Notable Notes: Considering the Literacy Narrative

All, Notable, Teaching, Writing

This week (or so) my first year students will be working on literacy narratives. I think literacy narratives are awesome tools for thinking about learning and writing – and a great place to begin a writing class. I wrote this blog post about why I teach literacy narratives, 10 Ways Literacy Narratives Will Rock Your World (or at least your writing classroom), almost two years ago and I am still a fervent believer.

This week both my developmental writing and First Year Seminar students will begin creating literacy narratives. My approach will vary slightly for the two classes with the developmental writing students focusing more on traditional literacy (reading and writing) and more of a personal narrative approach while the FYS students will be encouraged to think about multiple literacies and a multi-media approach to their final product.

As I plan class activities to support the creation of these literacy narratives, I thought this might be a good time to share some of my favorite influences. I will start out with a great overview of the various ways you can (and should) use literacy narratives in writing classrooms presented by Traci Gardner.

I was also inspired by Bronwyn Williams‘ post, Rewriting the Future, which asks us “How do narrative, memory, and emotion work together to shape our perceptions of agency as readers and writers?” Trying to work through some of the emotional baggage that my students bring with them and to foster their sense of agency are important reasons why I assign literacy narratives.

I’m always looking for some great examples of literacy narratives to support my students on their journeys. I use some “traditional” texts such as Coming Into Language by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Learning to Read by Malcolm X, and Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie, but recently I was struck by “Literacy Narrative” by Kiki Petrosino and it made me think about some of the ideas that Bronwyn raised in his post. I want to push my students beyond the traditional (outdated as Traci suggests) notions of literacy narrative and I think her story does that beautifully. I like to use texts such as Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” (specifically Shakespeare’s sister) to explore the idea that our path is shapes by outside forces as well as our own will.

For similar reasons, I was drawn to Antero Garcia’s post, Thinking About Video Games, Narrative, and Freedom, on NWP’s Digital Is. I really like the idea of video games offering the “freedom to resist narrative and to resist societal conventions” and I believe this argument could similarly be used for comics (which happen to be my tool of choice although there is much overlap between comics and video games).

I want my students to use this experience to explore their history as well as chart a path for the future by thinking about literacy and all that means (multiple literacies) as well as the roles those literacies play in their personal and professional lives.

Where do you stand on literacy narratives? Do you find them useful? How do you use literacy narratives in your classroom? Or out for that matter, just today I spent some time writing a more recent version of my own literacy narrative and found some poems as a result.

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