Personal Narrative Prompts by Grade
Narrative writing is one of the most powerful forms of writing for students because it allows them to write about a topic they know well — themselves. Personal narrative writing gives students an opportunity to express themselves and to tell their own stories all while developing the critical writing skills that they need.
Personal narrative writing is also a skill that students begin working on as soon as they start school. Even as kindergarten students are learning to read books and write their letters, their teachers are giving them the building blocks they will need to become great writers.
Thereafter, students use this foundation in order to build on their writing skills throughout their entire educational journey, culminating in high school where they will perfect the skills they learned before starting their next chapter in life.
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Narrative Story Ideas & Inspiration for Teachers
Teachers can use personal narrative prompts in their classroom, no matter what grade level they teach.
Our list prompts shown below can guide students and inspire them to craft their own stories and create their own dialogue. As they begin to explore the concept of a personal narrative, they learn to become storytellers in their own right. Personal narrative writing is the first step toward creating fiction.
Not only does personal narrative writing help students develop their writing skills and learn more about the building blocks of a story, but it also allows them to learn to love writing.
Students often find it enjoyable to write about themselves, which makes writing feel more like fun and less like a chore. So, get to it and use these prompts with your writers today!
Personal Narrative Writing Prompts by Grade
(+ Bonus Ideas for Adults)
Use these personal narrative prompts in your classroom to get your students writing!
1st Grade Personal Narrative Prompts
- Think about what you do each morning before school. This is called your morning routine. What is your morning routine like?
- Do you have a pet? If so, describe what your pet is like. If you do not have a pet, write about the type of pet you would like to have.
- Write about a time when something changed, such as when you moved to a new house or went to a different school. What was it like?
- Where is someplace you have traveled to? Who did you go with? What did you do while you were there?
- How do you like to spend your weekends? Use details to describe what you like to do.
2nd Grade Personal Narrative Prompts
- If you could plan dinner for your family, what would you serve? Why would you choose that meal?
- Have you ever gone on a field trip with your class? Where did you go? What was it like? What did you learn while you were there?
- Imagine that you are taking a visit to the library. What types of books would you want to check out? Why?
- Write about your favorite memory from preschool or kindergarten. How has school changed for you since then?
- Write about a time that one of your classmates made you laugh. What did they do that was funny? How did it make you feel?
More Good Narrative Topics
3rd Grade Personal Narrative Prompts
- Imagine that you could go back in time. Which time period would you travel to? Why?
- Write about a time when you felt sad. Why did you feel sad? How did you make yourself feel better?
- Have you ever been a leader? When you were leading the group, what did you do? Did you enjoy being in a leadership position?
- What do you want to be when you grow up? Write about what it would be like to spend one day doing that job.
- Write about what it would be like to live on another planet. How would you get food? What type of activities would you enjoy? Would you rather live on this planet or our planet Earth?
4th Grade Personal Narrative Prompts
- Have you ever been surprised by your friends or family members? What did they do to surprise you? Did you like the feeling of being surprised?
- Imagine that you are now the fourth grade teacher for the day. What types of rules would you set for your classroom? What assignments would you give your students?
- Write about a small moment from your last family vacation. Describe this small moment in detail.
- Write about a time that you got hurt. What happened? How did you feel? Describe how you were able to feel better.
- Write about a time that a teacher or coach helped you. How did it feel to have them guide you through a tough moment?
5th Grade Personal Narrative Prompts
- Imagine that you put a message in a bottle and threw it into the ocean. Write a descriptive story about the journey that the bottle takes – don’t forget to add where it ends up.
- Write about your first day of kindergarten. How did you feel in your new school? How did your first day of kindergarten compare to your first day of fifth grade?
- Have you ever done something that you regretted? How did you feel after? How did you solve the situation?
- Imagine that you are planning a sleepover with your friends. What snacks will you serve? Will you play games or watch a movie? Describe how you would like the night to go.
- Write about your best friend. How long have you known this friend? Why do you consider this person to be your best friend?
