Personal Narratives



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Personal Narratives

A personal narrative is a story about a personal memory. But it’s not about any old memory. It’s about a time so important you don’t ever want to forget it. Any experience that has caused you to feel a strong emotion is a good subject for a personal narrative.

  • A personal narrative is a story about a personal memory. But it’s not about any old memory. It’s about a time so important you don’t ever want to forget it. Any experience that has caused you to feel a strong emotion is a good subject for a personal narrative.

Gathering Story Ideas

  • A good way to find ideas is to ask yourself the following types of questions:
  • Who are the important people in your life?
  • Where have you been?
  • What do you like to do?
  • What do you not like to do?

Goals for Writing

  • Ideas – Tell about one special experience.
  • Organization – List what happened in order from first to last.
  • Voice – Write as if you are talking to a friend. This is called your writer’s voice.
  • Conventions – Check your writing for correct us of capital letters, punctuation, and spelling.

Prewriting

  • Show pictures from books, magazines, and newspapers, talking about the feelings the pictures elicit in the reader. Play a cassette tape of various sounds such as fire sirens, horse stampeding, lightening crashing, which elicit various feelings and discuss them.
  • Read books such as My Five Senses by Aliki, The Relatives Came and When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, and Winfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox as springboards for memories about which to write.
  • Use a web or graphic organizer.

Collect Your Thoughts

  • As soon as you can answer the 5 W’s- Who? What? When? Where? And Why? about the experience, you’re probably ready to write.
  • Start at the Beginning – Put yourself at the beginning of the experience (“There I stood” or “As I entered the room”)

Focusing on the Most Important Part

  • Zoom in on the most important part of the memory when you write. Think about being a photographer and about zooming in on the most important part of your memory.

Organization

  • Effective writing flows from one ideas to the next: sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, item to item. The physical appearance of the text on the page also influences the reader.
  • It should have a Beginning, Middle, and an Ending.

Writing a Lead – The beginning of a story is called a lead because it leads the reader into the rest of the story. Writers must “hook” their readers in order to accomplish the purpose for which they are writing. The lead can be a short sentence or a paragraph. When it is well written, the lead pulls the reader into the story, and prepares the reader for what comes next.

  • Writing a Lead – The beginning of a story is called a lead because it leads the reader into the rest of the story. Writers must “hook” their readers in order to accomplish the purpose for which they are writing. The lead can be a short sentence or a paragraph. When it is well written, the lead pulls the reader into the story, and prepares the reader for what comes next.
  • I rode six hours in a little yellow Datsun. But it was worth it. I finally got to see the greatest concert in year.
  • Picture in your mind the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen, the one sunset that you’ll remember forever.

Lead Samplers

  • Question Lead: Have you ever watched a true hot-dog over in action?
  • Suspense Lead: A dog with the words is worth the indigestion.
  • Begin with Dialogue: “Put me down!” Amanda shouted.
  • Begin with the Main Character Introducing Himself: I might as well tell you now and get it over with. I am the shortest person in sixth grade.

Middle - Striking It Rich in Your Story

  • Add Physical Details – You do this by adding important facts and by leaving out facts that are less important to your story.
  • Example: “I went outside. The smell of hot cocoa flowed throughout the house. The fire crackled in the small red and brown bricked fireplace. My mother was stirring the beef soup. My two year old brother was quietly playing with wooden blocks that had little letters carved in them. My father sat playing a slow, sad song on his beautiful country guitar. I took off my parka and hung it on the brass coat rack. My mother gave me a bowl of hot beef soup and cocoa. The broth felt warm running down my throat. The feeling of warmth spread all over me.”

Snapshots

  • Snapshots: Zooming in to look closely at a person, place, thing, or action, etc. Add Sounds, Tastes, Smells, and Textures – Sounds make readers feel as if they were there, living the adventure with you.

Thoughtshots

  • Thoughtshots – Just as writers make physical snapshots, they can also take a snapshot of the thoughts in their characters’ heads, or in their own mind. A thoughtshot is simply a look at what a character is thinking and feeling. For example:
  • Unpacking even just the few things in her brown suitcase, always seemed a waste of time to Gilly. She never knew if she’d be in a place long enough to make it worth the bother. And yet it was something to fill the time. There were two drawers at the top and four larger ones below. She put her underwear in one of the little ones, and her shirts and jeans in one of the big ones, and then picked up the photograph from the bottom of the suitcase.

