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Where Do Stories Belong?

I used to believe that a story only belonged in personal narrative, realistic fiction, or a creative genre of sorts.

Wait…I don’t think I actually ever BELIEVED that to be true. I think I may have just lost my way at one point. Regardless of that little detour I now feel, more than ever, that stories belong everywhere. This feeling also strengthens my belief that sometimes we need to step outside of our beliefs to really strengthen those that are worth holding on to.

If there’s any electricity in the writing, it runs on the current of narrative.

~Lester Laminack

This quote reminds me that any time I am reading articles, information writing, or professional resources I am drawn in by writing that tells me a story. When the author is able to connect the topic to a life experience or memory it creates a sense of reality that most readers can relate to. I enjoy fiction but as a reader, I am actually more drawn to non-fiction. However, I still find that the works that keep my interest are those who run “on the current of narrative.”

Human minds yield helplessly to the suction of story.

~Jonathan Gottschall

If this is true, what Gottschall says, wouldn’t it also be true that we would yield helplessly to knowledge when shared in a story form? Wouldn’t this also mean that when teaching students to write information pieces, encouraging them to blend story and information together would pull their audience in such a way they would not be able to look away? Isn’t that what we want? Yet, what sometimes we find ourselves doing is based on a formula.

Statement + Reasons + Evidence = [Full Credit]

Or

Statement + Facts + Summary = [Basically a regurgitation of what the student read in his research]

I am guilty! I have subjected students to this way of thinking and gotten exactly the result I show above. I was able to check things off on a rubric and felt like my students were successful. Where were the independent thoughts? Where was the creativity? I began to realize this when all the students started to look the same. We might initially think, great, I see evidence of my teaching here. This might be true. But do we really want to create a room full of robots who can spew out evidence and facts without thinking and reacting to them? Do we really want students to remove themselves from their topics and tell us what we want to hear? Is the meaning of success looking like everyone else or is the meaning of success looking like a more informed version of ourselves? When we allow students to learn, read, digest, think, and react to new information what they pour out onto the page is much more passionate and self-driven. I want to develop students who write stories driven by what motivates them. I want them to choose topics that stir them up inside, break their hearts, or makes them feel more alive than they did the day before. I plan to spend the entire school year finding the stories that drive young writers. Finding the threads of narrative that can be woven into any genre. I hope to give students time to explore and create without feeling the pressure to be experts from the get go. This is my challenge. This is my passion. This is my project.

Betsy Hubbard View All

Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.

7 thoughts on “Where Do Stories Belong? Leave a comment

  1. My student Jacob’s house was flooded. When he came to class after the flood, I gave him a hug and pointed to his notebook. I want you to write the story of the flood. He wrote page after page and was so excited to tell his story in writing. Now I know students don’t have tragedies every day, but we can give them the tools and the motivation to write about any and all of their stories.

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  2. So wishing more teachers thought like this: “Finding the threads of narrative that can be woven into any genre. I hope to give students time to explore and create without feeling the pressure to be experts from the get go.”

    I wonder what kind of a writer I would be now if the teachers I had thought like this! Thanks for sharing and have a great year with story!

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  3. Wondering how you teach pacing with your kids. Doing a personal narrative unit with eighth graders and I’m struggling. Only good tool in my toolkit is exploding a moment.

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    • I also will be starting with narrative for about the first 6 weeks before switching gears to personal essays. I like this progression because the evidence students offer to support their claim already lines up with personal stories and experiences. As we move through the first week of narrative I will be drawing inspiration from two of my favorite newer resources, The Big Book of Details (46 moves for teaching writers to elaborate) and Craft Moves (Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts). Exploding a Moment is a tried and true strategy when encouraging kids to elaborate and put their reader inside the most important moment of their story. I think either or both of these resources would give you more to build from there.

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  4. I remember the first time I learned that story could be embedded in an essay. (It was probably 2004 or 2005.) I was shocked. This was contrary to everything I learned in school. That said, it was incredibly freeing to learn how bits of narrative could help to drive a point home inside of an informational piece.

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    • If you use this blog as a mentor text, almost every informational piece ( and the point of every post is informational), begins or is threaded with narrative moments. It’s what makes this site so enjoyable!

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