Literacy Narrative Analysis Project

First Draft Due: February 22nd (1000-1300 words)
Final Draft Due: March 6th (1400-1750 words)

Note: Make sure to have your draft available as a Google Doc on February 22nd!


Graff and Birkenstein invite us to think of academic writing as a conversation: we listen to what others say, situate our ideas in relation to theirs, and communicate our perspectives to a new set of listeners who may draw on our ideas as they redirect or extend the conversation. We exercise our literacy in particular academic Discourses when we name and engage in their conversations.

In College Reading and Writing, we’ve paid particular attention to conversations about literacy. Gee redefines literacy for us and shows that apprenticeship offers the most direct path towards authentic literacy in a Discourse and the “social goods” it brings. In her analysis of college students’ literacy narratives, Alexander documents the prevalence of “master narratives” that equate literacy with success, but also points towards the power of “little narratives” to create a more complex story of literacy acquisition even for the same student. Brandt reminds us of the role sponsors play, and why, in promoting or withholding literacy.

These texts have helped to complicate our understanding of literacy and given us a language for talking and thinking about it. We have used them to organize our selection of narratives from the Rising Cairn publication in Medium, to revise questions those narratives raise. They also inform our responses to those questions.  Looking back over the last weeks, we’ve already been engaged with several texts that tell us something about literacy acquisition.

What are they telling us? The next step involves moving from reading and pre-writing to an actual draft of a paper that explores an angle on literacy acquisition.


Write a paper that uses both our scholarly texts on literacy and at least three literacy narratives from Rising Cairn to contribute to our understanding of literacy acquisition.

In Your Paper, Be Sure To:

  • Work with at least two of our scholarly texts (Gee, Brandt, and Alexander).
  • Work with at least three of the Rising Cairn literacy narratives. Treat them as “data” from the archive.
  • Briefly (and appropriately) introduce the scholarly texts, and make sure to name the specific narratives you engage in the project.
  • Introduce the question or issue you’re investigating.
  • Use at least four quotations, making sure to explain how they help support a point or idea you’re developing.
  • Be clear about your perspective or point of view on the issue you engage.
  • Document both sources using MLA style, with in-text parenthetical references and a Works Cited list. (Use The Little Seagull, MLA Style (109+) to assist you on these pieces.)

Questions to Consider

The following questions are meant to help you think about your contributions to the conversation. They can be useful reminders of your writing goals as you draft and revise, but you will not be answering them directly or organizing your paper around them.

  • Finding Your Contributions:
    • What question(s) motivate your reading of the Rising Cairn narratives? What are you reading for?
    • What do these narratives,  your data,  show us about  literacy acquisition? What do you want readers to see in them?
  • Contributing to the Conversations:
    • Do the narratives you’ve selected affirm or support a specific idea or ideas in Gee, Brandt, or Alexander? How?
    •  Do the narratives you’ve selected add something to a specific idea or ideas in Gee, Brandt, or Alexander? How?
    • Do the narratives you’ve selected challenge some specific idea(s) in Gee, Brandt, or Alexander? How?