Literacy narratives are a commonly used genre in first-year writing courses. This is principally an academic genre—or what Elizabeth Wardle would criticize as a “mutt genre”—but there are plenty of examples of literacy narratives in personal essays. Typically, the genre is defined as a personal narrative, with elements of creative writing as well as self-reflection/analysis, about an individual’s literacy development over a period of time or in a specific context/moment. Depending on the definition of “literacy” that you hold, these narratives can focus on oral and written language, cultural literacy, musical literacy, etc.

I often assign these narratives in the beginning of the semester to begin the conversation about different forms of literacy and what is at stake for language users/learners. Because the genre is “mutt” or influx, I also ask my students to grapple with the conventions of the genre and the definition of literacy itself.

You can see my action research on literacy narratives here. I presented a poster on my use of multimodal literacy narratives at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in 2016. Here are some student reflections on the use of literacy narratives in first-year writing:

“The benefits of literacy narratives are that they make one AWARE of how language ties into everyday life and what it means. . . To track how [my literacy] changed made me think about my writing over the years and how my speaking languages alters the world around me.”

“I think literacy narratives are imperative to the FYWP—how can students be expected to write without looking within themselves to understand how they became the writers that they are?”

“I believe [literacy narratives] opened up a necessary dialogue within our classroom and community about our personal experiences with language and the power of communication.”

See the assignment below

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Assignment: Literacy Narratives
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