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Common Core W.CCR.3 Explained

By Dave Stuart Jr.

W.CCR.3 — that's the 3rd College and Career Readiness anchor standard within the Writing strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows:

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

This is the final mode of writing within the big three (the other two being argumentative and informative/explanatory); let's get to it.

How does the Common Core define narrative?

Appendix A is immensely helpful in getting a grasp of W.CCR.3. (For newbs, Appendix A is that useful document in which the CCSS explains the research and rationale behind the standards and includes a glossary of key terms.) According to page 23, narrative writing:

  • conveys real or imagined experiences
  • and uses time as its deep structure.

Narrative can be used for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • to inform,
  • to instruct,
  • to persuade,
  • or to entertain.

In English language arts (ELA) narrative can include a variety of genres, including:

  • creative fictional stories,
  • memoirs,
  • anecdotes,
  • and autobiographies.

Here is a list of  narrative skills that students should learn over time, particularly in the ELA classroom:

  • provide visual details of scenes, objects, or people;
  • depict specific actions (e.g., movements, gestures, postures, and expressions);
  • use dialogue and interior monologue that provide insight into the narrator's and character's personalities and motives;
  • and manipulate pace to highlight the significance of events and create tension and suspense.

In history/social studies students should:

  • write narrative accounts about individuals,
  • and construct event models of what happened, selecting from their sources only the most relevant information. (If anyone is an expert on teaching students to write event models, leave a comment! I'm new to that concept, and there's not much that I can find about it via Google.)

In science students should:

  • write narrative descriptions of the step-by-step procedures they follow in their investigations;
  • procedures should be written in a manner that allows others to effectively replicate their procedures and (perhaps) their results.

And that, in bullet-form, is what Appendix A has to say about narratives, and that nicely matches the language of the W.CCR.3 anchor standard. Essentially, whenever you teach an aspect of narrative writing to your students, you're hitting W.CCR.3; for more grade-specific guidance, use the grade-specific standards located within the CCSS document. I'd eventually like to explore those on Teaching the Core, but first let me get through the anchor standards themselves 🙂

How should the three Common Core modes of writing be balanced?

For a guy who's responsible for writing most of his own curriculum, this is a question that I need answered: Okay, I get that I'm supposed to help students become career and college ready by focusing on the “Big Three” modes of writing in W.CCR.1-3, but how should I balance these requirements? After all, even if I have my students write as a part of every single thing we do, it won't be possible to give any of these modes the time they deserve.

In other words: where should I focus?

Thankfully, Appendix A also includes a rockin' breakdown of the emphasis that the “big three” should be given during grades 4, 8, and 12. I've shown it elsewhere, but I think the infographic is worth re-sharing here:

This information is located on p. 5 of Appendix A of the CCSS, and it's derived from the NAEP 2011 Writing Framework.

In other words, narrative writing is decreasingly prevalent as a student progresses through K-12 education, and argumentative and informative/explanatory writing is increasingly prevalent.

So for me, a ninth grade world history and English teacher, narrative writing is probably going to account for one of my major writing assignments in an entire year course.

Have a great day!

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