Writing Personal Narratives

How to introduce personal narrative writing to a budding author.

Concept of preschool, kids education, learning and art, child drawing in class

  1. Understand what a personal narrative is and explain the writing goal to your child.
    A personal narrative is a TRUE story that tells about something in your life. [a person, an experience, an event…]   You are the author and the point of view is YOUR point of view.  Your readers should learn something about you after reading your personal narrative.   Be sure to include sensory details so that your readers can see, hear, taste, feel and/or smell, your story.
  2. Begin with oral storytelling.
    The more you tell stories together as a family, the easier it will be for your child to transfer their storytelling efforts to paper.  Tell stories around the dinner table or in the car on the way to the grocery store.   It’s okay to begin with “Once Upon a Time” but remind your child that a personal narrative is about something the author experienced.
  3. To get started, think about a small moment in your life.
    Every Tuesday I go to gymnastics class.
  4. Have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
    First I put on my leotard.
  5. Extend the experience by using descriptive words.
    First I put on my soft, pink leotard.
  6. Tell how you feel.
    I was so excited when I put on my pink leotard!  Soon I will be at City Gymnastic Center with my best friends – jumping, running , and rolling.
  7. Use dialogue when possible.
    When I get to the gym my coach always greets me at the door and says, “Hi Heather!  I’m so glad you are here today.”
  8. Finish with a picture of you at gymnastics class – perhaps while you are on the balance beam!
  9. Don’t forget to publish your book.
  10. Place your book on your special author’s shelf in your home.  You do have one don’t you?  Everyone should!

If your children are too young to write their story, have them begin with a picture about a moment in their life and ask them to dictate their personal narrative to you as you write it down.   As your child sees you write the words he/she is speaking, they will begin to connect that words (their words) actually mean something.

The biggest mistake I see parents make is that they forget their ultimate objective when they ask their child to engage in a writing activity.    If your objective is constructing perfect letter forms, that’s penmanship.    If your objective is learning to spell words correctly, that’s spelling.   If your objective is having a child grow their confidence in constructing interesting stories – then by all means focus on the story.   Don’t mix handwriting or spelling skills into the brainstorming session.   After the story is complete, you can ask a 2nd or 3rd grade child to rewrite in their best handwriting and check spelling – but remember that you are celebrating the story.   If your child keeps asking how to spell words – then you know that you have already communicated to them that correct spelling is more important than a well constructed story.   Expect consistently corrected spelling the second semester of 2nd grade and beyond.  Hopefully by then your child will be a confident and enthusiastic young author.



Why not have your young author write about a time you went apple picking together.  Don’t miss an upcoming storytelling post where Jocelyn Bartle will show you how to publish your own apple book.

Keep telling, writing, and publishing stories together!


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