Looking for ideas to help your elementary students write a personal narrative?

During the school year, our elementary students must go through the experience of writing informative, narrative and persuasive texts. Of these three, the personal narrative is the text that is easiest for them to write. Students love to tell their experiences.

What teacher has not found a student eager to tell him what he did last weekend? We can use this enthusiasm to teach them how they can share their experience with others, but in written form.

What is a personal narrative?

It is a text that narrates a personal experience of the author. It is usually written in the first person. In this post I share ideas on how you can guide your students to write a personal narrative.

How can I help my students write it?

 1. Use mentor stories

Mentor stories allow the student to observe how other authors write personal narratives. The links in the following stories are affiliated with Amazon. Two mentor stories I like to use are Alexander and the Awful, Awful, Awful, Awful Day and Those Shoes.

2. Help them focus on a single event

Ask them to write about a small moment. They should focus on a special day or event. If they try to write about their vacation, then the topic would be too broad and difficult to organize in writing.

Examples of options you can provide them to start a narrative:

  • my excursion to
  • A day out with my family
  • A scary moment in my life
  • The day of my birthday
  • A special gift

3. Provide them with examples of personal narratives

Show them good examples of other personal narratives. You can show them work done by students from previous years.

4. Explain the importance of writing details and descriptions in your narrative

Their narratives should help the reader get a visual image of what they are telling. Explain what sensory details are and how they help us imagine what the author sees, hears, tastes, feels, or smells.

Present them with poorly detailed narratives and narratives with excellent detail and description. Once they recognize how the descriptions help them better imagine the story, ask them to incorporate details into their drafts.

5. Show them how to use transitional phrases and words

Transitional words and phrases help the reader establish the sequence of the story. When showing examples of narratives, underline the transition phrases used by the author. Provide a list of transition words and phrases on an anchor chart for the student to reference.

In my case, I prepare mini anchor posters (appropriately sized to stick in their composition notebooks) with a list of phrases or words to start their paragraphs.

6. Teach them to write an introduction and conclusion paragraph

The introductory paragraph should grab the reader’s attention. It can start with a question, an onomatopoeia (noise of the first thing that happened), a dialogue, or a description of the setting of the story.

The concluding paragraph should let the reader know that this is the end of the story. They can write a sentence expressing their wish that the narrated happen again. For example, “I would like to spend a day at the museum again.” They can also write about a lesson learned or their feelings about what happened.

The process of writing a personal narrative for fourth and fifth graders can take one to two weeks. This will depend on the students’ prior experience with the writing process. I hope I have shed some light on how to teach your students to write a personal narrative.

In my Personal Narrative resource available on TPT you will find everything you need to teach your primary school students how to write a personal narrative. You will be able to save time since you will find a PowerPoint presentation to teach the concept, mini posters, graphic organizers, draft sheet and worksheet with evaluation rubric.

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