Explain to the children that a personal narrative is an individual’s life story so there should be lots of material upon which to draw when they write their own narrative.
Narrative writing tells a story from a specific viewpoint. Many children’s nursery books tell narrative stories about the ‘lives’ of trains, tugboats, bears, or pigs! Choose a story loved and remembered by the children doing this activity and read it aloud, pointing out characteristics of the personal narrative as you read.
Movies can also tell a personal narrative. After you have described a narrative’s characteristics, ask the children if they have seen a movie which fits the description of a personal narrative. One good example is the animated movie Finding Nemo (Walters, 2003).
Have the children make a story map or concept web using the details in the example movie or nursery story they have recognized as a personal narrative. Remind them to organize all the details into the introduction, body or conclusion of the narrative.
Just getting started can be the hardest part of writing. Explain to the children that this is natural and there are techniques, such as brainstorming, to help them generate ideas. Freewriting may not suit all children as a brainstorming technique and may even be frustrating to some. You may wish to research and present other brainstorming methods, such as sentence starters, listing and point form writing, letting the children choose the method where they find the most success and comfort.
When helping children proofread their work, always start with a positive and encouraging comment. If you notice one technique needing work, teach a mini lesson on that technique and then let the child correct their own work. Young children may be able to focus on just 1 or 2 techniques at a time, while older children may do more. Their stories may not be perfect; the goal is for them to enjoy writing and to write more!
If several children are doing this activity, consider having them peer edit where they assess each other's work for consistency, clarity, and impact.
Many internet sites offer techniques, samples, downloadable materials and even online applications to assist in teaching children of all ages about narrative writing. These are some sites that may help you:
Children's narrative, story grammar, and the school-age student - an excellent resource from SpeechLanguage-Resources.com.
Personal Narrative Helper - this interactive online application and checklist from TimeForKids.com guides children through the process of writing an effective personal story.
Download a printer friendly version of this My Own Story teacher notes in PDF format.