Personal Narrative: My First Concrete Strategies
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Personal Narrative Writing for Kids - Brainstorming Story Topics - Part 1 - Grades K - 5
When is a time you lost? What person have you had conflicts with? Writing an essay about a personal experience or relationship can be a powerful way of both discovering the meaning of your own past and sharing that past with others. When you write about something in your past, you have two perspectives:. The space between these perspectives is usually where you will find significance in that event or relationship. If the event or relationship is recent, you will be closer to the "you" that experienced the event. If the event is more distant, you will often find yourself reflecting on the experience, your reactions, and the meaning of the experience differently.
As you write the essay, you will need to decide if you want to talk about the experience as you see it now, or as you saw it then. Often, you may do both of those things, or use your perspective now as the conclusion. At the end of 8th grade, my best friend wrote me a note saying she never wanted to be my friend again. All summer, I was devastated and terribly depressed, terrified to start High School alone. Forty years later, I realize that that experience was probably what made me finally reach out to develop new friends. Those friends encouraged me to develop my life-long interest in speech, theater, and writing.
More importantly, that experience of rejection gave me a lifelong compassion for others. Any event from your past can be a good topic if it was important to you. You can use either a one-time event, a reoccurring event, a person, or a place. Brainstorm ideas by thinking about the following:. To make sure you have a good topic, you need to determine what the meaning of that event or person was for you. To help you get ideas about the meaning and to decide whether this topic is a good choice, jot down some notes answering the following 5 questions:.
Why re-invent the wheel? Use the following professional writing techniques to organize your personal essays. These strategies aren't secret and they aren't hard. They are what you've seen over and over in books and movies. Now you need to use them yourself. This is the most obvious way to tell the story. You just tell it in the way it happened in the order it happened. Most of the other organizing techniques use this way to tell the main part of the story. Want an easy way to organize your essay? Try the "Expectations Unfulfilled" technique. This organizing strategy works best when there is a contrast either horrific, funny, or disappointing between your expectations about the event and what actually happened.
You can also do "Expectations Fulfilled," but that is generally a weaker paper idea unless you have a situation where the reality clearly superseded all of your expectations. Using a frame story for the introduction and conclusion should be familiar to you from lots of movies. One good example of a story frame is UP. In this case, the movie opens with the frame of Carl looking at the scrapbook Ellie has made for him about their life and dreams before flashing to the present story of Carl and Russell and their adventures.
The movie returns to the frame at the end of the movie as Carl looks at the last page of the photobook Ellie has made for him. He learns that it was the journey of the relationship which was the real adventure. Another kind of frame can be a flashback. In this technique, you start in the middle of the action or after it is over and then flash back to an earlier memory. The Notebook uses the story of a man spending time with his wife with Alzheimer's as the frame for his re-telling the story of their romance. The advantage of using a frame is that it makes it easier for you to talk about the meaning of the story, especially if you use the present day to flashback to the past. Be sure the frame is not just random. There should be an event, object, conversation, or situation which causes you to flashback in memory.
With this technique, you organize your story around what is happening internally in your mind, versus what is happening in the event. Of course, like "Expectations Unfulfilled" this works best if there is a conflict between what is happening in your thoughts and what is happening in the situation. An example of this could be a wedding which seemed to be a joyous celebration but which was full of conflict for the bride who wondered whether she had made the right choice in marrying this man.
Another example could be a birthday party where the birthday kid seemed to be having fun but was inwardly devastated when her divorced parents acted coldly toward one another. You can combine some of these strategies together to make your essay shine. A good example of this is the student essay by Jean Brandt, "Calling Home. Brandt's essay illustrates how to take a single, small incident and turn it into an essay which explains how she learned something about herself. It is a coming of age essay. When thinking about your own essay topic, try to think about moments in your life which were important turning points. The event can be something small and doesn't have to be dramatic.
What is important is the significance of that event in your life. See the chart below for some ideas. Do you have a favorite memory of your father? Of sports? Of childhood? Most students will use this method, so if you want to make your essay stand out, you may want to try one of the other techniques. When you do use this method remember:. Say, "Maura was a sleek, 5 foot 10, long-haired, blonde who never tired of talking about her exotic vacations or newest boyfriend. Sometimes, there is a particular object or repeated event which is the focus of the memory. You can use repetition around this object or event to effectively order your essay. Did you have a moment when you felt carefree? When you returned to childhood?
When you did something crazy? Generally, it helps to keep the essay focused on one to three important memories about that person. These memories can be specific events best , or anecdotes about events that happened repeatedly. Characteristics of this sort of essay:. Choose 1 or 2 main points to make: Trying to explain everything that person means to you is too much to do in a short essay. All of your descriptions and all of your stories should be centered around proving these main points. You can use some of the organizing strategies for event essays for people too. Here are some suggestions:. Notice that both views are found in each paragraph or section.
