Nathaniel’s Literacy Narrative Assignment Draft

Literacy Narrative Assignment Draft           Due Date: February 15, 2021           Prof. Amity Nathaniel

You’ve read “Da State of Pidgin Address” by Lee Tonouchi and watched “The Dangers of a Single Story” Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which are two narratives about personal experiences involving language and education. Through these two pieces, and various other texts and videos that we’ve so-far examined in Unit One about vernacular language, literacy, and education, we have identified some of the dilemmas involving these topics—particularly when it comes to standardized English and the communities of people who are largely (and negatively) impacted by the system of “perfect” English and misconceptions about their intelligence. Now, it’s time for you to share your own personal narrative! Write about your experiences at school involving your natural vernacular and misconceptions people may have had about you.

There are several ways you can tackle this assignment. As long as you are writing and reflecting about the general topic at hand, you can draft your essay in whatever storytelling method feels best to you.

As Tonouchi does, you can write an essay about vernacular being taught in schools by using examples from your own experiences and by showcasing the importance of your personal language system. Examples of topics:

  • Did you have a teacher who taught non-standard English in the classroom or a teacher who was extremely strict with standard English? What was the classroom experience like?
  • Do you code-switch or code-mesh when you’re in school?
  • What is your proudest writing moment in school? What language style did you write in? 

Or, you can follow Adichie’s method about misconceptions involving language. Examples of topics:

  • Detail a stereotype you were labeled with in school.
  • Share a story about a lesson you learned outside of the classroom.
  • Discuss a book that really changed the way you viewed the world.

These are just examples; you can specify any particular educational incident that really impacted the way you viewed your writing skills, your education, your culture, and your language system(s).

Please write 800-1000 words. Use size 12 font and Times New Roman font style. Good luck!

4 thoughts on “Nathaniel’s Literacy Narrative Assignment Draft

  1. DPP

    This sounds like a really interesting assignment, in fact, I’d love to tell my own story in this comment section in reponse! It’s a pity that despite this shelter-in-place pandemic experience, I find myself having less time than when I actually left my apartment and made plans with people.

    My only question would be what you mean by “whatever storytelling method feels best to you”–for example, will you have gone over various methods before this assignment? Or will the methods that Tonouchi and Adichi use be analyzed during a class discussion for students to imitate? If yes, I think this assignment is well done, and I also have used that Ted Talks from Adichi–I loved both listening to her tell her story and having the experience to think more in-depth about how narratives truly shape our values and world-view.

    You have a clear purpose, you give the students a great deal of control and freedom over their own narratives, and your questions help focus the angles students can take for this assignment while also offering inspiration.


    1. Amity Nathaniel Post author

      Thanks for the comments, Devon! I would plan to go over various storytelling methods and genres prior to the assignment, however, you’re absolutely right about making sure to reiterate it on the writing prompt for complete clarity and transparency.

  2. Carrie Hall

    I also really like this assignment a lot and I feel it will be very generative to students. I agree with Devon that it may be helpful to give a little more guidance about what you mean by storytelling styles– I would add, that I may try to help them think about STRUCTURE. They don’t necessarily have to write in the expository structure that they’re used to (in fact, that likely won’t work here) but they can look to the examples you’ve given for other options. For this reason, maybe consider a short lit narrative (like Mother Tongue, etc..) that you all can read in class to give another written example.

    Another thing you’ll want to add to this for the final draft are grading guidelines. Let the students know what you’ll be grading them on. All in all though, it seems like an exciting and accessible first assignment that will get students thinking!

    1. Amity Nathaniel Post author

      Hi Carrie! Thank you for the great feedback. I teach “Mother Tongue” nearly every semester (one of my favs). For our PD assignment, I should have included it because it’s such an excellent example of a literacy narrative (that’s what I get for trying to be “different”). As I read other people’s assignment, I discovered how necessary it is to include very clear grading criteria in the guidelines. This was a very helpful exercise!

Leave a Reply