’s Expedition

Fact 1:

Thomas Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean and explore the West.

Fact 2:

The expedition began in St. Louis in May 1804 and ended in September 1806.

Fact 3:

The expedition was named the Corps of Discovery.

Fact 4:

The Corps traveled on a keel boat with two smaller boats along the Missouri River until they passed the Rocky Mountains.

Fact 5:

They encountered many different Native American tribes.

Fact 6:

Lewis documented the trip in his journals; he was the captain. Clark mapped the route; he was a lieutenant.

Fact 7:

They met Sacajawea during winter camp with the Mandan Indians.

Fact 8:

A dramatic moment happened when they reached a fork in the river before the Rocky Mountains. Luckily, they found Great Falls.

Fact 9:

They almost ran out of food while crossing the Rockies.

Fact 10:

They reached the Pacific Ocean in November 1805. They spent the winter there before returning to St. Louis.

Teaching Tip

Encourage students to research information about their writing topics from a variety of sources. This information will help make their stories more authentic.

Teaching Tip

Remind students that they can refer to their fact sheets as they draft their narratives.

Prewriting to Gather Narrative Elements

Narratives include the following key story elements:

  • Characters are the people in the story.
  • Setting is the time and place of your story. Make sure the setting is historically accurate.
  • Action is what happens in the story. The main action should include a problem to be solved.
  • Point of view is the angle from which the story is told. Your story should be told in first-person point of view, meaning you tell the story from the perspective of one of the characters.

Fill in a collection sheet.

Use this collection sheet to list the key elements of your narrative. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

Collection Sheet


Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Corps of Discovery crew members


The time is summer 1805. The place is the fork of the Missouri and Marias Rivers. Eventually, the place becomes the Great Falls of the Missouri River in Montana.


The Corps reach a fork in the Missouri River. They disagree what direction to go. They need to make the right choice if they want to make it across the Rocky Mountains before winter.

Point of view:

The story will be told from the perspective of Meriwether Lewis.

Teaching Tip

In addition to the main action, students may also create an outline of key events they want to share in their narrative. Have them do this on a separate sheet of paper.

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