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What is a Literacy Narrative?

In the next few weeks you will be writing a literacy narrative:

A brief (2-3 page) Literacy Narrative. This can be about your experience learning to read, to write, to teach, or any other kind of personal interaction you have had with literacy. Post on blog.

But, what is a literacy narrative? What does it do? What should it look like? What makes a good one? Leave a comment with a thought about what we should look for in literacy narratives, advice about writing a good one, or links to examples of literacy narratives that seem successful.

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Posted in Literacy Narrative, Prof. Ferguson.

12 Responses

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  1. Rachel says

    Here are three website I found just by google-ing(?) literacy narrative. Sounds fun! Can’t wait to reminisce about and discuss my experiences. Professor Ferguson, you said to post on blog…Does that mean you want us to post our literacy narratives on the blog? Or just our ideas?

    • Kevin Ferguson says

      Great websites! The second one seems really comprehensive in a “writing teacher” kind of way (naturally–it is a book publisher’s website).

      Right now we’re just posting ideas as Comments to this post, but in a few weeks you will be posting your own literacy narrative as a separate Post entry.

  2. Christopher Grimm says

    Thanks, Rachel. This information looks to be quite helpful to our peers. I think we are supposed to post the narratives themselves online, no?

    • Kevin Ferguson says

      That’s right–you’ll post the narratives online. This is kind of the freewriting/brainstorming part of the assignment.

  3. Dana Choit says

    Thanks for the websites, Rachel.
    Here are a few more i found:

    This has a sample of a literacy narrative:

    This has a definition/ some ideas:
    Also, if you go to the top click on “DALN Resources” there are handouts and forms for teachers to use as well as a section “Sample Narratives and Clips” with sample narratives in audio, video, and print form from a variety of ages (4th grade, college).
    Underneath that there is a “Teacher Resources” section. If you click there you’ll get links to different forms, narrative samples, assignment ideas and materials. Going back under the DALN Resources page there is also a section called “Readings” which has articles about literacy narratives.

  4. Dana Choit says

    When I found the website I found it from google and went directly to the link above with the definition. If you start from the main page:
    you can do the same thing i described by clicking on Consult Resources underneath the website information. If you scroll down to Browse you can click on a link to the actual digital archive that people constantly submit to.

  5. Rachel says

    Is this 2-3 pages double spaced or single spaced?

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Hmm . . . let’s say around 1000 words instead of page numbers (we are putting it online after all)?

  6. Rachel Duso says

    Rachel Duso
    ENGL 703
    Professor Ferguson
    27 November, 2012
    Literacy Narrative

