Starting with Turning Points - Grade 5 (Adapted from Calkins & Kesler, 2006)
Strategies for Generating Personal Narrative Writing anchor chart from previous lessons, chart paper, markers, paper or notebooks for student writing, clipboards (optional)
Yesterday we studied some published stories and noticed how the authors crafted their personal narratives. For example, when we looked at [mention specific story], we noticed that the story is not just about one small moment. Instead, there were some moments at the beginning that lead up to the main small moment – the most important part of the story – and then a few smaller moments that help to end the story. Usually the stories we read follow this pattern. There is a beginning – and then something happens to change things, and then there is an ending. The moment that things change is called a turning point and writers think about turning points to help them to craft important, powerful stories.
You already know some strategies for thinking of ideas for personal narratives. You know that you can find ideas for stories by thinking of people, places, or things that matter to you and then looking into your memory for clear, small moments that you remember. [Refer to anchor chart from previous personal narrative lessons.] Today I want to teach you one more strategy for generating ideas for personal narratives. When I need an idea for a personal narrative, I find that it helps me to list times from my life that have been turning points for me. These are often first times, last times, or times when I learned or realized something.
Let me show you how I use this strategy. In order to come up with first times, I say to myself, “When was the first time I ….?” I might think about the first time I did something new or the first time I did something that I now do all the time. In my mind, I try to remember exactly what that first time was like. For example, I remember the first time I [give example and briefly tell the story of this first time.] I think that I could write a personal narrative about this first time, so I will jot it down on my chart under “First Times.” I would follow the same steps to think of a last time. I ask myself, “When was the last time I saw a special person or special place? I remember the last time I ... [give example and briefly tell the story of this last time.]” I think that I could write a personal narrative about this last time, so I will jot it down on my chart under “Last Times.” The last type of turning point is harder. Now I need to ask myself what moment can I remember when I realized something important? I might think about stories like [mention familiar story in which main character learns a lesson about him/herself or others] where the main character, [mention character’s name] learned…[briefly recount the lesson of the story]. Then I try to think about moments from my own life when I learned something important about myself or about another person. For example, I remember the time I realized…[give example and briefly tell the story of that time]. I think I could write a story about this turning point, so I will add it to my chart under the heading “Learned/Realized.”
Let’s try this strategy together. Write the words “First Times” at the top of your paper. I am going to suggest some ideas and I want you to try to think of a turning point story that you could write. As you think of ideas for stories, jot them down on your paper.
[Begin posing ideas for first time turning points, pausing after each suggestion for students to think and record their ideas. Topics for first time turning points might include: Think of the first time that you did something that felt hard or scary, like playing a new sport or riding a roller coaster. Think of the first time you saw a person, maybe a new baby brother or sister or new friend.]
Follow the same guided procedure for last times. It may be wise to warn students that last times can be sad time and that as writers they must decide what experiences they are comfortable writing about and/or sharing. Ideas for last time turning points might include: Think of the last time you saw a person (or pet). Think about your last time in a place, maybe your last day in another home or school.
Follow the same guided procedure for turning points when students learned or realized something. Ideas for learned or realized turning points might include: Think about the time you realized something important about yourself or another person. Think about a time you realized something almost happened to you – something that could have changed your life.
Send Off [for Independent Practice]
I want you to always remember that when you want to pick a topic for a personal narrative that will make a really good story and one that will have the shape of a real story – a beginning, middle, and end – and a story that really matters to you, it often helps to think about turning points. Today during independent writing, I would like you to spend some time thinking about your list of turning points. Then select one, picture it in your mind, and begin writing an entry about that turning point. If you finish writing all you can about one turning point, just choose another and begin a second entry.
Please meet with a partner to share the entry or entries that you wrote today. Then talk together about your writing. What did you try to do or show in your writing? How is your writing similar to or different from the personal narratives that we explored yesterday?
Sample Anchor Chart
Think of a person, place, or thing that matters to you. Think of small moments related to these people, places, or things. Choose one small moment and write the story.
Think of first times, last times, or times when you learned or realized something important. Write about one of these moments.