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.

Where to start with personal narrative writing- using mentor texts, helpful for teaching writing in first, second, or third grade #teachingwriting #personalnarrative #firstgrade #secondgrade #thirdgrade



Knuffle Bunny by: Mo Willems

It Takes a Village

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

Personal narrative anchor chart for teaching writing to first, second, and third graders #anchorcharts #teachingwriting



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.

Where to start with teaching personal narrative writing, planning for writing, helpful for teaching first, second, or third grade #teachingwriting #personalnarrative

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:


A schedule for a week of teaching personal narrative writing, what the teacher does and what the students do #teachingwriting #personalnarrative


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.


free writing rubric for teaching personal narratives in first, second, and third grade #teachingwriting  #personalnarrative



Save yourself some time!

Feel confident teaching personal narrative writing with daily lesson plans, posters, planning graphic organizers, writing project templates, and more:

Personal Narrative Writing Unit ($) Quick-read lesson plans, graphic organizers, grammar and vocabulary integrated, writing projects, perfect for 2nd and 3rd grade students        





I hope you found something useful!


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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.