Writing 121 - Cora Agatucci
English Composition [
Expository Essay Writing]

Essay #1~Literacy Narrative

See Fall 2001 WR 121 Course Plan for Deadlines
Short Cuts:  Essay #1 Directions | Evaluation Criteria | WR 121 Competencies
Example WR 121 Student Writing - Fall 2001

More information and Links on the Literacy Narrative


[MLA Style Heading for Page 1]
Erin R. Student [Your Name]
WR 121 (#40588), Prof. Agatucci [Identify Course & Instructor]
Essay #1 Revised/Final Draft [Identify Assignment]
3 October 2001 [Date Due]  

What Is a Literacy Narrative?
[Center Your Title like This]

Your assignment is for Essay #1 is to write a Literacy Narrative.  Deadlines & related assignments are given in the WR 121 Course Plan.  WR 121 Course Competencies you will be developing in this assignment and Evaluation Criteria used to grade this Essay are attached to this handout.  So what is a Literacy Narrative Essay?

First, a Narrative Essay tells a (non-fiction) story to make a point (thesis).  Narrative Essays are typically autobiographical, and draw heavily on the author's memory and personal experience (and narrative techniques--see Dreams Ch. 3), looking back, re-viewing, and (re)interpreting one's past from the vantage point of the present.  Often, the goal is to help us better understand who we are today, why we are who we are, how we came to be who we are.  In My Name's Not Susie: A Life Transformed by Literacy, Sharon Jean Hamilton explains the value of such remembering and self-reflection:  "...I must also be the author of my own life, and . . . in choosing which of my memories I wished to foreground and which to forget I was not only shaping my past but also my present and potentially my future" (cited in Thompson).

Literacy Narratives are (non-fiction) story-telling that re-creates and examines significant past experiences in which reading, writing (or perhaps speaking, listening) figure prominently; literacy narratives focus on key stages or events in one's development as a literate (reading, writing, thinking, speaking, listening) person.  Many of the readings in Dreams Chs. 1 & 2, including King's and Wright's essays, are examples of literacy narratives.  A Literacy Narrative is autobiographical, and writing such essays can help you discover and evaluate the role(s) literacy has played in your life, reveal the sources of your present attitudes and abilities, deepen your understanding of how/why you have developed into the kind of reader, writer, thinker, communicator that you have become. A Literacy Narrative prompts you to explore, remember, reflect upon, analyze important moments, experiences, or stages of development in your own personal writing, reading (speaking, listening, thinking) history: e.g., influential events, scenes, people; stages; turning points or moments of insightful realization; failures and/or successes; "border crossings" or passages into new, different kinds of language, reading, writing, communication, thinking.  Alternatively--since there are many kinds of "literacies"--Literacy Narratives can also address other kinds of literacies, such as visual literacy, computer literacy, science literacy, film literacy, etc.

Essay #1 Requirements and Guidelines

Essay Length:  The Final/Revised Draft of Essay #1 should be 3-to-5 typed / wordprocessed and double-spaced pages long--about 750 to 1000 words--using a standard sized font and point size (e.g. 12-point Times New Roman or 10-point Arial), printed in black ink on only one side of standard-sized (8 1/2" X 11") white paper, with one-inch margins at top, bottom, and both sides.  You should also use MLA-style Heading in the upper lefthand corner of page 1: NO title page is necessary. Use Running Page Headers in the upper righthand corners of page 2 and subsequent essay pages, including the Works Cited page at end of your essay.
[NOTE Well: The Revised/ Final Draft of Essay #1 (to be graded) should be double spaced.  I do not double space in this handout only to save space.]

Topic Scope: Keep the above essay length recommendation in mind as you focus topic and draft Essay #1 for the Literacy Narrative.  (Tips: If you can't achieve at least 3 typed/wordprocessed & double-spaced pages, you need to either provide more specific development of your narrative, or expand the scope of your topic.  On the other hand, if you have reached page 7 in drafting your essay and you still have much more you want to narrate to make your thesis point, you need to narrow down the scope of your topic.)

Topic Focus of Your Essay #1 Literacy Narrative may be:


One single experience (story, event, moment, scene, encounter with an influential person, stage of development) in your personal literacy history, that you will recount, interpret, and analyze to make your thesis point;
OR . . . 


Two or three related experiences (stories, events, moments, scenes, encounters with influential person[s], stages in your literacy development) whose inter-connections you can show and explain--and, taken together, all contribute to supporting/developing your essay's thesis.


Experience(s) that you choose to narrate may be, but do not have to be, drawn from your formal schooling; life experiences with literacy outside of formal education


You are invited to use relevant Dreams's readings involving literacy stories as models or stimuli for developing your own Literacy Narrative Essay.  (And see Special Requirement below.)  Try to strengthen your essay by using some of the effective writing techniques that we have examined from Dreams's reading selections.

