Reading & Reacting: 10 Ways Literacy Narratives Will Rock Your World (or at least your writing classroom)

Photo: Bag eaten by conveyor machinery

Bag eaten by conveyor machinery – cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo
by Kahunapule Michael Johnson

By Deanna Mascle @ Metawriting

It is not often that I respond to posts from individual blogs, usually opting for more mainstream, published current educational fair instead. In an effort to branch out a bit more and look for some more positive material, I love this piece about literacy narratives. Anyone not checking on Deanna Mascle’s Metawriting should consider dropping by from time to time – good stuff.

In this post, she glowingly praises the benefits of the literacy narrative as a writing task. She articulates a compelling list of why they should be considered.

Literacy narratives are powerful tools that can help students learn about themselves as literate people, as both consumers and producers of the written word in all its forms, and as such provides a key intervention tool for students struggling with literacy demons. However, as wonderful as those benefits are my favorite are the many ways that you can use literacy narratives to encourage student encounters with and explorations of language. I find the literacy narrative to be an useful scaffold for any number of student engagements and lessons. Literacy narratives rock my world because they help me transform students into writers and they can help you too.

This last sentence is quite beautiful and a definite factor in the likelihood that I will be asking students to write a literacy narrative in the near future. They are not entirely new to me. I have heard of them at some point or another, but it really wasn’t until I read this post celebrating them that I recognized their true potential.

Listing ten reasons with quality explanation goes a long way in convincing me. It is an interesting list at that.

  • Exorcism
  • Scar Tissue
  • Overcoming Resistance
  • Success
  • Connecting
  • Purpose
  • Learning
  • Scaffolding
  • Writing
  • Transformation

Of particular interest to me are the first three items. As an English teacher who teaches a lot of ninth graders, it continues to sadden just me how many arrive at my door already battered and believing that they are not good or interested in anything related to English class.

Something happens around middle school that changes students from eager or at least interested readers to non-readers, from expressive writers to wrong-writers. It seems far too common. Of course there are may possible reasons and I am not blaming anyone, only lamenting the consequences.

Still, there is a lot of un-teaching that my ninth grade colleagues and I find ourselves having to do, a kind of deprogramming for the wounded reader/writer. For those most reluctant, there is no question that exorcism is definitely needed. Those negative scripts need to be deleted and reset with more affirming ones.

Unfortunately, fourteen year-olds have already started gathering scar tissue regarding writing. As the demands on them grow and the standards get higher, they find themselves receiving messages that emphasize correctness over control. Many have already internalized the idea that the only reason to write is to be assess, evaluated, and ultimately judged as not good enough.

Is it any wonder why students are resistant? Most of the writing they have been asked to do is wholly based on a short story or novel that they were forced to read, whether they liked it or not, with a prompt about an arcane, mystic language of literary devices that they not only do not understand but do not care to understand. Mascle is not kidding when she characterizes student resistance as “Samsonite tough here.”

Even writing this post is convincing me more and more that I want to try this with students. I will report on the results once I do.


Image: iPad

posted via haaslearning.tumblr.com
and flipped to Teaching Today
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