WHAT IS A RECOUNT TEXT?
A recount text retells an experience or an event that happened in the past. The purpose of a recount is to inform, entertain, and/or evaluate. Recounts are not restricted to one specific writing genre.
A recount can focus on a specific section of an event or retell the entire story. The events in a recount are usually related to the reader in chronological order. That is, in the order they happened.
There are many different styles of recount. Let’s take a look at the five main types.
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WHAT ARE THE FIVE TYPES OF RECOUNT?
Retells an activity the writer has been personally involved in. Personal recounts often build an intimate relationship between the writer and the reader. Some common types of personal recount include anecdotes, diary & journal entries, personal letters, etc. While there are some differences, a personal narrative has much in common with a personal recount. We have a complete guide to these here.
FACTUAL / NEWSPAPER RECOUNT / HISTORICAL RECOUNT
Reports the particulars of an incident by reconstructing factual information, e.g. police reconstruction of an accident, historical recount, biographical and autobiographical recounts. A factual recount is an objective recount of an actual event by someone not personally involved in the situation. Its purpose is either to inform, entertain or both. We have a very comprehensive guide to writing a historical recount which can be found here.
Records the steps in an investigation or experiment and thereby providing the basis for reported results or findings. A procedural recount records events such as a science experiment or cooking. Procedural recounts present the events chronologically (in the order in which happened). The purpose of procedural recounts is to inform the audience.
Retells a series of events for the purpose of entertainment. A literary recount is like a factual recount in many regards. Both provide details about what happened, including who was involved, when and where the event took place, and what may have resulted. A literary recount can be about real or fictional events and characters.
Applies factual knowledge to an imaginary role in order to interpret and recount events e.g. A Day in the Life of a German soldier, How I manned the first mission to the moon. An imaginative recount is the re-telling of events, usually in the first person. This style of recount allows for embellishment beyond facts and events- perfect for creative writing.
ORIENTATION Explain the who, what, when, where, of the experience in your introduction.
FOCUS Only significant events are included.
CHRONOLOGY Events are described in the sequence in which they occurred.
ORGANIZATION Relevant information is grouped in paragraphs.
INSIGHT Include personal comments, opinions or interpretations of the recounted experience or event.
TENSE First and third person are used most frequently and recall is always written in past tense. Present tense can be used for analysis and opinion.
NOUNS Use proper nouns to refer to specific people, places times and events.
VOICE Both active and passive voice are used in recounts.
CONNECTIVES Use conjunctions and connectives to link events and indicate time sequence.
POINTS TO CONSIDER BEFORE WRITING
Writing a recount is a deeply reflective process. As such, students will want to spend the most significant part of their writing time organizing the events, refining the details, and fine-tuning the language. Here are some questions for students to consider before beginning the writing process.
- What are you going to tell your audience? What are you recounting?
- What information will the audience need early in the text?
- What are the important events or parts of the recount you want to describe? In what order will they occur?
- How will you let your readers know the order of events? What language will you use to link the events?
- What other information may it be useful to include?
- How will you conclude your recount?
Students must recount the who, what, when, and where as the bare minimum. To help them organize their thoughts, encourage the use of graphic organizers and mind maps.
At this point, students should consider some of the questions their audience might ask while reading the recount. For example:
- What occurred?
- Where did it take place?
- When did it occur?
- Who were the main characters/people involved?
- Why did certain things happen?
- How did things happen?
- What were some of the reactions to the events that happened?
- What are the concluding thoughts or ideas?
A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO RECOUNT WRITING
Recounts are an excellent genre for emergent writers to cut their teeth on. Written largely in the past tense, recounts offer younger student-writers the opportunity to tell a story in writing without placing cumbersome demands on their creative abilities to construct a well-structured storyline. To avoid the necessity for any research, personal recounts are often the best place for beginners to start. All they’ll need for their plot is a half-decent memory!
HOW TO STRUCTURE A RECOUNT
In terms of structure, the 5-paragraph/hamburger essay framework is perfect for the beginning writer.
This template suits most nonfiction writing genres and lays out a composition with one introductory paragraph, followed by three body paragraphs and one concluding paragraph. To learn more about this effective format, check out our comprehensive article on the topic here.
When used in the context of writing a recount, the 5-paragraph essay will look something like this:
The Orientation: Paragraph 1
In the introductory paragraph, the student will establish the setting and introduce the characters and the topic of the recount.
The Events: Paragraphs 2-4
In the body paragraphs, the student will relate the events in chronological order using past tense verbs.
The Conclusion: Paragraph 5
In the final paragraph of their recount, the students should typically make some sort of evaluative comment on what they think or how they feel about the events they have just related.
The 5-paragraph essay format is very flexible, as students can easily alter the number of body paragraphs according to their abilities and the complexity of the events they recount.
WHAT ARE THE 5 PILLARS OF WRITING A RECOUNT TEXT?
For beginning writers, graphic organizers are extremely helpful tools to assist during the planning process. These can be built around the 5-paragraph essay structure as described above.
Another useful planning tool to help students plan their recounts is to employ The Five Pillars of a Recount.