Special Requirement:  In your essay, you must integrate at least one reference from a Dreams's reading, accompanied by your commentary to show how the quotation or paraphrase is related to a point you make in your essay.  The reference must be properly cited in-text and in a separate Works Cited page at the end of your essay, using MLA documentation style.  Below is an example from Joyce Chang's essay, "Drive Becarefully"--with the required addition of parenthetical citation.  And example Works Cited page is included at the end of this handout.

". . . My mother's limited English limited my perception of her.  I was ashamed of her English" (Tan 46).  Amy Tan's self-evaluation in her essay, "Mother Tongue," clung to my conscience as I continued reading.  I could have said those words myself.  I have definitely thought those words a million times.  Like Tan, I too used to be ashamed of my mother's English.

You are encouraged to use in-text author tags when introducing a quotation, paraphrase, or summary from a Dreams's reading selection, as Joyce Chang does in the above example.  (We'll discuss author tags, parenthetical citation, and Works Cited further in class.) 

Arriving at an Essay Thesis (i.e., Your Theory of Meaning/Significance and Your Response to the imaged readers' "So What?" Question that your audience will expect you to present and develop).  You must write in the genre of the essay.  You must use your narrative to make a point.  This means you must do more than simply narrate and describe your experience: you must analyze, interpret, explain the meaning/significance of the experience--and do so fully enough that even uninformed WR 121 readers can understand why the experience is significant to you--and perhaps to others of us as well.  You may not know what your thesis is at first: you may wish to write a "discovery draft" recounting your experience--then reflect and analyze it to discover what it means and why it is significant to you.  The following leading questions may help:


Why do I remember the experience(s) I narrate?  Why does it stick with me, even perhaps years later?


Why do the experience(s) seem important and influential to me now?  How did the experience shape or influence the kind of reader, writer, thinker, speaker, and/or listener I am today?  


What role have encounters with language and literacy (reading, writing, speaking, listening) played in my life, in creating who I am and how I think today? 


What is my essay narrative saying about how/why developing literacy (reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking) has, or has not, been important in my life up to now?  And do I consider this an advantage or disadvantage: that is, have the narrative experience(s) helped or hurt me, or both?


What have I learned from the experience(s)--about myself, others, the world?  By the way, failures and/or successes can be addressed (for we sometimes learn as much, if not more, from our failures).

[Example Works Cited to start a new, separate page at the end of your essay:]

[Running Page Header
Your Last Name & Page Number:]
Agatucci 4

Works Cited

Chang, Joyce.  "Drive Becarefully."  In Dreams and Inward Journeys.  4th ed.  Ed. Marjorie Ford and Jon Ford. 

New York: Longman, 2001.  58-61.

Tan, Amy.  "Mother Tongue."  In Dreams and Inward Journeys.  4th ed.  Ed. Marjorie Ford and Jon Ford.

New York: Longman, 2001.  44-49.

Thompson, Nancy.  "My Name's Not Susie: A Model for Teaching the Literacy Narrative."  WILLA 5 (Fall 1996):

 30-32.  Rpt. Online. Digital Library and Archives.  The Women in Literature and Life Assembly [WILLA]

of the National Council of Teachers of English.   Available:

http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/WILLA/fall96/thompson.html [accessed Sept. 2001].
WILLA Fall 1996: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/WILLA/fall96/ [accessed Sept. 2001].

Essay #1 Evaluation Criteria &
Course Competencies Addressed

A.  These requirements are met (Yes or No), or Essay #1 will not be accepted for grading:

_____Manuscript Preparation: Final/Revised draft (to be graded) is typed / word-processed and double-spaced, & prepared in standard manuscript format (as directed).

_____Genre & Topic: This is an Essay and a Literacy Narrative.  [Competencies #1 & 3]

_____Reference to at least one Dreams's reading is incorporated into the essay.
[Competencies #4 & 7]

_____Plagiarism is avoided through proper in-text and Works Cited citation of Dreams's (and, if applicable, any other outside) source(s). [Competency #5]

Evaluation Checklist: PLUS = Excellent;  CHECK PLUS = Very good; 
CHECK = Satisfactory (but could be improved); CHECK MINUS = Weak/needs work  

Key Criterion on which Grading will be based:
___Overall, essay's thesis/purpose is effectively achieved
with the targeted college-level audience.

