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Recount Writing


The purpose of this style of writing is to recall an event or experience for the reader's information or enjoyment.  It differs from a narrative in that the events are portrayed in chronological order - in the order in which they occurred rather than manipulated for maximum impact or drama.

Writers should remember that while the purpose is to retell they still need to craft their retelling to be interesting to the reader.  Rather than retelling every minor detail, the writer needs to select the important information  or events, and expand on these in an interesting manner.  If you were recounting a sports day, you could focus on the place, time, events and results (which may be appropriate for a report), but to interest the reader think about what would lift this above the dreary detail - What was the highlight of the day for you?  How did you feel when you tripped just before the finish line?  Did anything funny or surprising occur?


Types of recount

  • Personal recount
     These usually retell an event that the writer was personally involved in.

  • Factual recount
     Recording an incident, eg. a science experiment, police report.

  • Imaginative recount
     Writing an imaginary role and giving details of events, eg. A day in the life of a pirate; How I invented...



  • Focuses on individual participants/events

  • Events in chronological order (the order they happened)

  • Can use features such as dialogue and description to embellish the retelling


  • the recount has a title, which usually summarises the text

  • specific participants (Mum, the crab)

  • the basic recount consists of three parts:

    1. the setting or orientation - background information answering who? when? where? why?

    2. events are identified and described in chronological order.

    3. concluding comments express a personal opinion regarding the events described

  • details are selected to help the reader reconstruct the activity or incident (Factual Recount)

  • the ending may describe the outcome of the activity, eg. in a science activity (Factual Recount)

  • details of time, place and incident need to be clearly stated, eg. At 11.15 pm, between Reid Rd and Havelock St a man drove at 140 kms toward the shopping centre (Factual Recount)

  • descriptive details may also be required to provide information, eg. He was a skinny boy with a blue shirt, red sneakers and long tied back hair (Factual Recount)

  • includes personal thoughts/reactions (Imaginative Recount)



  • is written in the past tense (she yelled, it nipped, she walked)

  • frequent use is made of words which link events in time, such as next, later, when, then, after, before, first, at the same time, as soon as she left, late on Friday)

  • recounts describe events, so plenty of use is made of verbs (action words), and of adverbs (which describe or add more detail to verbs)

  • details are often chosen to add interest or humour to the recount.

  • use of personal pronouns (I, we) (Personal Recount)

  • the passive voice may be used, eg. the bottle was filled with ink (Factual Recount)


Planning for writing a recount

It is often a good idea to brainstorm all the things that happened in the event or experience, and then select and sequence those that you will use.

Popplet is a tool you could try for this - double click anywhere on the screen to add the events and then move into chronological sequence.  You can then add title ideas and personal comments or anecdotes.


e-Learning tools to support recount writing


eBook tools

  • Book Creator is a free iPad app that allows for inclusion of text, images and sound in creating eBooks.

  • Storyjumper is a free web 2.0 tool to make eBooks - very similar to Book Creator but uses Flash so not available on iPads.

  • Comic and Meme Creator is a free Android app for making eBooks.

  • Powerpoint or Keynote can also be used to create eBooks, with action buttons being used to  create pick-a-path stories.

A recount does not always require illustration, but for some audiences or some formats, such as eBooks, illustrations could well enhance the retelling. Illustrations could be drawn freehand and then scanned or photographed for inclusion in a book or eBook, or they could be drawn on computer using free web 2.0 tools or apps. 

  • Artrage - natural painting software - free demo version or purchase for Mac or Windows $49.99, iPad app $4.99 or iPhone app $1.99

  • SketchupMake - to make 3D drawings - free for educational use in primary and secondary

  • Tux Paint - free open source art programme for kids - available for Mac, PC, iPad and Blackberry Playbook & other.

  • Kid Pix Deluxe 4 for Schools - Paint and slideshow programme for kids

Attendance at an actual event often yields good digital photos to add to the recount.  These can be cropped, rotated and enhanced using free software or apps.  

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