1101: Unit 1

Literacy Narrative Assignment – Nadine Lavi

Essay #1 Literacy Narrative

For Unit 1, we will read several literacy narratives. “Mother Tongue,” by Amy Tan focuses on the various “Englishes” that the author, a Chinese-American writer who had trouble fitting in until she found her own, unique “voice” as a writer in English, and her mother, an elderly Chinese native whose English was less than perfect, but who nevertheless, managed to make herself be understood and taken seriously by others. The author gives various anecdotes about how the different Englishes she grew up hearing, at home and at school, conflate with the Englishes her mother uses, and the times when they, or are not effective.

We will also read Donald Murray’s “All Writing is Autobiography,” about the “voices” that he uses when he writes about himself, and how they correspond to different parts of his identity.

In this unit’s writing assignment,  you will write an essay in response to the statement,  “My voice is that of a __________.” (Fill in the blank – with a noun that describes your identity or the identity that you are trying to establish and the voice(s) that you use to affirm that identity) (For example, some of the words that you might use to describe yourself might be: survivor, martyr, kid, seer, cynic, wizard, multi-cultural, multi-gendered, player, stand up guy, lady, bitch, boss, ceo, activist, sibling, parent, student, etc.).

Think about the role that language plays in terms of your identity and your voice. The purpose of this is to connect your participation in this class to the rest of your experiences with writing in your life. As a result, each of you will bring something of yourselves to this assignment and to the class as a whole, and you will leave the course with a greater comprehension of what the usefulness of this class and how to take the steps and practices we will use and transfer them into other writing situations and settings.

In preparation for this assignment, you should read the two examples of literacy narratives: Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue,” and Donald Murray’s “All Writing is Autobiography,” and a third literacy narrative. Use them as models for your essay.

Think about the following and include them when you write:

  • Your culture’s approach to reading and writing
  • Your family’s “English” and how it is similar to or different from the English you learned in school
  • Your thoughts about your earliest experiences with English (reading, writing, school, etc.)
  • Any story or book that you liked which may have shaped you
  • Your unique voice and how that reflects your strengths, weaknesses, path, and goals in life

Your essay will be approximately 3-4 pages long, with your title, indented paragraphs, double spaced, Arial or Calibri 11 point font, with 1 inch margins all around.

Take some time to jot down notes and any words that come to mind (word associations) about your early recollections of English and how that intersected with your voice. Use the first person, “I.’ Bring in two printed copies for our peer review class, and turn in a final draft electronically and a bring an extra hard copy to class to hand in to me.

Email me if you have any questions.

2 thoughts on “1101: Unit 1

  1. Rebekah Coleman

    Hi Nadine,

    Great assignment! I love “Mother Tongue” and “All Writing Is Autobiography.” Will you assign at a later date the 3rd narrative or will students choose their own?

    Topic: I like the idea that students can write about their identity and or one they aspire to. I think that it would be helpful if the questions connected more to the topic itself or if you explained how to integrate the answers of those questions into their response.

    About the format, I think it would be helpful to clarify specifically what you mean by essay. I would want to know exactly what elements of the genre I would need to include and would be graded on.

    I like how you include scaffolding at the bottom, I think it would be great if you could expand on that more and clarify when it is due in relation to the assignment (meaning is that the first step, etc).

    Grading: what are students graded on?

    1. Carrie Hall

      Nadine, I like the idea of the students thinking about their various voices–and I like the list that you give here. I think this will really help them connect their own experiences to the class.

      Just a couple of things about the assignment itself: first, I wouldn’t explain “Mother Tongue” to them. I’d let them understand it for themselves. For example, Tan feels her mother’s English IS perfect just as it is, even though some people (like you) see it as “broken.” But notice that you spend a full long paragraph translating that essay for students and only 1-2 sentences talking about Murray. Just let them read it and make their own meaning (this is a class in both reading AND writing.) Also– I really do like all the questions at the end, but I’m not quite sure how they’re all related to the assignment yet. Can you make that more clear?

      I agree with Rebekah that you need to be more clear about grading criteria– what will you be grading on? And think about what exactly you’ll be looking for more than just the font and formatting. I know, from the depth of the assignment that you do have something in mind– I think it’s a very generative assignment.

Leave a Reply