Here is a nice pre-narrative writing exercise you can use in your high school classroom.
*Please check out the article online to see if this will work for you.*
Obviously suicide is serious subject matter. You know your students well enough to determine at which point in the year to use this, but I will say that it pairs nicely with a narrative or memoir unit, should you be working on that.
This essay originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1996. It is readily available online for free; make sure to print the entire piece. It is approximately 3,000 words.
You may want to approach the reading together, and encourage annotation, however, you may also want the piece to have as much impact as possible, and have students read it first alone, then discuss it afterwards as a class.
I’ve included a writing page for your students as an option for immediate response after reading. No questions yet, just put your thoughts on paper…sometimes it’s good to debrief.
You may choose which exercises to use, or use them all. I have included vocabulary, questions about allusion, comprehension questions, interpretive questions, and bigger picture/analysis questions.
There is no answer key--most of the questions are student-opinion based, and should be open to interpretation. As for the vocab and comprehension questions; I don't think this will be too much trouble for your students to successfully complete.
I hope you find the resources included here valuable for your students. I am working on a narrative unit at the beginning of this year, and want my students to read a variety of styles, on a variety of subjects.
And here's another great non-fiction study for you to check out! Non-Fiction Study for Shame by Dick Gregory