Let Me Tell You All About It!
DESIGNED BY: Dorinda Mueller, E. L. Wright Middle School
SUBJECT AREA/COURSE: Language Arts/Reading GRADE LEVEL: 8
ESTIMATED INSTRUCTIONAL TIME: 2 class periods
OVERVIEW: Students will be guided through the writing process of an autobiographical
SC CURRICULUM STANDARD(S), STRAND(S), AND/OR AREA(S) TARGETED:
Reading/English Language Arts – 8th Grade:
A. The student will write in a variety of forms.
B. The student will use the writing process fluently and expand the use of writing
to learn across the curriculum.
E. The student will edit final written products for effectiveness.
A. The student will communicate through application software by composing and
editing a document at the keyboard, using word processing skills and the writing
C. The student will apply knowledge of the characteristics and elements of
various literary forms including short stories, autobiographical narratives, etc.
A. The student will use interviewing techniques to gain information by listening
critically and reporting responses.
A. The student will write in a variety of forms and use available technology.
RICHLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT TWO STUDENT TECHNOLOGY BENCHMARK(S)
6-8 Student Benchmarks
Demonstrate proper keyboarding skills – 3.7
Operating Systems: 4.3, 4.5
Application Software: 5.1-5.3
FOCUS QUESTION(S) FOR ACTIVITY:
What is an autobiographical narrative?
How is the writing process used in creating an interesting autobiographical narrative?
Does the reader “see” your story?
ASSESSMENT(S)/PROCESSING FOR ACTIVITY:
Students will apply the writing process to compose an autobiographical narrative that
concentrates on the trait of Ideas and Content.
1. Review Raymond’s Run with the student and talk about the point of view it is told
from (the narrator’s point of view) and the type of words used in this viewpoint (I,
me, my, etc.). Relate this to first person point-of -view. Clarify that the narrator
tells the story, but the narrator is not the author of the story. If he/she was, it
would be an autobiographical narrative. Define an autobiographical narrative (a
true story told in the first person about an incident that happened to the author of
the story) and that it is written in first person point-of-view.
2. Identify for students the components that should be included in an
autobiographical incident. (See Autobiographical Writing Template 23 at end
3. Read the autobiographical incident on page 175, The Language of Literature (or
any other example of an autobiographical incident will suffice). Fill in the
autobiographical incident template from student responses to the story.
4. Tell students they will begin to compose their own autobiographical incident
using the writing process. Introduce the term brainstorming and ask if anyone is
familiar with this concept. At this grade, brainstorming should be a familiar
concept. Brainstorm topics for an autobiographical incident. Tell students
brainstorming/pre-writing is a time where any idea is acceptable. The goal is for
quantity of ideas as opposed to quality of ideas.
5. The teacher should choose a personal experience to share with the students as
an example to illustrate the writing process of an autobiographical incident.
Have a prepared brainstorming/rough draft (example located at the end of this
document) to share, in sections, with the students. (Having this part prepared in
advance will save class time, however, the teacher may opt to do steps 6-11 in-
6. Use the autobiographical template as your graphic organizer for brainstorming.
Under event, place the memory you have chosen to share with your class. In my
case, I used experiencing an earthquake. Continue brainstorming to complete
the rest of the template. Use single words or short phrases for each category.
7. Once the template is completed, tell students they should review what they have
brainstormed and decide if there is anything they wish to add or delete. You
want to make sure everything relates to your main topic. Once the template is
satisfactory, the second stage of writing can begin – the rough draft.
8. Explain to students the template/prewriting information will help them “know”
what to write. Go back to the main event – this is your first paragraph that tells
your reader what your paper is all about. It introduces the event, people, and
setting. This is like the jacket of a book cover. It’ll either catch a reader’s interest
and make him/her read further, or it will make a reader decide the paper isn’t
worth the time or of interest to them. Share with the class your first paragraph.
9. Using the rest of the template, share your second, third, and fourth paragraphs.
Show students how they support the statement of the first paragraph. Also
discuss that in a personal narrative events are placed in sequential order. These
paragraphs make up the middle of the essay. It describes the incident using
vivid details and dialogue. It makes clear the importance of the event.