    My difficult times started with reading. I was diagnosed with a slight case of dyslexia as a child but have, for the most part, overcome my fears of reading. I sometimes still find myself in front of the classroom, writing on the board, and having to think very hard about what I’m doing. Other than that my experiences of reading were almost magical. I was a great speller and won a school spelling bee contest and I even had a poem published in high school’s Shakespeare pamphlet, or book, whatever you want to call it. I loved reading, not only because I was good at it, but because my grandma read to me. I considered myself one of the lucky ones.
    My earliest memories really start off from when my family moved us back to New York after being in California with my father. My father was stationed there in the Marines so my mother moved to be with him; my brother and I were born in San Diego. We moved in with my grandmother, my mom’s mom. She was so happy to have us back and to get to see her grandchildren every day; she cooked for us, she took care of us, she read to us! She read a lot books to us but the one that I will never forget is Puss in Boots. I don’t know if it’s because she read it to me or because I actually liked the story and the pictures but every time I see that book, I reminisce about those days and the huge smile on my face last for hours, or at least until something or someone annoys or upsets me.
    Learning to read was a little different than having my grandmother read to me. This was a little harder. Even the slightest case of dyslexia can slow someone down when it comes to reading. Mine case was not bad at all and so things weren’t impossible for me but they sure weren’t easy. I still remember reading being pleasurable and I wasn’t made fun of or anything but I did notice that it took me longer to get through readings than my classmates. I was still on the first page while they were finishing the second page. For some reason, or another, this didn’t stop me. I think it was because although none of my classmates had issues with reading, I had my grandma and spending time with her made everything fine.
    I don’t recall learning when I learned to write but the farthest back I can go is based on evidence of a short letter that I wrote to my grandma while she was sick in the hospital. My mom must have placed it in her junk drawer and there it stayed for years. Learning to write in script is something that is still tangible for me. I can smell the classroom, the pencil hurting my finger, and the point breaking just about every single time I tried to write a whole word out. The pencil worked fine when I would write one letter at a time for practice but I pressed so hard on the paper when I wrote words that my pencil broke. I was only trying to give myself a couple of seconds to think things through. I mean, they teach us how to write one way and then tell us that we now have to write in script. I still don’t write in script, it’s more of a mixture between print and script and the longer I write, the worse it gets. There were many times where I had to rewrite the last pages of my work because it would start to get sloppy about half way through; the first page was immaculate, though.
    Middle school was quite interesting for me. Seventh grade is when my grandmother passed away but this is also when and where I decided that I wanted to be an English teacher. I was devastated; it was as simple as that. I stopped doing homework because she used to help me with it, my grades started to plummet, I literally did nothing for about a month. My English teacher, who I was lucky enough to do my student teaching with, really turned things around for me and put everything in perspective. She was the one who made me realize that failing is not something that my grandmother would have wanted for me. I really think my grandmother gave her to me because she knew this is where I would succeed and that I loved literature, writing, and reading.
    High school was similar to middle school, except that I did my work. I fell in love with even more regarding literature and being exposed to different and new things put me at a level where I was happy to be. I’ve always had great English teachers that have helped me and it was something I liked to do and was good at. Taking a Shakespeare elective as a senior in high school put me back and scared me a little but I made great friends and had a great teacher who made it bearable and fun and understanding Shakespeare was no longer a fear of mine and I hope I can relate what I learned as a student to my future students.
    The college level was a bit scary at first with all those red marks on my first few papers. I had really forgotten the grammar I learned at such a young age but I spent a lot of time in the writing center and on the internet trying to figure things out for myself. I took a grammar class at Baruch last winter which helped a little too but practice makes almost perfect. Professors aren’t always focused on grammar when they grade papers but I always appreciated the ones that are because it only benefits me and I have learned to take that criticism and do my best to make my work better. Typing papers for colleges has somewhat helped to make things easier because it does things for you but at the same time I have lost a lot of my spelling skills. On the other hand, technology is not always perfect and grammar and spelling checks don’t always catch everything or will skip over something. It has taught me to always read over my papers and double check my own work. My favorite thing about college is on rare occasions I will catch a mistake in a text that I’m reading for class. I never say anything and it’s usually a small typo of some sort but secretly I am proud of myself.

  7. Victoria Fontana says

    Victoria Fontana
    Engl 703 – 01
    Literacy Narrative – draft #1
    Professor Kevin Ferguson
    February, 2012

    “Do the best you can” were the words I heard growing up, at home and in grade school. Friendly little words I never minded to hear. I had earned As and Bs in high school English classes and teachers seemed to be pleased with my work. I truly believed I was doing the best I could. In fact, I considered myself an excellent student and writer; I worked hard. Therefore, teachers awarded me with praise. I had caring teachers and my education at an award winning high school, in an upper-middle class neighborhood, was top notch; I thought that I was one of the lucky ones.

    This I believed until freshman year of college. One morning, during Literary History II, Dr. Hugh handed me back my first essay. It was flooded in a sea of blue ink, from top to bottom, and branded with a blinding ‘F.’ I sat feeling defeated, angry, and I fought back tears. After class, in a huff, I went over to discuss the grade. I fantasized shoving desks and stamping heavily along the path. Inflammatory thoughts flooded my mind: “How dare he,” “I hate him,” “Why blue ink and not red?” No other teacher had ever criticized my work; not to this extent. The F sneered and snickered, his explanation slapped. Dr. Hugh took one long look at me. I didn’t have to say a word. “You can do better and you will do better,” he said. I just stared at him, confused. For the first time, I was being told that I was not as great as I believed to be. This was the first time a teacher gave me a push. Unlike teachers past, he seemed to relish the challenge of saying what others found difficult to articulate. He addressed, explained and offered suggestions to my writing errors. I discovered that I was an incredibly weak writer and reader; I lacked basic skills that were expected among college students. Somehow I slipped through the cracks in grade school. It seems to me that I went to school but was not necessarily educated. I had been one of the kids who made it through school as if traveling on a “conveyor belt” in a system where children are put in at one end and come out neatly packaged with a shiny cap and gown at the other.

    That day was a great turning point in my education. I was no longer satisfied by doing the “best I can” because I learned that my work was not good enough. I needed to be better. I was determined to get an ‘A.’

