Choose Your Own Literacy Adventure (1/5)

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The following is the first in a series of posts by guest blogger Nancy Pine (Columbus State Community College – Delaware).

Post 1: Introducing Literacy Narratives in Context

Many students enter my co-requisite and first-year composition classes viewing literacy only as something they do—something they have to do mostly for school—and they don’t think they’re very good at doing it either.  

Composition pedagogies like Writing about Writing (WAW) and Teaching for Transfer (TFT) may help students understand that literacy isn’t just something people do, but also something people study, supporting successful doing literacy practices. Through WAW and TFT in composition courses, students learn that literacy practices vary across contexts and, for any writing project, tackling the page or the screen involves a series of personal choices to adapt to or to resist or to reimagine conventions of genre and discourse. In my first-year composition classes, such explorations of private and public tensions in literacy learning begin with the DALN.

In this series, I discuss some assignments and activities that draw on literacy narratives, and the DALN specifically, to facilitate students’ exploration of their personal literacies, as well as their future areas of study and fields of work. Students can study and do literacy in chosen personal and professional contexts. 

In the thematic version of first-year composition I teach, I tell students they will choose their own literacy adventure in the course, exploring and practicing writing in various contexts they find relevant to their academic, professional, and personal lives. It’s like the Choose Your Own Adventure book series concept, where reading becomes a game of making choices at various points in the story, moving ahead or backward to specific pages to find out what happens. The reader creates their own story. In this composition class, students decide for each writing project assignment not only what kind of literacy topic to study and write about, but also they make choices about their rhetorical situation, including genre, which affects how they compose each project. I tell students that writing in varying contexts is a lifelong journey of studying and making choices in this way.

Other activities incorporating the DALN may be found in the Open Educational Resource (OER) I’ve developed called Writing in Context, drawing on WAW and TFT pedagogies to teach composition in the context of academic disciplines and professions.

In this approach to first-year composition, students make sense of the varying ideas and commitments they bring about literacy not only by doing literacy for the class, but also through further studying and reflecting on texts from the fields of rhetoric, composition, and literacy. They begin by examining their personal stories with literacy, and through their literacy narrative, offer the class and me a glimpse into their literate worlds. Whether or not they choose to make public on the DALN, their verse, as Walt Whitman would say, they are included in the ever-evolving literacy conversation and adventure.

Coming up next. . . Literacy narratives are one way for students to examine their prior knowledge of literacy.

Nancy Pine is an associate professor of English at Columbus State Community College, Delaware Campus, where she teaches composition courses. She is the author of the Open Educational Resource (OER) Writing in Context and articles in publications including Teaching English in the Two-Year College and the Journal of Basic Writing.