How To Introduce Personal Narrative Writing Complete Lesson Plan

Personal narratives are one of the most important types of writing secondary students will learn because this is a type of writing that students will do at some point in life beyond high school. Essentially any time they tell a story, whether in an informal situation with friends or in a more formal setting, they’ll be using the structure of a personal narrative. 

Step-By-Step Lesson For Personal Narrative Writing:

1.) Do not tell your students what personal narratives are.

In this lesson you will not tell your students what narratives are. You will not give them a slideshow or a definition. You will allow your students to read and listen to narratives, and they will decide what the narrative form is by interacting with several narrative writing pieces.

The reason for this is because learning will sink in more deeply if you allow your students to discover what the narrative form is by interacting with several narratives, rather than simply telling them what others have agreed on. It’s actually quite challenging defining a genre, and the process itself can be meaningful.

2.) Compile several high interest personal narratives.

Compile a few high-interest narratives.Don’t worry we’ve got you covered for this (see the bottom of this post).

In order for this to work, students need to be engaged in the narratives they are reading and listening to. Gary Soto’s narratives are short, and easy-to-follow, which can make them a great place for an intro to narrative writing. Check out “The Pie” by Gary Soto if you want to get a feel for his work.

It’s also important that students listen to personal narratives, so find a few outstanding episodes of The Moth podcasts or StoryCorp. Both podcasts have many episodes about the lives of teens.

Keep reading, or scroll to the bottom for our free lesson that includes a list of narratives you can use for this part!

3.) Give students a handout for recording their observations.

On the handout, you’ll want to give students a place to jot down important information and then look for similarities in all the narratives that they read and listen to. This will help them start to see how all the narratives share some common key features, although each story is also incredibly unique.

Grab our free handout when you download this lesson (scroll to the bottom of the post)!

4.) After your students have listened to and read narratives, reconvene as a class to discuss.

Ask students what features ALL the narratives have? What do only some have? How are they all different and unique?

Hopefully students will notice that all the narratives are from the first-person perspective. They might notice that many included some type of conflict, although some of the conflicts were “big” struggles, and some conflicts were more day-to-day obstacles.

You could discuss the value of writing about all different types of struggles.

There are a ton of observations that students can make about the similarities and differences between these narratives, and it might be challenging for students to see elements that they ALL have in common, but this process is meaningful as you attempt to define a genre (hint: it’s not always so easy to do).

5.) Encourage students to start thinking about their own stories.

Encourage students to start thinking about their lives in terms of stories. This can be hard to do at first, but hopefully through interacting with these amazing narrative pieces, they’ve seen that a narrative does not have to be about a big dramatic event. It can be about simple, every day things also.


Personal narratives are worth revisiting every single year for secondary students because it’s a type of writing they will do beyond high school.

The best way to get students thinking about personal narrative writing is through diving into several personal narratives, both written and oral.

Be sure to give students a purposeful handout that guides them through finding similarities and differences in the personal narratives.

Your free lesson on narrative writing:

Free Lesson Plan Narrative Writing

Narrative Writing Intro Handout For Students

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