    I had so much progress to make and it was difficult to know where to begin. It took almost my entire college career to expose the mistakes I needed to fix and to shed many of my poor literacy habits. I had to fail many times in order to finally win. Unfortunately, not every professor was like Dr. Hugh, who was not afraid to unveil the truth. I could only learn from the mistakes I knew I was making. Dr. Hugh helped me become aware of every next opportunity presented to me.

    During freshman year, my experiences in “Introduction to Shakespeare” helped me discover that my writing lacked focus and I wrote weak prose. Daunted by the Middle English language barrier, I was uniquely challenged but determined to succeed. The class was large, the professor, head of the English department, had little time to teach basic writing. He did, however, have plenty of time to offer criticism! The semester ended quickly but I managed to turn the ‘D’s and ‘C’s I earned into ‘B’s in the end. I felt I was on my way.

    Expository Writing, during first semester sophomore year, presented a new set of challenges. Although I cleaned up the messy prose, challenges existed in the exciting world of opportunity that opened up for me. Not bound by novels or textbooks, I could write about whatever I desired. I had infinite topic choices at my fingertips; I was really, truly focusing – on everything I could think of all at the same time. I finally chose to discuss the many prophecies of Nostradamus. A five-page essay assignment turned into ten pages, and counting. I only stopped when I realized there was no end in sight. This opportunity forced me to discover the importance of an outline. I didn’t earn an ‘A’, yet I still believed I was on my way.

    Literary History I, during second semester sophomore year, helped me shed light on my critical thinking skills. I learned valuable lessons on giving and taking. Lesson #1: After discovering that the professor is not open minded, figure out his theory and critique style, and give him what he wants. Don’t argue. Lesson #2: Take the grade and run – never choose this professor again. I earned ‘C’s and ‘D’s and, finally, when I learned my lessons, some ‘B’s helped raised my final grade. Almost the entire semester went by before I learned to bend without breaking.

    During junior year, my confidence was growing. Learning opportunities abounded. Writing for the school newspaper helped me hone research skills. I had written an article on the many benefits of drinking coffee. Although the writing was solid, it was poorly researched; peers blasted me. I dove into a pool of hungry critics, and came up barely breathing. But I was not ready to give up.

    Literary Criticism, senior year: Friends who studied English complained how difficult the class would be – they warned that the professor rarely gave ‘B’s, let alone an ‘A’. She would be tough, but I was ready for the challenge. I appreciated her teaching style, her attention to students, and her desire to see them succeed. She was truly focused on teaching writing. Some of the most valuable lessons I learned were ones I picked up among the critiques shared during peer writing groups. Reading other student’s work and hearing feedback allowed me to adopt good writing skills and helped me incorporate what I learned into the design of my own writing style. It all paid off – I truly earned that ‘A’!

    My experiences with education duality, of losses and wins, allow me to greatly appreciate my literacy skills today. As a result of the constructive critism I was given in college, I gained an ability to critique myself and reevaluate what I am doing. I wish I could have learned the lesson before college; nevertheless I learned a valuable one. Not all students may be so lucky in the end. Personality, confidence, guidance, and support – they all factor in as well. I am uniquely positioned to fix what is wrong because of an innate “take charge” aspect to my personality. Many good teachers have this special quality.

    Good teachers also take the time to educate; not send students on the “conveyer belt” to be sent into the world, unprepared. These teachers critique and share lessons with students that teach them to develop skills; there is always room for improvement. Praising students too often may create a false sense of accomplishment. Sometimes a student needs to hear the bitter truth. Good teachers lack fear; sometimes indirectly bruising a student’s ego will invigorate the spirit and inspire personal growth.

    Dr. Hugh’s fearlessness had a great effect on my literacy skills today. Though I am still growing and learning to be a better writer, I think he would be proud of my progress. That day, I did ask Dr. Hugh why he used blue ink. He felt red was too traumatizing to students. Blue is somehow pacifying. What he did not realize is that in any color, an ‘F’ is an ‘F.’

  8. Safaarah Williamson says

    I must admit that it was a pleasure writing this literacy narrative. It really allowed me the opportunity to think about my life and express my feelings about my relationship with reading from the most impressionable periods of existence. It was a very reflective and enjoyable moment and I hope that you all felt the same.

  9. johnjparente says

    When I was eighteen I got a job cleaning city schools. I also got really interested in my computer around that time and, living with my parents, I asked them if we could split the bill for high-speed internet. By the time I was twenty, I had downloaded and burned every song in .mp3 format that I could have possibly wanted to hear in my car. I was using Kazaa, mostly, until Limewire got pretty good, when – like I was hit by lightning – I realized that I could bring some of my undergraduate English reading to work on my iPod mini. There was a category on my file share programs for audio books!