10. Conclude your narrative with the last section of the template. This sums up your
personal experience and how it effected you or what you learned from it. Let
students know that the five paragraph essay will be the standard for the year.
11. Once the teacher has reviewed his/her rough draft, have the class start the
revising process. Talk with the students about ways to make a paper more
interesting to read (dialogue, details, showing – not telling, emotions, unexpected
turns, etc.) and have them revise your rough draft.
12. Once the revision process is complete, tell the students the next step is to edit.
Explain that revising has more to do with the content of the paper (what and how
information is presented). Editing has to do with correcting grammar and
spelling. As a class, edit the rough draft using proofreading marks. Tell
students, just as they revised and edited your paper, they will work in pairs to
revise and edit each other’s papers.
13. Give each student a hardcopy of the autobiographical incident template. In the
Memory box, have each student list the incident about which he/she will write.
Tell the class they have 10 minutes to brainstorm words/short phrases for each
of the other 5 boxes. At the end of the 10 minutes or as each student is finished
(depending on which comes first), papers are to be turned over so the teacher
will know when everyone is done.
14. At the end of 10 minutes give them another 10 minutes to add to or delete any
information to the writing template.
15. For homework, each student should compose a rough draft of his/her
autobiographical incident. The rough draft will be revised/edited with a peer the
next day. Distribute to students the rubric (located at the end of this document)
with which the narrative will be graded. Tell them this is to be used in revising
the narratives to make sure it contains all required elements.
16. Distribute a second copy of the rubric to each student. Tell them this second
copy is to be used when reviewing a peer’s narrative. It is to be returned with the
narrative to the author. Go over the rule s of being a peer editor (seriousness,
respectful, give suggestions as opposed to criticisms, comment on what you like
and why you like it). Once these rubrics have been distributed, have students
pair up for revising/editing. After a peer review has been done, each student
should read the peer rubric received and do his/her own revising/editing.
17. When a student has completed the revising/editing process, he/she will be
assigned a computer to type the final narrative. Students will be reminded to
have a title, indent paragraphs, 12 point font, etc. Students who do not complete
the narrative in class this day will need to do so on his/her own by the next day.
The Language of Literature by McDougal Littell
Autobiographical Writing Template 23
prepared brainstorming/rough draft
Autobiographical Incident - Rubric For Evaluation
Experiencing an earthquake
Me, Randy, Jackie, Alexis
Left work early, K-mart, diapers, earthquake, kids, apartment,
husband, airport, wedding
Breaking glass, crashing shelves, coolness of floor, exhaust
fumes, shouting, crying, honking horns, salty peanuts, rumbling,
Scared, nervous, worried, relieved, protective, comforted, happy,
Value of family, live life one day at a time, disasters happen to
RUBRIC FOR EVALUATION
Ideas and Content Weak Average Strong
7 8 9
1. Focuses on one well-defined incident
2. Provides background information for incident
3. Uses elements such as plot, character, and
setting as appropriate
4. Uses descriptions and dialogue appropriately
5. Includes precise language and specific details
6. Shows why the experience was important
Structure and Form
7. Grabs readers’ attention at the beginning
8. Shows clearly the order in which events occurred
9. Has a strong conclusion that summarizes the
importance of the incident
Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics
10. Contains no more than three minor errors in
spelling, capitalization, and punctuation
11. Contains no more than two or three minor errors in
grammar and usage
FINAL DRAFT OF AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NARRATIVE
When my family and I were living on the West Coast, an event happened that I
would have never imagined happening to me. It made me scared and worried. It made
me realize the importance of family and how quickly life can change. What shook me
so badly was an earthquake.
I had left for work that morning feeling confident that everything was ready for our
trip to St. Louis. My husband’s two sisters were getting married that weekend and we
were to fly out of the Santa Clara airport the next morning. It was both our children’s
first airplane ride. Alexis, my baby, was only 6 months old and didn’t realize the trip
ahead of her. My oldest daughter, Jackie, was 4-1/2 years old and was very excited to
take her first plane ride. Randy had arranged for his boss to take us to the airport in the
morning so we wouldn’t have to pay for long-term parking the week we would be gone.
