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Teacher Tips and Answers

Reading a Personal Essay

You've probably written many personal narratives over the course of your schooling, but this may be your first personal essay. Instead of focusing on one brief event in your life, you will focus on a series of events over a longer period. As a result, you'll need to be selective about what events you report, and you'll need to tie them together so that they create a clear narrative arc. You can get a sense of how to do so by reading another student's personal essay.

Reading a Student Model

Read the following personal essay, in which Carson reflects on a winter of discontent and the surprising creative outlet that he discovered. Note how he zooms in to specific events with description and dialogue before zooming out with transition sentences to show the progress of time. Click on the side notes to see the different features of this personal essay.

Teaching Tip

This is a long personal essay, and some less-experienced students might feel daunted by it. They are often worried about what the page count or word count should be for their own writing. Put them at ease. The length of the narrative doesn't matter, only that it tells a compelling story about a significant period that changed who they are. Tell students to take as much—or as little—space as they need to tell their stories. Also encourage them to dig in to the events, showing readers just what this time period meant to them.

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