nurturing · personal narrative · writing

“So What?”

Ruth and I spoke at-length this summer about the benefits and detriments of starting off the school year with memoir, as opposed to beginning with personal narrative. While my colleagues and I have chosen to start with personal narrative, there’s one piece of my conversation with Ruth that makes me think it’s possible to really ramp-up the kids’ personal narratives. In fact, it’s simpler than a thinking entry. Basically, the kids need to answer the question “So what?” when thinking about their topic.

“So what?” is basically like asking the following questions:

  • Why does this matter?
  • Why should other people care about this topic?
  • What are you really trying to show your reader?
  • What kind of lesson did you learn as a result of this event?
  • How come this event holds meaning or value to you?
  • My fourth graders seemed a little taken aback by this question. Some seemed a little surprised that they had to justify why they were writing about something to me. However, I want my kids to write deeply. I want them to write meaningful personal narratives that will not only help them become better writers, but will help them learn something more about themselves along the way.

    Want to get started with this? Just have the kids go to the next blank page (nurturing/developing section of) in their writer’s notebook. Have them date it and write the words SO WHAT? in the center-top of the page. Then, make sure it’s really quiet, and let them write down what they’d say if someone heard their piece and asked them “So what?” Once they write this entry, push them to craft some more writing that illustrates the SO WHAT of the event. This can often be done by including dialogue or internal thinking, in addition to actions. However, it’s not limited to just dialogue and thinking… it could also be a way to get them to play with time.