Project Summary: “Write about what you know.” That is the most common advice given to aspiring writers. It is solid advice, because we are each experts on our own lives. We know the details of our daily lives, we think about the meaning and significance of those events, and we connect our experiences to the world around us―our family, school, and social lives. Not surprisingly, personal narratives and essays are often used for state writing assessments. In this writing project you are going to write about an important aspect of your life―something you are good at away from school. We all have talents, skills, and interests outside of school. Some of us have interests and skills with music or dance; others with making things; still others are good at collecting, fixing, or using things. In your personal essay, tell about something that you have a talent or interest in and why it is important to you.
Writer’s Purpose: This assignment is a personal essay. That is, your writing needs to do more than just recall personal information or events. It is intended to make a point. Your goal with this piece is to make your writing interesting but also to inform the reader about why this interest, activity, or skill is important to you.
Writer’s Role: You will write as yourself, a thoughtful and reflective middle school student.
Audience: For this piece, your audience is someone who is not already familiar with this skill or interest you have. You will need to give a thorough explanation about your interest or skill and explain its importance in your life.
Form: This will be a multi-paragraph personal essay.
Here are some techniques you can use to make your leads more interesting and grab the reader’s attention:
Sounds or Noises Begin your essay with noises or sounds associated with your topic. Example: Ssssss. I love the sound of onions sautéing in the pan.
Dialogue Start with a person talking right at the outset. Example: “I don’t believe you learned that whole routine that quickly,” laughed my coach.
Action Open in the middle of something happening. Use strong, vibrant verbs. Example: I toed the starting line. I breathed deeply and tensed my legs, dreading the crack of the starter’s pistol.
Question Pose a thought-provoking question at the beginning. Example: Have you ever wondered how the magician always picks the correct card? I have.
Definition Define a word or a term at the beginning of your piece. Example: Soil is small pieces of rock and decayed matter. I use it to grow my plants.
Quote Start with a quote from an authority or from someone important to your composition. Example: My dad always said, “The first mile is the hardest.” So I started training for the race.
Unusual Fact or Detail Give information that is accurate but surprising. Example: Box cameras were first sold in 1888. Now most photographs, like mine, are digital.
Setting Description Lead with a description of a place or time relevant to your topic. Example: There were mirrors on three walls in the studio. There were skylights overhead, so the light was almost blinding. My first dance lesson would surely be a memorable experience.