Exploding a Moment

  • This is describing a moment in time in great detail. It gets writers digging deeper for thoughtshots, snapshots, dialogue – anything to slow that moment down. Instead of just saying, “Then I dumped the milk over my sister’s head and she was a real mess.”
  • I watched myself begin this horrible deed. My hand seemed to suddenly have a will of its own. It picked up the milk carton. The spout was already open. My arm extended over Carla’s head, tipping the carton. The liquid poured in a slow, steady, thick unending stream down through her long blonde hair, soaking the back of her clothes and running onto the floor. As the milk reached the floor I shifted the spout slightly to begin another long milky journey down the front of her. It poured over her forehead, in the eyes, running in rivers down each side of her nose, converging on the chin and splashing into her plate. Her food was soon awash and the milk poured over the edge, and ran into her lap. An still I poured on – it was too late to stop now. The rapture of it all. Oh, sweet revenge.

Show Don’t Tell

  • If you do a lot of telling in your first draft, try turning it into writing that shows. If readers can’t see and hear and touch and taste and feel what you’ve written, it just won’t come to life for them. Use your five senses as you write, and show your readers what you mean.
  • Let’s say I almost drowned last summer, and I’m trying to tell a reader what it was like: “I was drowning. It was really bad. I thought I was going to die. I was really scared . . .” This is an example of “Telling”.
  • “The shape of the rock had forced his body weight out over the thin air, and he was in bad trouble. Stretched tight, the tendons above his heels began to quiver, then to tremble. His strength deserted him in a rush. He paused to rest, but his legs began to shake violently.” This is an example of “Showing”.

Combine short sentences.

  • Combine short sentences.
  • Use powerful verbs – Verbs power sentences, making them fly or jump or skin or swim”. They help make the ideas come alive for the readers. The big fish flip-flopped against Cloyd’s leg. He nudged it back into the water with his foot, then leaped across the Rincon stream.

Use Specific Nouns – Some nouns like car, fruit, stores, flowers, and candy are general and give readers a fuzzy picture. Other nouns like Ferrari, kiwi, K-Mart, tulips, and Snickers are specific and give readers a much clearer picture.

  • Use Specific Nouns – Some nouns like car, fruit, stores, flowers, and candy are general and give readers a fuzzy picture. Other nouns like Ferrari, kiwi, K-Mart, tulips, and Snickers are specific and give readers a much clearer picture.

Endings

  • Successful writing should leave the reader with more to consider. One way to end your narrative is to share something you learned from your experience or how you feel about the experience.

Prompts That Get Kids to Talk and Write

  • And?
  • Or?
  • Because?
  • So?
  • How do you know that?

Explicit Teaching of Writing

  • Think aloud as we write
  • Think aloud as we read aloud
  • Notice what authors and illustrators do
  • Think and write with students
  • Analyze effective writing of students and published authors
  • Show student examples of a particular writing genre as well as examples of published authors
  • Establish criteria for excellent writing - rubrics
  • Celebrate and publish writing

Editing – Spelling and Mechanics Do Matter!

  • Emphasize the important of correctness. Explain that the audience has to be able to read what the author has written. Words must be spelled correctly. Correct grammar must be used. Capitalization and punctuation are necessary. The audience must be able to pronounce words, know where to start, pause, and stop, and whether the tone is excited (among other things.) Make sure that the audience can ( and would want to) read our final copy.

Time to Write

  • Close your eyes. Think of a significant moment in your life that has brought about emotions such as happiness, fear, sadness, anger, etc.
  • Freewrite for 10 minutes using some of the techniques discussed previously.
  • Find someone to share your narrative.

Author Quotes

  • “I learned how to write from writers. I didn’t know any personally, but I read . . .” Cynthia Rylant
  • “Read like a wolf eats, read when they tell you not to read, and read what they tell you not to reada.” I you read enough, ultimately when you site down to write, that information is in your head and you can write, or it will start to work for you. The rest is learning mechanics, which you can learn from reading too.” Gary Paulsen


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