Essentially, the five pillars comprise five questions that a student needs to answer in their recount. These are
- Who? Who are the main characters?
- When? When did the events take place?
- Where? Where did the events happen?
- What? What happened?
- Why? Why do these events matter?
By answering each of these questions, the student will have a basic outline for writing their recount.
While the who, the when, and the where are usually addressed in the orientation or introductory paragraph, the what will be taken care of in the body paragraphs, with the why most often providing the focus for the concluding paragraph.
TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT RECOUNT TEXT
- Keep the title simple that summarizes the main element of the text such as “ A trip to the Zoo.”
- Set the scene for the audience in terms of characters, setting and context. We refer to this as our orientation and it will provide the reader with all the key ingredients of the recount in the introduction by addressing the who, what, when and where.
- Keep everything in chronological order in a recount and use a variety of time transitional terms and phrases so as to keep your audience engaged throughout.
- Use a range of adjectives, try and avoid “And then, and then , and then.”
- Each new section will require a new paragraph. Be sure to check out our Each new section will require a new paragraph. Be sure to check out our own complete guide to writing perfect paragraphs here.
- Use the correct language and terms relevant to your recount. Consider your audience, and the language they will connect with.
- If you are writing from a specific point of view use the relevant language to match the perspective. Most commonly in a recount you will be recounting in the first person.
- Recounts are always written in past tense so be conscious to stay in this tense right throughout. Everything has already happened so ensure your vocabulary reflects this.
- The challenge in writing a good recount is to provide the audience with the story as it happened but to leave out incidental and boring information.
- Ensure you also clearly understand your audience, as this will have a big impact upon the language you use.
Tools & Resources
Use the resources and tools below with your students to improve their writing skills through proven teaching strategies.
RECOUNT TEXT GRAPHIC ORGANIZER (USE SLIDER)
RECOUNT WRITING TOPICS AND VISUAL PROMPTS
Often, the topic of the recount will suggest itself in the form of a title. Recounts are great for forging cross-curricular links with other subjects. For example, you may want your students to write a historical recount on a topic they covered in social studies or create a procedural recount on an experiment they completed in science.
Generally, a recount’s focus is summed up in the title. For personal recounts, providing students with a title as a prompt is a great way to get the ball rolling without being too prescriptive, as it will still be up to the student to select the specific events they write about.
Here are a few ideas for titles for personal recounts:
- My Most Magical Moment Ever
- A Moment I Will Never Forget
- A Moment I Will Always Regret
- A Trip with My Best Friend
- My Favorite Memory
- The Biggest Surprise of My Life
- My Proudest Achievement
You’ll find more recount writing prompts for students below.
Recount Writing Example (Student Writing Samples)
Below are a collection of student writing samples of recounts. Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail. Please take a moment to both read the different styles of recount in detail but also the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the key elements of a recount to consider before writing.
Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of recount writing.
We would recommend reading the example either a year above and below, as well as the grade you are currently working with to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.
STUDENT ACTIVITIES TO SUPPORT RECOUNT WRITING
A SHARED VISUAL RECOUNT
Provide an image of a major event all students could recount as a group. This could be a school camp, the Olympic games or a photo of a major event within your community, for example. Get students to work through the Who? When? Where? What? and Why?
Once you have established these, students can then start to place things in chronological order and prioritize what will be included in their recount draft.
At this point, get your students to collaborate on a recount of this shared event. You can then use these as a starting point for comparison and analysis before students write their individual recounts.
BUDDING JOURNALIST RECOUNTS
First, find a suitable video or a newspaper article. Set your students the task of taking notes on the KEY information. Make it clear to your students they are writing a BRIEF newspaper article to share information with others and that personal opinions are not required for this task. The aim here is to provide the audience with enough information to make their own opinions and inferences.
Let your students read or watch the article or video a maximum of twice. Notes should be brief. They are not trying to recreate the entire script or article.
When they have finished, check the chronology of their recounts. How successful were they in recounting the events in order?
When your students have created their own individual recounts, get them to share them with a partner. During this time, the reader will develop a flowchart of what happened and, if appropriate, be able to explain an action/reaction process such as “You ate so much cake at your party that later that night you got really sick.”
By completing this conferencing process, students will hear first-hand if their recount actually makes sense to others.
USEFUL RECOUNT GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS
WHERE CAN I FIND A COMPLETE UNIT OF WORK ON WRITING RECOUNTS?
We pride ourselves on being the web’s best resource for teaching students and teachers how to write recounts and value the fact you have taken the time to read our comprehensive guides to understand the fundamentals.
We also understand some of you just don’t have the luxury of time to create really engaging resources when you need them.
If you are time-poor and looking for an in-depth solution that encompasses all of the concepts outlined in this article I strongly recommend taking a look at The Radical Recount Writing Unit.
Working in partnership alongside Innovative Teaching Ideas we confidently recommend this resource as an all in one solution to teach recount writing.
Within this unit, you will find over 80 pages of engaging and innovative teaching ideas.
RECOUNT WRITING CHECKLIST BUNDLE
RECOUNT WRITING VIDEO TUTORIAL
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Content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and university English lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book the Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.