The last item to be handled was picking up a bag of diapers. I was hoping my boss
would let me off work a little early to do this so I could avoid the rush hour traffic and still
pick up my daughters on time from the daycare center. Leaving work early that day
turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
I was a secretary at Intel and had been there for just a few months. Asking to
leave early wasn’t something that was comfortable for me to do, but I had worked extra
hard to make sure everything was completed before 4:30. Around 3:30, after feeling
reassured I’d accomplish all the goals that had been given me that day, I asked my
boss about leaving early. She said no problem. In Santa Clara (or California cities in
general), rush hour traffic is horrible. A 15-minute drive could take 45 minutes. This
extra 30 minutes would help me avoid the traffic jam. K-mart was on the way to the
daycare center and I decided to stop there for diapers. I took a few minutes to look
around the store, hoping the browsing would jar my memory of anything else that might
have been forgotten for our trip. I glanced at my watch and realized it was 5:05. If I
wanted to avoid the traffic jam I had to get out the door. As I stood in line a slight tremor
ran under the floor of the store. The first second or two this didn’t bother me. Small
tremors were very common in California and I had gotten used to the brief feeling of the
earth shaking. Within another second or two, I knew this was not just a small
The rumbling of the earthquake grew. The K-mart building began to shake and
items on shelves began to take life, rumbling and moving across the shelves. As most
people in California have been drilled, shoppers (including myself) dropped to the floor.
At that instant, the glass windows just feet in front of me busted out of the windows,
flying all around those of us at the registers. I could hear the shelves behind me
crashing to the floor and items breaking as they hit the hard ground. The coolness of
the floor was a reflection of the cold fear running through my body. The earthquake
lasted only a few minutes, but it seemed forever. As it ended, I lay on the floor for just a
second and then thoughts of my husband and daughter flew into my head.
My daughters were in a small daycare center and my husband worked on the top
floor of a five-story building. I could hear the sirens starting already and, as I looked
around at the destruction within K-mart, my worst fears started to play in my mind. As I
rushed out the door I could hear a manager yelling, “Hey, lady, you need to stay here.
Don’t go out on the road.” My fear drove me on, though. The daycare center was only
5 minutes down the road and I wanted to be with my children. I got into my car knowing
this could be the wrong choice. There was no way of knowing if another earthquake
would follow or how big the aftershocks might be. Looking around the parking lot, the
outside world didn’t look too bad – not as bad as the inside of K-mart. My fears resided
just a little.
As I was driving to the daycare, I turned on the radio and found a station that was
still on the air. It was just a few minutes before I reached my daughters and I had not
really heard what was being said. So far things did not look too bad. Traffic wasn’t too
heavy and buildings seemed to be intact. The road wasn’t buckled or cracked. The
daycare had all the children outside. I found Alexis in the arms of her daycare provider
seemingly unaware of what was going on around her. Ms. Patsy said she had been
rocking Alexis when the quake struck and been thrown to the floor with her. Alexis cried
for a minute but seemed to be unharmed. My oldest daughter, Jackie, was standing by
a fence. I ran to her and gave her a big hug. She was scared and excited at the same
time. Jackie started telling me how they had to hide under the tables when the quake
started and how scared she was when the books on the shelves started falling off. I
was just relieved Alexis and Jackie were not hurt. We rushed ourselves to the car to get
back to our apartment. Now that I knew my children were okay, a great part of me
relaxed. Not having seen too much damage here or along the roads, I had a calmer
feeling that things were probably okay with my husband. He would be home shortly and
we’d go to bed and leave tomorrow for St. Louis with a story to tell.
As I drove home the radio was turned on once again. I noticed now there were
constant sirens. Firetrucks and police cars kept going by in the opposite direction. On
the radio an announcement came of the double decker bridge collapsing and trapping
people and cars underneath. Reports of downtown San Francisco, only 20 minutes
away, being devastated were coming through. I realized that taller structures seemed
to be harder hit and a paralyzing fear went through me as a picture of my husband’s five
story building flashed in my mind. By this time we had reached the parking lot of our
apartment building. People covered the lawn area. As I took my children out of the car,
a small aftershock rumbled through the earth. Jackie clung to my leg and I moved away
from the building. From the outside, the apartment buildings looked intact. People
around me were talking about the messes on the first floors. I wondered what our
bottom floor apartment would look like. Having lived here for just a few months, I did
not know anyone very well. My children were hungry and I decided to see if there was
something we could eat.
