Literacy Experience Paper

Literacy Experience Paper
Write a 4-7 page essay analyzing a significant experience or set of experiences that has
affected your development as a literate person (a reader and writer) or as a language user (a
speaker and listener).
Goals: This assignment will help you consider how previous experiences have led you to study
English, how they have shaped your attitudes and abilities in this field, and how they might help
you plan your future in English Studies. Writing your paper and reading others will help you
develop questions to explore in the literacy synthesis paper.
Reading each other’s drafts can also
be a good way to create community in this class.
Getting Started
Following is further explanation of the assignment and some ideas to help you get started.
Although you will focus on one experience or a related set of experiences in your paper, consider
many experiences and influences as you choose your topic.
When thinking of your development as a literate person or language user, you could begin
with experiences connected in some way with intentional, organized learning. Make a list of related
words to help you recall specific experiences: school, preschool, kindergarten, elementary school,
middle school, high school, college; teacher; textbook; notebooks; classroom; playground, etc.
Consider your twelve or more years in school; projects you did; papers you wrote; books you read;
presentations or speeches you gave; extra-curricular experiences. Consider the earliest influences
on your literacy and language learning--your parents, grandparents, or other significant adults--as
well as your siblings and other family members; your home environment; your play. Talking to
family members about their literacy and language experiences can give you a sense of your literacy
and language heritage; family members can also tell you things about your childhood experiences
that you have forgotten.
Feel free to consider experiences of informal, unintentional literacy and language learning,
but look for an experience that has affected you in important ways. Perhaps this experience
affected your more formal learning, or perhaps it stands in sharp contrast to your school learning.
Don't simply write a story; consider how that experience affected you in the long run.
You are a language user; you have been using language most of your life to express
yourself, to communicate with others, to affect others, to understand experience and concepts, and
to create new meanings. In our society, we often associate written language use with school, but
often our most important literacy development occurs outside school: reading picture books with
our parents; writing in a diary; curling up with a book at the library or in our bedroom; helping our
friends create a magazine or newsletter. Don't forget oral language use: public speaking, reciting
poetry with friends, presenting a position to a committee or other small group.
Here is a brief list of influences on literacy and language use to jog your memory:
educational experiences of family members; reading, writing, speaking, and artistic expression that
occur in one's home; beliefs and values; age; gender; ethnic background; socio-economic class.
Consider experiences when you felt like an outsider; was that feeling related at all to your use of
written or oral language?
You will usually attain greater clarity and deeper insight by focusing on one experience--one
event, one assignment, one class, one teacher, one decision. Don't try to analyze your entire
educational history. Certainly you might relate that one experience to other experiences, looking for
a pattern or tendency across time.
In writing this essay, you will use narrative, descriptive, and expository strategies. You will
want to use concrete language and specific details to recreate the experience for your readers. But
you need to go beyond the "what," "who," "when," and "where" to "how," "why," and "so
what." I'm not asking you to attach a simplistic moral to your story or to find crystal clear cause
and effect connections, but I would like you to reflect on and analyze the experience. As with all
the writing you will do in this course, you want to balance generalization (such as a thesis
statement and topic sentences) with specific support (details, evidence, examples, explanations).