B.  Essay Writing, Reading, Analysis Skills (80 points possible) 
Targeted WR 121 Competencies #1, 4, 5, & 6
[Also addressed: Competencies #7, 10, & 11]

_____1. TOPIC SCOPE: Topic focus is neither too broad or too narrow for satisfactory development within the scope of recommended essay length [Competencies #10 & 11]

_____2. CONTENT, TONE/PERSONA, AUDIENCE: college-level critical and creative thinking demonstrated; tone and persona are effective for essay topic, purpose, & audience; persona, tone, diction convey clear sense of author engagement; strong awareness of audience is demonstrated:  “general” college-level but "uninformed" audience addressed clearly & effectively [Competency #4, 11 & 6]

_____3. THESIS/PURPOSE, UNITY : thesis & purpose clearly established &/or implied; thesis statement effectively placed; essay is unified (sticks to the stated/implied thesis & purpose), supported by integrating timely thesis transitions to connect body points to essay thesis/purpose; title is effective in previewing essay topic and thesis. [Competency #1]

_____4. ORGANIZATION & COHERENCE: Overall, organizational plan/arrangement of ideas is sound, logical, effective; introduction and conclusion are appropriate to thesis/purpose and effective; internal body paragraph organization is strong, and paragraphs breaks are logical and "readable"; reasoning is convincing and logical, with no unacknowledged / unreconciled contradictions; good coherence, continuity, clarity are maintained in the essay--e.g., through explicit, accurate transitions, clear expression, grammatical consistency in person, tense, pronoun reference, etc.  [Competency #1]

_____5. BODY PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE & DEVELOPMENT: each body paragraph presents a clear main idea (explicit or implicit topic sentence) which unifies the rest of the paragraph; good idea progression (unnecessary restatement and circling are avoided); effective balance of meaningful generalization and specific supporting development; specific development is effective to clarify, support, elaborate, illustrate, dramatize, make vivid the author’s general points--to "show" readers what the author means; body points important to support of thesis/purpose are accorded proportional emphasis & development, and are well explained/analyzed/interpreted; body content is well selected to achieve the essay purpose/thesis.  [Competency #1, 3, 4, & 7]

C.  Style & Grammatical Correctness (20 points possible).  Targeted WR 121 Competencies #6 & 1 ["...conform to standard edited English"]

_____6. STYLE: Overall, sentence style & word choice are clear, effective, sophisticated: e.g. effective/logical use of emphasis, subordination & coordination (to distinguish main and subordinate ideas), and parallelism; diction is precise (clear, accurate, concise); pleasing use of sentence variety  & vivid, fresh diction, etc.

_____7.  GRAMMATICAL CORRECTNESS - Effective editing/proofreading demonstrates command of Standard Written English (including diction, idiom, syntax): major sentence errors (esp. fragments, fused/run-on sentences, comma splices) are avoided; sentence structure & word choice  do not hurt clarity and coherence; strong command of other conventions of grammar, usage,  punctuation, and mechanics.

WR 121 Course Competencies

[College Essay Writing, Reading, & Analysis Skills:]

___Competency 1 Write essays that use a thesis to establish control over content; supply relevant and adequate supporting details; employ the organizational strategies of effective beginnings, transitions, and endings; and conform to standard edited English.

___Competency 2 Achieve Competency 1 under time constraints (during the WR 121 final exam), while conforming to expectations of an assigned topic and of edited English appropriate for timed writing.

___Competency 3 Demonstrate the ability to use a variety of expository essay patterns, such as definition, classification, analysis, problem-solution, and comparison-contrast.

___Competency 4 Employ observation; personal experience; active, responsive reading as the basis for essay content.

___Competency  5 Employ the responsible use of sources (without plagiarizing) as the basis for essay content.

___Competency 6 Demonstrate, in an essay, a sustained style employing rhetorically effective tone, persona, diction, idiom, and syntax.

___Competency 7 Use critical reading and writing to analyze and synthesize ideas in an academic writing sample, identifying rhetorical patterns, major assertions, and supporting details.

[Teamwork, Self-Assessment, Revision & Editing Skills:]

___Competency 8 Complete appropriate written critical peer reviews of student essay drafts, including suggestions for revision and editing.

___Competency 9 Complete at least one (formal or informal) written review of the student's own writing strengths and weaknesses, including effective self-prescriptions for improvement.

[Writing Process Skills:]

___Competency 10 Demonstrate, monitor, and articulate the complete idiosyncratic process that the individual writer uses to complete an essay, including such steps as invention, thesis formation, organization, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading.

[Communication & Rhetorical Analysis Skills]

___Competency 11 Demonstrate an awareness of a variety of purposes and audiences.

Fall 2001 WR 121 Syllabus | Course Plan | Links: Writer Resources |
Assignments will be webposted after they are discussed in class
Example WR 121 Student Writing - Fall 2001

Cora's WR 121 Home Page | Past Student Writing Humanities Dept Web: Writing Home Page

You Are Here ~ Essay #1 ~ Fall 2001
URL of this webpage: http://www.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/wr121/essay1.htm
Last Updated:  26 July 2003

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Humanities Department, Central Oregon Community College
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Cora Agatucci, 1997-2001
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