First Person Narrative: What's Your Story?

Contributor: Kristen Gardiner. Lesson ID: 10456

If you think you may be too young to have an interesting life story, think again! Think about an event when you learned a lesson, and write about it! Learn from online exercises and printed materials!



English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What do you think the Swiss people pictured below are doing?
  • Why do you think that?
  • How can you tell?

Der Grossvater erzählt eine Geschichte, 1884

Image, via Wikimedia Commons, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, publc domain work of art by Albert Anker and is also in the public domain.

There are Enough Combinations of Words to Reach to the Stars 

In the picture above, you may see a man telling a story, or explaining something, while children listen very closely. You might have noticed that the man is pointing and has his lips parted as though he is speaking, while the others look at him with interest. 

If these are the things you noticed, you are absolutely correct. The man who is pointing is telling a story, and from the expressions on the faces of those listening, it must be very entertaining.

Do you have a person in your family who enjoys telling stories about the past? Do you like listening to stories? What about bedtime stories or books? Do you have a favorite? 

Once Upon a Long Time Ago

Before there were iPads or tablets; laptops or desktops; PlayStations or Xboxes; or even television, radio, or movie theaters, there were stories.  

Stories served three main purposes in the days prior to mass and social media: 

  1. to entertain 
  2. to teach a moral lesson or tell an important truth about life 
  3. to serve as a means of keeping a family's or culture's history alive for future generations 

(Now you can send a picture of your dinner to all of your Instagram followers in a matter of seconds and you have a living record of your existence, which, if the servers are well maintained, will last for centuries.)

Did you ever hear similar versions of the same story, such as different cultural or geographic versions of Fairy Tales or Folk Lore? This is because of the oral tradition. Before people began keeping a written record of stories, people would tell stories for fun and entertainment. As people began to move across the globe, they took their stories with them. Much like humans had to adapt to new cultures, traditions and physical environments, stories and their elements had to change to fit the new surroundings as well.  

We All Have a Story to Tell 

We all have memories and moments in life that stand out among our other experiences. Those are our stories. They don't have to be packed with a particular emotion, or even evoke emotions in others; they just have to be interesting, detailed stories. Listen to and watch One Direction's Story of My Life video to gain a bit of inspiration. You don't have to be a fan, you just need to watch those moments when "time is frozen," and understand that those are the events that help to sculpt our stories. Remember, it doesn't have to be anything Earth-shattering — it can be anything from the birth of a younger sibling to the first time you rode a bike without training wheels. It can be a funny or embarrassing experience — as long as you feel it was important and that you learned something from the experience.

Brainstorming Topics 

Now that you are hopefully a little more inspired, let's see where your creative juices lead.  Print the Story of My Life Topic Brainstorming sheet located in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Get a few ideas down on paper and think back to how the events made you feel. Also, think about some sensory details that you could include to make your story more interesting. Finally, see if you can come up with the lesson you learned after experiencing the event. 

A Personal Narrative Doesn't Need to Have all of Your Personal Details 

Narrative is a word that means the same as story. You will be asked to write multiple narratives, including personal narratives, throughout your school career. In fact, most SAT and college essays are personal narratives, but you have some time before you need to worry about that. All narratives follow the same story line structure, but what sets the personal narrative apart from any other narrative is that it is based on factual events and is intended to teach a life lesson. As you write and think about the event, you are asking yourself and answering for the audience, "What did I learn from this experience?"

Your Personal Narrative Should: 

  1. Be written in first person (use "I" and "me") 
  2. Be written in past tense EXCEPT for the last paragraph if you decide to write your moral or lesson learned as a reflection on the event (Example: Looking back now on that day, I should have know that I would hate sushi, but I am a follower. I am learning to be a stronger person and stand up for myself, especially when it comes to eating raw creatures!) 
  3. Have strong characters through description and dialogue 
  4. Have a setting 
  5. Have a well-thought plot that is developed in chronological order 
  6. Have a conflict (even if internal) and resolution 
  7. Have a resolution which contains the moral or lesson learned 
  8. Be based on a factual event 

Sounds pretty much like a story, doesn't it? Ok, so it's time to get that outline going.

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