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A Few Personal Narrative Materials

When I first started teaching, it was back in the No Child Left Behind days. I was at a middle school and had 8th graders, which meant that they had to take a high stakes writing test in the spring. The state writing test at that point (the Virginia SOL) was partially multiple choice and partially writing. For the writing part, the students got a prompt that they had to respond to, but the prompt could potentially ask students to write a narrative, a persuasive essay, or an expository piece. There might even have been a fourth category, but I can’t remember and I can’t find the answer online. (I also didn’t try that hard because who cares.) The point is that we had to prepare the students to write different types of pieces, which was fun because it made for a varied year. (After this, the SOL switched exclusively to persuasive writing, so my teaching focused exclusively on persuasive writing, and it got boring for everyone very quickly.)

Anyway, this personal narrative unit was one of the first units that I taught during my first full year of teaching. The unit taught students story structure while also allowing them to write about an important topic (themselves!). I relied heavily on the HOLT textbooks that we had at the time, as they were pretty helpful and included some good handouts (some of which I still managed to save-see below.)

Since I taught this unit 15 years ago (oh. my. God.), I don’t remember the exact details about how everything linked, but I thought some of the notes and handouts could still be helpful for anyone teaching a personal narrative unit for the first time. Please see below for some handouts & resources.

Essential Questions: Personal Narrative Unit

  1. Why do we tell stories? Why are stories important?

  2. What do we learn about people after reading their stories?

Essential Understandings: Personal Narrative Unit

Reading Focus

  • Implied Main Idea

Writing Focus

  • The form of a personal narrative

  • Organization-paragraphing and transition words

  • Using accurate, appropriate, and relevant details

Grammar Focus

  • Run-on sentences

  • dialogue punctuation

Unit Assessments (including the 6 Facets)

  • Short reading comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar quizzes (Application, Explanation & Interpretation)

  • Unit test (Application)

  • The student’s own personal narrative (Application )

  • Read each other’s stories (Perspective)

  • Class discussion (Interpretation and/or Explanation)

  • Peer review participation (Application)

  • Self evaluation (Self-knowledge)

  • Class participation during workshop time

  • Sharing w/ classmate (Empathy)

Day 1


  • Students will be able to define “personal narrative”


1.Opening: Introduce the unit by orally telling a story of my own. I will enhance the story by using the overhead projector to show connecting visuals (My own pictures and clip art.)

2. Visual analysis/connection:

Directions to students:

  • Open to page 16 of the “Elements of Language” textbook and take out a sheet of loose leaf paper. (I will scan and display the picture on the overhead so that we can manipulate it with the Interwrite).

  • Title and date your sheet of looseleaf and then do the following: Study the photograph of memorabilia and identify as many items as possible.

  • Then, comment on the shapes, textures, and colors of the items in the photo and how they contribute to the meaning of the chapter, “Sharing Your Life.”

3. Discussion: I will now pass around the Interwrite board. Five students will circle or mark one of the items they listed on their sheet of looseleaf . They will only mark one item and then pass it on to the next student. As a class, we will then discuss the objects and what they mean. I will write down their comments on the Interwrite, which will project onto the screen for everyone to see. (The objects are of many textures, including rough, smooth, and fuzzy, and various shapes and colors, which represent the variety of life experiences a person has.)

4. Define Personal Narrative (I will put this definition on the Interwrite so that we can analyze the definition and highlight key words) - a story of AN experience in someone’s life. It focuses on the details- the smells, sights, and sounds associated with the experience. A personal narrative is an example of expressive writing because through the telling of the story, the author expresses his or her thoughts and feelings about the experience.

Homework: Due on Day 6: Bring in 2-3 photo(s) or 2-3 item(s) that are meaningful to you. Choose items that say something about who you are, or that represent significant experiences from your life.

5. Exit slip: What is a personal narrative?

Days 2-3

Read Example Personal Narratives

For this day I had students get an Elements of Literature textbook and read the “The Green Gulch” to themselves. I then talked through the story with them with this PowerPoint.

Next I had students read “Mrs. Flowers” by themselves and then work with a partner to answer these Mrs. Flowers questions.

Day 4- “Mrs. Flowers”


Students will apply their vocabulary words to analogies

Students will identify and write down the main idea found in Mrs. Flowers


1)Warm-Up: Students will respond to the following analogies in their three ring binder:

Loose is to tight as slack is to __________. (taut)

Mild is to gentle as kind is to __________. (benign)

Empty is to vacate as fill is to _________. (infuse)

Restless is to patient as accepting is to________. (intolerant)