If you know kids, you also know that kids love to tell stories… like, a lot. If you’ve ever asked a room full of Kindergarteners or 1st graders what they did over the weekend, you know! And, we don’t see all those memes out there about having to sit through your kids’ never-ending stories for nothing! (Hint: there’s something to them!)
So, kids have lots of stories to tell and they love to share them. That’s awesome, right? So, how can we transfer this enthusiasm to writing?
We can teach them with a kindergarten personal narrative unit!
Personal narrative writing allows students to share their stories with structure and detail!
What is a Personal Narrative?
When you begin to introduce personal narrative writing to your students, you’ll first want them to understand what it even is!
You can start here…
- Personal means about you.
- And, a Narrative is a story
- So, a personal narrative is a story about you.
Additionally, a personal narrative has to be true, something that really happened. And, it has to have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Here are 5 tips to help you teach a Kindergarten personal narrative writing unit:
1. Mentor Texts
The first thing I do when starting a new writing unit is begin reading books in that genre. Some of these books will become mentor texts that I can use throughout the unit.
Mentor texts are any texts you use to demonstrate a skill you want to teach your students. These can be picture books, texts you’ve written, or even stories from their peers.
Some of my favorite mentor texts to use to teach kindergarten personal narrative are:
- Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe- Great for beginning, middle, end; sensory details; adding feelings; show, not tell.
- Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall- So relatable! Excellent for stretching out a story with details; show, not tell feelings.
- Ralph Writes a Story by Abby Hanlon- My favorite to kick off writing at the beginning of the year and revisit for story ideas in a personal narrative unit!
- One Day, the End by Rebecca Kai Dotlich-Perfect for teaching the importance of adding details for the middle of the story! Also great for simple beginning sentences.
A few more personal narrative picture books I like to read to demonstrate the genre are:
- Kitchen Dance by Maurie Manning
- My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindstrom
It’s hard to find picture books that are simple enough to use as models for kindergarten personal narrative writing, so I often create my own. For my Kindergarten Personal Narrative Unit, I created 3 simple texts you can use to model the concepts of beginning, middle, and end; adding a feeling, hope, or thought; and adding dialogue and onomatopoeia.
You can use the digital version on your whiteboard or print the books to use hard copies.
TIP: Make copies of exemplar writing from your students that you can use in future lessons.
2. Model the Process
When teaching personal narrative writing, you want to start by modeling the entire process for your students. I like to do this by writing about a shared class experience. That way, all of the students are familiar with the story I am telling- they were all there and experienced it, too!
- First, I think of the topic
- Next, I plan and sketch it
- Then, I write and reread it
- Finally, I revise and edit
I love using songs and poems to teach important concepts and here’s one I made for my Kindergarten Personal Narrative Writing Unit.
Then, my students write a personal narrative about another shared class experience. It’s important to let kids pick their writing topics but when I introduce a new genre, having everyone write about the same topic for their first story is so helpful. It eliminates the “I don’t know what to write about” bug, it’s more manageable, and it ensures students are using the skill you are teaching them.
After learning the steps to write a personal narrative with this starter story, students write their independent personal narratives, while I teach mini-lessons to guide them.
Check out my Kindergarten Personal Narrative Unit for step-by-step lesson plans to help you teach this essential writing genre easily!
3. “I Don’t know what to write about!”
If you teach kindergarten or first grade, you’ve likely heard this phrase! So I cover story idea generation in one of my first lessons. It’s important to teach students strategies to come up with their own story topics, as well as brainstorm topics together.
Ralph Writes a Story by Abby Hanlon is a great book for this!
TIP: When brainstorming topics, write students’ names next to their ideas. If they get “stuck” on an idea, remind them of what they contributed! Suggesting a shared class experience is another great topic.
4. TELL the Story First!
If you’ve followed me for some time, you know how I feel about oral rehearsal! It’s a MUST, especially in kindergarten! Before your students begin to write down their stories, have them tell the stories out loud. Don’t skip this step! We do this because it helps the students to get their stories together in their minds before they put their pencils to paper.
My favorite way to do this is to have students tell their story to a partner, then switch partners and tell the same story again. I challenge them to add details and fancy words in each storytelling!
For more tips, check out my post with 11 Tips for Oral Storytelling Practice.
5. Revise and Edit
Even in kindergarten, students can learn to revise. Adding details to pictures and words, making sure you have a beginning, middle, and end, using “fancy words,” answering questions your reader will have. . . there are many ways kindergartners can learn to enhance their stories for readers.
You can also provide students with simple revision checklists near the end of your personal narrative writing unit. I like to include a checklist of Must-haves, along with a checklist of ways to “level our stories up” to make them great for our readers.
Of course, you’ll also want to teach students simple editing skills. You can embed lessons like stretching out words for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation throughout your personal narrative unit. Working together to edit stories with a simple editing checklist is one of our final lessons before publishing.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to do a pre- and post-assessment to see your students’ growth! Not only will you be able to see their growth and better assess their progress, but you can also share this progress with them and their parents!
DONE-For-You Kindergarten Personal Narrative Lessons
Not sure how to sequence or plan your lessons for teaching personal narrative writing? I have a brand new Personal Narrative unit just for you! It has 30 step-by-step lessons plus 6 bonus mini-lesson ideas, teacher notes, student material, pacing calendars, conference forms, rubrics, and more!
Check it out in my TPT store or my Tejeda’s Tots Shop:
I hope these tips help you to have a successful narrative writing unit with your students!
Remember, kids love to tell stories about themselves and their lives, but it’s not always easy for them to get those stories into writing. You can make the personal narrative writing process not only easier for them, but also fun! Take the pressure off and let those kiddos get creative! You’ve got this.
If you have any questions or ideas for teaching a kindergarten personal narrative writing unit, please leave them below!
Elissa Kronstat says
Just curious- how are they writing? Are they dictating as they can’t write or spell yet? Thank you so much!
Thanks for your question! Yes, dictation at times can be very helpful. By the time I got to this unit, however, most of my students were writing words and at least attempting to write sentences, even if not with perfect grammar or spelling. I encourage invented or phonetic spelling while they learn conventional spelling (and hold them accountable for sounds and patterns we’ve covered during the editing stage).
We focus a lot on speaking before writing, and oral rehearsal helped greatly with their pictures and organization. Some students will write strings of letters, but can tell their events, so our writing conference may consist mostly of developing the oral story and adding details and labels to their pictures.
Hope this helps!