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Lesson Plan: How to Write a Reflective Essay

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/27/2014

Knowing how to write a reflective essay means understanding narrative essay guidelines and applying them to a personal experience. You, as the teacher, know that, but now you've got to teach it to your students.

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    Teach How to Write a Reflective Essay

    After reading the 37th essay on Disneyland, the 26th essay on summer vacation, and the 345th essay disguised as an incoherent rant, I English Speech Writing decided to teach how to write a reflective essay. All you need to do to teach this is take the guidelines for a narrative essay and change a word or two. Guidelines for a narrative essay include the following:

    • Introduction: A narrative essay doesn't necessarily have the same type of introduction as an expository or persuasive essay. The same principles, however, apply. A reflective essay should introduce the incident about which you are writing, including principal characters and setting.
    • Body: The body is the actual narrative part of the reflective essay. It recreates the incident with specific details. It must make the significance of the event clear.
    • Conclusion: The conclusion should reflect on the outcome of the incident and present the writer's feelings.
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    Standards to Live By

    A reflective essay should:

    • Focus on a clearly defined and well developed incident. The incident may consist of a series of closely related incidents.
    • Provide background information.
    • Include the elements of a narrative: plot, characters, setting, conflict.
    • Organize events clearly. Chronological order works best. Skilled writers may want to incorporte flashbacks.
    • Use dialogue, if appropriate.
    • Include appropriate word choice.
    • Explain the significance of the incident.
    • Maintain a consistent point of view.
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    Choosing the Incident

    The first step is choosing the incident. It can be something you experienced personally or something you witnessed but did not participate in. For ideas, brainstorm significant people, places, and things or writing "I remember when..." on the top of your paper and finishing it with as many things you can think of. Once you have chosen an incident, do the following:

    1. Test the topic. Make sure you remember the incident well enough to write about it, understand the significance of it, your willingness to share it, and your ability to express the incident's impact.
    2. Consider your audience and purpose. Tailor the subject matter and the writing level to those who are most likely to read it.
    3. List key events. This will help you establish a foundation for the narrative. Don't get hung up on facts. In most cases, inventing or changing characters, words, or setting is acceptable.
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    Drafting and Revising

    Theoretically, you have chosen a memory that has personal significance. If you find yourself losing interest as you write, you probably chose the wrong memory. Remember the following as you draft:

    • Use the elements of a story and include necessary background information.
    • Include dialogue.
    • Use sensory details.

    When revising make sure the following is clear:

    • The significance of the event
    • What actually happened