A Week to Remember: Getting Personal


There was a shift in the workshop room when we moved from the freedom of fiction to the self-expression of a Personal Narrative.

Each student brought in an object that had sentimental value. There was a 2nd place trophy, souvenir postcards from Niagara Falls, a stuffed animal received the day of her grandpa’s funeral, a miniature toy cockatiel which resembled his pet bird, a personalized charm bracelet which matched those of all the women in her family and several stuffed toys.

I watched each young writer fidget and fondle with their prized item while they gave us a bit of background. But, when it came to the writing, the energy waned. Mine did, too.  I admit, I have more experience teaching fiction writing than personal narratives and may have gone overboard with the “preparation” steps the students were completing.

This I Believe is a fantastic site which publishes powerful essays from writers young and old. I found a valuable lesson plan on teaching Personal Narratives, especially with the theme of Believing in Something. However,  in hindsight, I should have planned a bit more time to get to the core of this lesson. More time for writing and reflection before jumping into the first draft of their narratives. They began with an object, but had a few too many spokes and not enough focus. Of which I am guilty.

There were several that had the natural ability to write their personal story, however. Pieces that were touching and quilted with  emotion. I admire the stories they were able to share.

The second half of our workshop was to experience the writing of a journalist. The students were paired off and told to “interview” each other on one of the following topics:

A time they were embarrassed

A time they were afraid

A time they played a silly prank

This exercise was much more lively and the news articles created were dead on: All answered the 5 W’s and H (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How) and were written in the inverted triangle: Most important facts first, followed by lesser important details.  I would definitely bring this writing exercise back to the workshop. Our day wrapped up in fits and giggles!

For the Narratives, I need to do my own homework…

Next week, I’ll talk about our Revision Day and post some more random (but productive) writing games!

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Filed under Advice, teaching

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