Personal Narratives: More of What to Write

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Objective

SWBAT reflect and identify topics of interest to use in their personal narrative writing.

Big Idea

Sometimes it is difficult to come up with ideas to write about. These lists help guide students through the thinking process.

Unit Introduction

This year, our first big writing unit was on personal narratives. I always look forward to this unit and for so many reasons. First, it seems like kids have an easier time writing about themselves or their lives than just about any other topic. You can typically get any student to write about himself or an experience he’s had - even those who claim to hate writing. Second, personal narratives are a great way for me to learn about my students. Narratives reveal everything from affinities, to life experiences, to information about the relationships they have with others. I think it’s a perfect way to start them off as writers!

There are a total of nine lessons in this unit and each has been written to last a day. However, when I completed this unit in my classroom, we spent a month working through the writing process. The point of each of these lessons is to identify big ideas or major steps in the process. But, you decide how the timing schedule will work for you and your group of students. You can easily extend one of these lessons to last several days. 

To accompany the unit, I created a packet of writing response lists using graphics from Creekside Teacher Tales and Free Fonts from Kevin and Amanda.

Setting a Purpose

15 minutes

We continue talking about writing prompts. Today we focus on lists five through eight. It’s always helpful to give students examples of what to write before just having them write. Even those topics that seem obvious and perhaps easy for students. Sometimes just hearing the ideas or suggestions of others helps students feel a little freer to write their own ideas.

Prewriting

30 minutes

We continue talking about writing prompts. Today we focus on lists five through eight. It’s always helpful to give students examples of what to write before just having them write. Even those topics that seem obvious and perhaps easy for students. Sometimes just hearing the ideas or suggestions of others helps students feel a little freer to write their own ideas.

Lists such as, “Things that make me nervous,” “People I’d Like to Meet,” “Things I’d Like to Learn About,” are fairly self explanatory and go pretty easily.

“Things I Wonder About,” however, is a new list for me this year. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, but ended up being pretty pleased with their responses. I try to get them to think abstractly and throw out the question, “Why is the sky blue? Of all the colors it could be, why blue? Why not purple or yellow? I’ve just always wondered why the sky is blue!” Of course, there is a scientific reason for why the sky is blue, but kids don’t know that yet! So it gets them thinking about those questions they’ve always had, but never asked or never had answered. I got all sorts of answers - Who made God? Why do dogs like cheese? Why do feet stink? In addition to giving them some interesting writing topics, we’ll use this list later in the year when we write informational reports.

You decide how much time to allow them to think and list. I only gave them about five minutes per list. This way students get several ideas down, but have plenty of room to add to each list as the year goes by.

Closure

10 minutes

I usually have a few students share one item from each list that we complete. Not only do I get to see if they’re getting it, but this also helps the whole class think of other topics they might want to add to their own lists.