Personal Narrative

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners write personal narratives to document activities, insights, research, impact, and discoveries of their firsthand experience with civic engagement, service, and volunteerism. By explaining involvement in action for the common good, learners raise awareness of a social issue, the need for change, and the impact individuals can have by giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good.


PrintTwo 45-Minute Class Sessions

The learner will:

  • use their personal experience, research, and/or their journal entries as a basis for writing narratives.
Home Connection 

Encourage learners to share their narratives with their family members.

  • Abbott, H. Porter. The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s 2003. (ISBN: 0-312-39767-4)
  • Lunsford, Andrea and Robert Connors. The New St. Martin’s Handbook. Boston:  Bedford/St. Martins, 1999. (ISBN: 0-312-16744-X)
  • “Student Writing Models.” Thoughtful Learning. 2016.
  • Yetman, Norman R., ed. When I Was a Slave: Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 2002. (ISBN:0-486-42070-1)


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read aloud a narrative about volunteerism or service from the Peace Corps website. Discuss the elements of a narrative and the key idea and purpose of the writer. 

    For example: The most important goal of their narrative is to communicate the impact the service learning had on the writer's attitudes and actions.

  2. Discuss tense (past or present), point of view (first person), effective introductions (attention-grabbing and summary of main points), transitions, and conclusions (powerful, building to crescendo). Remind learners to:

    • show (using sensory detail and conversation) not just tell about their experiences.
    • use comparisons in metaphors and similes to help the reader identify with the social concern.
    • use genuine voice so that the narratives are personal, real, and appropriate for their purpose and audience.
    • include accurate facts.
    • think about their audience.
    • write with fluency and clarity.
  3. Give youth time to start a rough draft about their experience. Pair up writers to share these initial drafts with one other person for informal feedback. They may go back to writing, leaning on the feedback from their partner and the writing guide (handout below).

  4. Use editing groups so that other learners can check for organization, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word choice before they write their final draft.

  5. Discuss how their personal narratives might be used to inspire others to service. For example, they may host an after-school or evening “coffee house” reading for their families and/or peers.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.