Ideas for teaching personal narrative writing to first, second, and third graders.
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Where to Start with Teaching Personal Narrative Writing
Before students start to write their own personal narratives, they need to be exposed to a good example or two. Read a personal narrative mentor text like one of those below.
Knuffle Bunny by: Mo Willems
Kitten’s First Full Moon by: Kevin Henkes
The Dandelion Seed by: Dawn Pubns
The Relatives Came by: Cynthia Rylant
Thunder Cake by: Patricia Polacco
Fireflies! by: Julie Brinckloe
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible… by:Judith Viorst
Smoky Night by: Eve Bunting
Roller Coaster by: Marla Frazee
A Chair for My Mother by: Vera B. Williams
Salt Hands by: Jane Chelsea Aragon
Owl Moon by: Jane Yolen
During or after reading point out some of the important characteristics of a personal narrative:
- It’s a story from the author’s life
- It has a beginning, middle, and end
- The author zooms in on a small moment and stretches it out with details
I think the term “personal narrative” is a lot for kids to get their heads around. This chart breaks it down a little. At the bottom, I borrow from Lucy Calkins. She encourages kids to write “small moment” stories. This means that instead of skimming the surface of an entire day with their writing, kids should choose a small moment and dig into it with details. My chart reminds kids that we can include sensory details or internal details (feelings).
Planning a Personal Narrative
I try to push my students toward using a sequential type of plan when they write personal narratives. A web-style plan wouldn’t help kids focus on the structure of a personal narrative.
The first few times students plan a personal narrative, I like to use a “my turn-your turn” approach. I write my topic, then I have them write their topic. I think aloud about my setting and write it down. Then they write down their setting. I think aloud about what happens at the beginning and write a few notes, then they do the same.
This plan comes from my personal narrative writing unit.
A Week of Instruction
Here is a way to structure a week of instruction on personal narrative writing:
You might go through this cycle 5 or 6 times to make up a complete personal narrative unit. Each week you can pick a different teaching focus. Some writing skills you might choose to focus on include:
- Using transition words
- Writing a good lead
- Using capital letters and end marks
- Including sensory details
- Using interesting words
Assessing Personal Narratives
I like using rubrics to assess writing so that kids understand exactly what they are doing well and where they could improve. Click on the picture below to get a free rubric for assessing personal narratives.
Save yourself some time!
Feel confident teaching personal narrative writing with daily lesson plans, posters, planning graphic organizers, writing project templates, and more:
I hope you found something useful!