Have you ever met someone at a party whose stories go on FOREVER but ultimately go nowhere? Their tales highlight pointless details with no punchline and they finish so abruptly you only realise it has ended by the five seconds of silence. Eliminating this alarming situation is an unofficial long-term goal of ours!

Photo of bored teacher

So, how will we do it? It starts with you!

Every Term, students are asked to write holiday, weekend, camping or excursion recounts. But unfortunately, so many recounts turn into dull lists of events without vibrancy or creativity. Without proper guidance, these dull recounts will evolve into terrible party anecdotes.

With your help, we can avoid this dilemma. Together, we can transform student recounts into action-packed, tension-filled and humourous adventures into the past. Can you imagine reading your students’ recounts and being captivated by their writing and truly intrigued by their holiday or weekend activities?

One of the best ways to improve writing is by reading examples of great writing. But first, here are two quick tips to create more interesting recounts.

  1. Recounts are often a list of things students have done with no sense of narrative or excitement. Students are often locked into a linear structure. Encourage them to use Step 2: Sizzling Starts to begin their recounts with action to grab the reader’s interest – then backfill the who, what, where, when.
  2. Urge students to use the five senses to build tension and paint vivid word pictures.

Four creative and captivating recounts

Below are four examples showing that adding energy, tension or humour can help your students’ writing come to life while still being informative.

Skier jumping

1. Holiday recount – My Holiday Highlights

The air was crisp, the snow was wickedly white and I was skiing fast down the mountain. Way too fast!

‘Look out!’ I cried, and the 300 people in the tow queue straight ahead ducked in fear.

My family had gone skiing for the weekend, but the single lesson I’d taken that morning had neglected to teach me how to stop. Now, suddenly, it seemed like the whole mountain was flashing before my eyes.


2. Incursion recount – The Butterfly Release

There was a buzz in the air, as we all excitedly sat around the playground. We can’t believe it is finally time. We have waited 7 weeks to do this.

Miss Harridge carried the precious insects out carefully and placed them on the playground. Students were cheering, others were watching carefully. Miss Harridge slowly unzipped the enclosure. I hope it will survive in the big wide world.

All of a sudden, the butterfly found the opening and with its beautiful bright wings, it started to flap. Up up up into the sky. We watched it soar over the playground. It looked so happy as it flew free from its cage.

Restaurant Scene

3. Imaginative recount – An Earthquake Ruined My Birthday

The waiter smiled as he put down a hot chocolate pudding right in front of me.

‘You’re not going to eat all that!’ said my Dad. ‘Here, I’ll help!’ He reached across with his spoon, he was always teasing me. I pulled my plate away fast. Everyone laughed.

‘Just a little bit,’ Dad begged.

I shook my head. It was weird, but there was a strange buzzing sound as if everything was not quite real. I lifted my spoon, my hands felt like they were shivering. Or was it really the floor shaking? It wasn’t possible, but now all the glasses were starting to clink. Suddenly one fell, shattering glass across my hands and pudding. Then the noise hit me, harsh, grinding, vibrating right into my brain…

Kayak photo

4. Camp recount – The Tipping Kayak

Wet, soggy, damp, Camp Toona was not what I expected. As the mosquitoes attached themselves to my legs, the kayak was tipping, turning, swaying. This is officially the best camp ever!

My stomach felt like it had been flipped.

Mr Wilson, our school principal, reported in the morning the lake was calm. He was wrong! Waves tumbled and smashed, Sabienne and I struggled to turn the kayak. The Bok-choy Fighters were screaming, chanting and singing. We turned the kayak around to Adam, so close now! The other team was only just getting in the water. I’m excited. I start to paddle with all my might.

We got out of the kayak, but the other team was close behind. I don’t understand? They were so far behind, but we were running to the shed. We pulled the kayak out, it was heavy. Even Aron said he had never seen a kayak move so fast on land! I pushed my jacket in the freezing water and fled to the tree to complete the challenge with my teammates.

So why is Toona the best camp ever? It’s different from every other camp. Tents for one thing. Mine was positioned at the very back of the property. Scary but fun. I cannot wait for the year 6 camp expo in 2018.

Want to see the Before version of The Tipping Kayak as an annotated sample? Check it out here on Teacher Hub!

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Download six more student recounts to use as exemplars

Carey Camp Recounts

STEP All Steps
RESOURCE TYPE Writing Samples & Exemplars

  • See how these students from Carey Baptist Grammar School wrote their camp recounts using the Seven Steps.
  • Model how to use the Seven Steps in informative writing. Can you identify the techniques used?

Looking for something practical to use in your classroom?

Teach your students to write captivating holiday recounts with an Action Activity to train young writers to use their five senses to paint vivid word pictures, including a downloadable template.