Personal narratives can help you learn about each student as they share a special small moment story from their life.  During this unit, I might learn about how a student adopted a kitten or opened a special gift on their sixth birthday.  On the other hand, I also have students who want to share entire vacations, descriptions of their pets, or other ideas that don’t fit the small moment narrative framework.  Anchor charts, personal narrative mentor texts and writing conferences can all help with this skill.  Let’s take a look at how you can help your students come up with a narrow topic for their small moment writing.  

Students can use persona narrative mentor texts, anchor chards, examples, and conferences to get a narrow topic.

Personal Narrative Mentor Texts

What is a small moment narrative?  The best way to explain this to your students is to share lots of examples.  I like to mix up the mentor texts I use, depending on the class, but today I am going to share two of my favorite personal narrative mentor texts.  Both stories focus on a small moment with a meaningful, narrow topic.

Fireflies is an excellent personal narrative mentor text.  This small moment story is about some children out having a blast catching fireflies.  Later, a young boy is admiring the fireflies in his jar.  However, the boy realizes the the fireflies’ lights are dimming.  He knows he needs to free the fireflies, or they will likely die.  This book takes the readers step by step through the story, modeling everything from character feelings to an ending that gives closure.

Fireflies is a great mentor text with a narrow topic. It is perfect for small moment stories.
Shortcut is an small moment story with a strong lesson, making it a perfect personal narrative mentor text.

Shortcut is about a group of children who decide to take a shortcut back to Bigmama’s house because they are running late.  It doesn’t take long before they realize they made a mistake.  The lesson here is very clear: Saving time isn’t as important as staying safe.  This book also features great use of onomatopoeia and character emotions.

Model the Process

After listening to and discussing mentor texts, it is important to model the process by coming up with your own small moment topic.  I show students how to “brain dump” a bunch of ideas.  After that, I share my examples with the class.  Then, I go through my examples and explain why some of my topics are way too big!  I model the thought process of deciding on a more narrow topic.  Students can help each other in pairs or small groups as needed.  Sometimes, it works to have students share their lists with the class to inspire others who may be stuck.

Model the process of finding a narrow topic for your small moment story

Anchor Chart

This personal narrative anchor chart helps guide your students through the process of finding a narrow topic for their small moment stories.

This particular year, I decided to write my small moment story about picking up my dog, Millie, from the shelter.  I talked students through the process of starting with a big topic about something I loved and narrowing it down to a topic that would work for a small moment story.  I created this small moment anchor chart as a reference for students to use throughout the unit.  The watermelon analogy serves as a great visual for coming up with a narrow focus.  Anchor charts work well for students when they are working independently, with a writing partner, and during writing conferences.

***The graphics on this anchor chart, along with some graphic organizers are available for FREE at the end of this post.

The watermelon analogy, great mentor texts, and modeling are wonderful guides to get your students to find their just right topics.  I hope you found something you can use to coach your students to come up with topics for their own small moment seed stories.  Feel free to contact me to share ideas!  

Are you looking for some additional resources to help your students come up with small moment story topics?  The graphics for the above anchor chart as well as a graphic organizers and interactive notebook foldable (pictured to the right) are all available to you for free!  Simply fill out the form, and they will be delivered straight to your inbox!  These items were designed to help you guide your students to find just the right topic for their own small moment writing.

These free organizers will help your students find a narrow topic for their small moment writing.
See below to find out how to get these organizers sent straight to your inbox.

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Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.