An A From Miss Keller Freebies: A Mentor Text for Writing Personal Narratives

 Hello! Welcome to our fall mentor text link up! The book I chose to feature is An A From Miss Keller by Patricia Polacco. If you’re like me (and most intermediate level ELA teachers I know!), you’re already a fan of her work. This is one of her newer books, just published in 2015. Full disclosure: this blog post contains affiliate links. :)
Personal Narrative Checklist Anchor Chart... a writing lesson and FREE printables are also included!
Click on the image to take a peek at this book on Amazon!

An A From Miss Keller is a perfect mentor text to use during a personal narrative unit in writing. After all, this book IS a personal narrative. Polacco writes about the pride and fear she felt when she realized that she would be in “Killer Keller’s” writing class. Just as a fan of Patricia Polacco might expect, this book is fun to read aloud, full of descriptive sentences. One of my favorite lines from this book is “She stood stiff and erect, but when she was at her desk, she reminded me of a bird of prey, perched on a dead limb, ready to swoop down on one of us.”

A quick summary: No matter how hard Trisha tries, there just seems to be no way to impress Miss Keller, her writing teacher. Miss Keller critiques each one of her student’s writing, leaving Trisha and her classmates feeling discouraged. Trisha’s neighbor, known as Pop, recalls how his sons once had Miss Keller as a teacher, and offers words of encouragement. Still, Trisha can’t seem to make Miss Keller happy. One day, Trisha is positive that she finally nailed her writing assignment, but Miss Keller tells Trisha that she lacks emotional connection in her writing. Devastated, Trisha visits Pop, who tells Trisha about how his son became a journalist and won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting, and he credited Miss Keller for helping his son become a gifted writer. Shortly thereafter, Pop dies unexpectedly, and Trisha is heartbroken. She pours her heart into writing a piece about Pop as her term essay. Finally, Miss Keller is moved by Trisha’s writing, and tells Trisha that she wrote a stunning tribute to Pop the crowning example of a personal narrative.


I plan to use this mentor text during the week when I focus on Elements of a Personal Narrative. Before reading this book aloud, I will create the following anchor chart with my students. (We will have already focused on numbers 1, 2, and 3 in previous weeks, and I'm confident that we will have at least briefly touched on numbers 4, 5, and 6.) 

Prior to class, I will have the title printed across the top of the anchor chart, the lines drawn, and the visual cues ready to go. I'll begin the lesson by saying something like, "We've already learned several elements of a strong personal narrative. Turn to a partner and see how many the two of you can name." After giving students two minutes to discuss the topic, I'll randomly choose some students to share their answers. 

As students list the elements, I'll add them (and the visual cues) to the anchor chart. If students fail to mention any or all of the last three elements, I plan to say, I'm going to add a few more elements that we will really dive into within the next few weeks. Right now, though, I'm just going to give you a 'sneak peek' at them, because they are important elements to have on our personal narrative checklist." (Then, when we actually do reach these lessons in future weeks, we can discuss how we've already been introduced to these elements, and we can refer back to our anchor chart!)

Following our discussion, the anchor chart will look like this:

Personal Narrative Checklist Anchor Chart... a writing lesson and FREE printables are also included!


Next, I will display the book. I'll tell students that as they listen to the story, they will need to follow along and listen for evidence of how Patricia Polacco included these six elements in her personal narrative. After reading, we will fill in the final column of our anchor chart with evidence from this text that proves Polacco met the requirements of a strong personal narrative. (If they want to jot down notes on a sheet of notebook paper, they may certainly do so!)
Strong Personal Narratives: A Mentor Text Writing Lesson! After reading aloud the book, you and your students can work together and find text evidence to support each element!

After we reach the conclusion, I will hand out the printable checklist, and point out how I reworded the middle section just a bit to be more specific. Together, we will go through each row on the checklist and answer the question. For most of the rows, we'll need to dive back into the book and find specific evidence. When we do this, I'll place the book below the document camera so all students will be able to read along. When we find evidence, I'll record it on the anchor chart while students write it on their own checklist. The finished anchor chart will look similar to the one below: 
Personal Narrative Checklist Anchor Chart... a writing lesson and FREE printables are also included!
Having trouble reading the words? Just download the free printable and check out page 3! The same words are printed there.


I anticipate referring to this anchor chart often as we progress through our personal narrative unit. I also created the following checklist for students to use as a writing or revising tool. They can use this checklist to analyze their own writing to make sure they included all of the necessary personal narrative elements. I'm also excited to use this as a tool during writing conferences to facilitate conversation with my young authors!
FREE personal narrative checklist for writers in grades 3-6! Students can use this checklist to analyze their own personal narratives!

If you would like to replicate this lesson for your own classroom, feel free to download the printables here! I've included both checklists, an answer key, and the visual cue images in case you want to replicate the anchor chart. CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW FOR THE FREE PRINTABLES!
Personal Narrative Checklist Anchor Chart... a writing lesson and FREE printables are also included!

Thanks for stopping by today! I invite you to hop around from blog to blog to find some more great mentor text lessons! 


  1. Great freebie writing tool! Can't wait to share your post with my teachers!

  2. What a wonderful lesson! I love the anchor chart, and you know how much I love Patricia Polacco! Glad to add this to my PP collection and so glad you joined in. Have an awesome weekend!

  3. What a fabulous writing tool! Thank you! Love the lesson! I'll have to add this book to my list of read aloud books. Thanks so much!

  4. This is an awesome lesson! I love being able to tie my Reader's and Writer's Workshop lessons together!!