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Using Personal Narrative Examples While Teaching Writing in 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grades

When you teach personal narrative writing to your third, fourth, or fifth grade students, you should be teaching them using personal narrative examples to guide your lessons.

Students who are expected to write a narrative piece, should be given an exemplar one to study and learn from.

This is also known as a mentor text.

In this blog post, I’ll talk about using the rubric to guide your lesson and how you can use personal narrative examples to teach your students what you expect from their writing.

Step 1: Teach the Characteristics of a Personal Narrative

Before you begin teaching from the example narrative you should first introduce the characteristics of a personal narrative.

There are several main characteristics that elementary teachers focus on with their students.

  • The narrative focuses on a small moment in time.
  • The narrative has a beginning, middle, and end.
  • It uses words for transitions.
  • It includes descriptive details to help the reader imagine the setting, characters, and events.
  • It can include dialogue. (Typically saved for 4th and 5th grade)
  • Has a strong meaningful ending.
A poster teaching the characteristics of a personal narrative and a personal narrative rubric.
Pictured above: A poster teaching the characteristics of a personal narrative and a personal narrative rubric. (From: Grades 2-5 Personal Narrative Writing Units)

Step 2: Introduce the Rubric and a Checklist

The next thing you will want to do is introduce a rubric and a checklist.

The checklist is really helpful because it can guide students as they write their narrative drafts.

The rubric is important so students can understand how they’ll be graded. Keeping your rubric kid-friendly is key!

Step 3: Use Personal Narrative Examples to Model What a Personal Narrative Should Look Like

Now that you’ve introduced the characteristics of the personal narrative and gone over your rubric, you’re ready to use the mentor text.

It’s very important to choose a personal narrative example that exemplifies what you want your students’ final writing pieces to look like.

How should I use the personal narrative example during my lesson?

There are several different ways you can use the mentor text.

First and foremost, read it over with your students. Ask them what they noticed about the writing. Compare it to the personal narrative characteristics poster. Does the piece have all of the characteristics?

Below are some more suggestions on how you can use the example narratives:

My favorite idea is to use the rubric to “grade” the narrative using your rubric.

For future years of teaching, save your students’ writing and use it with your next class.

Make sure you white out the student names for privacy and use the writing pieces to discuss the rubric with your students. You can even have “grading” be a center in your classroom.

Do You Need Personal Narrative Examples for Your Lessons?

Check out these packs of example pieces for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades!

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