Even MORE Narrative Topics and Ideas
6th Grade Personal Narrative Prompts
- What was your most memorable moment during elementary school? Why was this moment so memorable?
- Write about your goals for middle school. How do you want your middle school experience to be different from elementary school?
- Imagine that you are the President of the United States. How would you want to lead the country?
- Imagine that you have been locked in the school for the weekend. Describe your weekend in detail.
- Write about a time that you were in an argument with a close friend. What was the argument about? How did the two of you work together to resolve it?
7th Grade Personal Narrative Prompts
- Your teacher announced that you may be able to take a field trip to Mars. Would you want to go? Why or why not?
- What would be the hardest thing for you to sacrifice right now? Would you sacrifice it if you needed to?
- Would you want to have a super power? What type of super power would you want to have? What would you do with it?
- Write about a challenge that you have faced this school year. How did you overcome it?
- Imagine that you are one of the characters in your favorite book. What would it be like to spend a day in that story?
8th Grade Personal Narrative Prompts
- Who is your role model? Why?
- Write about your favorite memory from middle school. Describe the memory in detail, and write about the impact that this moment had on your middle school experience.
- Imagine that you are an inventor. What is your latest invention? Why did you invent this creation?
- What are you most passionate about? How did you discover your passion?
- You have the opportunity to visit another country that you have never been to before. Which country will you choose? Why?
Personal Narrative Prompts for High School Students
- Write about three goals that you have for high school. How will you accomplish these goals?
- Write about a time that you were truly frightened. What happened? How did you feel?
- Describe your most successful moment so far. What did it take to get there? How did it feel to be successful?
- Is there anyone in your life who has overcome significant challenges? How did they address those challenges? What can you learn from that person?
- What is the most important lesson that you learned in high school? What did you learn from it?
Personal Narrative Writing and Why It’s Valuable for Young Writers
The key to writing a successful personal narrative piece at any grade level is the details.
Personal narratives are a wonderful opportunity for students to begin using clear, concise details in their writing, which is something that will be necessary for nearly every type of writing assignment in the future.
Teachers can help students create effective personal narratives by encouraging them to follow a writing process.
A personal narrative outline is one of the best ways to start brainstorming ideas for the final piece. After the students have created an outline, they can write the first draft of their personal narrative. At that point, the teacher can review the draft, or the students can participate in a peer-review process. After the reviews and editing are complete, students will be able to write a final draft for their personal narrative.
Here are just a few powerful reasons why personal narrative writing is valuable for developing writers:
- Personal narratives help children learn how to share their own stories and express their feelings.
- Personal narrative writing allows children to develop a love of writing.
- Narrative writing can teach children how to organize their thoughts and emotions while writing.
- Personal narrative writing teaches children how to write from a different perspective.
Personal narrative writing is one of the best ways for students of all ages to build upon their foundation of writing skills and develop new skills that will take them to the next level.
Teaching Kids to Rewrite Challenging Personal Narratives
In some cases, children are asked to write a personal narrative about a challenging time. This can be difficult because it can reopen old wounds or force the child to replay a traumatic event in their mind.
These are a few ways that students can learn to rewrite those challenging narratives in a positive way:
- Encourage students to write about how the tough time was a temporary experience. Ask them to write about how the situation was resolved.
- Invite students to write about how they felt during that time. Offer additional support if it’s needed.
- When writing about a challenging personal experience, ask the student to write about what made them feel better during that time. This can help them identify coping mechanisms.
Personal narrative writing is something that children will work on throughout their educational journey. As they develop their writing skills and learn more about who they are as a person, they will be able to create powerful personal narratives. Personal narrative writing can boost their confidence and help them learn how to share their own stories.
Bonus: Check Out These Personal Narrative Ideas for Adults
Even adults should take time to hone their writing skills, and personal narrative writing is a therapeutic way to do that. These personal narrative prompts for adults will help people of all ages to tell their stories:
- What was the most defining moment of your childhood or adolescence? Describe that moment in detail and write about how it impacted your life today.
- Write a detailed description of a day in your life.
- When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does your actual career compare to your childhood career aspirations?
