I will admit that over the last few years I have been bogged down in teaching persuasive writing. The stress on test scores and bringing them up has made this type of writing a major focus. Finish a novel? Write a persuasive essay! Have some extra time? Teach about the counterarugment and how important it is! Final exam? Include a persuasive essay!
This is an important type of writing to be sure. You should be able to take a stance, support it, achknowldge the opposing viewpoint, and still stand by your stance. And it is fair that students should be able to practice and learn the skills they need for this type of writing. However, so many other types of writing were being ignored. Not that I never taught them, but they did not get the attention of the persuasive essay. And the poor students could probably recite the format of a persusaive essay in their sleep.
Many changes have been happening to my curriculum. I am excited and terrified at the same time. The CCSS are the main focus of our changes. We also are incorporating different curriculum programs in writing and reading. My knowledge of the CCSS and the use of new units brought narrative writing to my attention again. Of course we will write some persuasive essays (and on demand to!) but I saw a way to devote two weeks to narrative writing.
The unit introduced students to and helped them write memoirs. After reading strong mentor texts, we brainstormed ideas and started writing our own memoirs. I think the amount of freedom students had with the assinment scared them at first.
“What does it have to be about?”
“Anything you want.”
“I can’t think of ANYTHING!”
“How long does it have to be?”
“As long as you need it to be to tell your story.”
“So, how many pages is that?”
But as students started writing, some of them really took off with the assignment. We practiced “Exploding the Moment” and adding dialogue to enhance our writing. We discussed the importance of the beginning to really bring a reader in. I loved reading the snipits as students worked in class. Now that I am grading the final products, I am amazed! Each memoir shows a unique side of my students. I have read of love and loss, vacations and friendships, and just about everything in between! I get to know my students in a way I haven’t been able to before. Students really have opened up. They also get to be creative. So far, two students have chosen to tell their story using poetry. I also had a very successful journal format that told of one student’s adventure learning to play the piano. I also learned that one of my students has a strong command using the semi-colon in writing.
This has been a very successful unit and I am looking forward to using it again. I think narrative writing gets overlooked a bit too much in high school if it is not a creative writing class, but it could really build confidence in students. I have read some of the best introductions and conclusions I have come across in my career…and these are parts students tell me they can’t write! I am glad this trimester has started off strong with such a great assignment.