Personal Narratives 101 by Jennifer Mitchell

 As a teacher, adding childhood memories into my writing lessons is something that I focus on each fall.  In our district we always start with a personal narrative unit, it seems to be an easy way for kids to ease into writing for the year-- who doesn’t love to share about a time in their life?  I also think it is an important way to build relationships with students, it gives me an opportunity to have conversations with them about what they selected to write about.  Even reserved students like to tell me about the memory they are writing about, and that builds trust.  Writing at any age can feel overwhelming, but personal narratives seem to resonate with students, and they have a willingness to get their thoughts on paper. 

As a bonus hopefully they see me as a real person not just a teacher-- someone who went on vacations, attended church camp, liked to water ski, and most importantly (the one they always love to hear about) me hitting my grandparents house with my mom’s car twenty-one days after I had gotten my driver’s license.  If that story doesn’t make me a real person to my students I am not sure what will. : )  It is a great memory to be able to model feelings and details for students, because thirty years later I can still remember it very vividly. 

Currently, I am using my summer vacation to Disneyland as my example for personal narrative writing.  I have a student who also went on vacation there this summer. As I was modeling my writing for my class today I was able to draw on her as my expert to make sure my details were accurate. 

Building connections and a writing community with memories is such a great place to get students thinking about their writing (and ready to put thoughts on paper)!

I am a teacher in the Kansas City area :)


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