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Biographical Narrative Essay Prompts

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return to Biographical Narrative | return to CAHSEE | return to English 2

Narrative writing tells a stroy or an event. nonfiction narrative tells a story of event that is true. All of the prompts in this section ask the writer to tell a nonfiction narrative story.

10th Grade Readings (compiled by Jan Sanchez)

10th Grade Prompts (compiled by Liz Daniell)

1) Write a narrative essay about a significant misunderstanding in your life. Think of a time when something that should have been joyful or pleasant turned out quite differently because you or someone else misunderstood an important piece of information. The main contrary should be the difference between what was supposed to happen and what actually happened. Use specific details to create character and setting.  

 

2) Write a narrative essay about something you regret doing or not doing, something you wish you could undo. That thing could be an action, a failure to act, a statement, a failure to say something—anything that, in hindsight, has caused you to think, "I wish I had said or done something else instead."  3) What is the most exciting or scary thing that has ever happened to you? Write a narrative essay about this scary/exciting event.
4) What team caps, pennants, or other memorabilia recall a sporting event you enjoyed? Do you collect autographs or saqve programs or ticket stubs from events like plays and concerts? Do you still treasure an item you found or purchased during a vacation or a class trip? Go through your souvenirs of special memories and consider the experiences they bring to mind. Choose one to recount in an autobiography.5) Think about a friend who has been an important part of your life. How did you become friends with this person? Think about when you met, what you did, and how your friendship grew. Write a story about this friendship. Give enough details to tell the reader about this friendship. 6) A change in the weather can be wonderful. Sometimes we are surprised at how a snowy, rainy, windy, or sunny day can change the way we feel. The weather can bring chances for fun, creativity, time alone, time with your family, or something out of the ordinary. Write a story about a day in which the weather made the day special for you. Give enough details to show the reader what happened on this day.
7) Choose a time when you did something that took a lot of nerve, a time when you didn't follow the crowd or a time when you stood up for your beliefs. Think about the details of the event and write a story that tells about what happened. Your narrative should show your readers why you decided to make a stand or try something that took nerve, give specifics on the events, and share how you felt after the event.8) Think of a time when you disagreed with a decision that had been made and did something about it. Write a paper that narrates the events that occurred -- from the decision that was made to your response. Be sure that your paper gives enough details that your readers understand why you disagreed with the decision and why you felt that your response was appropriate. 9) Think about your first day of school. Write a story to a friend telling about that day. Be sure to describe the atmosphere including three distinct details and identify what impressed you most about your experience.

download the 10th Grade Autobiographical Prompts

 

11th & 12th Grade Readings (compiled by Jan Sanchez)

11th & 12th Grade Prompts (compiled by Liz Daniell)

1) Write a narrative essay about a significant misunderstanding in your life. Think of a time when something that should have been joyful or pleasant turned out quite differently because you or someone else misunderstood an important piece of information. The main contrary should be the difference between what was supposed to happen and what actually happened. Use specific details to create character and setting.  

 

 
2) Write a narrative essay about a significant event in the life of someone very close to you; for example, a parent, sibling, or a dear friend. Even though the main events occur in the life of another person, they should be so important that they affect you significantly. The contrary that provides tension might be the difference between what the main character does, and what you would have done or would have liked to have been able to do to have events turn out differently.3) Whom do you admire of the people you know? It might be a close friend, a good student, or a teacher, a favorite relative, or the most interesting person you know. Make a list of several possibilities, and then consider which one you know the most about.
4) All of us have a favorite place where we get to do what we want. It could be an indoor place, an outdoor place, or even an imaginary place. What is your favorite place? Write a story about what you get to do in your favorite place. Give enough details in your story to show your favorite place and what you get to do there.5) All of us have had a special time or adventure in our lives. It could be anything such as a visit with a friend or relative, a party you went to, or a game you watched or played. Or it could be something completely different. Write a story about a special time or adventure that you have had. Give enough details in your story to show what it was like and what made it so special.6) Think of an experience when you realized that you suddenly understood an idea, a skill, or a concept you had been struggling with. Write a narrative that tells the story of your movement toward understanding. Your paper should help readers understand how you felt to struggle with the idea or skill and then to understand.
7) Because you have been sick, out of town, or working on other homework, you didn't have as much time to study for an important test as you needed. Think of a specific test that you took that you felt unprepared for and narrate the events. Your paper should help readers understand what it felt like to be unprepared.8) Think of a time when you achieved a personal goal. Tell your readers about the story of how you met your goal. Be sure that your readers understand why the goal is important to you.9) Teaching someone else how to do something can be rewarding. Think of a skill that you've taught someone else how to do. Think about the events that made up the process of teaching the skill, and narrate the story for your readers.

download the 11th/12th Grade Autobiographical Prompts

Additional Prompts (materials collected by Liz Daniell):

1. [Being Unprepared] Because you have been sick, out of town, busy at work, or working on other homework, you didn't have as much time to study for an important test as you needed.  Everyone going to school has been in this situation.  Think of a specific test that you took that you felt unprepared for and narrate the events.  Tell your readers about the preparation that you were able to do, the reasons that you didn't get to prepare as well as you wanted, taking the test, and any significant events that happened after you took the test.  Your paper should help readers understand what it felt like to be unprepared.
 
