English 101 Writing Assignment

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ESSAY ONE: Education Narrative

Write a 500+ word narrative essay* that completes the following sentence**:

In order to understand my perspective on higher education, you must know…

*What is a narrative essay, you say? I’m so glad you asked. Axelrod & Cooper provide good commentary on this along with some examples of narrative essays, but here are some ideas to get things started:  A narrative essay tells a story.  Many of the most effective narrative essays focus on rendering a specific scenic moment by showing that scene in rich sensory detail. In these cases, the narrative will focus on a very narrow period of time, probably a few hours or less in an essay as short as this one. You will probably want to take this approach.  Occasionally, an ambitious short narrative will tackle a larger span of time, but this is incredibly difficult to do well. If you choose to go this route, make sure to narrow the focus as much as you can, and make sure to find ways to include lots of rich, compelling detail because…  …rich, compelling detail is the hallmark of an effective narrative. If story is the foundation, detail is the eye-catching exterior. If story is the skeleton, detail is the skin. (Note, though, that the goal is not to include lots and lots of irrelevant detail. You want to choose your details carefully, thoughtfully, taking into consideration the larger effect they’ll have on the reader).  A narrative essay, in addition to telling a story, reflects on the larger “meaning” of the events that make up the body of the essay. This reflection should not take over the essay, but it needs to be there to keep the essay from seeming anecdotal or insubstantial. To say this another way: A narrative answers two questions, “What happened?” and “So what?” The So-What part is the reflection. Often, this reflection comes in a paragraph or two at the end of the essay.  Some of you will write about events that connect to higher education in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. Your reflection, in those cases, is where that connection can be made.

**Your essay doesn’t actually have to begin with that sentence, but it can.

One last thing:  Vary your sentence structure. We’ll look at some examples of different structures you can use in class, but work to include a range of different kinds of sentences. Avoid long sequences of similarly structured sentences: I did this. I said that. I went here. She said this. The dog ran away.

ESSAY ONE: Education Narrative

C/A/P Essay tells a (true) story that helps the reader understand the writer’s relationship to higher education.
FOCUS Essay focuses on specific moments and scenes, or finds an inventive way to drive a larger narrative with a specific focus, avoiding vagueness.
ORG Essay has a proportional beginning, middle, and end. /5
Essay uses paragraphs and transitions to move the reader through the story. /3
DEV Essay uses rich, compelling detail and description to help the reader connect to the situation.
Essay includes substantial reflection on the significance of the event. /5
V&S Essay shows evidence of careful proofreading. /4
Essay avoids grammar problems associated with tools 0-2. /4


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