- What is the most significant challenge that you have faced in your life? What did you learn from that experience?
- What animal do you feel you are most like? Why?
- Think about what life has been like during the past week. What is one small moment that stands out to you? Describe that moment in detail.
- Who do you consider to be the most important members of your family? What role do they play in your life?
- Do you know the story of how you got your name? Do you feel that your name suits you? Why or why not?
- Describe your hometown. Did you move away from your home town, or did you decide to live there in adulthood? Write about your decision to leave or stay.
- What is your favorite song right now? Why?
A Few Final Thoughts
Personal narrative prompts are the perfect tool to get your students started on their way to becoming a storyteller of epic proportions.
Whether they choose to write nonfiction, a short story, fiction story writing, or simply a good story about themselves, learning how to write from the perspective of a narrator is an essential and valuable skill.
Now, no matter what their own story is, be sure to tell your writers to keep on writing.
Until next time…
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500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing
Every school day since 2009 we’ve asked students a question based on an article in The New York Times. Now, five years later, we’ve collected 500 of them that invite narrative and personal writing and pulled them all together in one place (available here as a PDF).
The categorized list below touches on everything from sports to travel, education, gender roles, video games, fashion, family, pop culture, social media and more, and, like all our Student Opinion questions, each links to a related Times article and includes a series of follow-up questions. What’s more, all these questions are still open for comment by any student 13 or older.
So dive into this admittedly overwhelming list and pick the questions that most inspire you to tell an interesting story, describe a memorable event, observe the details in your world, imagine a possibility, or reflect on who you are and what you believe.
Coming of Age
Community and Home
Gender and Sexuality
Morality and Religion
Technology and Video Games
Movies, Theater and Television
Reading, Writing and Fine Arts
Language and Speech
School and Teachers
School Social Environment
Senior Year, College and Applications
Work and Careers
Dating and Friendship
Sports, Exercise and Games
Looks, Fashion and Health
Shopping and Driving
Food and Eating
Holidays, Seasons, Weather and Weekends
Beliefs, Politics and Current Events
This resource may be used to address the academic standards listed below.
Common Core E.L.A. Anchor Standards
3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
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This is such a fabulous resource for inspiration! Thank you so much for putting this list together. I’ll refer to it often and share it with my readers on my poetry and writing blog.
These are great writing prompts. These remind me of the questions on StoryShelter.com. It’s nice to write there and have all your personal stories in one place where you can share them with friends or post anonymously. Anyone who does narrative or personal writing will find it really useful.
For example, this is how a bunch of people answered the question: “What would you do if you won the lottery?” https://www.storyshelter.com/question/what-if-i-won-the-lottery
Wonderful list! The topics are thought-provoking and exciting to write. I can go writing on and on, on these topics.
How much do you know about your family history?
I know a little bit about my family history. My grandma talks about our religion sometimes, not every day. So I get to hear some facts about my religion. For example what we do on New Year’s or what happened when I wasn’t born yet. My family history is very interesting.
My mom she is Cambodian and my dad is Thai so I’m mixed Asian. Everybody say that I mostly look like my dad than my mom, and that’s interesting to me.
My dad side of the family, my great great grandma, grandpa and aunts and uncles. They are living in Thailand. I want to go to Thailand really bad. My mom side of the family, my great great grandpa, grandma and my grandma siblings. They are living in Cambodia. My grandma took some pictures in Asia. It looks so different than the United States of America.
So first off, my dad he was born in Thailand and my mom I think she was born in Cambodia. She said that she didn’t went to Cambodia so I really don’t know. So my family (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncle immigrated to the United States of America and became citizens. That time they lived in Stockton, California. I could of live there still. But my dad he went to school in New Hampshire and got a job here and the job over here paid a lot more money than California. So Then my mom side of the family came with my parents, and my dad side of the family stayed in California that was in the 1990s when they moved to New Hampshire. Then they separated, so now we don’t live together anymore.
