Graphic Organizers for Writing Personal Narratives

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

In this lesson, we will look at different graphic organizers students can use to organize their personal narratives. These organizers will each focus on different aspects of a personal narrative you may want to focus on with your students.

Graphic Organizers for Writing Personal Narratives

A personal narrative is quite simply, a true story about oneself. For younger children, this may be the retelling of their recent trip to the zoo. For adolescents and adults, personal narratives can retell events that range from joyful to painful. In either case, learning to write a personal narrative is the art of telling our personal stories.

Start Simple: the 5 W's Graphic Organizer

One of the easiest approaches to writing a personal narrative is to use the 5 W's graphic organizer: who, what, when, where, and why. This graphic organizer is a great approach, especially when you are dealing with younger students. Remind them that a personal narrative is telling a story about something they have experienced themselves, such as a birthday party or family vacation.

The first step is identifying who was there when the events of their story took place. It is also helpful to have them go ahead and come up with adjectives to use when they write the people in their story, so they start to think about how each person is different from another.

5 W

The next step with your students is thinking about the sequence of events that happened. For younger students, have them make a list of what happened first, second, third, and so on. If your students are older or more advanced, have them think about some action verbs they could use when describing the events. You can walk them through the rest of the organizer. As they work through the graphic organizer, have students come up with descriptive words at each step, so they have them as they write their narratives.

Actions and Sensory Details Graphic Organizer

The next type of graphic organizer you could use with older students involves approaching the events in the story from the perspective of the five senses. In this graphic organizer, students create a sequence of events for their personal narrative. It may be as simple as three events in the narrative, but it could have many more.

For each event in their narratives, have them think about their five senses. Not just what they would see, which is the easiest sense for most students. Have them close their eyes and think about what they might hear. For example, if their personal narrative took place at a restaurant, they might hear the clink of ice in glasses or the sizzle of the grill in the kitchen.

Five Senses Graphic Organizer

However, they are even more senses they can explore as they think about describing each event. They could think about what they would touch--would it be cold, hot, slippery, etc.? What tastes and smells are involved? Depending on your students, you might expect them to include three senses or all five. You can adjust the assignment to make it appropriate for the student population you have in the classroom.

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