Narrative Nonfiction Short Stories

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Teaching students to read narrative nonfiction is a unique experience, since it combines some features of fiction with some of nonfiction. This lesson offers some narrative nonfiction stories you can use to help your students better understand the genre.

Teaching Narrative Nonfiction

Are you trying to help your children or students form a better understanding of different kinds of nonfiction? One genre you might focus on is that of narrative nonfiction. Many students will love narrative nonfiction because it is written like a story, and they can use their fiction comprehension skills to help them make sense of it. At the same time, narrative nonfiction is indeed nonfiction, and this requires students to approach it in a uniquely thoughtful way.

To help your students understand narrative nonfiction, you will need some texts to work with. After all, it is one thing to learn about a genre in the abstract, and quite another to practice reading within it! Short stories can be ideal for understanding narrative nonfiction, because students can finish them relatively quickly and move to discussion and analysis of text and genre. The stories in this lesson will help students develop an interest in and understanding of narrative nonfiction.

Narrative Nonfiction Short Stories

Each story is followed by a brief summary and an idea of who might find the tale especially appealing.

True American Artform, by Simon Kay

This is a short story about learning to play pool. The main characters, Rey and Jimmy, get into quite a competitive game. They learn about each other, their philosophies on life, and all of the metaphors that can be associated with the game of pool. This piece of nonfiction is especially well suited to students who like suspense or enjoy learning about games.

High Times in Jamaica, by Richard Jacobs

Jacobs tells the tale of something that happened to him when he was traveling in Kingston, Jamaica in 1954; he is taking a break from hitchhiking around the world. The story will introduce students to Jamaican history and culture and will give them an opportunity to reflect on the way race and class can influence people's lives and experiences. It is a good read for students who are interested in travel or learning about other cultures.

The Cellmate, by Crystal Arbogast

This true story tells what it was like to spend a night in jail with a man who is about to be hanged. The story takes place in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and the man is the last to be hanged in his jurisdiction. The tale gives students an opportunity to think about what it is like to face death or to be a survivor, and in addition to offering a solid example of narrative nonfiction, it raises interesting social and political questions.

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