Narrative and Personal Literacy: Developing a Pedagogy of Confidence Building for the Writing Classroom

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2004-11-23

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The literacy narrative is unique in what it can contribute to composition studies, illustrating both how our culture inhibits literacy and how people overcome difficult obstacles in learning to read and write. They highlight for writing teachers the life lessons that have advanced people toward their literacy goals. My analysis of literacy narratives points out how home, school, and community forces compete for different meanings of being literate. These stories are often about the struggle for and triumph of confidence. Understanding the sources of support can be especially valuable to teachers. I believe literacy narratives can help teachers develop a pedagogy centered on a most crucial function of educators: confidence-building. As my students and literacy narratives document, teachers commonly believe they should eradicate local slangs, exacerbating the students' sense of alienation. I suggest enhancing the students' sense of worth as communicators by allowing them to see how the skills they call their own are already accepted as part of the school standard. Writing pedagogies that use personal narrative assignments reach out to students by bringing their lives into the classroom. Using literacy narratives in class narrows the life focus to personal struggles and successes with reading and writing in school. I suggest using lessons-learned narratives to bring the students' personal language uses into their essays. Through lessons-learned narratives, my pedagogy aims to uncover the students' personal communicative influences, strengthening their sense of power as communicators. Telling stories of how their language use has emerged through their surroundings lets students exploit the multiple nature of literacy. Analyzing my students' essays, I explain how to connect various rhetorical concepts to skills the students already possess. Through this pedagogy, the students' expertise is defined by their personal knowledge as well as by school standards. Once teachers are made aware of the students' personal standards, those standards become a source of strength as they are adapted to other academic rhetorical situations.

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