Text-Type Writing Study: Retell—Personal Account

A personal account is a retelling of an experience or event. It is one of the first types of writing that young writers engage in, as ideas come from their own experiences and interests.


Time: approximately 15 minutes (Can be combined with Pre-Assessment)
Grouping: whole class and partners
Materials: Problem at the Park

  • Explain to students that they have listened to and discussed many stories containing problems and solutions and they have learned some positive ways to solve problems. Inform students that now they are going to write a personal account of a problem that happened to them.
  • Let’s look at the book Problem at the Park. It is a good example of a personal account. A personal account is a retelling of an event by one of the people involved in the event. As I reread the text, think about who is telling about the problem at the park. (Mei’s cousin; the boy) How do we know he is retelling the event? (use of pronouns ‘I’ and ‘we’; inferring clues from illustrations)

    Explain that the book Problem at the Park is an example of a personal account. Reread the text and have students determine who is retelling the event and how we know that it is the boy who is telling the story.

    When we write a personal account, we use the word ‘I’ because the story is about something that happened to us. For example, we can write ‘I did this…’ or ‘My mom and dad and I went…’ to show that it is a personal story.

  • Inform students that a personal account uses the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘we.’
  • Where did this event take place? (Zoomland, an amusement park) What happened at the park? What was the problem? How was it solved?

    Review where the event took place (the setting) and what happened to Mei’s cousin.
  • Now I want you to role-play being the boy, Mei’s cousin. Turn to your partner and tell your partner what happened to ‘you’ at the amusement park. You might begin by saying “Mei and I went to Zoomland with her parents. First, we looked at the map of the park…, Then…, Next,…, Finally,…”

    Ask students to work with a partner to retell what happened at the amusement park. Encourage the use of transition words, such as ‘first,’ ‘next,’ ‘then,’ ‘finally.’

2. PRE-ASSESSMENT (Optional)

Time: approximately 15 minutes (Can be combined with Immersion into the Text Type)
Grouping: whole class and individuals
Materials: writing folders, journals, or paper; pencils and crayons

  • I want to think about a problem you have had with a friend. What was the problem? What happened? How was it solved?

    Have students think about a problem they have had with a friend.
  • Pair students together and have them retell the event to a partner. Ask the following questions: “Who is in the account (besides you)?” “Where did the event take place?” “What happened?”
  • Provide paper and writing/drawing materials and encourage students to draw and write an account of a problem/solution.
  • If you choose, assess each student’s response using the Assessment Rubric for Personal Account to identify levels of key skills and understanding. Look for common needs among students to help plan future instructions and demonstrations to strengthen students’ existing knowledge.


Time: two sessions of 15 minutes (one for planning and one for drafting)
Grouping: whole class
Materials: large copy of Personal Account Organizer on chart paper or interactive whiteboard

Choose a Topic

  • Model a retell for students by retelling a simple problem that you encountered as a child with a friend, including the setting, people involved, sequence of events, problem, solution, and your feelings.

Setting a Purpose for Writing

  • Explain that you are going to write a personal account to retell about your problem and students will help you to write.


  • Have students watch as you plan your personal account using a large version of the Personal Account Organizer BLM. Demonstrate thinking about the characters involved in the account, where it happened, what happened, problem, solution, and your and others’ feelings. Use a combination of words and pictures when planning.



What Happened?

Me and Jason


Playing cars




Jason wouldn’t share his
toy car

Jason’s mom said take turns



  • I was at my friend Jason’s house. We were playing with his toy cars on his race track. I wanted to play with the red corvette but he wouldn’t let me. I was feeling really sad because the red car was the fastest. I asked his mom to help me. She said Jason and I should take turns with the red car. We did, and then we were both happy!

    Demonstrate how to use the planner to help retell your event. Have students listen carefully to find out the problem and how it was solved. You may wish to use the following example.

Supporting Writers: Provide cards with words and icons for: ‘Who,’ ‘Where,’ ‘What Happened,’ ‘Problem,’ ‘Solution,’ and ‘Feelings.’ Give individual students cards and ask them to provide the designated information from your retell (e.g., ‘Who’: you and Jason).


  • I’m going to begin my personal account. My first sentence should tell who was involved, where it happened, and what we were doing. I need to remember to use the word ‘I’ as I am writing.

    Explain that you are going to scribe as students help you to retell your personal account. Have students use the Personal Account Organizer or the ‘account cards’ from above to review the features of a personal account.
  • I think my first sentence will be: ‘I was playing cars at my friend Jason’s house.’ Where should I start writing? Help me print the word ‘I.’ The next word is ‘was.’ What sound does ‘was’ start with? What letter is ‘w’?

    Share the pen with students occasionally and weave in prompts for writing concepts. Vary your prompts to meet the range of writing development demonstrated in your classroom.

Supporting Writers: Ask students needing support to demonstrate concepts such as where to start writing, and predicting a letter from the sound at the beginning of a word.

Extending Writers: Writers ready for extension may be able to share the pen and write down a word or phrase, and engage in movement to the next line. These students may be able to find high-frequency words on a word wall.

