In grade 2 the start of a new school year eventually leads to writing personal narratives. Even this year! Amid all the other changes happening in and around school due to Covid-19. Reflecting on how I taught this unit in the past, I knew I could do better and decided on a few changes that I hoped would lift the level of writing. This is a three part series on re-thinking personal narratives, taught through a grade 2 lens, but with many of the strategies and practices usable across other grade levels. Part 1 will focus on planning with intention, Part 2 writing with even greater detail, and Part 3 revising with purpose. Let’s get started!

Generating Small Moment Ideas Worth Writing About

A good idea can make all the difference in the quality of the personal narrative, especially later on in the unit when it comes time to add details and really “stretch” that small moment out. So this year we decided to first invest time into unpacking what “was” and “was not” a small moment. However, prior to generating our own ideas we read a lot of small moment narratives from some of our favourite authors to anchor our thinking.

Then we started generating ideas within the framework of a person/time or place/trouble while using the sentence stems “the time when” or “when I …

Next we moved on to brainstorming all of our ideas using a telling brain-frame.

Finally, we “declared” an idea, wrote it down, and proceeded to tell our partners across our fingers (touch-and-tell) how our story would go.

After conferring with partners (and the teacher) the students planned out their story on sticky notes to remind themselves what they would write on each page.

We are still in the thick of writing out our stories as I type this blog post but I can already tell that the narratives my students are drafting are richer and more developed than in year’s past and I want to think it is because of the time invested in crafting a good idea and planning it out with the time and care that it deserves. Next week I will post on the “do” portion of our writing and how we are doing adding details to our stories. Stay tuned!