Personal Narrative Elements

This resource presents instructional writing practices to help English language arts teachers teach the thinking skills, processes, and knowledge needed to write an effective personal narrative essay.

This resource uses original content from the Texas Adolescent Literacy Academies: Focus on Writing (TALA Writing) professional development. Any handout numbers in this resource refer to the original TALA Writing handouts.

Download and print the handout packet for this resource by clicking the button below.

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Personal narratives are a type of literary writing based on real-life (true), personal experiences that have significant meaning for the writer. 

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

Mentor texts are teacher-selected texts that “show” rather than “tell” how authors write. Teachers explicitly teach students how to think and learn from these texts by reading them aloud and stopping periodically to verbalize their thoughts about the author’s style or craft. Then, teachers give students opportunities to apply the same ideas and features to their own writing.

Please locate Handout 34: Personal Narrative Elements and Handout 35: Personal Narrative Elements Mini-Chart from the handout packet. 

These handouts present the 10 key elements of personal narratives. Handout 34 is designed as a teacher's guide and should not be distributed to your students. The mini-chart on Handout 35 can be placed in students' writer's journals or notebooks or displayed in your classroom. 

Take a few minutes to review the 10 elements. 

When teaching students how to write personal narratives, it is important to introduce each of the elements, usually one at a time, using explicit teacher modeling and identifying the elements in mentor texts.

When you are ready, click play on the video below.


Teaching Genre Elements Through Mentor Texts

Teachers can use mentor texts to introduce and teach the elements of personal narratives. Remember, the elements should be introduced one or two at a time.

When teachers read the text aloud and conduct a think-aloud, students learn how the author crafts the different elements within the mentor text. When teachers model how to write a personal narrative that uses the elements, students begin to consider ways they can incorporate the elements into their own writing.

Please locate Handout 36: Using Mentor Texts to Identify Personal Narrative Elements from the handouts packet.

Read the mentor text "Tights and Camo" on the handout.

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

Now it is your turn to identify elements of a personal narrative. Review the "Tights and Camo" essay on Handout 36 and identify other personal narrative elements. Write the elements in the left column and mark the corresponding parts of the essay. Use Handout 34: Personal Narrative Elements as a resource during this activity.

Teaching Conventions in Context: Personal Narrative

One of the Write for Texas guiding principles for effective writing instruction is to "teach students skills for writing effective sentences in order to create coherent texts." One way to teach students how to write effective sentences is to show powerful models of sentences written by published authors, teachers, and students.

Teaching written conventions in context at the sentence level provides students with a manageable piece of text to study and then emulate. Students learn to notice and analyze what is effective in sentences and then experiment with similar language and conventions in their own writing. Students learn that the correct use of written conventions is a part of authors' craft—something writers do to create and clearly convey their message to their readers.

Locate your copy of Handout 36: Using Mentor Texts to Identify Personal Narrative Elements and the Using Model Sentences to Teach Conventions in Context handout.

Use Handout 36 and the mentor text "Tights and Camo" to complete the Using Model Sentences to Teach Conventions in Context handout, which addresses teaching dialogue and strong action verbs in context.

Next, try it out in your classroom. Select a mentor text and identify a model sentence that illustrates a written convention your students have difficulty using correctly in their own personal narratives. Use the instructional practices from the handout—noticing and imitating—to teach the targeted written convention in context. Refer to the handout Teaching Conventions in Context: Using Model Sentences (Handout 14) from the resource Teaching Written Conventions in Context (TSS0001) for more information about using model sentences to teach conventions in context. Handout 14 is available for download in the Related Items section below.