Engaging Literature Lessons: Exploring Narrative Voice
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is narrative voice?
  2. How to explain narrative voice to students
  3. Activities for exploring narrative voice
  4. Exemplary literature for teaching narrative voice
  5. How to analyze narrative voice in literature
  6. Why narrative voice matters
  7. Teaching tips for narrative voice

Picture this: you're in your favorite comfy chair, a good book in hand, and you're completely wrapped up in the story. The characters feel real, the world is vibrant, and the plot has you on the edge of your seat. What pulls you into this literary world? What makes this story come alive? A good part of it is the narrative voice. In today's blog, we're going to explore narrative voice in literature lessons, and how it can make or break your student's engagement with a story.

What is narrative voice?

First things first, let's clarify what we mean by 'narrative voice'. It's a term that can seem fancy, but it's actually quite simple. The narrative voice is like the 'person' who is telling the story. It's not necessarily the author, and it's not necessarily a character in the story. It's the voice that guides you through the plot, gives you insights into characters, and sets the tone and mood of the story.

Think of narrative voice as a tour guide. Imagine you're on a school trip to a museum. One guide might be bubbly and enthusiastic, making jokes and getting everyone involved. Another guide might be more serious and factual, giving you lots of information and helping you understand the history. Both guides can make the museum interesting, but in different ways. That's what the narrative voice does for a story.

So, in a nutshell:

  • The narrative voice is the 'person' telling the story. It's not necessarily a character or the author.
  • The narrative voice sets the tone and mood of the story. It can be serious, humorous, formal, informal, etc.
  • Like a tour guide, the narrative voice guides the reader through the story, offering insights and information.

Understanding the narrative voice is a key part of appreciating literature. It adds depth to the story, brings characters to life, and makes the plot more engaging. The next time you read a story or a book, pay attention to the narrative voice. You might be surprised at how much it shapes your experience.

But how do you explain this concept to students? And, more importantly, how can you make narrative voice in literature lessons engaging and fun? Stay tuned, as we'll be exploring these questions and more in the following sections.

How to explain narrative voice to students

Now that we've unpacked what narrative voice is, let's delve into how we can explain this concept to our students. Remember, we're not just teaching a term. We're opening a door to a richer understanding and enjoyment of literature.

First, it's helpful to explain to students that the narrative voice is like the personality of the book. It's the voice we 'hear' in our heads when we read. It can be chatty, formal, sarcastic, or anything in between. It's what gives a book its unique feel.

Next, try to connect the concept of narrative voice to something familiar. For example, you might ask students to think about their favorite TV show or movie. Who's the narrator? What's their personality like? How do they make the story more interesting or exciting? This can help students understand that narrative voice isn't just something in books—it's in all kinds of stories.

  • Explain that the narrative voice is like the personality of the book.
  • Connect the concept to something familiar, like a favorite TV show or movie.

One fun way to explore narrative voice in literature lessons is to have students write a short story, first in their own voice, and then in the voice of a different character. This can help them understand how changing the narrative voice can change the whole feel of a story.

In the end, teaching narrative voice isn't just about explaining a concept. It's about helping students discover a new way to connect with and enjoy literature. So have fun with it, and happy teaching!

Activities for exploring narrative voice

Teaching the concept of narrative voice to students is one thing, but helping them to truly understand and explore it is another. Here are some engaging activities you can use in your literature lessons to make narrative voice come alive.

Activity 1: Voice Switch

After reading a passage from a book, ask students to rewrite it in a different narrative voice. For instance, if the original passage is serious, they could rewrite it in a humorous or sarcastic voice. This activity teaches students how narrative voice can change the tone and mood of a story.

Activity 2: Narrator Interview

Create an imaginary interview with the narrator of a text. Have students come up with questions they would ask the narrator and then answer those questions in the voice of the narrator. This helps students dive deeper into understanding the personality, perspective, and motivations of the narrator.

Activity 3: Voice Detective

Choose a few books with distinctive narrative voices. Read the first page of each book to your students without revealing the title or author. Have them guess the book based on the narrative voice. This activity encourages students to pay closer attention to the narrative voice when they are reading.

Remember, the goal of these activities is not just to teach students about narrative voice, but to help them experience it in a way that deepens their appreciation of literature. So don't be afraid to get creative and have some fun!

