“Why Do I Write?” A Personal Narrative Reading

Narrative Writing Project

I know. It's still June and you're probably still in recovery mode. Perhaps enjoying air conditioning somewhere and reading a few fun books you couldn't get to during the school year. I hope you're getting some much-deserved rest. 

When you're ready though, I'd like for you to ponder your classes for next year. During my last six years of teaching, I looped with my students for three years, so I had a pretty good idea of who I'd be seeing in my classes in the fall. But even if that's not your context, if you've spend more than a year or two in an English class, you've come to realize you can categorize your writers pretty easily.

As a matter of fact, you probably have two kinds of writers in your classes: Those who can write a 10-page, in-depth essay about their favorite memory that covers every imaginable detail -- including the color of the carpet. And those who can tell that same story in 10 words. Okay, so there is a spectrum, with most students falling somewhere in the middle. But I'm sure you have your fair share of those who struggle to include relevant details in their texts on both ends of the scale.

Realizing this, I gave a presentation last year, "Helping Students Discover their Voices through Personal Narrative," at the Oklahoma Writing Project Summer Series. You can read about the feedback I received here.

I'm telling you about this again because I've recorded myself reading the personal narrative I revised for the presentation (and for the unit I designed on which the presentation is based). This narrative is one that I first drafted as a letter to my 7th grade English teacher as part of my OWP Summer Institute portfolio in 2016.

I hope that as you listen to the video, it inspires you to reach out to the young writers in your classes and find ways to encourage them to use their voices. And I also hope that you share this unit with them, along with my video, to give them an opportunity to discover one of their personal narratives and practice their craft.

Once your students have written their narratives, I suggest you encourage them to enter their work into contests, read them before their classmates, record themselves reading their work, or read for younger students who may be inspired to explore their own voices.

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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