2. [Lightbulb Moment] Think of an experience when you realized that you suddenly understood an idea, a skill, or a concept you had been struggling with -- it might be something related to a class that you took or a specific athletic skill you were trying to perfect. For instance, you might think about trying to understand how to identify iambic pentameter in a poem or how to complete a Taylor Series problem in your Calculus class.  Or you might consider trying to perfect your free throws and suddenly understanding how your follow-through was affecting your success.  Write a narrative that tells the story of your movement toward understanding. How did you finally come to understand?  What changed your perceptions and gave you a new understanding?  Your paper should help readers understand how you felt to struggle with the idea or skill and then to understand.
3. [Childhood Event] Choose a vivid time from your childhood -- You might think of the first time that you rode a school bus, of a time when you went to the principal's office, the first A you earned on a test or paper, earning money to buy something that you really wanted, and so on.  Narrate the events related to the childhood memory that you've chosen so that your readers will understand why the event was important and memorable.
4. [Achieving a Goal] Think of a time when you achieved a personal goal -- you might have finally completed a marathon or triathlon, or you might have bettered your score on the SATs or another test, or you might have learned how to use a piece of software like Microsoft Word or Excel.  Tell your readers about the story of how you met your goal.  Be sure that your readers understand why the goal is important to you.
5. [The Good and the Bad]  Think about an event in your life that seemed bad but turned out to be good.  Maybe you got injured and while you were waiting for your broken leg to heal, you learned how to use a computer.  What makes the event change from bad to good may be something that you learned as a result, something that you did differently as a result, or something that happened that wouldn't have occurred otherwise.  Tell the story of the event that you experienced and help your readers understand how an event that seemed negative turned out to have valuable consequences. 
6. [Being a Teacher]  Teaching someone else how to do something can be rewarding.  Think of a skill that you've taught someone else how to do. Perhaps you taught someone else how to swim, showed someone how to bake a souffle, or helped someone learn how to study more effectively.  Think about the events that made up the process of teaching the skill, and narrate the story for your readers.
7. [Changing Places]  Every place has things that change -- sometimes as the result of economics, sometimes because different people are involved, and sometimes for no clear reason that you know about.  Think of a change to a place that you know well.  Perhaps the local grocery store you grew up with as Smith and Bros. Grocery was bought out by a regional chain like Food Lion or Winn Dixie.  Maybe the First National Bank of Smithburg suddenly becomes NationsBank.  Perhaps the change was more personal -- an older sibling moves out of the house and your family changes the room to a guest room or an office.  Think of a specific change and narrate the events that occurred.  Readers should know the details of the change, and they should know how you feel about the changes that occurred.
8. [Personal Rituals]  Describe a personal ritual that you, your friends, or your family have.  Think about the personal steps that you always go through when you prepare for an exam.  Do you sit at a desk, spread books and notes across your bed, or use the kitchen table?  Do you have to have something to drink...soda, water, jolt?  There are numerous things that we do for which we create our own personal rituals.  Choose one event -- studying for a test, writing a paper, dressing and warming up before a game, or preparing and having a special family meal.  Narrate the events that take place when you complete your ritual so that your readers understand the steps that the ritual includes and why you complete them.
9. [Standing Up]  Choose a time when you did something that took a lot of nerve, a time when you didn't follow the crowd or a time when you stood up for your beliefs.  Perhaps your friends were urging you to do something that you were uncomfortable with and you chose not to cave into peer pressure.  Maybe you took a stance on a political issue that was important in your community, or you might have  Whatever you choose, think about the details of the event and write a story that tells about what happened. Your narrative should show your readers why you decided to make a stand or try something that took nerve, give specifics on the events, and share how you felt after the event.
 
10. [Disagreeing]  Think of a time when you disagreed with a decision that had been made and did something about it.  The decision might have been made by someone you know personally -- your Biology teacher announced a new policy to grade for spelling and grammar on your quizzes and homework, or an older family member decides to cancel a subscription to a magazine that you liked to read.   You might have responded by discussing your concerns with your principal or dean, or you might have decided to get a part-time job to earn enough money to buy the magazine yourself.  Or the decision could have been made by someone you never met -- perhaps your school board decided to change the lines in your school district so that you would have to go to a different school, or your state legislature has passed a bill that you disagreed with.  Your response might have been to write a letter to the editor, to your state representative, or to the school board.  Whatever happened, your job is to write a paper that narrates the events that occurred -- from the decision that was made to your response.  Be sure that your paper gives enough details that your readers understand why you disagreed with the decision and why you felt that your response was appropriate.

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