Years ago, my PLC adopted the “I-Search” paper as a piece of informative writing that now feels like a relic from another age. It was a sort of “meta-writing” wherein the students undertook a research project and then wrote a paper not about the research topic, but about the experience as a writing process.
It was a failure, but at least it had noble intentions: To get students to think about their writing process and roles as authors.
For us, the failure was a blessing in disguise. Once it was clear that the assignment was something of a dumpster fire, we were forced to revisit our entire unit. And from the ashes of the I-Search emerged our favorite writing piece of the year: The Narrative Journalism Experience.
What’s Narrative Journalism?
Many people know the genre as “Longform Journalism”–indeed, your best resource for mentor texts would be the outstandingly curated site www.Longform.org, which compiles the best in the genre and even sorts it by subject matter. Students are more drawn into the genre when I can point them to entire collections of mentor texts thematically sorted around topics like “Imposters” or “Sad Retired Athletes” (the collections get VERY specific!).
image via http://www.longform.org
While styles vary, the core of this type of writing is the conveyance of non-fictional information through a narrative structure–often, the narrative is about the journalist’s experience in investigating the story. In fact, that’s the narrative perspective the students end up adopting when we turn them into amateur journalists later in the unit. More on that below… Continue reading