Page 6 – Personal writing

Use the topics in the Disasters category of NZHistory.net.nz  for the following activity ideas.

Letters and diary entries are a good way of encouraging students to enter into the past with imagination. They require a degree of empathy from your pupils. Getting them to think from somebody else’s perspective is an important historical skill. It gives them the opportunity to imagine what it was like to experience an event first-hand. They are written in the first person and the style is personal containing both facts and feelings.

Help your students identify a particular character to play – a survivor, a friend or loved one of one of the victims, a member of the rescue team etc. Younger students might need help here with some key words and ideas to help them get started.

A. Diary entry

Imagine you were there and write diary entries describing what you see, hear, feel, smell etc. You could be a survivor, someone involved in the rescue or someone alive at the time observing the event and its aftermath. Make your diary entries cover a few days – not just the day of the event – so you include what it was like afterwards. You are writing this from a personal point of view so make sure you get the feeling of it across – not just the facts. You could consider writing diary entries for the days before and after a particular event.

B. Personal Letter

  • the letter must be set out correctly
  • it must be a first person account with facts and feelings

Write a letter pretending you are alive at the time of the event and you are writing to a friend overseas telling them what is going on. Include both facts and your own impressions/feelings.

  • Letters to other people serve the same purpose in helping students put themselves in the time period of the event and showing how people might have communicated with each other about the event. Students could write a letter to a friend or family member overseas about the event and their character’s place in it or feelings about it.


How to cite this page

'Personal writing', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/social-studies/disasters/personal-writing, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 12-Jul-2017