Week 10: Why teach narrative writing?


Miniature Pool Ball 9
So, I did last week’s post late, and it was more about the beginning of this week (which didn’t get much better by the way) than week 9. Rather than focus on the FUBAR that week felt like (it wasn’t that bad, just felt that way), a post by Dina Strasser seemed relevant to a discussion about writing that the kids did in Week 9, so I’m sorry if it’s confusing, I’m going back in time. Warning, there is minor profanity in the post, but asterisks.

It’s all about the new Common Core writing standards, and the case one of the main authors of the writing standards is making for expository rather than narrative writing, and most especially, expository writing that is devoid of personal opinion, or “flavor” because kids need to learn that we adults think what they think is, well worthless. We’ve already tried to remove a lot of the joy from reading, but pushing towards more short passage expository text, but wait, let’s make writing a drudgery too because that’s what is prized.

Which brings me to my kids, and writing. These are some of the better writers (technically) I’ve had as a teacher. Last week, we were reading about myths around constellations in an  largely expository heavy unit on Astronomy in our Language Arts text, so I assigned the writing of a myth about a constellation that they could make up.

Oh my god! The kids, were so excited to be writing. Even my productive writers were giving me multiple pages, and my more reluctant ones did fine. Were all the stories great? No, but they exhibited a lot more “voice” and they had a lot more ownership of their writing.

That’s the writers’ perspective, but  I think readers prefer narrative and a personal touch as well. Really, are my readers enjoying this post because it is objective, or because it has a personal perspective? What would you rather read, some technical manual on writing instruction, or Dina’s blog to glean ideas for writing instruction? And is it really an either or? Maybe kids are given too many assignments asking for personal perspective vs. objective and fact-based writing, it doesn’t mean you throw narrative writing out the window (which the Core standards seem to do in High School). I won’t even get into how personal perspective is more developmentally appropriate for elementary writing.

I also think that Mr. Coleman is deluding himself on the joys of objectivity in writing. What employers (corporations) want is not so much an absence of personal opinion and voice, in favor of objective facts, but for their opinions to be cleverly disguised as objective and factual. But, that wouldn’t work as a standard, would it?

Photo Credit: Miniature Pool Ball 9 by Leo Reynolds, on Flickr

3 Comments to

“Week 10: Why teach narrative writing?”

  1. November 14th, 2011 at 7:10 am      Reply Susan Ohanian Says:

    I think I just made comment in wrong place. It didn’t seem to work.
    I just want to say BRAVO for your comments on David Coleman. He is being invited by state departments of ed around the country to give 2 hour lectures on how to teach, including his message that corporate leaders “don’t give a shit” about employee opinions (direct quote from his NY talk).

    I’m wondering if he’s been in California yet.

    I’ve documented a lot of his evil on my website. I wonder who gave him all this power.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. November 16th, 2011 at 12:37 am      Reply Joan Says:

    I often use poetic forms when teaching personal narrative, but we always end up with a narrative, a story, beginning-middle-end, short, one clear moment in time, that comes out of life experience.Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  3. November 17th, 2011 at 8:43 am      Reply PeonInChief Says:

    First, very cool blog!

    One of the things that’s interesting is that college teachers often recommend that students doing expository writing take a creative writing course. It helps students get beyond the “this paper will discuss” introduction, and both focuses their writing and improves their analysis. One of the great exercises: have the kids go someplace and write down 40 things about the place, one of which is false. Then have the kids look at one another’s lists and try to pick out the false observation.

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