While we know that one of the best ways for students to become better writers, is to read more, we also know that explicit writing instruction is critical for student success. In our experience, out of all the different types of writing, students most enjoy personal narrative writing because it gives them a chance to tell stories, and who doesn’t love a good story?
In order to get the best writing out of your students, you can’t just assign them a topic and let them go from there. In fact, why let students get so far in the writing process that the thought of editing becomes overwhelming for them (and you!). Instead, structured and well-thought-out plans and mini lessons need to be in place to allow students to perform at their best.
We’ve discovered the best way to set up a narrative writing unit with our students is to one, use a strong mentor text so students are aware of the expectations, and two, provide them with a booklet to keep all of the mini lessons and notes in one organized place! We’ve found this to be so beneficial instead of students writing in a notebook and keeping a bunch of handouts in a folder. Instead all the the resources they need are easily accessible for writing a strong narrative
Here’s what we include in our booklet:
- A handout identifying exactly what a personal narrative is.
- A section on point-of-view in writing where students examine passages and identify the point-of-view. (This helps determine how they will write their own narratives.)
- Personal narrative quilt where students select a topic to write about or teachers can assign one for the whole class use.
- Story map where students write a phrase or two outlining the key events of their narrative.
- Crafting leads handout where students are given examples of six strong leads and then create some leads of their own. (Students LOVE this part!)
- Mini-lesson on the rules of dialogue in writing (Seriously, it’s so helpful to go over these rules before writing a rough draft! It saves so much time in editing!)
- Conclusions/endings handout where students are challenged to write various endings for their narrative
- Figurative Language cheat sheet and a challenge to improve sentences from their personal narrative using hyperbole, personification, etc…
- Transitional Words cheat sheet with practice to seamlessly use transitions in writing
- A FUN activity where students practice creating stronger sentences
- An even MORE FUN GAME to practice expanding sentences
- English Cheat Sheet (Prepositional phrases, dependent clauses, etc…)
If you’re looking to put your own Narrative Writing Unit together for your kiddos, including all or at least a good chunk of these types of mini-lessons is going to be essential for ensuring a good and effective learning experience. Here is a look at some more of the booklet that we use with our students.
We also like to include some type of fun scavenger hunt or escape room for our kids at the end of a unit, so we put together a fun Personal Narrative Scavenger Hunt for them to complete once we’ve finished our unit. This particular one assigns students six different tasks that they must complete – from rewriting the beginning using a different lead to identifying eight strong vocabulary words, they have an awesome time.
It’s a great way to review, and the kids love it! The prize is always a coveted homework pass – which the kids never seem to actually use … oh well!
If you are brand new to teaching narrative writing or are looking to supplement your existing unit with the same engaging mini lessons and games that we do, then you can grab the same resource we use by clicking here or on the image below.