Recount Writing for Junior Students
Sarah Tulley
July 2012
Authors of a 2010 American survey lament that very little attention has been paid
to how writing is taught in grades 4 – 6, compared to age groups above and below this
group (Gilbert and Graham, 2010). The same survey also asked teachers to share what
forms of writing they teach most often. Journal writing was the second most popular
writing form, with 62% of respondents reporting that their students write journals at least
once a week (Gilbert and Graham, 2010). One might conclude that students have lots
of practise with this writing form at the expense of developing proficiency in other
Scouring the internet for examples of recounts in the junior grades, it becomes
apparent that there are many ways for students to share a first person account of
events: journals, memoirs, diaries, comic strips, short stories, etc. In my personal
experience, I have seen journal writing used regularly in primary and sometimes junior
classrooms. It often takes a traditional form and teachers rely on it as a regular writing
sample from their students. Students become weary of writing journals on a regular
basis. The task becomes boring and the result is writing that clearly sequences events
but lacks voice, humour, and depth.
How then, can recount writing be tailored to meet the needs of junior students?
Various teaching resources attempt to explain how junior students can write recounts in
a way that is more sophisticated than their early journaling experiences. The New South
Wales Government has published a guide of student work samples, which provides
examples of different writing forms. Student work samples are provided at
developmental Stages 1, 2, and 3. Students writing recounts at Stage 2 have been
“discussing the structure of recounts. They had been involved in a range of joint
construction activities”. (New South Wales Government, 1998, p. 108). Specific
outcomes for students include:
uses past tense in recounts
writes more involved recounts
uses the conjunction ‘then’ to sequence events in time
combines ideas in writing
combines clauses by using ‘and’, ‘but’
uses a variety of time connectives
uses action verbs, e.g. wake up, wrapped, went, made
uses adverbial phrases, e.g. ‘on Sunday at 8 o’clock’, ‘to the kitchen’, to add
information about actions
uses quoted speech, e.g. ‘Happy Mother’s Day’
identifies possible spelling errors in own writing, e.g. by circling or underlining
doubtful words
spells many common words correctly in own writing (New South Wales
Government, 1998, p.108)
Here is an example of student work from the New South Wales Government document
(this appears to be writing typical of a student in the early junior grades):
(1998, p. 108)
The Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat (LNS) has created a resource that
outlines the important features of non-fiction writing for junior students. This resource
names the following goals for students writing recounts:
recounts are usually written in the first person, in the past tense, and in
chronological order. The writer uses “doing” or action clauses.
“scene setting” (opening/orientation) – “I went to the symphony with my class.”
retelling of the events as they occurred – “I studied every move that the
conductor made.”
closing statement (reorientation) – “When we got back from the trip, I conducted
my friends singing ‘Yellow Submarine’ in 4/4, 2/4 and 3/4 time, using the same
moves.” (2008, p. 4)
Various resources, including the LNS resource, describe different organizational patterns
that junior students should be aware of when reading and writing non-fiction texts. They
include chronological order, concept/definition, description, episode,
generalization/principle, process/cause and effect (1998, p. 6). One or more of these
patterns can exist in different text forms. They should be modeled and explored with
students (1998, p. 6).
Some educators argue that children find writing non-fiction more challenging
than fiction due the prescribed text structures (Wray, 2001). To support students, authors
like Wray have suggested the use of writing frames (2001). This is a skeletal framework to
assist in the pre-writing stage, so that students don’t “wander” between different writing
forms (Wray, 2001, p. 3) An internet search for recount writing frames reveals a number
of graphic organizers prompting students to include basic elements such as the 5 Ws
and beginning, middle, and end.
Because many students have been writing recounts in the form of journals since a
young age, I think it is important to model and encourage different forms of expression
in the junior grades. Recounts can be shared in a diary, a comic strip, a pod cast, a
dramatic reenactment, a comedy sketch, or a flow chart. On the other hand, the fact
that many junior students are familiar with this writing form can be taken as an
opportunity for students to enhance their craft as writers. When they write recounts,
students can be exposed to and practice using humour, dialogue, metaphor, complex
sentence structure, or word choice.
Gilbert, J. and Graham, S. (2010). Teaching Writing to Elementary Students in Grades 4 6: A National Survey. The Elementary School Journal, 110 (4), 494 – 518.
Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. (2008). Non-fiction Writing for the Junior Student
(Secretariat Special Edition #5). Available online:
New South Wales Government. (2008). Student Work Samples: Writing. (K – 6
Educational Resources: English Syllabus). Available online:
Wray, D. (2001). Developing Factual Writing: An Approach Through Scaffolding. Paper
delivered at European Reading Conference. Dublin, Ireland.

Recount Writing for Junior Students