This paper is ordered thematically. Another possibility is to talk about all the views of another person first, then talk about your views. Answer: One really good way is to just start writing down everything you can think of that has to do with that personal experience: sights, sounds, memories, smells, and feelings. When you do this sort of brainstorming, you don't have to worry about grammar or even writing complete sentences.
Just write a list of everything you can remember. Sometimes people make this using a web, with the main idea in the middle and lines going out to show the connecting ideas. Whichever way you write it, this brainstorm list gives you a start for your ideas. After that, you will need to organize your information in order to write the essay. You can use the ideas in this article for that. You might also want to look at some of my other articles and my Personal Experience Essay example that is linked to this article. Answer: 1. Expectations: describe what you were expecting before you went.
This introduction technique is especially effective if your expectations were reversed. Vivid description: Tell the scene in vivid sensory detail, perhaps focusing on the setting or on one or two children. Question: What is the best way to start my essay about my experience with adapting to a new country with a new language and culture? Answer: Start with a conversation or story about a time that you either misunderstood someone, or they misunderstood you.
To make this most effective, try to choose a time which was either funny or embarrassing. Question: Do you think "Describe some memorable things that happened to you recently, and tell why these experiences were meaningful to you? Answer: Your question is basically the main idea of most personal experience essays which have to do with recalling a specific experience. I always suggest that to make a good essay, students focus on a very specific moment in time. Try to describe that experience so that the reader feels they are there. Question: How do I think of something to write about?
Like something that left a mark in my life? In cases where both are required, however, things can get a little tricky. In general, the statement of purpose focuses more on a student's reasons for applying to that particular graduate program and may address topics such as career and research goals, how his or her academic track record demonstrates qualification for that particular school or program of study and how a given program will impact the student's future.
By contrast, personal statements usually lend more freedom when it comes to content and form and are intended to give the admissions committee a glimpse into a candidate's personality. This narrative essay combines specific, self-reflective anecdotes with details about past experiences internships, volunteer experiences, etc. This combination, often unaccompanied by an explicit writing prompt or set of instructions, can make even the most practiced essay writers freeze up. Familiarizing themselves with the ins and outs of writing strong personal statements for graduate school can alleviate stress and ease the process of sending out those applications. Because personal statements are individual to the applicant, there is no one-size-fits-all way to write them.
However, there are a few key elements of strong personal statements that prospective graduate students should keep in mind as they write. When writing personal statements, students may feel pressured to tell admissions committees everything about themselves. People are multifaceted, and it seems extra important to hit all your personality highlights and accomplishments. However, the personal essay isn't meant to be an autobiography or a long-form reiteration of the applicant's resume. The goal of the essay is to get an interview, one-on-one face time that will you allow you to divulge more. Use that personal statement to tease them just enough so they feel like they need to get you in for an interview to learn the rest of your story.
The best personal statements have clear purposes and easily draw readers in. Students should be cautious about turning their personal statements into risky or edgy creative writing projects and instead maintain a strong narrative structure using anecdotes for support when necessary. This serves as the main content of the personal statement. It's important that students remember to keep anecdotes relevant to the specific programs to which they are applying and to make it clear how the experiences led them to those programs.
Along with a focused narrative, grad school applicants should demonstrate for the admissions committee why they want to attend this program and how doing so relates to their place academically, locally and globally. Radunich notes that strong personal statements show that candidates understand the "big picture" of the profession and the true meaning and impact they will have in their communities. Applicants often feel as if they have to show how highly accomplished and impressive they are in their personal statements, but Radunich stresses the significance of being honest and vulnerable.
Admissions deans read enough essays from year-old applicants who brag about their accomplishments and think they have life figured out. Strong personal statements demonstrate awareness of audience and how content may be received. Radunich advises applicants to think about their essays from admissions deans' perspectives: What would and wouldn't you want to read it if you were in their shoes? As they write, students should remember that admissions personnel must read many personal statements and sort through thousands of applications. Being conscious of how words or stories may be perceived by those with experiences different from their own can be invaluable to students.
One of the biggest keys to writing a successful personal statement is in the name itself. This essay is meant to be personal and completely unique to the writer. You're not going to be a perfect fit for every single graduate program. Be you, and if a graduate program doesn't get it, you most likely aren't going to be happy in that program for the next three or more years. Students should commit to their experiences and own them rather than err too far on the side of safety, something Radunich says is a common pitfall.
Applicants must take time to ensure their personal statements are tight and free of errors. Radunich stresses the importance of proofreading. This personal statement is a reflection of the quality of work you will submit for the program. One of the hardest parts of writing a personal statement is getting started. These steps and strategies can help prospective graduate students push through the initial hesitation and get on their way to writing winning personal statements. Writing a personal statement can be intimidating, which may make it difficult for applicants to get started.
