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Does the Common Core Allow for Creative Writing?

By Dave Stuart Jr.

If you’re an ELA teacher, all of this talk about THE three forms of writing in the Common Core State Standards (argumentative, informative/explanatory, and narrative) and about the importance of college/career readiness might be a bit unnerving. After all, where is the love for the creative writing that led many of us (including me) to love ELA in the first place? From my reading of the Common Core, there seems to be plenty of room for creative writing, but our thinking about it may need to shift slightly.

First of all, many of us may need to define creative a bit more widely.

The best arguments are delightfully creative, and figuring out how to explain something in a lively fashion also takes plenty of creativity. The same craft that we use in the traditional modes of creative writing — fiction and poetry — can be beautifully applied to argumentative and informative/explanatory pieces (e.g., great poets “cut to the bone,” and so do great arguers; great storytellers include the most telling details, and so do great explainers). Furthermore, students can develop a love for writing through these college/career-focused modes of writing, and they can also find expression for their souls in these modes of writing, and they can also find an outlet for built up creative energy in these modes of writing. Granted, drawing the creative potential out of argumentative and informative/explanatory writing will take the work and energy and thought of our ELA tribe to fully develop over the next few years.

Secondly, in the Common Core’s definition of narrative writing (found in Appendix A, p. 23), both real and imaginary forms of narrative are encouraged, including short stories, memoirs, anecdotes, autobiographies, and more. This is a realm of classic creative writing. However, the Common Core does agree with the distribution of writing purposes across grades as laid out by the 2011 NAEP Writing Framework:

This information is located on p. 5 of the CCSS ELA/Literacy document, and it is derived from the NAEP 2011 Writing Framework.

In other words, students should practice all three modes of writing K-12, but there should be a growing emphasis on persuasive writing and a decreasing emphasis on narrative.

And finally, let’s remember one of the five principles that guided the formation of the Common Core State Standards — namely, that there is plenty of room for local flexibility and teacher judgment. The CCSS dictates what students need to be able to do in order to be ready for post-secondary life — they do not dictate how we should get students there. They treats us like professionals. To me, the CCSS are a very teacher-friendly document; they say, “Teachers, here’s what needs to get done — do it as you see fit.” In fact, in Appendix A, the CCSS authors explicitly state that “the inclusion and evaluation of other such forms [of writing, such as poetry, are left] to teacher discretion” (p. 23). In other words, if you want to use a poetry writing assignment to teach a skill that you’ll be asking students to transfer to a forthcoming argument or explanation, rock it out.

And that’s the moral of the story: rock it out.

So, to answer the titular question, yes, the Common Core allows for lots of creative writing, especially if we are flexible in our definitions of “creative” and focused on career- and college-readiness.

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