Brainstorming Exercise, e.g., "Back of the Napkin" Assignment
First, please read over the Personal Essay guidelines below. Then, please spend some time writing about what you want the focus of your personal narrative essay to be. You can write
many pages, a list, or just a short note, but please spend anywhere from a half
hour to an hour thinking about this. If
you prefer to bring in an audio file or video file of yourself talking about
your topic, that is also fine.
Second, please spend one-half hour writing an exploratory draft of your Personal Literacies Narrative Essay. Before you start this, you may want to consult some of your Writing Journals for our class and/or some of the personal essays that we have read. Please bring what you have written to our next class session. We will be discussing it.
Personal Literacies Narrative Essay
Over the last two weeks, we have been reading and writing about reading and writing practices, your thoughts about these, and your relationships to those practices. Last week, we read Sherman Alexie’s “Superman and Me,” which is a personal “literacies” narrative essay, meaning, the focus of the essay was on the life and experiences of the writer himself in relation to reading and writing practices. Alexie’s essay is described as a narrative essay because its primary purpose is to tell a story, as opposed to argue a position or explain a process or concept. While there is no doubt that argument/persuasion and explanation also are evident in Alexie’s essay, the essay has certain attributes--it is written, for the most part, in the first person and it relates a story about the author’s past and his upbringing—most commonly associated with narrative essays. Therefore, in describing the primary purpose of the essay, of the four purposes often associated with essays—description, narration, persuasion, exposition—narration, it could be argued, is primary.
For your first essay, I’d like you to write a narrative essay about your own reading and writing practices. To do so, you will need to choose a specific focus and story to write about. This could be anything: how you learned to write, how you learned to read, how you used to read and write a lot and why you later stopped doing those things as much, how technology has changed the ways in which you read and write, how, in your experience, literacies rather than literacy is a better term to apply to your reading and writing practices. These are just a few of the many possible things to focus on for this essay. If you were particularly inspired by Alexie’s essay, perhaps you’d like to write an essay modeled on and responding to it or some other literacy narrative essay? (There are several in your course reading packet and many others that you can access via our course Open Lab site.) I encourage you to look at all of these essays and think about them as possible sources of inspiration, starting points, or even models for your own essay.) What is important for this assignment is that you write about something that is important to you and that you have a lot to say about. It is almost impossible to write anything when you don’t have material to work with. Therefore, please make sure that whatever story you choose to relate regarding your reading and writing practices is a/ something you have thought about and are interested in, and 2/ is related to the general topic of literacies. While your essay has to be in some way about reading and writing practices, the personal “literacies” narrative essay genre is quite broad. There are many different stories to tell about your reading and writing practices and reading and writing educational experiences, as well as many different ways to tell a each story. For this essay, I am asking you to choose a specific story and a specific approach to telling that story.
Before beginning a draft of this essay, you will need to do some BRAINSTORMING to think through the assignment and possibly decide on your own particular approach to this “literacies” narrative essay. Look back at the informal writing that you have done in this class so far. Is there an idea or sentence in one of those writings that you’d like to expand on and develop into an essay? For those looking for more guidance on how to write a “literacies” narrative essay, please consult the Norton Web site. There, you will find a step by step guide to writing a literacy narrative, along with a sample literacy narrative, which I personally find rather dull compared to the Alexie essay, but which is a perfectly competent essay.
Your essay, which will be two to three pages in length, will be graded on the effort you have put into thinking about the personal “literacies” narrative essay as genre and about your approach to this particular essay, as well as on the presentation of your material to your audience. The essay should include a title, well structured paragraphs, and writing that not only clearly describes and explains information, but also engages your reader. For MLA essay formatting guidelines, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/ or your English handbook.
Please make sure you write this essay for a specific audience. This audience can be your instructor, your classmates, the students at City Tech, or the readers of a particular publication. I ask you to choose and specify an audience so you know who you are writing to and so you can, as you will with any writing project, tailor the content and style of your essay to that audience.
*Many academics and scholars are now replacing the term literacy, a word referring to one’s ability to read and write, with the term literacies. There are many reasons for this substitution. To name just a few: literacy is not singular, but multiple; by defining literacies more broadly, no one can be called “illiterate;” literacy encompasses actions well beyond reading and writing with ink and paper. This is not an easy substitution to make either linguistically or conceptually, which is why I have put “literacies” in quotation marks and included this note. However, I believe it is one that is definitely worth thinking about and possibly adopting.