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.
UNIT 2: Research Report
So, in order to explain Unit 2, I have to talk about Units 2 + 3 together first, because you’re going to have to use some foresight in the research decisions you make; there will be planning, trial, error, planning again. It’s all part of the process.
In Unit 3, you’ll be writing a document in a new genre, one you haven’t written in before, about the place you’ve decided to research in unit 2. For example, you might write a manifesto, or a comic book. Maybe you want to write a speech addressing a problem you outlined or discovered in your research for Unit 2.
You don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to be doing in Unit 3 yet. HOWEVER, you’ll be doing some things in Unit 2 that you’ll need for Unit 3:
- Researching a question you are truly curious about. You will use some of your research from Unit 2 when you write Unit 3.
- Researching a variety of different genres, which will inform what you write in Unit 3.
So, Unit 2 will be an investigation into and report on a specific question about a topic that interests you. You will conduct research into various genres (4 sources), gather and evaluate the information in those sources, and present a report on your findings. For this assignment, you will not need a thesis statement; rather, I am asking you think investigate, analyze, and report what you have learned from your investigation. You may arrive at an answer to you initial question, or you may find you’re asking the wrong questions and will need to rethink your approach.
- Ask and develop specific question. This should be something you care about, something you’ve always wondered about – something that will keep you engaged, as you’ll be continuing this line of inquiry in Unit 3 as well.
- Have your question approved by me (REQUIRED). If you change your question, your new question must be approved. Due 10/23 (You cannot change your question past 10/25).
- Research, gather information on, and analyze 4 sources consisting of at least 3 different genres.
- Read and annotate sources with your question in mind. Do a SOAPSTONE worksheet for each source. Take notes on the relationship between the source and your question. Consider throughout: what did I learn from this source? About my own process of thought? About my reading process? My writing process?
- Write your report. The best way to go about this is to write the report for each source, then write the intro and conclusion. Remember that format and appearance count, so give yourself time to proofread and make it look good!
Your analysis of each source must be at least 300 words – this is both content analysis AND rhetorical analysis, which we have discussed and will continue to discuss during this unit. In other words, you must analyze not only what the source says, but also who its intended audience is, what its history is, its purpose, etc. Remember, try to make this as interesting to your readers as possible. This gives you some leeway in choosing how you want to format your report, but make sure you consider what is best for your audience.
The entire report, consisting of source analysis, introduction, and conclusion, should be at least 1800 words.
- Is your document readable and informative? Does it teach us about what you’ve learned, as it relates to question? Does it teach us, not only about the content of the sources you’ve chosen, but also the rhetorical situation surrounding those sources? In other words, is it a “good” source? Good for whom? Why?
- Did you do good research here? On eof the main goals of the assignment is to learn something new about your topic AND to help you learn to find information on your own, to be applied to future situations. If you simply choose the first three options on Google, that’s not doing enough, and your topic will most likely not be as nuanced as it could be.
- Did you find sources in at least three different genres? Do the genres you chose “gel” with the content – that is, do the genres you chose make sense for the goals of both Units 2 and 3?
- Your report must look good, and must be organized in a way that makes sense to the reader you have in mind (and to me!).
- Is your language appropriate to the audience you have in mind? No matter how you chose to write it, the type of language you use (how it is written) must be consistent and must be appropriate to your audience. You should be able to explain with a good line of reasoning why you chose the language you chose.
- Cite your sources.
UNIT 3: Writing in a New Genre
In this unit, you will be using your research from Unit 2 to compose a document/artefact in a new genre. You might want to write a declaration, a manifesto, a rulebook, a magazine article (from a particular publication), a comic book, a children’s book, short story, a video essay etc. The possibilities are virtually endless. The caviats are:
- You must have a rhetorical understanding of the genre you choose
- You must make use of the research you did in Unit 2
You cannot simply write an “article”. You’ll need to be specific, and the genre must contain words. It would help you to have a specific example of the genre in which you choose to write. You will have written about this genre, in some form, so use the knowledge you already have, and the knowledge you will gain from further research, to craft the best version of a document in the genre you’ve chosen. If you are choosing to do something say in video or song, you must transcribe the words. The final word count for this will be 1500 words at least.
