ENGL 1301 Writing Assignment (Fall 1993): Critical ...
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ENGL 1301 Writing Assignment: Literacy Narrative* (15%)"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them" (Mark Twain).Purpose: Writers often reflect on the influences that resulted in their becoming writers, often describing their memories of their “literacy sponsors,” which the editors of Writing about Writing define as “people, institutions, and circumstances that both make it possible for a person to become literate and shape the way the person actually acquires literacy” (43). These memories may be of learning to read and write as in the case of Alexie and Douglass, or the memories may be recollections of later developments in their education as with Scibona and Malcom X. Write your own literacy narrative, using as your model the narratives of Alexie, Scibona, Douglass, and Malcolm X. For example, who were the most important people or institutions in developing, or frustrating, your literacy (whatever “literacy” that may be)? Did you confront any difficulties or struggles? Did your family situation or culture help or hinder your acquisition of literacy? Were you attracted to a particular genre of reading or writing that shaped your development? What attitudes towards reading and writing have you developed and why? Where do you stand now?For guidance in composing your narrative, consult pages 133-55, “How Can I Write a Reflective Essay,” in the textbook. Note the elements that often appear in the other literacy narratives we’ve read. Also, as you revise your literacy narrative, work in a reference to at least one of the literacy narratives that we’ve studied. For example, was your experience in acquiring literacy similar to or different from that of one of those authors?Start your literacy narrative by considering your history as a reader and writer. Try to get at what your memories and feelings about writing/reading are and how you actually write/read now. Do not make bland generalizations (“I really love/hate to write”), but go into detail about how you learned to write/read. Mind your memory, thinking carefully about where you’ve been and where you are as a reader and writer. Questions that might help you:How did you learn to write and/or read?What kinds of writing/reading have you done in the past?How much have you enjoyed the various kinds of writing/reading you’ve done?What are particularly vivid memories that you have of reading, writing or activities that involved them?What is your earliest memory of reading and your earliest memory of writing?What sense did you get, as you were learning to read and write, of the value of reading and writing, and where did that sense come from? What frustrated you about reading and writing as you were learning and then as you progressed through school? By the same token, what pleased you about them? What kind of writing/reading do you do most commonly?What is your favorite kind of writing/reading?What are your current attitudes, feelings or stance toward reading and writing?Where do you think your feelings about and habits of writing and reading come from? How did you get to where you are as a writer/reader? What in your past has made you the kind of writer/reader you are today?Who are some people in your life who have acted as literacy sponsors?What are some institutions and experiences in your life that have act3ed as literacy sponsors? What have any of the readings you have done so far this semester reminded you about your past or present as a reader and writer?Questions such as these help you start thinking deeply about your literate past. You should try to come up with answers for all of them, but it’s unlikely that you’ll actually include all the answers to all those questions in your literacy narrative itself. Right now you are just thinking and writing about what reading and writing was like for you. When you plan the narrative, you’ll select from among all the material you’ve been remembering and thinking about. The question then becomes, how will you decide what to talk about out of everything you could talk about? This depends in part on your analysis of what you have remembered about your reading and writing experiences. As you consider what all these memories and experiences suggest, you should be looking for an overall “so what?”—a main theme, a central finding, or thread, and overall conclusion that your consideration leads you to draw. What has been the meaning of your experiences with literacy? Your literacy narrative will demonstrate and support your main point. That main point is what you have learned in your analysis; the literacy narrative explains why you think what you do about the main point. It draws in whatever stories, experiences, moments, and descriptions that help explain the point. The structure, design, and organization that you use should support your particular intention and content. Pictures or other artifacts can be included in your narrative if they contribute to the reader’s appreciation of your story. This assignment asks you to carefully think about your history as a reader and writer, to tell a clear story with a point, and to write a readable piece. Tell a story about your literacy history. Talk about where you are now as a writer and reader and how your past has shaped your present. Make an overall point about your literacy experiences. The strongest literacy narratives will incorporate ideas and concepts from the course readings to help frame and explain your experiences. Audience: General requirements:Length: The essay should be a minimum of 750 words long (not counting the title page). However, it will be difficult to tell much of a story or offer much insight in so few words. More would be better. (Consider that Scibona’s literacy narrative is about 900 words long.) An essay shorter than 750 words may receive a zero, or a significant number of points will be deducted.Introduction and thesis statement: Consider opening with a catchy line such as Alexie’s “I learned to read with a Superman comic book” and Scibona’s “I did my best to flunk out of high school.” Also, while your essay may not contain a formal thesis statement, it should be purposeful, illustrating some insight or point about your education. Ultimately, what have you concluded about your relationship with reading and writing and the influences on it?Diction: This essay will be more informal than many academic essays in that it uses first-person pronouns (e.g. “I,” “my”) and may use second-person pronouns (e.g. “you”). Also, you may include dialogue and any words that you think would help convey the voice of the anization: The essay must contain at least five paragraphs. Also, the essay should not be just a random list of memories but should have a purpose or theme that ties them together. The details should culminate in some conclusion or insight about your development of literacy or your relationship with education. Have a main point.Evaluation: Your paper should have a main point, good organization, clear writing, good grammar, and be well-edited.Format: The essay must be typed (double-spaced) with 12 point font and one-inch margins. Indent the first line of each paragraph one tab (a half inch). You will need to turn in the following pages in this order: final copy, Works Cited, and grading sheets. In addition to submitting a copy of the essay in class, you must upload your file to the dropbox in our D2L classroom.Research: No library or Internet research is necessary.Deadline: Essays are due at the beginning of class on the day listed in the schedule. Essays that are not printed out and complete at that point will be assessed a late penalty. (I deduct 10 points until the next class and 10 points for each class after that.*Adapted from Doug Boyd’s “Literacy Narrative” assignment and from the “Literacy Narrative” option in Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Writing about Writing. 2nd ed. New York: Bedford St.Martin’s, 2014. 206-207 ................
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