Personal Narrative Essay Topics

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Writing personal narratives can be one of the best ways to get students involved in the writing process. This lesson introduces you to personal narrative essays and offers some topics that will get students of all ages writing.

Why Work With Personal Narratives?

Are you trying to get your students engaged in the writing process? If so, one of the best things you can do, regardless of the age and ability level of your students, is to have them write personal narrative essays. Understood simply, a personal narrative essay is a piece of writing that tells a story from the student's own life and from his or her own point of view. More mature students with more experience writing may also include a component in which they reflect on the story, what they have learned from it, and how it has impacted other aspects of their lives.

There are many different ways to write personal narrative essays. Sometimes, they are simply written like stories, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Other times, they might be framed more like a traditional essay, with an introduction, supporting paragraphs that contain most of the narrative structure, and a reflective conclusion. Whatever style your students are writing in, it can be helpful to start with some prompts and topics that will get their juices flowing. This lesson offers you some topics that are generally successful with student writers of a variety of ages and levels.

First and Last Times

Many students will have an easy time thinking of writing topics that deal with the first or last time they ever did something.

  • Describe the first day you ever went to school. Explain what you remember about how the day went, how you felt beforehand, and what it was like once you were there.
  • Write about your first time meeting one of your closest friends. Tell about your meeting like you are telling a story, and explain how your relationship unfolded.
  • Think about something you used to do a lot when you were younger. Describe the story of the last time you can remember doing that.
  • Write a story about a behavior you used to do that you do not feel proud of. Write about the last time you did it and why you decided to stop doing it after that.


Writing stories about the major relationships in their lives can be another good way for students to generate ideas.

  • Write a story about spending time with someone who is very important in your life. Zero in on a specific time you had together, reflecting on its meaning as you tell the story.
  • Describe a conversation with someone you love and why the conversation was meaningful to you, as well as how it impacted the rest of your relationship.
  • Who is someone you really admire or look up to? Write a story about something you did or a place you went with that person and why you admired them in the specific scenario.

Silly Stories

Some students think best when they are allowed to be funny, and these topics will be helpful for them.

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