What Would Your Things Say About You? – The Narrative Assignment

Rocking Chair 001

My sister and I in our rocking chairs. Circa 1982

What would your things say about you?

The narrative assignment for my COM 101 class is not an easy essay. And I LOVE it! It is my favorite assignment to give and to grade.

In this assignment students are to compose a narrative of their life story as told by one object from their life. They are to personify one thing, and, from the perspective of that stuffed animal, tree, table, or whatever item they choose, the students are to share their defining moments from birth to present day.

This is a daunting task for students because some don’t have any one item that has been present for their entire life. Some claim that they haven’t done anything worth remembering. And still others whine that they can’t even remember what they had for breakfast, how are they supposed to remember what they did in grade school?

My response: It’s your story to tell. You better do the research. Your stuffed animal isn’t going to do it for you.

Rocking Chair

My childhood rocking chair today

To help them get started, I share a roughly drafted intro to my life, as told by my childhood rocking chair. I give them a glimpse into what my life was like in the beginning and how to narrate using an item that arrived after my birth. Many find the example helpful.  Some try to copy my words and plagiarize by changing the item and dates. Whatever their approach might be, they all have the same task: Tell their own story while bringing to life a special object.

Have you ever tried to tell your story?

At 19, 39, or 89 it is not an easy task. I have to say, the particular group of students I have now moved me with the tales they told. The stories of self-discovery, loss of loved ones, and the ways they conveyed hope for the future exposed me to raw talent, emotion, and understanding for who they are as individuals. 

I can’t help but wonder what my rocking chair would say about me now, if I did write my own story.

                                               What would your story be like?

What would your things say about you, if they could tell your life story?

Have you lived a life that is worth remembering?

What are the moments or experiences that would be the defining points for your personified biography?

Would you share moments of loss or failure?
I am not sure I could share the loss of a parent or the death of a pet the way some of my students did in their writing. A catastrophic illness or injury is not something I would be able to put to paper in the same honest manner that many of students were able to do.

Would you be able to tell your tale in a way that shows hope for your own future?
While each student chose their own special item to tell their tale, there was not one paper that failed to shared the potential of its author. The conclusion of each narrative included positive outlook and faith that the endeavors of its subject would be successful.

Today I encourage you to think back on your own life story. Be sure to reflect with grace and gratitude on the tough times along with the joyous ones. Approach failures and fantastic feats with honesty and compassion. Remember you are a work in progress and it is in adding positive perspective and intentional energy that our biography becomes a work worthy of a happy ending.

By: Melanie A. Peters

P.S. There is no way I would have been able to write my story as a senior in high school half as well as my students. There was a serious chip on my shoulder that would have kept interrupting…. I’m so glad I outgrew that chip.

 

 

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