Culture Cat has an excellent presentation of reasons for assigning a personal narrative as a first essay in a composition course.
I have definitely assigned the narrative essay first in the classroom with some of these in mind, especially the ideas of assigning students what they personally know and as a means of assessing their abilities.
However, I also look at the narrative essay as a bridge for college English. Â I don’t know where Dr. Ratliffe’s students are coming from, but many of my students have either never written anything in high school or have only written expressive papers. Â By offering as a first assignment the narrative I affirm their intimate knowledge of their subject matter, themselves, and allow them their best chance at a successful writing experience because it is the most like their previous experiences.