For many 4th and 5th grade students organizing and planning a personal narrative story is the most difficult part of the writing process. Before you begin to teach them ways to organize and plan you must teach them the critical attributes of a personal narrative story. Discuss with them that a personal narrative it is a story about something that happened to them. It should be a story that they have told many times. Tell them that you are going to teach them how to write a personal story that is exciting and fun to read.
Share examples of good narrative stories from books they know, such as Hatchet written by Gary Paulson. Read an excerpt from the book to your class and discuss why it is a personal narrative. Explain to them that the excerpt is a small story within a much larger story.
Be sure the excerpt as a distinct beginning, middle and end. The part in chapter 16 of how Brian Robeson is attacked by a moose is a good example. It clearly shows how in the beginning Brian kills a bird and is standing in the lake cleaning it. The middle part tells how the moose comes down out of forest and attacks Brian, driving him down in the water again and again, breaking his ribs. At the end of the small story Brian plays dead and the moose loses interest, allowing him to escape.
After discussing the beginning, middle and end with the class have them draw three sketches in their writing journals. The first one should show Brian standing in the lake cleaning the bird. The second should depict the attack and the third should show Brian playing dead. Be sure you put a time limit on this activity. Children love to draw and if you let them they will use the rest of the session drawing these pictures. Pick some of them to share their pictures with the class.
Now it is time to show them how they can draw pictures to organize their own story with a beginning, middle and end. Discuss how we all have a person who is special to us. Someone we have spent a lot of time with and have built a lot of memories.
On your white board write the name of someone who is special to you. Below it write some of the things you remember doing with this special person. Next, pick just one of the memories from the list and tell your students that you are going to write a story about that one special memory. But first you are going to organize and plan your story by using three pictures. The first one will be about what happens at the beginning of the story, the second will be what happens in the middle and, finally, what happens at the end. These drawings do not need to be elaborate or a work of art. Make them simple to show your students they don’t need to spend a lot of time on them.
Now have the students do the same activity in their writing journals. Ask them to write the name of someone who is special to them. Ask them to make a list of some of the fun things they have done with that person. Next, have them pick just one of the things from the list to write about. Finally, have them draw three pictures depicting the beginning, middle and end of the event.
This will probably be all you can accomplish during this session. Tell your students you will show them how to use their pictures to write a story with a good, beginning, middle and end during the next session.