    Going back, even to my childhood books, I had never even been “in like” with literature and experienced grief, torture, guilt, and finally the neglect and pain of recuperation of my mind. This cycle was terribly amplified by my Dad’s career in the NYCDOE as an English teacher. You don’t know how many teachers, deans, and assistant principals screwed their eyebrows up unpleasantly for me and said, “Isn’t your father a teacher?” I was told by grammar school teacher that I had a high aptitude but was very hyper-active and never really present in class for more than ten minutes at a slice (even now I’m drifting off thinking about a terribly syrupy soda that imitated 7up/Sprite in the 1980s). They said similar things in middle school and high school; how I had impressed everyone with my abilities, blah blah blah, was thought to be full of potential, blah blah, but I was too unconcerned with academic study.

    Even if they were right on the money, I was unimpressed and my teachers were not connecting everything I read to my life the way we (English teachers) try and do now. I didn’t get it – I didn’t know that Romeo and Juliet concerned teenagers until I was about 20 years old! I must have been cutting class or absent that day, but I recall getting into arguments with my English teacher in 8th grade and having to sit in the regular ed. class a few doors down for a week while they presented their timeline projects on Romeo and Juliet. I totally missed all that cool stuff Holden was doing in Catcher and all of the murder, betrayal, and drama of Hamlet, To Kill a Mockingbird, – even The Outsiders, which is one of my favorite novels was lost on me.

    When I graduated high school, I had hoped that English would be something in the rear-view of my life. I enrolled in Nassau Community College for 12 credits and dropped out shortly after, leaving one grade of “F” and three “INC” on my record. Long story short, when I dragged my life out of the dumpster and made it back to NCC, I retook the course in which I received the failing mark. I also started to complete a Liberal Arts undergraduate degree which was heavily concentrated in – what else but – English.
    With no idea where I was going, but had a good idea that I could no longer ever be a law-enforcement professional of any kind (long aside omitted), I took some liberal arts classes. I worked nights and on weekends I valet-parked cars at local clubs and restaurants, but I always took courses. Even if it was one or two at a time, I steadily worked toward that associates degree.

    I put off taking English courses with severe apprehension, knowing full well that there would be a point where I could no longer avoid those credits. I had built up such a wall of defense against reading that it was actually uncomfortable for me to perform the act. I was always hyperactive and jumping off of the pages with stories of my own in my head, but at that spot, I suffered from a sort of dyslexia that clearly came from hypertension. However, being undiagnosed, I trudged through the few articles, chapters, and essays I was required to read. Even with my flea-like attention span, I managed. This is one of the times when I truly struggled. I look upon this moment when I review my decision to help students.

    Knowing that my job mopping and sweeping the school’s floor was utterly monotonous, my parents fatefully stumbled upon the .mp3 player that would change my life. It was not the first iPod, but an MP3 player which worked with CD-Rs and RWs. After I got through the initial music phase, I learned to find and download certain books that interested me. I found Moby Dick, The Old Man and the Sea, The Scarlet Letter, The Catcher in the Rye, Julius Cesar, and the works of Plato online. When I could not find free novels in .mp3 form, I figured out that the library had books on CD. I would call libraries across New York and ask them if specific books on CD were in before I’d race over there and take them out. Soon after I figured out how to check their stock online and I was listening to Conrad, Kafka, Joyce, Chaucer, Henry James, Swift, Dante’s Inferno, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound poetry and the Beats for my bachelor’s English classes. Even if I couldn’t find everything I needed online, it didn’t matter, I was so excited about what I was learning about biographers, midwives, critics, interpretations, allusions, and everything that goes with literature – there was no stopping me. I now had to urge, the inkling, the push, the desire, the mode, the mettle, the fire to read … to read even without .mp3s!

    The bachelors in English came easy to me. My classmates, especially my girlfriend, were sometimes puzzled and often annoyed by my personal renewal. I was overzealous at times. I was never the class leader or clearest ringing bell but I was doing the reading and taking a side in class discussions with people whom I felt that I had finally caught up to. I took a creative writing course toward the end of the bachelor’s from Queens College where a group of us would go out after class, tell stories, reference novels, and as we got drunk we’d admit where we stole ideas from to complete our writing assignments. I was truly finding my voice and speak. I am now confident when I present. I could really read. It was a revelation for me. I could relate.

    *My favorite audio book is Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, but if I were stranded on an island without power I’d wish I had brought Portrait of an Artist, James Joyce.