I’m stealing this assignment! This takes the “literacy narrative” genre into a different, student-centered, context. The trouble I’ve experienced with writing in this genre is the disinterest many of my students express with “literacy,” an admittedly abstract concept. Replacing this with “communication” brings the same theme into a familiar context, and the examples you provided illustrate two creative ways to approach this prompt. One of my primary foci for my 110 and FIQWS courses this semester is including texts that speak more to my students’ real-world contexts: selections from Buzzfeed’s “Reader” section, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldúa, short texts by James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, all of which I’ve drawn from my readings in Black and indigenous theory. The goal here, though, is to help usher students feeling included in the university. Both Ferris and Bartholomae echo this notion: it is supremely difficult for students to participate as scholars if the canonic texts all replicate hegemonic narratives. I want to carve a space for them inside the intimidating school building itself: a classroom that values this difference instead of repudiating it.
(Writing this the morning after the presidential election feels a bit fantastical, as if creating a space where my queer/trans/brown/Black/immigrant/disabled students can feel cared for, especially inside institutions historically tasked with reinscribing the American caste system, is possible… this feels much further away than it did yesterday.)
As for working with course texts, this is a bit harder to pull off in class, especially with students with particular needs to support focus, close reading, etc., many of which cannot be supported in a traditional classroom environment. This term, I’ve been working to develop approaches to in-class close reading. One of the more successful approaches relied heavily on the students: as a group, we came up with a list of qualities to look for in a text, drawing on the Norton Field Guide as well as some advice from the Purdue OWL.
They also decided to highlight PADS (purpose, audience, design, and stance) as examples for them as they author their own pieces and think about their own rhetorical situations. They were especially interested in finding examples of quotation, paraphrase, and summary and analyzing how and why an author chose to use these approaches. Even though I don’t carry a Tupperware of multicolored highlighters like Lynn, the students chose to come up with a key of symbols to connect with different sections of the text they were reading together: *s for paraphrase, double-underline for summary, etc. (no photos, sadly).
I built the bones of this lesson plan to respond to some of the students’ concerns while developing their critical analysis essays, but they did much of the heavy lifting themselves: developing a working list of what they wanted to find evidence of in the sample essay I provided, collaborating on the grading rubric, arguing which sections of the text were analytical or just summary. I was shocked as I watched the sliver of agency I made for them expanded wildly, and I was totally OK with it.