Now my aunt lives in Massachusetts and my other aunt lives in Rhode Island. So when my parents lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I wasn’t born yet. But I wish that we still lived in California. So we
My life is interesting to me. I have families in Cambodia and Thailand, and I haven’t met them yet. Also the things we do on New Year’s and other occasions. So that’s what I know about my family history.
111 Awesomely Clever Narrative Writing Prompts
From the time you learn how to talk, you have stories to tell.
Faced with a classroom writing assignment, though, you can feel the fog rolling in, hiding all your best personal narrative ideas.
To clear that fog, sometimes, all you need are some simple questions to get started, which is why so many of the personal narrative prompts in this post include them.
You’ll find the prompts grouped by theme to make your search for ideas easier.
What Are Narrative Prompts?
Narrative prompts get you started telling parts of your own story. You won’t tell it all at once, but what you share in each narrative will answer a question or expand on an idea. And your readers will have a better idea of who you are and how you think.
Here are some possible sources for personal narrative questions:
- Dating questions
- Relationship questions
- Job interview questions
- “Never have I ever” questions
- “Would you rather” questions
So, if you’re wondering, “What are good personal narrative topics?” think of the questions you’ve been asked that got you writing so quickly your fingers could barely keep up.
The following list should jog some memories and provide new ideas for a personal narrative you’ll be happy to share.
111 Narrative Writing Prompts
Look through each category of prompts for the personal narrative topics that trigger a stream of thoughts in your mind. Jot down your ideas as they come.
Childhood Narrative Prompts
What’s your favorite memory from childhood? What impression did it make?
What’s an important memory you only know from others who remember it?
What places from your childhood do you remember most fondly?
Did you have an imaginary friend (or friends)? What were they like?
What was the best gift you remember receiving as a child? Why was it the best?
What were your favorite childhood shows, movies, or games?
Did you ever have a moment in the spotlight? What was it, and did you enjoy it?
What people do you remember most fondly, and when did you last see them?
What actor would play you in a movie based on your life, and why?
What objects tell the story of what you were like as a child?
What was your most precious childhood possession, and why?
Growing Pains Narrative Prompts
Have you ever had to deal with a bully? What did you do?
What have you learned from people of different generations or backgrounds?
What do older generations not understand about yours? How is your life different?
What’s your most embarrassing memory from your teenage years?
What’s your proudest memory from your teenage years, and why?
What was the hardest thing about going through puberty?
When was the first time you asked someone out, and how did it go?
When was the first time someone asked you out (or to a dance)? What did you say?
Did you ever try something you wish you hadn’t? What happened?
What did you learn to be grateful for in your teenage years?
What habit/s did you pick up as a teen that helped you along the way?
Overcoming Adversity Narrative Prompts
Have you had to overcome a childhood disease or injury?
Did you lose someone to disease, a tragic accident, or natural causes?
Were you born with a visible, physical challenge that affected your childhood?
Were you born with an invisible health challenge that affected your childhood?
Have you struggled with a mental health challenge that has affected your life?
Have you had to undergo extensive medical treatment for a health problem?
Have you needed special accommodations in school, work, etc.? Describe them.
Have you experienced discrimination because of gender, race, sexual orientation…?
What are your favorite survival or coping strategies for stress, anxiety, poverty…?
Has financial stress affected your educational, career, or relationship prospects?
What challenges have you overcome? How have you responded to them?
Parents and Family Narrative Prompts
Describe your parents or guardians and their parenting styles?
Describe a favorite memory about growing up with your family?
Are you close to your parents and/or siblings? Are any estranged from you?
What is your racial or ethnic identity, and did your family share that with you?
How have you paid tribute to loved ones you’ve lost?
To which family members did you feel closest growing up? Are you still close?
What hobbies did you pick up from your family? Which do you still have?
How did your family celebrate birthdays or holidays when you were growing up?
If you have in-laws, what is your relationship with them? Are you close with any?
Whom do you trust in your family, and whom do you keep at arm’s length?
Do you talk to your parents (or siblings) about politics or religion? Why or why not?
Dating and Friendship Narrative Prompts
How, when, and where did you meet your first love?
