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Crafting Engaging Leads for Writing 4th & 5th Grade Personal Narratives

Updated: Apr 28

In this article, we present a lesson plan tailored specifically for substitute teachers, aimed at helping 4th and 5th grade writers craft engaging leads for their personal narratives. With these strategies, you'll inspire students to embark on literary adventures, setting the stage for their imaginative and expressive journey in the world of writing.

Crafting Engaging Leads for Writing 4th or 5th Grade Personal Narratives

Grade: 4th or 5th Grade Writing

Subject: English Language Arts / ELA

Duration: 45-60 minutes


  • Students will learn how to create captivating leads (introductions) for their personal narratives.

  • Students will understand the importance of hooking the reader and setting the tone in the introduction of their stories.


  • Whiteboard and markers or chalkboard and chalk

  • Chart paper

  • Sample personal narrative texts or excerpts (2-3 examples)

  • Sticky notes

  • Pencils and notebooks or loose-leaf paper

Introduction (10 minutes):

  1. Start by introducing yourself as the substitute teacher for the day.

  2. Begin by discussing the purpose of a lead (introduction) in a personal narrative. Explain that a good lead should grab the reader's attention and set the stage for the story.

  3. Share a personal anecdote or a story with two different leads. For example:

    • "I woke up on a sunny morning. It was going to be a great day."

    • "The sun was blazing, and I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime."

Ask students which lead they found more interesting and why. Encourage them to think about what made the second lead more engaging.

Here are 10 example leads for personal narratives, with 5 question leads and 5 action leads:

Question Lead Examples for Personal Narratives:

  1. Have you ever found yourself standing at the edge of a cliff, wondering if you have the courage to take the leap into the unknown?

  2. What would you do if you suddenly found yourself face-to-face with a mischievous, talking raccoon in the middle of the night?

  3. Do you ever wonder what it's like to live in a world where time travel is possible?

  4. Have you ever been so lost in the wilderness that you had to rely on your instincts to find your way back to civilization?

  5. What would you say if you could have a conversation with your pet? I had that opportunity, and it led to the most amazing adventure.

Action Lead Examples for Personal Narratives:

  1. The storm was brewing, the waves were crashing, and I found myself clinging to the swaying mast of the pirate ship, desperately hoping to avoid a watery demise.

  2. With a sudden burst of adrenaline, I sprinted through the dense forest, leaves crunching beneath my feet, as I tried to outrun the hungry pack of wolves chasing me.

  3. I had never been so high above the ground, hanging from a thin rope, with nothing but the blue sky and an endless abyss below me.

  4. The starting gun fired, and I was off, sprinting down the track with all my might, determined to win the most important race of my life.

  5. As the sun set behind the mountains, I found myself alone in the ancient, darkened forest, facing a mysterious noise that echoed through the trees.

Main Activities (30-40 minutes): Show students sample personal narrative texts or excerpts (2-3 examples) with different types of leads, including the question leads and action leads. Label each lead with the type of technique used.

  1. Discuss these examples with the class and ask students to take notes on the different lead techniques and examples. Create a list on the whiteboard or chart paper.

  2. Distribute sticky notes to students and have them work in pairs or small groups. Ask them to read through the sample texts and identify the leads in those texts by placing a sticky note next to each lead.

  3. After discussing the sample leads and techniques as a class, give students a personal narrative prompt (e.g., "Write about a memorable vacation" or "Describe a time when you overcame a challenge"). Alternatively, allow them to choose their own topics for a short personal narrative.

  4. Instruct students to write the lead for their personal narratives, emphasizing the use of one of the lead techniques discussed in class, including question leads and action leads. Encourage them to be creative and make their leads intriguing.

Discussion (10 minutes): After students have written their leads, have a brief class discussion. Ask a few students to share their leads with the class and explain which lead technique they used and why they chose it.

Conclusion (5 minutes): Summarize the importance of captivating leads in personal narratives. Remind students that a strong lead can make their stories more interesting to readers.

Assessment: Assess students based on their class participation, the quality of their leads in the homework assignment, and their ability to identify leads in sample texts.

Other lesson plans & activities for substitute teachers that you may like:


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