Literacy Narrative, 1st Draft

Unit 1: Literacy Narrative Essay

In this unit, we are investigating the place of language and writing in our lives. We’ve read and discussed (formally and informally) narratives that examine language—both spoken and written, with the following goals in mind:

We have:

  • reflected on the varied experiences of language and writing, and how language shapes our identity and community, and the role writing (and reading) plays;
  • reflected on the languages we use with friends, with relatives, immediate family, fellow students, teachers, supervisors, etc;
  • reflected on our relationships to language and looked critically at our own writing processes.

Part I: Narrative (800 words, minimum)

We 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. Remember the different ways the writers we’ve discussed 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

Whatever the context you choose from the examples above, you should:

  • talk about how the event shaped your relationship to reading and writing, or to school/education in general;
  • 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 Written English (SWE), etc;
  • 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.

This assignment isn’t meant to be a traditional essay with a thesis statement and five structured paragraphs. Instead, 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.

Part 2: Share, Respond, and Reflect

After you have completed the first draft, you will bring in copies of you to share with your peers. You will share these essays with your group, and, after reading each other’s essays, provide thoughtful, critical feedback (a worksheet will be provided).

Note what you think works and what you think could use some work. After the session, write an email based on your responses on the worksheet (~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

Due Dates

  • Conceptual Outline: XX
  • Rough Draft: XX
  • Final Draft: XX

All deadlines are absolute. If you do not turn in the assignments on the published deadlines, you will receive zero points for that particular deadline. This will be discussed further in class.


You will receive two grades on this assignment. The first grade will be on your narrative. The grade will depend on the following:

  • depth and clarity of your writing
  • organization of thoughts
  • concreteness of details
  • details support the greater narrative/argument

The second grade will be on the responses to your peers and your reflection. The grade will depend on the following:

  • thoughtful response to each peer (this must cover both the things you think worked as well as suggestions for improvement)
  • thoughtful reflection on why you chose to write the way you wrote, what insights you gained, and what you think worked on your narrative and what you hope to improve upon

This assignment was adapted from Andrew Stone’s U1 assignment on


2 thoughts on “Literacy Narrative, 1st Draft

  1. Julia Ait-ziane

    Jessica, I really like that there are two separate parts to this assignment. I think it’s very clear what you want the students to cover in each of them. I particularly like the work that they are being asked to do in the second part of the assignment. The grading criteria is clear. I like that they have many different areas they could write about. The only place where I stop a bit is the same part that I have trouble making clear in my own assignments: the final form of this document. I think if you use the word “narratives” on the document, you’re going to end up with what looks like a narrative essay, with introduction, thesis, etc. If we really want students to avoid that traditional form, then I think the mentor examples have to go out of their way to show alternatives. If you write “essay”, I think students will produce what we want to encourage them to avoid. Maybe it’s just a matter of changing some of the language? I hope this helps somewhat.

    1. Carrie Hall

      Jessica, this is a great assignment– really clear and well-scaffolded. I think students will be very engaged, and know where to start and what to do.

      One thing you’ll want to think about (in class or in this document) is structure. I like Julia’s suggestion to use the term “narrative” instead of “essay” so students don’t fall back on old habits. One other thing you might want to consider is helping them look for other structures in the “mentor texts” you’re bringing in (the example lit narratives. You might mention it here, but that’s just sort of me nitpicking, I don’t think you really have to.

      I like that you give a peer review grade!

      Just make sure that in class you explain what you mean by “depth” in writing. But all in all, I think this is great and pretty much done. Nice work!

Leave a Reply