After students chose a day they wanted to write about, we used a clock face as a planning tool. Students broke the day into 12 one-hour segments. Then students starred one of the hours that was most interesting. Using another clock face, they broke the hour into 4 fifteen-minute segments, and again starred one segment that was most interesting.
Next, we taught a “slow motion writing strategy” to slow down even a short amount of time. For example, we had each student write down, “They threw the ball.” Using the iPad app SloPro, we videotaped students throwing a ball, then viewed it in slow motion. Students were asked to rewrite the original sentence, adding more detail based on what they saw in slow motion. One student wrote “He quickly glanced at the catcher, cocked his arm back, aimed with precision and let the ball fly off his finger tips.”
Finally we had students think of a simple action they might include in their personal narrative, i.e. “I hit the piñata.” Then they practiced envisioning it in slow motion and rewriting it with greater descriptive detail, i.e. “I gripped the bat tightly, threw my hips into it and swung at that stubborn piñata with all my might.”
Using the time continuum (12 hours to 1 hour to 15 minutes to 1 slow motion minute) really made sense to the students and helped them to write a focused but rich personal narrative.