narrative essay

his quarter, we will be working with issues around the student experience, the place and purpose of education, and the use of educational resources.  Specifically, I’m interested in looking at the difficulties students face these days in making school a meaningful experience.  What keeps students from exploring and being curious, or from taking responsibility for their education?  How do students and teachers misunderstand each other? What, ultimately, is the point of school?


First, I want to hear about your personal experience in these areas!  You should tell the true story of a moment or occurrence from your own life as a student that is important and has somehow shaped the way you perceive academic culture, education, or your role as a student. The focus of the story should not range over a long period of time (i.e. no more than a day or two, and as little as a minute!), although it can include context, references, or flashbacks (or flashes forward) to other events or times.  


The story should not just be true, it should be interesting, meaningful, and compelling—it should make use of the components of action, reflection, stakes, and connection described in Brian Reed’s presentation on “The Craft of Storytelling” (link on our course page), and should include at least one central theme—the idea in your story that makes it important to you and relatable to your reader. By the end of the story, the reader should have some clear ideas about why the event you are describing was important to you (or the person it happened to), and have some thoughts about how your story is relevant to them, or to the wider academic culture.


Use descriptive techniques to create vivid, unusual, or purposeful detail in your story. How can you describe sights, sounds, and other sensations in a way that creates a cohesive and interesting atmosphere for your reader?


Basic requirements:

3 5 pages long.  Times New Roman, size 12 font.  Double spaced.  One inch margins. Do not justify the right margin (it should not be straight).  Include your name and the title of the narrative at the top of the paper, and page numbers on every page.  Your narrative should include a satisfying beginning and ending.


Topic ideas for narratives: 

  • Think about events or moments in school from your past that you’ve found yourself remembering over the past week. Why did you remember them?
  • Think about a teacher, event, assignment, or opportunity at school that changed the direction of your life or made a big impact on you.
  • What are your earliest memories of school or education? What do they say about your experience?
  • What does school represent to you, your family, your peer groups, etc.—good or bad? What caused it to be that way?



  • Use your first paragraph to set up your story with helpful background information and give a hint at the story’s main theme(s).
  • Try to keep each paragraph focused around some main point or detail; look for natural shifts in focus or transitions between important events, and use these as chances to break to a new paragraph.  Use descriptive language and concrete details to paint a clear picture of the events you’re describing.
  • Before writing, you may want to spend time brainstorming about your genre and target audience, as well as for ideas and details for your story.  
  • Tell a specific story. Think of specific event rather than a general notion. Don’t tell the story of your entire third grade year. Do tell the story about the time your third grade teacher accidentally (?) broke your art project and didn’t notice. Do you see the difference? 
  • You may also want to organize the events of your narrative into an outline or storyboard. You can then work from your plans to develop a cohesive story.  
  • You can exaggerate a little bit, if it makes the story more interesting, or makes the writing sound better. I don’t have to know.