Exemplary literature for teaching narrative voice

When it comes to teaching narrative voice in literature lessons, the choice of text is key. Here are a few works of literature that are well-known for their distinctive narrative voices and can serve as effective teaching tools.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

This classic novel is narrated by Scout, a young girl who observes the adults in her life and the world around her with curiosity and innocence. The narrative voice in this novel is strong and distinctive, providing students a clear example of how a narrator's perspective can shape a story.

"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

Our second example is a novel famous for its narrative voice. The story is told through the eyes of Holden Caulfield, a rebellious teenager with a unique perspective on life. His voice is cynical, direct, and incredibly distinctive, making this a great book for teaching students about the impact of narrative voice on a story.

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

Finally, "The Book Thief" provides an unusual narrative voice as the story is narrated by Death. This novel offers an excellent opportunity to explore how an unusual narrative voice can provide a unique perspective and enhance the storytelling.

Each of these books showcases a distinctive narrative voice that can help students understand this concept in a deeper and more tangible way. So, next time you're planning your literature lessons, consider including these gems!

How to analyze narrative voice in literature

Now that we've looked at some examples of narrative voice, let's get into how you can analyze it in literature lessons. It's like being a detective, picking up clues to uncover the narrator's unique voice.

Step 1: Identify the Narrator

First, you need to identify who is telling the story. Is it a character in the story, an outside observer, or something else entirely? This will help you start to understand the perspective from which the story is being told.

Step 2: Understand the Narrator's Point of View

Next, try to get into the narrator's head. What's their attitude? How do they feel about what's happening? You'll often find this information in the way they describe events and characters. In other words, it’s not just what they say—it's how they say it.

Step 3: Look for Language Use and Style

Take note of the language the narrator uses. Do they use a lot of slang or formal language? Is their speech filled with emotion or are they more logical and detached? These details can tell you a lot about the narrative voice.

Analyzing the narrative voice in literature lessons isn't just about understanding the story better. It's also about appreciating the skill and creativity that goes into crafting a unique narrative voice. So, get your detective hat on, and start exploring!

Why narrative voice matters

So, why are we spending time on the narrative voice in literature lessons? Why does it matter? Well, the narrative voice is like the secret sauce in a recipe—it can transform a good story into a great one!

Imagine reading a mystery novel where the detective's thoughts and feelings are as hidden as the criminal they're chasing. It would be hard to connect with the story, right? But if the narrative voice reveals the detective's fear, excitement, and determination, you're hooked. You're rooting for them, worrying for them. That's the power of narrative voice—it can make a story come alive.

Understanding narrative voice also helps us appreciate a writer's craft. It's not easy to create a unique, compelling voice that carries a story. So when we analyze narrative voice, we're not just understanding the story better, we're also learning to appreciate the talent and skill that goes into writing a great piece of literature.

So, remember: the narrative voice isn't just a fancy term in literature lessons. It's a crucial tool that writers use to engage readers and bring their stories to life. And that's why it's worth our time and attention.

Teaching tips for narrative voice

Now that we've explored why narrative voice matters, let's dive into some practical tips for teaching it in literature lessons. If you're a teacher, tutor, or parent, these tips could make your lessons on narrative voice even more engaging and effective. So, are you ready? Let's go!

1. Start with everyday examples: Before diving into literature, start with examples that students can relate to. Think about how different people in their lives speak—their friends, parents, teachers. How does the way they talk influence how we perceive them? It's the same with narrative voice in literature.

2. Use visual aids: Visual aids can be a great way to explain abstract concepts like narrative voice. You could use cartoons, comics, or even video clips to demonstrate how different narrative voices can change the feel of a story.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice: Like any other skill, understanding narrative voice requires practice. Encourage students to analyze the narrative voice in different pieces of literature they read. They could even try writing short pieces using different narrative voices!

4. Make it a group activity: Turn analysis of narrative voice into a group activity. This not only makes the learning process more fun but also allows students to learn from each other.

Teaching narrative voice in literature lessons can be a fun and engaging process. It's all about making it relatable, practical, and interactive. So go ahead, give these tips a try and watch your students develop a whole new appreciation for literature!

If you enjoyed learning about engaging literature lessons and want to explore the connection between narrative voice and visual storytelling, check out the workshop 'Storytelling in Illustration' by Arielle Jovellanos. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights on how to effectively convey stories through illustration, enhancing your understanding of narrative voice in various art forms.