What makes this powerful?
And this?
And this?

For that matter, what makes most persuasive writing powerful?
Story does.

No one is saying that narrative writing has jumped the shark. Not even this guy.

More importantly, I don’t think we have the right to take narrative writing away from kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for expository writing and engaging kids in the development of argumentative pieces. I agree with David Coleman: we don’t do enough of this kind of writing in schools. But seriously? We don’t do enough of ANY kind of writing in schools. Let’s not kid ourselves there, and let’s not blame narrative writing for that reality. I don’t think anyone at NYSED is. Are they?

I’ve encountered some pretty powerful argumentative writing in my day. Often, these pieces include story.

I’ve read a lot of great stories. Most of them make great arguments.

Genres often blend, and great writers know how to mash them together into something amazing.

Even when they don’t? Any genre can serve a multitude of purposes.

I think powerful writers can tell me stories that persuade me to take some sort of action.

I think powerful writers can strengthen their arguments by putting narrative to work for them.

I know the writers that I teach need permission to do this, and they need my support in learning how.

What do you think?

What are your interpretations of the Common Core Standards?

How do you intend to implement them in service to the children you teach?

Cross-posted at WNY Young Writers’ Studio.



  1. I don’t know anything about the Common Core Standards (I teach in Quebec and Ontario) but I do know that if we take away the power to tell story we take away kids’ power to know themselves and to connect with others.

    I feel like a broken record but I leave this sentence everywhere. I believe it that much:

    ‘The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.’ (Thomas King)

    • That is a beautiful statement.

      All of this brings me back to a question that has always nagged at me a bit: what are the responsibilities of those who teach writing inside of public schools? Is it all about turning out functional writers? Or should we be committed to something more? What’s realistic?

  2. As a teacher specializing in teaching expository writing, I heartily concur with this post.

    I find the typical school writing program messes up by giving the impression that a story is important simply because it happened. That’s not true. Stories become important when they are reflected upon.

    Reflection (that metacognitive activity) is at the heart of education. If we want students to learn, to want to learn, to continue learning, we have to encourage them — usually though some requirement — to reflect on their personal stories.

    The ability to reflect on experience doesn’t just happen. I find that the easiest way to get teenage and adult students to reflect on their experience is to ask them to use an anecdote as one piece of evidence in support of a thesis in an essay or other short piece of nonfiction. The one-story in one-paragraph approach is not only relatively unthreatening for student writers, but it’s also the way stories are typically used in real world settings.

  3. When I teach writing … wait, I always teach writing. At first kids complain when I ask them to write in History, French, Art… but soon they get used to it. Then they complain when I make them edit their writing in History, French, Art…but then they get used to it.

    Realistic for me is teaching kids to tell their stories and I can’t do that authentically without looking at the functional part of their writing. So yeah, it’s both and.

  4. @Linda–
    “I find the typical school writing program messes up by giving the impression that a story is important simply because it happened. That’s not true. Stories become important when they are reflected upon.”

    What a powerful statement. It surfaces some deeper considerations, too. If we’re to compose arguments and pieces of expository text that truly ENGAGE readers, won’t we often integrate story? And if we’re going to do this purposefully, we need to reflect on our own stories and fleece out the deeper meaning. Connecting our stories and experiences to the arguments we are making and the information we’re trying to bring to life for our readers is important work. It’s what makes our writing of interest to others. I think most would agree.

    This takes me back to my original point—we need to check our interpretations of the Common Core Standards carefully. We need to think outside of the box a bit as well. We can implement them in service to a far greater vision. That vision needs to be informed by tremendous expertise. The Standards don’t compensate for what might be lacking there…..

    It’s so funny you mention frustration. Spent part of today in conversation around that topic with another fellow writing teacher. We’re often so afraid to let kids struggle or feel uncomfortable or complain a little as they begin something new. Too often, teachers will tell me that their students “won’t” do something. Upon further study, we learn that this isn’t usually true. Usually, they WILL do it…begrudgingly at first….but then, as you said, they adjust.

    Realistic for some teachers is ensuring that all kids graduate knowing how to write an organized essay and MAYBE a research paper. Not ideal, they will tell me. Realistic. There isn’t enough time, and given the choice, they need to teach them how to write these kinds of pieces. Story is the icing on the cake.

    I disagree……..but we’re talking about public schooling. Huge systems. Huge class sizes. Little time. Thick curricula. Maybe I’m being unrealistic.

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