I slowly opened the front door and entered the apartment first. Alexis was in my
arms and Jackie was right behind me. As we slowly entered, I noticed things weren’t
too bad. My husband’s stein collection had fallen off the top of a bookshelf and,
miraculously, had landed on the carpet without any breaking. The only mess was in the
kitchen. A few jars of spaghetti sauce had been jarred from the cabinets and busted on
the kitchen floor. I had Jackie stay back, as there was a lot of glass. There was not
much food in the cupboards as we were leaving for a weeklong trip. The electricity and
lights were out so cooking was not an option. The water supply might be contaminated
so there was not much to drink. The only thing I had was a jar of salted peanuts. I felt
another small aftershock and decided to get out of the apartment for safety. I pulled a
blanket out of the trunk of the car and we settled on the lawn with the other tenants. I
listened as people coped by telling where they were, what they were doing, etc. I
wondered where my husband was. Someone had a radio playing and reports were
coming in to stay off the roads. Traffic was backed up for hours and some roads
buckled and not passable. Reports of the devastation of the bridge and downtown San
Francisco made me feel uneasy and wishing Randy would drive up any minute. I knew,
though, it would probably be hours before he arrived as he worked on the side of town
closer to San Francisco. I reassured my girls daddy would be home as soon as he
could but traffic would be a hold up. As darkness closed in, electricity was restored and
it had been awhile since any aftershocks. People slowly went back to their apartments,
as did the girls and I.
Jackie was still hungry but I didn’t have anything else to feed her. I promised that
in the morning she’d have a big breakfast. Alexis was being fed her bottles that had
been prepared for the airplane trip. Luckily, she hadn’t been too hungry. The formula
was in cans so it would not spoil. I cleaned up the spaghetti sauce and glass. I
wondered, also, if we would be making our trip to St. Louis. Would the airport be able to
get planes out? Were the runways okay? There was too much to think about and my
head hurt. I wanted my husband home. It was almost 10:00. Even if he had left at 5:30
when he typically left, I couldn’t imagine a 25-minute drive had turned into a 4-1/2 hour
drive. Before worse thoughts could enter my head, Randy opened the door. What a
welcome he received from Jackie and I. Alexis had gone to sleep and would see her
daddy in the morning. Randy said his boss would pick us up in the morning and we’d
have to chance if the airport were opened. We exchanged stories and decided to go to
bed, as we were both exhausted. We moved the crib into our bedroom and Jackie slept
with us. I was still jittery as I lay in bed. I knew Randy was feeling the same way as he
reached across our daughter to squeeze my hand. A small rumbling went through our
apartment. No longer did I accept the rumbling with ease. I could feel my body tense
as I waited for it to stop, which it did. Just a minor aftershock. I was just beginning to
drift off to sleep when the rumbling started again and our bed began to shake. This time
both Randy and I sat up. It was on the edge of lasting too long. I reached over and
pulled the crib closer to me, ready to grab Alexis out of it if I had to. Then the trembling
subsided. I knew it would be a long, sleepless night.
The next morning we quietly got dressed for our trip. At 6:00a.m. Randy’s boss
pulled up and we headed off for the airport. The radio said the airport was still in
operation and all runways were usable. As we took off, I looked down and could see
the destruction of San Francisco. I thanked God we were okay and prayed for those
whose lives had been changed so drastically in just a few minutes. Never in my life
would I have dreamed to experience such a disaster. I also felt closer to my family as I
realized how quickly lives could change unexpectedly. It was not until we were in St.
Louis and watched the news that the devastation of the quake truly impacted us. I was
glad we were out of Santa Clara and the girls would not have to experience the days of
aftershocks that would most likely follow. I was glad for myself, too.
So often I hear of a town being hit by a tornado or hurricane or a flood or an
earthquake. Before I would say how badly I felt for the people and towns effected. It
was not until I experienced the earthquake of 1989 that I now not only say how badly I
feel, but I experience the tinge of their fear and their thankfulness of having survived.
The emotions this experience draws remain hidden until such events happen and I hear
the reports. More so, however, I experience those feelings again when I tell about or
write about this incident. I think I’ll go give my husband and daughters a hug right now.