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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 11-12

Writing WHST.11-12.3

See note: Not applicable as a separate requirement.

Note: Students’ narrative skills continue to grow in these grades. The Standards require that students be able to incorporate narrative elements effectively into arguments and informative/explanatory texts. In history/social studies, students must be able to incorporate narrative accounts into their analyses of individuals or events of historical import. In science and technical subjects, students must be able to write precise enough descriptions of the step-by-step procedures they use in their investigations or technical work that others can replicate them and (possibly) reach the same results.

Set the Stage

While there is no specific requirement for this standard, narrative concepts remain important since students often need to describe a procedure or process in many content-area courses, including social studies and science. Any time students describe a series of events in sequence, they are essentially writing a narrative. Additionally, students should be ready to integrate narrative or storytelling elements into informative and argumentative papers in order to give historical events or specific examples detail and description. In history class, students might narrate a particular event, such as World War I, from the perspective of someone who was there. In science class, students might explain how they thought through and conducted a chemistry experiment. These two “stories” would then be included in the writing products described in the first two standards. Let’s bounce this scenario around.

Example

Dress Rehearsal

You’ve been studying polymers, large molecules formed by the repeating of structural units, in chemistry class. In order to bring the concept to life, your teacher has asked your class to conduct an experiment, and then write about the process that you followed. This type of “narrative” writing is often used to tell how a process took place, or how a step-by-step procedure was performed. It turns out, narratives aren’t just for English class. Who knew?

It is important that the steps of the experiment are listed in chronological order, as they happen in real time. Observations should be noted as well, and these might include changes in the materials, difficulties encountered during the experiment, and the final outcome. We’re talking step-by-step here.

Your current experiment involves the use of a silicate-based polymer. You will mix two common liquids, sodium silicate and ethyl alcohol. Following standard safety precautions, especially the use of rubber gloves and protective eyewear, you measure and combine the two substances as your textbook indicates. Next, chant quietly: Double, double toil and trouble. Once stirred in the beaker, you notice that a solid begins to form. This is one of those observations you should note, describing how the substance looks.

Still with your gloved hands, you work the solid until it forms a small ball. Look familiar? You’ve just made a Superball! Try bouncing it—carefully. It’s a chemistry lab, remember?

Your lab report, then, will give the steps that you used to create the bonding between two liquids, now a single solid. In looking at the molecular structure of each liquid, you see that the sodium silicate has four oxygen atoms. The alcohol has two carbon atoms. When the two are mixed, the oxygen particles develop chains while the carbon atoms replace the oxygen group and all of them become linked, creating a solid substance.

Writing about experiments really does take some storytelling. You need to explain the events in sequence, showing cause, effect relationships. You need to narrate your thinking and observations throughout the process. Here, you’ve told a “story,” explaining how silicate-based polymers react when exposed to ethyl alcohol. That is, they create a solid substance that acts like rubber! Your detailed description will allow others to replicate, or follow, your process to duplicate the results. That’s something to brag about!

That’s a Wrap

Narratives make historical events, social studies concepts, and science experiments come alive. Narrative writing produces a fluent, detailed account of what happened, which improves the understanding of both the writer and the reader. Encourage your students to pull out their narrative skills whenever appropriate; storytelling is serious business, not just fun and games.

Drill

Fill-in-the-blank paragraph.
Fill in the blanks in the paragraph with the words from the word bank that appropriately explain how you might use narrative technique in different forms of writing.

person factual informational/explanatory understanding step-by-step
narrative replicate argumentative details events

Very often historical events and technical procedures are explained in a ____________ (1) or story. These narratives are different from creative writing in that they are ______________ (2). _______________ (3) and ________________ (4) are two types of writing in which narrative technique might be used. In a social studies class, narrative writing explains a series of _____________ (5) or describes a ____________ (6) of historical importance, but in a science class, the writing may explain a ________________ (7) procedure. The use of narrative passages helps to increase the _____________ (8) of the audience. Specific _________________ (9) make your writing clear and interesting. In science, narrative reports allow others to ______________ (10) work and possibly reach the same conclusions.

Answers/Explanations:

1. The correct answer is narrative. Narrative is another word for story or events told in sequence. Narrative technique can be useful in all types of writing.

2. The correct answer is factual. In creative writing, you are likely inventing a fictional story, but narratives can also be fact-based. When you narrate an event or describe a scientific procedure, you are using narratives to give facts.

3. The correct answer is argumentative. You might use narratives to create analogies or give specific examples that will improve your persuasive appeals. Good storytelling can be especially useful in appealing to the emotions of your audience.

4. The correct answer is informational/explanatory. In explanatory writing, you’ll use narrative technique to improve the detail and fluency with which you describe events in sequence.

5. The correct answer is events. Narratives can be especially useful in describing historical events so that they come to life.

6. The correct answer is person. Narratives can also help us better understand the lives of important historical figures and the events that led to their place in history.

7. The correct answer is step-by-step. In science, narratives are often used to describe experimental procedures, requiring a step-by-step approach.

8. The correct answer is understanding. Narratives tend to provide clear connections between ideas and specific details that make the concepts easier to understand.

9. The correct answer is details. Speaking of details, these are really helpful in making sure your readers can visualize what you are discussing.

10. The correct answer is replicate. To replicate is to repeat, and in science, the whole goal is to design experiments that others can repeat and build on. Only clear, narrative writing will give readers enough detail to repeat your results.

Aligned Resources