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Writing Personal Narratives: Gathering Ideas

I LOVE writing Personal Narratives with my students! I have a way to get them writing that works every time. I always get compliments on how detailed their writing is, and on how much writing is on each page of their narratives.Writing Personal Narratives

The process starts with a lesson that gets their creative juices going! This is the lesson where we gather ideas for stories that we want to write. 

Step 1

  • I prepare my easel with a piece of chart paper divided into four boxes. I label each box with an emotion like Happy, Sad, Mad, and Scared. I also hand out a similar looking paper to each student, and ask them to keep it on their desks (More about this later.)

Narrative Writing Ideas
I make this chart ahead of time.

  • With the kids gathered on the carpet, I explain that our next writing unit will be all about writing Personal Narratives. 
  • I tell them that to write good personal narratives we need to remember things that happened to us, so we can tell those stories to our audience.
  • Using the chart I made, I model "remembering".
  • I think out loud as I share a memory of an event that made me feel happy, and I make a quick sketch of that memory on the box labeled "Happy".

Narrative Writing Ideas
I make a quick sketch of a memory.

  • Next, I remember something that made me sad, and sketch it. I remember and sketch for each of the emotions on the chart paper.

Narrative Writing Ideas
I practiced drawing the foot before teaching the lesson to save valuable time.
Note: Think about the stories you want to tell and the sketches you want to make. I even practice drawing so I don't take up too much of the lesson trying to figure out what to do.

Step 2

This is where I think the success of my lesson lays. 

  • Before I ask my students to work independently on their sketches, I give them time to remember their experiences on a safe, collaborative environment, and I give them an opportunity to share their memories with a friend.
  • I have students turn to a partner on the carpet. They decide who "Partner 1" is and who "Partner 2" is. Partner 1 tells Partner 2 his happy memory. Then Partner 2 tells Partner 1 his happy memory. They take turns telling each other a memory for each of the feelings on my chart.
Note: If you can, sit on the carpet with students you know need encouragement. Then, walk around and jump in when students are off task, or not engaged.

Step 3

  • When I sense that most students had a chance to share a few stories, I call on 2 kids to share a story with the class.
  • I remind students that writers work quietly and stay focused, and that I expect to see everyone doing their best work until the end of our writing lesson.

Step 4

  • I turn on soft classical music, and ask students go to their seats to sketch their memories on the papers I handed out earlier. 

This is what the paper looks like:

Narrative Writing Template
Personal Narrative Writing Template

  • If you don't have a template like this one, you can ask your students to fold a piece of paper into 4 boxes and copy the headings from your chart. I have done this lesson both ways, and they work just fine!
  • At the end of the lesson students put a checkmark in the box next to the story they want to write. Then, they put their papers in their Writing Folders until the next day. 

There you have it!

Narrative Writing Templates
A 1st Grade student's Personal Narrative sketches.
  • Your students have 4 potential stories that they remembered, talked about, and sketched. 
  • Because they know their stories intimately, it is easy to help someone who gets stuck once the writing process starts. Just ask them to tell you what happened!
  • Also, having a sketch is a visual reminder for days to come, and a good point to start a conversation when you confer!

If you liked this post and want to see how this process continues, check out my next post on writing Personal Narratives:

Writing Personal Narratives: Using Graphic Organizers and Kinesthetic Learning

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