No Series: Using Personal Anecdotes to Improve Writing Skills

ELA.W.8.5

Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • W:  Writing Standards 6-12
  • 8:  8th Grade
  • 5: 
    With some guidance and support from peers and
    adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed
    by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying
    a new approach, focusing on how well purpose
    and audience have been addressed. (Editing for
    conventions should demonstrate command of
    Language standards 1-\x80\x933 up to and including grade
    8 on page 52.)

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Using Personal Anecdotes to Improve Writing Skills

Lesson Objective: Use personal narratives for self-expression and to improve writing skills
Grade 8 / ELA / Writing
ELA.W.8.5

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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Why is it a powerful strategy to have a peer read narrative writing aloud to the writer?
  2. How does this approach help students understand the revision process?
  3. How does the discussion at the end of the lesson enhance student writing skills?

13 Comments

  • Private message to Lan Pham

I like the idea of asking students to write personal anecdotes in the writing lesson. It is a great way for students to practice narrative writing, using their own stories to reflect themselves. The benefits of this kind of writing are that students will not feel any stress to think about setting, plots, or characters, and through writing about their own stories, they have an opportunity to look back at their own pictures to think, learn and express their thoughts and feelings.

Having the narrative writing read aloud to the writer by their peer is an effective way for the writer to revise his or her writing. When hearing a person read aloud your story, you are able to recognize your mistakes in using vocabulary, grammar, transition words to connect ideas, or you may realize of lacking adjectives or adverbs to make your writing more interesting and profound. This is a powerful strategy that Ms. Chalupsky uses to help her students improve their writing skills. This approach also helps students understand the process of revision better. They identify that the drafts need to be reread to check the spelling, the structure or organization, then edit, elaborate to make it better.

The discussion at the end of the lesson helps students understand that writing personal anecdotes is not only telling the story but also expressing the author's feelings, emotion, point of view, and so on. This practice and discussion definitely enhance students' writing skills.

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Md Nizam Uddin
It's useful for me.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Shani Alston
this is helpful for my class thank you
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to marlene acevedo
I love the questions the teacher poses, they are so student-centered and helpful for them in trying to find who they are as writers, if they don't already know it.
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  • Private message to Regina Johnson
This is a great idea and I like the peer conferences. What lessons led up to this point? I'm wondering if you started with reading other personal narratives, writing shorter pieces, practicing "showing not telling", etc. How would you suggest you get the words on the page for kids that feel they don't have a story?
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Transcripts

  • 01:00:00 Wall sign "READ"
    Wall sign "INSPIRE"
    Books and apples [MUSIC]
    Jean with students
    EXT. Thurgood Marshall Middle School
    Gates

