Last updated: 2/20/2013


Grade 2 - Writing - Personal Narrative

  Subject:   English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)
  Grade:   Elementary, 2nd Grade
  Unit Title:  

Personal Narrative

  Approx. Number of Weeks:  

3 weeks

Unit Summary:

This ELA personal narrative unit is taught within writing workshop. Students will write stories from their own lives in order to share a message with the reader. Authors can create stories from their life experiences and do not just list events in a personal narrative. Authors share an internal story about the event by including thoughts and observations. Authors choose what details to include by thinking about what is important to the message or heart of the story and stretch out important moments and events using detailed descriptions. Skills and content are taught as mini-lessons within the writing workshop structure.

Students take what they learn in each mini-lesson and try it in their own personal narrative writing. The classroom teacher confers with students about their writing process.

Next Generation Skills Addressed:
   Collaboration & Communication
   Creativity & Innovation
   Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
   Research & Information Fluency
   Social & Emotional Intelligence

1. What will students know and be able to do?


W.2.3 - Write narratives in which they recount a well elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

W.2.5 - With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing.

W.2.6 - With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

Essential Understandings:

Authors write stories for many reasons, especially to share personal feelings and memories with others.

Stories are more than just a list of events.

Authors write stories to reveal an internal story, the reactions, thoughts, observations and feelings of the author.


Essential Questions:

Students will know:

Authors use the writing process to draft, revise, and edit their work.

Authors write about small moments.

Authors stretch out important parts over several pages.

Authors show an awareness of audience and purpose.

Authors write about moments in ways that allow the reader to have a clear picture in their minds.

Authors bring out the internal story.

Personal narratives often end with a reflection that is close to the heart of the story.


Students will be able to:

• Draft a small moment story based on a real, personal experience.

• Include an internal story within the small moment story.

• Show what happened in the story through the use of detail, don’t tell what occurred as a list of events.

• Write an ending that reflects the heart of the story.

• Vary the tone, vocabulary, and sentence structure to suit the audience and purpose.

• Use specific and vivid vocabulary to reveal voice.

• Demonstrate control over the conventions of English.

2. How will we – and they – know?

Authentic Performance Task:

Common Benchmark Assessment:

Answer the following question:

• What is a personal narrative?

Student Self-Assessment and Reflection:

• How have I changed as a writer?

• What do I do well as a writer?

• What do I want to improve in my writing?

Students should score a 3 or 4 using the PCSD District Writing Rubric.

pscd grade2-5writingrubric2009.pdf

3. What learning activities will students participate in?

Learning Activities:

Suggested Sequence of Instructional Strategies/ Learning Experiences

• Pre-Assessment. 1. Using their writer’s notebooks (day books), ask students to list what they

know authors do when they write a small moment story and/or 2. In a small group, ask each

group to list what they know authors do when they write a small moment. Chart their ideas

and/or 3. Ask students to write a small moment about something that happened to them.

• Prewriting Lessons

 Students will understand that authors stretch small moment stories over several pages.

o Students will listen to several mentor texts over several days and identify features of this kind of writing. Chart features including: What did the author do? How did they do it? What was the purpose? Who is the audience? Why did they write this story? Grow this reference chart.

o Students begin to generate a list of ideas for their small moment.

• Students will learn that small moments zoom in on a single focused topic, not the whole day or whole event.

 Read the mentor texts once again and identify the single focused topic in each text.

 Can students tell the difference between a small moment with a focused topic vs. a list story?

 Students start a list of possible topics of their own and pick one or two to write about.

• Students are given the opportunity to stretch their small moment over several pages for their story.

 Demonstrate the show, don’t tell principle- show what happened, step by step, in a story instead of telling the reader a summation of what happened.

• Students learn that adding more to their small moment is essential.

 Students return to the mentor texts and discover what authors do to add details to their stories.

• Students find the most important part of their story and find a way to make it better.

 Students think, “What is the most important part of my story?” or “What is the heart of mystory?” and they make that part of their story important by adding details and cutting away other parts.

• Students learn to add thoughts feeling, and insights to their pieces. This is the true internal story.

 Students go back to the mentor texts and discover what thoughts and feelings the author added.

 Students find the places in their stories where their own thoughts and feelings can be added.

• Students learn to end their stories close to the topic and add a reflection at the end.

 Examine mentor texts to show that authors end their stories by staying close tothe heart of the story. Show when this happens and give some examples when the story moves away from the topic.

 Then, students write their own endings, “give it a go”.


Units of Study for Primary Writers: Small Moments – Personal Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins Session 1

Units of Study for Primary Writers: Small Moments – Personal Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins Session 2

Units of Study for Primary Writers: Small Moments – Personal Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins Session 4

Units of Study for Primary Writers: Small Moments – Personal Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins Session 7

Units of Study for Primary Writers: Small Moments – Personal Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins Session 11

Units of Study for Primary Writers: Small Moments – Personal Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins Session 12

Units of Study for Primary Writers: Small Moments – Personal Narrative Writing by Lucy Calkins Session 13

Opportunities for Differentiation

Use story boards to “spin” a story – sketch the story first and then add the words.

• Use session VIII – telling a story across one’s fingers (oral rehearsal) to help with beginning, middle, and end.

• Select specific texts at various levels to match students’ levels of understanding.

Discipline Specific Considerations:

Misconception Alerts:

Be aware of this genre: personal narrative vs. memoir vs. realistic fiction – see p. V. in Calkins.

• True personal narrative mentor texts may require a lengthy amount of time to obtain – seek help from the librarian.

• These are similar to “vignettes”. Tell students this type of writing is usually short in length but still requires lots of revising time.

• These are not accumulation stories which are just lists of events under a broad topic like “My Trip” or “My Soccer Game”, get up – go to bed stories. These lack a message.

Students at this level typically like to tell the whole story from start to finish.

Vocabulary – Specialized and High Frequency

Personal Narrative – a story that has occurred in someone’s life.

Small Moment – a focused, detailed narrative that happens over a short period of time (Not a wake up, go to bed kind of story).

Seed Idea – a story that the writer wants to share with readers, one that the writer will choose to develop.

Seed Story – a small story that is focused and covers a short span of time; i.e. One time at the beach when I made a sailboat out of driftwood.

Close-In Ending – endings that don’t move away from the topic of the story.

Show, Not Tell – using detail to describe a story, not a list of what happened.

Internal Story – letting the reader know the thoughts and feelings of the author.

Heart of the Story – the thoughts, feelings, reflections, observations of the author.

Voice – a recognition and response by the reader of the author’s personality.

Stretch it Out – providing lots of details of one event in a story.

Writer’s Notebook – a safe, personal place where students can write on a regular basis until they are ready to craft longer pieces for an identified audience.

Zoom In – taking a closer look at the most important part of the event.

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