The art of writing a Personal Narrative can be compelling. It is a form through which one can express personal life events narrated in the first person. It could also involve the narration of fictional events that give the impression of being real.
If given a choice, most students prefer this form. And why so?
This is because students
- can connect to real events in their life and find writing easier
- are able to communicate their emotions
- reflect on a lesson learned if writing on a life event
- can take on the persona of a character and write from their perspective.
No wonder, students prefer this form over a third person narrative or a short story. I believe that whatever the form, the art of story-telling is powerful in itself. It entertains, informs, and provides insight into human nature. And that, for us as humans, is intriguing enough.
Personally, as a student writer myself (in the distant past), I preferred to pen my thoughts on paper. Not that I had a choice, back then pen and paper was the only choice. Digital writing was not an option.
As a teacher too, I would encourage my students to do the same. I believed, there was something about the feel of the writing tool in hand that tickled creativity. It brought words to life on a blank piece of paper.
Living in the Digital Age
Of course, all this changed when the global pandemic hit, and all learning in school went remote. Digital writing became the norm. It was then that I realized students who found writing overwhelming were actually handing in completed written assignments.
It dawned on me that digital writing, more so by using the medium of Easel by TpT, made writing a digital narrative easy.
Students could type away onto the scaffolded templates.
They could easily ‘erase’ after a sudden change of thought.
They could cut, copy and paste to fluidly organize paragraphs. Now that’s structure and cohesion all taken care of.
Below is a step-by-step approach to how I assigned a personal narrative writing assignment to my students.
Step 1: Assign a Digital Personal Narrative Writing Prompt
With the digital writing tools in TpT by Easel, students can respond to a visual prompt conveniently. They can plan, annotate, and type their responses digitally.
When it comes to pre-writing or brainstorming a personal narrative, students can easily document ideas that come to mind.
Only with digital writing, students have the flexibility to rearrange, add or delete text as they see fit. A positive is that it doesn’t look messy as is often the case with the paper version.
Once students have jotted down all their personal narrative pre-writing big ideas, they can narrow it down to a specific one. This is the idea around which their personal narrative will evolve.
The digital template enables students to use the pen tool. They choose their narrative starter. They also refer to the checklist as they write.
Step 2: Framing the Personal Narrative Ideas Around Plot Elements
After students have pinpointed the specific event to write on, they frame their story ideas around the elements of a plot. Once again the digital template prepared in Easel by TpT makes this very easy.
Students can type up their ideas (bullet-point) style on the hook, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Typing makes this process easy and fun – no fuss – no mess.
Students can also use the highlighting tool on a mentor text to mark up the hook, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Students can further annotate this template with personal comments, questions, and general responses. All these hands-on writing activities solidify content knowledge of the form and structure of the personal narrative writing genre.
Step 3:Editing & Publishing the Digital Personal Narrative
I recall my English teacher, Miss Merchant, telling us that Ernest Hemingway would review each novel that he wrote 87 times. She said this when we complained about editing our writing. I’m not sure if this was actually the case. It did make me think, however, about Mr Hemingway revising an entire novel that many times. So, who was I to complain about revising two sheets of paper!
This way of thinking no doubt worked well to my advantage, as a teacher too. After the familiar groans and gasps, students would get on with the task of self-editing and peer-editing. The entire process is further doable because the checklists can be assigned digitally in Easel. With the pen tool, students can put a tick or a cross against the specific criteria. This is an at-a-glance visual progress tool for both students and teachers alike.
Step 4: Grading A Personal Narrative
Once students have edited their personal narratives, the teacher can also use the digital pen tool in Easel to annotate the digital narrative writing rubric. The teacher can insert a tick or give a score for each criterion against which the writing piece is assessed,
The teacher can also type out feedback comments for each student. Needless to say, I find this mode of grading a welcome change from the traditional pen and paper grading. I can simply copy and paste comments that apply to a group of students, after making minor changes. No more unsightly white smears using the correction pen to whiten my errors. Miss Merchant would have been equally thrilled to use these tools.
Step 5: Use My Free Digital Personal Narrative Resource
There is no right or wrong way to teach a Personal Narrative and there are many experts out there that provide useful guidance. However, I do hope this digital Writing resource via Easel by TpT helps your students. Perhaps it stands the chance of getting those reluctant writers started – so give it a try.
If you prefer not to assign this activity digitally, there is a version of the pdf that can be printed and distributed to your students. The resource scaffolds the elements of a personal narrative on an open-ended prompt. Checklists and marking rubrics are also included.
The pdf file is compatible with Easel, so all you need to do is assign it to your students via Google Classroom. Students can turn in their work when completed.
Access this free resource by clicking on the image or HERE.