This post is part 2 in a three part series on re-thinking how I teach personal narratives. Part 1, about a new way that I tried to generate small moment ideas worth writing about is linked at the bottom of this post (ie. the “plan”). The focus of this post is on the “do” part of the writing cycle – specifically the strategies I used to help students “stretch” their small moment personal narratives.

“Stretching” the Beginning

As you can see from the anchor chart above we started with a lesson on strong leads and being purposeful with the way we, as authors, choose to start our stories. The entry points were to start their narrative using action, dialog (talking), or setting (snapshot) – or a combination thereof. We used The Shortcut for our action lead mentor text, Too Many Tamales for our snapshot lead mentor text, and Jabari Jumps for the talking lead mentor text.

“Stretching” the Middle

Next we moved on to adding details to what happens in the middle of our story. This was a series of lessons focused around adding detail by answering “who, what, where, when, why, and how” questions and then by adding detail through adding on to the setting, including dialog, sharing a feeling, or describing a strong action.

“Stretching” the End

Finally we moved on to being purposeful with our ending section and framed the conclusion section also around adding to the dialog our characters are having, sharing a feeling, an action the characters are doing, or a lesson learned.


The concept of adding details is simple enough in theory. However in practice I found that just by virtue of saying “add details” wasn’t really translating into practice when students were asked to do this work independently. The big idea is focusing on the intentionality of “the how.” Specifically, steps or entry points the writers can take to add details independently to stretch out their writing. Using quality mentor texts and a shared writing classroom experience also helps immensely. Part 3 of this series will be out next and will focus on the “review” process, namely how we can revise and edit with purpose.

Re-Thinking Personal Narratives

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… Continue Reading →