Literacy Narrative Archive Assignment

A key indicator of membership in academic Discourse is the ability to identify, participate in, and contribute to a relevant conversation on a specific topic or issue. In this project, we are practicing the reading, interpretive, and writing activities that enable us to become more proficient at this kind of work. Take the project seriously and you’ll both learn something and make a real contribution.

In addition to developing fluency with TRIAC and Barclay’s paragraphs, summary, paraphrasing, quoting, and signal phrasing, you will be writing to demonstrate the degree to which you have assimilated last semester’s work on Discourse acquisition by using Gee’s ideas, along with those of some new writers, to analyze and interpret the UNE student-authored literacy narratives found in Rising Cairn.

Project Introduction: We have learned from Gee that literacy is about more than simply reading and writing. We have also learned from Gee that literacy in a Discourse is probably most readily acquired through early apprenticeship, though it is probably also possible to come late to a Discourse and sort of get in and acquire the “social goods” that come with a Discourse. From Brandt, we have learned a bit about the importance of sponsorship in acquiring (or withholding) literacy, an idea that certainly has some connections to some of Gee’s ideas. From Alexander’s study of college students’ literacy narratives, we have learned about a range of ways that writers make sense of their literacy experiences. We have used these texts to begin to consider questions that interest us when we think about literacy, have used our questions to help guide our selection of narratives from the Rising Cairn publication, and have begun to consider how some of those narratives inform our responses to our questions. These texts have helped to complicate our understanding of literacy and given us a language for talking and thinking about it.

The next step involves moving from reading and pre-writing to an actual draft of a paper that explores an angle on literacy acquisition.

The Assignment

Write an essay in which you join the scholarly conversation about literacy among Gee,  Brandt, and Alexander by comparing a sample of the Rising Cairn literacy narratives to their findings.   Recommended length: 1500 words or more.

Kara Poe Alexander, Photo Credit: Grawemeyer Awards


Assignment Goals: Practice: integrating your ideas with the ideas of others; summary, paraphrase, and direct quotation; using signal phrases, parenthetical citation and works cited; annotating texts, using writing-to-learn strategies to improve comprehension, synthesis.

This assignment asks you to a) synthesize a thread of a scholarly conversation about literacy with the purpose of formulating your own related research questions, and thereby contribute to it, b) generate your own research findings by analyzing and interpreting a sample of Rising Cairn literacy narratives c) compare your findings to those in Gee, Brandt and Alexander and d) draw some conclusions about the significance of your findings for one or more essential questions about literacy and Discourse.

Deborah Brandt

Be sure to:
  • Join the conversation among Alexander, Brandt, and Gee by re-asking one or more of their questions about literacy, and re-considering their answers in light of your own analysis and interpretation of the Rising Cairn literacy narratives.
  • Be clear about your perspective or point of view on what we can learn about literacy and Discourse by analyzing and interpreting literacy narratives.
  • Briefly and appropriately introduce Alexander’s text in a way that sets up your project for this paper.  This does not require an extended summary.  Rather, it requires a brief ‘introduction’ or background and focused engagement with those of her key concepts or ideas you choose to work within the paper.  You’ll also need to introduce your literacy narrative sample in a similar fashion, explaining the parameters you used to construct the sample, and the questions about literacy, Discourse and literacy narratives your essay is meant to answer.

    James Paul Gee, photo credit: NPR

  • Go beyond the gist: Work with specific passages drawn from Alexander, Gee, and Brandt, and from the literacy narratives you sampled.
  • Use Barclay’s formula to make concrete connections among Alexander and your sample of literacy narratives, as well as among Alexander, Gee, and Brandt.
  • Use TRIAC or Barclay’s formula to frame at least five quotations, making sure to explain how they help support ideas or claims that you are developing.
  • Build on and/or counter Alexander’s findings by comparing your findings to hers.
  • Build on and/or counter other writers’ claims about literacy, Discourse and literacy narratives.
  • Distinguish what you are saying about literacy, Discourse and literacy narratives from what Alexander, Brandt, and Gee are saying about literacy, Discourse and literacy narratives by using voice markers and signal phrases.
Important Dates

Complete draft (introduction, body, and conclusion; minimum 1,000 words) due Feb. 21

Full revision (1,500 words or more) due Mar. 5

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