Unit 1: Literacy Narrative Essay
“Everyday life is the starting and end point of all human activity.”
- Georg Lukács
In this unit, we are investigating the place of language and writing in our lives. The goal here is to think through, in all of its nuance and contradictions, our varied experiences of language and writing – the ways in which the languages we speak contribute to a developing identity and sense of self/community, and the role writing (and reading) plays in this development. We want to think through personal experience, everyday life – the languages we use with friends, with relatives, immediate family, whomever else we may encounter in whatever context – and begin to consider how we use language differently in different contexts, often to a specific end. We want to begin to devise our own relationships to language. Through our readings, and as we consider our personal relationships to language and look critically at our own writing processes, we should begin to see how the world creeps in, how our everyday experiences of language, of writing, of being in school, are intimately connected to and reflective of the world at large and the institutions we inhabit.
Part I: Narrative (800 – 1000 words)
To round out this unit, each of you will write an essay about a significant event in your experience as a writer/student. Consider what you’ve written in the journal entries: perhaps you want to expand on some of the things you have written there. Consider also the different ways the writers we’ve looked at write about their own experience as writers/speakers of language. You may want to write about:
- an event in your educational career that was particularly formative;
- a specific literacy/learning event that led you to become the thinker you are today;
- the first time you had a profound experience related to language;
- your experience as a writer in this class so far, or in writing classes in general
You should talk about how the event shaped your relationship to reading and writing, or to school/education in general. Or else, you will want to talk about how your particular experience relates to some of the bigger social and cultural issues we discussed in class, such as race, the education system, standard English, etc. In any of these cases, you should reflect upon how your experience has enabled you to understand something specific about reading, writing, learning, or language AND how that understanding reflects on the communities/world you inhabit.
In this assignment you should seek to: describe your reading and writing processes, and the relationship between the two; gain a greater sense of how your personal experience of literacy, and how those experiences have shaped how you envision yourself as a writer in the current world; reflect on your own schooling and educational influences, and examine the social and technological issues involved in accessing language fluency; and explore understandings of the ethnic and cultural diversity of written English, as well as the influence of other registers, dialects, and languages.
This is not a 5-paragraph essay. This is you relating to your peers the story of who you are as someone who belongs to a particular speech and/or writing community, and your history as a reader and writer. In that spirit, you can choose to format or write this in whatever way you think best communicates your story honestly.
You don’t have to choose a good event, or a happy one. You do not have to pretend. Write honestly, and with as much care as you can muster.
A note: this is not an excuse to write something unfocused or sloppy. You are allowed to be creative. You should absolutely be descriptive. Stay away from vague or general claims and clichés. It’s your life, you know it best and to the smallest detail – use that to your advantage.
Part 2: “Email Response” and Reflection
After you have completed the first draft, you will bring in three copies of you essay – one for me and two for two of your peers. You will share these essays with your group, and, after reading each other’s essays, provide thoughtful, critical feedback. While you should provide suggestions for improvement, you should also consider this an opportunity to take cues from your peers and build a sense of community and solidarity. Note what you think works and what you think could use some work. After gathering notes, write an email (~250 words) to each of your group members responding to their paper with your comments and suggestions. You will attach a copy of this email to your final draft.
In addition to the “email”, you will write a reflection (250 words), also to be attached to the final draft. In this, you will explain:
- why you chose to write the way you wrote
- what insights you’ve gained from the readings, the journals, and your peers
- what you think worked and what you might improve on
Proposal/Conceptual Outline: 9/11
Rough Draft: 9/16
Final Draft: 9/23
For both the essay and the commentary/reflection portions of this assignment, you will be graded on: the depth and clarity of your writing, organization of thoughts, concreteness of details, whether or not these details support the greater narrative/argument, and whether or not you completed the assignments on time. With respect to the peer review and reflection, you will be graded on how thoughtful your responses and reflections were, in addition to the above criteria.