Common Core Connection: Narrative Writing in the Social Studies Classroom

By Monica Burns 01.13.2015 blog

English Language Arts classrooms naturally devote time to narrative writing, an important text type that offers an opportunity to demonstrate creativity through storytelling. The Common Core Anchor Standard states that students of all grade levels should be able to:


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

Although we often think of research papers or essays as being the one and only writing type in social studies classrooms, narrative writing can play a crucial role. Providing students with a chance to create exciting and interesting stories can promote student engagement and motivate those who are reluctant to participate in traditional assignments. Teens will need to know a topic inside and out in order to write a compelling narrative that describes characters, setting, events and actions in a way that is true to a period in history or a topic they are studying.

Social Studies Assignments for Narrative Writing

Incorporating narrative writing assignments into a set curriculum may seem challenging at first. Start off by locating moments in a unit where students are taking a deep dive into a particular period in history or topic. Narrative writing assignments could include:

Create a story of a person your age, living during the American Revolution.  Choose one historical figure to include in this story that your main character will have to interact with as events unfold. Add details that describe the setting and what life was like at this time. 

Imagine that you lived through an important event that changed the nation, such as the Apollo 11 moon landing or the “I Have a Dream” speech.  Describe your reaction to this event, including what surprised or inspired you.

As students complete these types of assignments they should be held accountable for the claims that they make. Ask teens to include a one page explanation for why they made decisions as a writer.  This could include:

  • What information helped you describe the setting?
  • How can a reader tell that this story took place during a particular period in history?
  • What details did you include to describe actual historical figures?

Resources for Historical Narrative Writing

Students completing this type of assignment will need to have an understanding of a particular event or period in history. They will also need to know how to locate information to help them learn more. In addition to providing traditional resources like a textbook or content area readers, you may want to curate a list of Internet resources to help with their research. If individual students in your class are writing about different topics, create subject area groups so that one student can ask another questions on a specific topic.

Grading this type of writing in a social studies classroom should be more about content than English Language Arts skills. You may want to develop a rubric to share with students that asks them to include a certain number of details about a time period, including contemporary figures or the setting.

How could you incorporate narrative writing into your next unit of study?

Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.


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