    01:00:00 Wall sign "READ"
    Wall sign "INSPIRE"
    Books and apples [MUSIC]
    Jean with students
    EXT. Thurgood Marshall Middle School
    Gates JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    My name is Jean Chalupsky and I teach 7th and 8th grade at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in San Diego, and the name of my lesson...
    TOUGH TO TEACH
    Personal Anecdotes JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...is personal anecdotes.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY
    8th Grade/Marshall Middle School
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    And my lesson revolves around writing personal anecdotes and finding um, what those personal anecdotes are saying, the-the big idea, what it's saying about you.
    Jean with students JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    How many of you have picked an anecdote from just this year?
    Students raising hands
    Jean JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Okay. How many of you picked an anecdote from a couple of years ago?
    JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    This is how I teach...
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...anecdotal writing.
    Jean with students
    White board JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    First of all, asking the students you know, what is a narrative and then guiding them toward what's a personal narrative.
    Jean with students
    Jean JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    How many of you picked an anecdote from when you were really little that you kind of needed somebody to to, 'cause you don’t remember all of it, but you've heard enough about it?
    Jean with students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    For me, it's much more about this process...
    01:00:57 Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...of um, getting to a point where they can openly write and that they don’t see it as a chore as much...
    Students writing JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...as a, a form of self-expression and communication.
    Jean with students JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Why did you pick that?
    Male student MALE:
    You're writing about it because it's a big event in your life.
    Jean FEMALE (OS):
    'Cause it was stuck in my mind and it's just that one memory.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    One memory.
    FEMALE (OS):
    And then...
    Female student FEMALE:
    ...my mom told me the rest of what happened
    JEAN CHALUPSKY (OS):
    Okay.
    FEMALE:
    ...and it's just one I've never forgotten.
    Students
    Jean
    Jean with students JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Okay. Right now, everybody has um, at least one rough draft, right? I want you to pair up with somebody and I want you to read their rough draft.
    Students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    They break up into groups and I have them try to read aloud, but a fun way to change that up is let somebody else read your story...
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...aloud to you.
    Students reading STUDENTS:
    (CHATTER)
    Student's typewritten paper titled, "When I Got a Dog."
    Male student reading aloud MALE (OS):
    I sat down in a chair on the wood floor, and a beagle wobbled its way over to me. It sniffed my hand like I was holding pork chops and then ran off to my sister. I instantly knew that that was the dog I wanted.
    01:02:02 Jean reading over male student's shoulder JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    So you hear how it might sound...
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...inside your reader's head rather than how you're intending...
    Jean with female student JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...while you're writing it.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    What do you notice about her reading it to you?
    Jean with student FEMALE:
    I notice that I made a lot of mistakes.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Well, it's a rough draft.
    FEMALE:
    Yeah.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    You're supposed to make mistakes.
    Jean with students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    It's a really good way for them...
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...to be more introspective in their writing and say, you know what?
    Students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    I didn’t emphasize that word. Maybe I need to emphasize it differently.
    Jean and two female students FEMALE:
    And there's some parts where I feel like I should word it differently.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Okay.
    FEMALE:
    And maybe some words I would rather use differently.
    01:02:32 Jean with two female students JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Okay. Because you hear it...
    FEMALE:
    Yeah. It's a lot, it's more...
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    It's different.
    Jean and two female students FEMALE 2:
    Like when someone else is reading it, you, kind of like, when you read it in your head and you think it sounds great...
    FEMALE:
    Great.
    Jean and female student FEMALE 2:
    ...and then you're like, when someone else reads it to you and you're like oh, that doesn’t sound that good.
    Jean and female students FEMALE:
    Like what just happened. I read it to myself. I thought it was amazing, and now, I'm seeing all these mistakes.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Isn't that funny?
    JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    It's a really good way for them to...
    01:02:53 Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...hear their work rather than just read it themselves...
    Jean with male student JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...and feel less judged by it.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    What did you pick? What stories did you pick?
    MALE:
    Well, I picked my first video game and the first time I got candy from my kindergarten teacher, and the first time I lied.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Okay. The first time you lied?
    Jean with two male students MALE:
    Yeah.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Who did you lie to?
    MALE:
    My mom.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Oh.
    MALE:
    Yeah. It was bad.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    [LAUGH]
    01:03:17 Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Afterwards, you know, I try to get them to say why did they choose those three?
    Students' hands on desk JEAN CHALUPSKY (OS):
    I want you to, to think about why you chose those three stories.
    Jean with students JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    You knew you had to choose three out of the whole group. Why those three?
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    It's often really hard to do. They aren’t always open to something besides these three stories are very different.
    Typewritten story on paper
    Students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    I don’t, and I don’t know what they say about me, so that takes a little bit more of that moral reasoning and pushing, a little, you know, higher level thinking.
    Jean and students JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    You knew that you were going to be sharing them, so that means you're putting it out there, right? When you get on a skateboard or when you go try to make a friend with somebody else, when you work for that straight A's to be like Mary Poppins, practically perfect, when you go for those things, it's a risk.
    01:04:11 Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    It's hard for them to take a risk, so being able to read these three stories and put them out there in the world and be able then to...
    Students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...um, share that with other people, then to step back and say okay, what is this saying about me?
    Jean with students JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    So why did you risk showing these three bits of you? What do you think?
    Jean with students
    Female student FEMALE:
    Um, in all my stories, I kind of like wrote about a bad or traumatic experience and I'm a lot grateful I'm here right now and, and [them?] right now.
    Jean standing by whiteboard JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Okay, so what does it say about you?
    Female student FEMALE:
    I guess...
    JEAN CHALUPSKY (OS):
    Those were bad experiences.
    Female student FEMALE:
    Yes.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    But you're here right now.
    FEMALE:
    I guess I'm strong.
    Jean writing on whiteboard JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    I really feel like it's a huge responsibility for me...
    01:05:02 Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...to continue to tie what they do back to who they are as a human.
    Jean and students
    Male student MALE:
    They were basically a huge milestone in my life...
    JEAN CHALUPSKY (OS):
    Okay.
    MALE:
    ...that I had to go through.
    Jean JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Okay. So one was your little brother.
    MALE (OS):
    My sister.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Or sister being born. Okay. What was the other one?
    Male student MALE:
    When my friend moved.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY (OS):
    A friend moving. Okay.
    Male student MALE:
    And my first time on an airplane.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY (OS):
    First time on an airplane.
    Jean JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    What do they say about you? Why did you pick those?
    Male student JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    It's hard because they're often...
    01:05:36 Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...afraid to crack that shell open to really expose themselves, not just to me...
    Jean with students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...but to their classmates.
    Male student MALE:
    They were um, experiences that had huge effects in my life.
    Jean walking to whiteboard JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Okay, so these changed you as a person.
    Jean and students MALE:
    Yes.
    Jean writing on whiteboard JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    Right? So they helped you grow.
    JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    I think I-I have a...
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...responsibility to try to meet these kids, not just where they are academically, but where they are emotionally and socially...
    Students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...relating to the rest of the world, which is the whole reason why we try to evaluate what's being written, what's happened in the past. To look at things with that...
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...inquiry base. Um, I feel like that's a huge responsibility for teachers...
    Students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...and they're at the perfect age for this to happen. They're, they're trying to discover who they are so they're trying on different hats and things and if I can be a safe haven for that...
    01:06:35 Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...relationship to develop where...
    Jean and male student JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...I'm not judging it, I try to remove it more as...
    [MUSIC]
    Jean with female students JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...well, what do you think about that? What do you think about this...
    Jean (INTV) JEAN CHALUPSKY:
    ...hat you're trying on and who you are as this person? Where does that fit in your own...
    William Butler Yeats quote on wall
    Franklin D. Roosevelt quote on wall JEAN CHALUPSKY (VO):
    ...history? Where is that going to fit in the future, as well?
    [MUSIC]
    Fade to black
    [CREDITS]
    [WINGSPAN PICTURES LOGO]
    01:07:05 Fade to black

School Details

Marshall Middle School
9700 Avenue Of Nations
San Diego CA 92131
Population: 1612

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Jean Chalupsky

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