  • Continue to create the text using simple sentences, one per page (e.g., ‘I wanted to use the red car.’ ‘I asked Jason’s mom to help.’ ‘We took turns with the red car.’ ‘I was happy!’).
  • Reinforce the features of a personal account as you create the text:
    • retells a past experience
    • focuses on one experience
    • events are in the order they happened
    • uses the “I” point of view
    • includes a problem and its solution
    • includes drawings/labels
  • Demonstrate how to use environmental print or classroom resources (e.g., word wall or alphabet frieze) to help with spelling and letter formation. Review how to stretch out words ‘as slow as a snail’ to help hear all the sounds within a word.
  • Discuss adding illustrations to the text on each page. When students are writing independently, some may wish to begin with the illustrations and then add text.


  • Demonstrate how to reread your written work to ensure that it makes sense and the events are in the correct order. Invite students to reread with you.

Extending Writers: Revisions beyond rereading the modelled/shared draft are not expectations for most kindergarten students. However, you may decide to work with more advanced writers in a small group and encourage them to add more details to the text.

Consider the following revision concepts for this group:

  • adding more details so text matches oral retell
  • changing words (e.g., ‘car’ to ‘corvette’)
  • explaining the solution in more detail and why it was a good one


Extending Writers: Editing is not an expectation for most kindergarten students. If you decide a few students need extending into editing, consider working on simple editing conventions.

Check the use of capital letters, periods, and exclamation marks in the text. Look for capital letters at the beginning of sentences, and for periods at the ends. Ask students to help you check these punctuation conventions in the writing (e.g., “Find the first word in the sentence. Now look for the first letter in that word. Does it have a big [capital] letter?”).


Make a Final Copy
  • Create a final version of the personal account on chart paper or on an interactive whiteboard and reread it together with students.
  • Invite students to take turns drawing pictures to illustrate what is happening in each sentence.


Time: approximately 15–30 minutes (including time for sharing)
Grouping: whole class, partners, and individuals
Materials: Personal Account Organizer BLM, writing folders, journals, or paper; pencils and crayons


  • Ask some students to share the problems they retold in the Pre-Assessment section, or have students think of a problem they had with a friend and tell about it. Remind students to include how they solved the problem in a positive way. To elicit student responses, ask questions such as: “Who were the people the problem happened to?” “What happened?” “What was the problem?” “How did you feel?” “How was the problem solved?” “How did you feel then?”
  • Tell students they will be writing a personal account of a problem that has happened at school. Brainstorm ideas about various problems students have had in the classroom or on the school playground.
  • I want you to choose a situation where you have encountered a problem at school. Think about what happened, what the problem was, and how it was solved. Now put your thinking on paper by quickly drawing your ideas on this organizer.

    Have students think of one problem that has happened at school where the solution was positive. Provide students with the Personal Account Organizer BLM and have them draw ideas for each part of their personal account.
  • With your partner, decide who is Partner A and who is Partner B. Partner A will speak first and Partner B will be the listener. Remember to use your organizer to help you retell your experience. Partner B will ask questions if he/she does not understand your retell.

    Pair students with a partner and instruct them to use their organizers to help in retelling their personal accounts to a partner. Provide about one minute for each student’s retell, prompting students to switch roles after the first retell.


  • Provide students with journals or paper and ask them to record their personal account of a problem/solution event. Encourage students to use a combination of pictures, letters, and words. Remind students to use the word wall to help them spell high-frequency words.
  • Circulate throughout the classroom, offering support.
  • Invite students to add pictures to illustrate their writing, if they haven’t already done so.

Supporting Writers: Form a small guided writing group for students needing extra support. Remind students that they can draw pictures, write letters with pictures, and try writing words.

If students still need additional support, you may consider scribing their ideas with frequent rereading to see if they wish to make additions or clarify points. Alternatively, you could provide a framed sentence (e.g., ‘My problem was … It was solved …’).

Extending Writers: Encourage these writers to add additional information and details to their account. Help them to revise their sentences, and to edit by checking beginning letters and end punctuation in sentences. Remind students about how you revised and edited during the whole class modelled/shared writing session, if you did so.


Time: approximately 10 minutes
Grouping: small groups of four students

  • Divide the class into small groups of four and encourage them to share their writing and pictures with group members. Ask students to focus on the different solutions to the problems in their discussions.
  • Invite students to add their work to a class writing display or the classroom library.


Time: 10 minutes if done as a class, or a few minutes per child if done in centres (Suggest self-evaluations be done during centre time when you can circulate and scribe for individuals.)
Grouping: whole class and individuals
Materials: Self-Assessment: Personal Account BLM and Assessment Rubric for Personal Account BLM

Reflection and Self-Evaluation
  • Ask students to reflect on their writing using the Self-Assessment: Personal Account BLM (e.g., What did I do well? Did I explain my problem and its solution?).
  • Read aloud the questions and, if necessary, scribe students’ responses, as you may find that oral responses provide more information.
  • Share samples of writing at different levels so that students can see the next steps to improve their writing. You may wish to create a chart showing the progression from picture; to scribble writing; to scribble writing with spaces; to letters and scribble writing; to random letters; to sounded-out letters and spaces with some known words; to known words and many beginning, middle, and ending sounds.
  • Use the Assessment Rubric for Personal Account BLM to document each student’s growth in writing a personal account that outlines a problem and its solution. Note the skills and understandings that each student demonstrates. If students have written a Pre-Assessment piece, compare it with the final account to assist you in noting areas of growth.