How, when, and where did you meet your first BFF and become friends?
Who were your best childhood friends, and what did you do together?
Have you ever wanted a friend to be more than that? Did you tell them?
Have you ever lost a friend who wanted to belong to a popular group?
Have you ever had to put an end to a one-sided friendship?
Have you ever had to break off a relationship with a toxic person?
When have you told a lie of omission, and how did it affect your relationship?
Has anyone ever spread an unkind rumor about you? What did you do about it?
Have you ever been betrayed by a friend or family member?
When was the last date you had that left you thinking, “More, please”?
Food and Drink Narrative Prompts
What were your favorite foods growing up, and how often could you have them?
What did you usually drink at home, and do you still drink them?
What did you like as a child that you don’t like now?
What did you dislike as a child that you like now?
What is a favorite food splurge, and what do you love about it?
How often do you cook for yourself, and what foods do you usually make?
How often do you cook for others, and what’s the best meal you’ve prepared?
Did you have a favorite birthday dinner or celebratory meal growing up?
What place did alcohol have in your family life, and how did that affect you?
What is your favorite baked good, and who makes the best?
When have you changed your food choices based on something you learned?
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School or Education Narrative Prompts
Who were your favorite teachers in elementary school?
When you graduated high school, what did you want to study in college?
Did you go to college, and what do you remember most about your first year?
When and how did you learn to manage your money?
Could students at your high school talk openly about mental health challenges?
How have Health and Phy Ed classes influenced your body image?
How have Health and Phy Ed classes influenced your attitude toward exercise?
What did you like most or least about the high school you attended?
How did your school’s bullying policy affect you or someone you care about?
Have you ever acted on a dare to earn the respect or admiration of classmates?
When did it hit home for you how different life is for poor vs. rich people?
Jobs and Career Narrative Prompts
When you were in grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What was your first job? How did you get it, and how old were you?
Did you get a job in your chosen field right out of college? If so, how and when?
Do you have a life calling? And if so, is your current job part of it?
What do you hope to be doing within a year of graduating college?
What have you made yourself? And does it relate to your chosen career or calling?
What would you do or create if you had all the funding you could possibly need?
Would you rather work from home or in an office?
Would you rather work as a supervisor, a team member, or a connected hermit?
What have you done to earn money? And what is your favorite way to do so?
Do you have (or think you will have) a career or job you love?
Morality and Religion Writing Prompts
What did you believe as a minor that you no longer believe?
What did you not believe as a minor that you do believe now?
What role does religion play in your life (if any)? Has it ever (not) played a role?
How important is it that your life partner share your religious beliefs? Why?
What ethical or moral dilemmas have you faced? How did you respond?
Have you ever given money to a stranger who asked for it?
Have you ever “paid it forward”? Or has anyone helped you to pay it forward?
How comfortable are you with lying? When have you told a lie and not regretted it?
How do your religious or spiritual beliefs differ from your parents/guardians?
Have you ever looked up to a religious leader only to be disappointed by them?
How would you sum up your view of the afterlife — or your life’s purpose?
Personality Narrative Prompts
What do you think are the biggest strengths of your personality?
What do you think are your greatest weaknesses?
When did you learn you’re an introvert or an extravert?
Is your best friend an introvert or an extravert?
What personality traits do you admire in other people?
What personality traits have gotten you into trouble in the past?
What role does procrastination play in your life?
What is your personal credo or mantra? When or how did you choose it?
When faced with a problem, do you rely more on your head or your heart?
How do you respond to criticism? When have you responded badly?
What motivates you? Are you driven, or do you just go with the flow?
How productive or organized are you? How does your workspace look?
How will you use these narrative writing prompts?
Now that you have over a hundred thought-provoking prompts for your personal narrative, which ones stood out for you? Don’t let us stop you from jotting down the ideas that are crowding your head, waiting for you to let them out.
Get those noisy thoughts down, and spend some time fleshing them out. Allow yourself to picture moments in your past and to remember sensory details. Write those down, too.
If the words you write resonate with you, they’ll likely do the same for your readers.