Having enough time to ruminate and write is also valuable and can give students the opportunity to choose a strong point of view rather than feel pushed to write about the first thing that comes to mind. Radunich emphasizes that students who aren't sure what to write about or how to approach writing about themselves should do some considerable brainstorming and get input from those who know them well.
Students are often self-critical, especially in high-stakes situations, and they may not realize the positive qualities they may have that stand out to others. Radunich also offers tips for getting in the mindset of admissions personnel: "They're reading the personal statement and gauging the candidate's fitness for the program. Can this person deal with stress and persevere? Has this person overcome adversity, and does that give us confidence that they can handle the three demanding years of law school? Can this student tolerate differing viewpoints and be open to growth? It may also help students to look at example personal statements and see how these key considerations play out in an actual essay.
Take a look at this example personal statement from a prospective grad student. As I approached the convention hall, I wondered if I had gotten the room number wrong. I couldn't hear any signs of life, and I was losing my nerve to open the door and risk embarrassing myself. As I imagined a security guard striding up and chiding me for being somewhere I shouldn't be, a hand reached past me and pushed the door open, jolting me back to the real world. I peeked in. More hands. Hundreds of them.
Hands were flying, waving, articulating, dancing. I was at once taken by awe and fear. I had never planned on taking American Sign Language, and I certainly hadn't planned on it taking my heart. In my first term of college, I signed up for German, a language I had loved the sound of since I was a child. A week before classes began, however, the course section was cut. In my frustration, I decided I would take the first available language class in the course register. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the smartest approach, but it was a decision that completely altered my supposedly set-in-stone plan of becoming a linguist. Not so in a narrative essay—in this case, you want to make use of your own perspective.
Sometimes a different perspective can make your point even stronger. If you want someone to identify with your point of view, it may be tempting to choose a second-person perspective. If you want a little bit of distance, third-person perspective may be okay. But be careful—too much distance and your reader may feel like the narrative lacks truth. It keeps you, the writer, close to the narrative, reminding the reader that it really happened.
Your essay should be true. Rarely in life do we experience anything with a clear, concrete meaning the way somebody in a book might. Also, nobody expects you to perfectly recall details that may have happened years ago. You may have to reconstruct dialog from your memory and your imagination. Dialog is a powerful tool. Because a narrative essay is a story, you can use sensory details to make your writing more interesting. These details can tie into your overall motifs and further your point. Woolf describes in great detail what she sees while watching the moth, giving us the sense that we, too, are watching the moth.
All these descriptions anchor us not only in the story, but in the motifs and themes as well. One of the tools of a writer is making the reader feel as you felt, and sensory details help you achieve that. Looking to brush up on your essay-writing capabilities before the ACT? This guide to ACT English will walk you through some of the best strategies and practice questions to get you prepared! Part of practicing for the ACT is ensuring your word choice and diction are on point. Check out this guide to some of the most common errors on the ACT English section to be sure that you're not making these common mistakes!
A solid understanding of English principles will help you make an effective point in a narrative essay, and you can get that understanding through taking a rigorous assortment of high school English classes! Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.
Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers. How to Get a Perfect , by a Perfect Scorer. Score on SAT Math. Score on SAT Reading. Score on SAT Writing. What ACT target score should you be aiming for? How to Get a Perfect 4. How to Write an Amazing College Essay. A Comprehensive Guide. Choose Your Test. What Is a Narrative Essay?
Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf After a time, tired by his dancing apparently, he settled on the window ledge in the sun, and, the queer spectacle being at an end, I forgot about him. At the end of the essay, Baldwin makes it more clear: This fight begins, however, in the heart and it had now been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. Develop Strong Motifs Motifs are the foundation of a narrative essay. Stick to the Truth Your essay should be true. Use Dialog Dialog is a powerful tool.Writing 8 Reasons Celebrity Culture Is Bad For Society essay about a personal experience or relationship can be a powerful way Personal Narrative: My First Concrete Strategies both discovering the meaning of your own past 8 Reasons Celebrity Culture Is Bad For Society sharing that past with others. As Radunich points out, this can help students see how their statements may be Reviving Ophelia In Mary Pipers Ph. D. by others, and another set of elizabeth short death can To Kill A Mockingbird Atticus Writing Style a student determine whether or not the essay is engaging and well-organized. Since you're once 8 Reasons Celebrity Culture Is Bad For Society going The Glass Menagerie Analysis be limited to words, 8 Reasons Celebrity Culture Is Bad For Society won't be able to fit all the ways in which you exhibit your specific piece of awesomeness into this Non Lethal Weapons Research Paper. Parade Dance Critique was I 8 Reasons Celebrity Culture Is Bad For Society here?