Some ways you might want to get started:
Question your intent. Think, “What do I have to say? Why do I care about this topic? What is the best genre for me to communicate what I have to say?”
Choose a genre you like and that you think best fits your intent. If you decide for instance that you want to talk about bodegas, or your bodega specifically, perhaps an exposé is best.
The point here is, the topic and genre should gel.
- Consider again how your research and genre analysis in Unit 2 has addressed/influenced your line of questioning. What do you want to say? Why is your topic important to you and to the community at large? Which genre is best suited to communicating your message?
- Once you’ve narrowed your focus/have chosen your genre, outline your argument. How will your support your general claim? What kind of sources would strengthen your argument?
- Conduct further research, if necessary, to support your claims/vision.
- Begin writing. Bring in research and the methodological knowledge you’ve gained from our investigation into genre and rhetoric. Look to your source/mentor text for ideas about structure.
- Incorporate reflection and feedback in order to improve the final product.
Proposal due: 11/25
Rough draft due: 12/04
Final draft due: 12/09
- Genre Awareness. You must show an understanding of the “rules” of the genre you are working in. Part of the Unit 3 assignment is a “genre report” (similar to those you did in Unit 2). Is this thoughtful, and well-reasoned? Do you follow these guidelines in your final project?
- Audience Awareness. Does your project do a good job at anticipating and accommodating the group to which it is addressed? Does your project make the diction, argument, genre, and design choices appropriate to your chosen audience?
- Care. How carefully have you constructed a “finished work” in the genre of your choosing? For instance, a great deal of care was put into how a documentary organizes information and image to convey a particular message to an audience. This criterion will vary depending on your genre, but you must in all cases turn in a finished, organized project that is consistent and free of typos and formatting errors. You should be able to explain why everything is where it is.
- Effectiveness of Message. Do you communicate a clear message to your intended audience? Your audience should walk away either having learned something that could change how they think about your topic, or else with productive questions about your topic. It should inspire nuanced engagement and curiosity in your audience.
How do you integrate all the languages you speak?
Respond in writing to the following:
- How many languages do you speak? Here I mean, not necessarily foreign languages but languages you speak with friends, languages you speak with family, languages you may speak with people with whom you share a hobby like a sport.
- To whom do you speak those different languages?
- How do you feel about speaking different languages to different people in different contexts?
- How does your intended audience impact how you speak to someone and the word choice you use?
- How does the purpose for your communication impact what you say and how you say it?
- How can you have a similar message or purpose for different audiences but use different word choice based on your audience?
Discuss with a partner, and then we will discuss this as a class.
Let’s watch Amy Tan’s speech at the White House and do
Say Mean Matter about it.
Let’s do a little role play of how you would ask your mom for a raise on your allowance.
Now, let’s do another role play on how you would ask your boss for a raise.
What did you notice about the language?
Take out the SOAPSTONE chart that we used with “Superman and Me,” and do the same thing for “Mother Tongue” and go over it.
Let’s look at how Amy Tan brings her mother and her language to life. Let’s reread as a class paragraph five. In paragraph five what techniques does Amy Tan use to bring her mother’s language to life?
How does she contrast the way her mother sounds to what her mother knows and can understand?
When you write narratives, use dialogue, frame dialogue, develop concrete, specific details, use verbs precisely and use your senses. Show, don’t tell. This came from the students
Definition of anecdote- a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing or biographical incident.
In this essay, Tan uses anecdotes about herself and her mother with the stockbroker and the hospital. Reread 0page2, paragraphs 2-7, and discuss with a partner what makes these anecdotes effective? Make a list and we will share the list.
Use verbs precisely
Use your senses
Add concrete detail to create a scene.
Build a scene
You are going to write anecdotes about your own reading and writing life. Think about your own reading, writing or speaking life. Think of an anecdote from your own life? Write it down. Use what we found effective about the Tan essay in your own writing.
Share what you have written with your partner.
- Do Homework for Open Lab. It’s easy.
- Do the Brainstorming Worksheet and questions about Baldwin and the Tyson video. The Tyson video is on Blackboard.
Note: these are all for 1121 rather than 1101 because that’s what I’m teaching this semester. I will probably be tweaking all of them, but you can get the main idea from what I’ve attached!