The first major assignment for English 3360 will be the Literacy and Learning Autobiography (LLA). I expect that the "final" piece of writing will be approximately 6-8 pages, at least, although length will really depend on what you find that you have to say. My intention in defining this approximate length is to encourage you to see this piece of writing as substantial, thoughtful, and important.

Please keep all writing related to this project (prewriting, drafts, questions, peer comments, etc.), because you will include it in your first portfolio.

Reasons to Begin the Course with this Assignment:

  • We will use it as one way to explore the concept of "literacy" and its acquisition, development, expansion, and uses.
  • It connects your experience outside this classroom with the readings/discussions we are having inside the classroom.
  • We will also use the assignment as a way to model process writing and writing-workshop environments, as we work through discovery and prewriting activities, inquiry, drafting, sharing and responding to work in progress, editing, proofreading, publishing, assessing, and ongoing reflection.

One of your purposes for working on the LLA assignment is to come to a fuller understanding of yourself as a teacher and learner of literate practices. This will be a way for you to explain to yourself and to your classmates (and perhaps to your future students) how you came to be the teacher that you are and will be. Examining yourself as a writer, reader, and prospective teacher, perhaps for the first time, permits you to reflect on the processes and approaches you have been using (and why, and with what consequence) and to consider alternatives for the future.

For this assignment consider your experiences as widely as possible, selecting those that seem significant, those that help you construct your account most effectively. As you reflect on your past, do not limit yourself only to school experiences. Research shows that literacy (and learning of all kinds) is fundamentally social and that individuals acquire literacy as the result of a wide range of interactions. We become "literate" through a wide range of experiences, not necessarily only through schooling, so you will want to examine your past carefully and thoughtfully, discovering as much as you can about your "educational experiences" (broadly defined) and considering carefully how those experiences contributed (or not) to your becoming literate. (See the list of prompts provided below to help with this process of remembering.)

Discovery and Exploration Prompts:

Use these prompts to help you explore what you know about your past experiences, attitudes, behaviors relevant to "literacy." You may remember or you may decide that you want to ask someone who might remember.

These prompts will be most effective if you use them over time. In other words, donít expect that you will respond to them one time and be done. Probably you will continue to recall events in your past that are related to your development as a literate person and future teacher. This assignment is meant to help you recall as much of that past as possible so you can continue to reflect on the effects of your past experiences on your future as a teacher. Do not think that you have to respond to each of these prompts or to all of them at once. They are meant as discovery aids, as a way to promote invention of materials for your literacy autobiography (LLA).

When you begin considering the early drafts of your LLA, you will begin choosing from the wide range of experiences and memories you have discovered through these prompts.

These prompts are NOT meant to be an organizing tool for your LLA. Instead, they are designed to focus you on recovering information, discovering what you know or want to know. Your LLA will most likely take a very different shape, and it may use only a small portion of what you have discovered.

Reflecting on your perspectives on Language:

  • How do you define "language"?
  • What do you remember about how you learned "language"?
  • What were your first words, sentences, interchanges? How did school contribute to your early language development?
  • What are the most important differences between your use of language when you speak and when you write?
  • How do you use language differently for different situations/purposes?
  • What is "appropriate" language use? Give some examples.
  • How can language best be learned? What is the relation between that and the ways you will teach reading and writing?
  • If you view language learning in a certain way, how does that affect your classroom?

Reflecting on your experience as a Writer:

  • What are the first things you remember "writing"?
  • What kinds of things have you written or how have you used writing (outside of school)? How does that compare with your school writing experiences?
  • What kinds of writing have you done over the years in school? What has been most satisfying? Instructive? Useless? Why?
  • How has feedback from others helped or hindered your writing?
  • How much are you influenced by other writers?
  • Under what conditions do you write best, most happily? What conditions are most frustrating?
  • What process do you usually use to produce writing? How does the process change for different kinds of writing?
  • What relationships do you see between the writing you do and the reading you do?
  • What metaphor best describes your writing process?
  • How does writing compare to other kinds of communication (including performing arts of all sorts)?
  • Why do you think it is important for students to learn to write?

Reflecting on your experience as a Reader:

  • What are your earliest memories of reading? Being read to?
  • What do you remember about the process of your learning to read?
  • What were the earliest things you remember reading on your own? What were the differences between your early personal reading and your early school reading?
  • How many different "ways of reading" do you use? How do you read different things in different ways?
  • How do you gain insight into a book or a reading? How do you make sense of it or how does it "mean" something to you? How does discussion with others help?
  • What kinds of connections do you see between reading books and seeing movies or watching TV? How are the narratives/stories different (or not)?
  • Why is it important for students to learn to read? What should they read? Who should choose what they read? Why?

Reflecting on other literacies (visual/aural/oral/computer/social):

  • How have these been developed and learned both inside and outside of school?


  • What kind of learner are you? What kinds of learning activities "work" for you, and what kinds frustrate you?
  • How do your past literacy experiences relate to your present views on learning, literacy, and education? How well does what you are learning as a prospective teacher fit what you "know" as someone who has learned to speak, read, and write?
  • As you think about your past literacy experiences, how will your past affect what you do as a teacher? Be specific.

Tentative Evaluation Criteria:

As we work on this piece of writing, we will be examining these criteria, exploring how to use them, and suggesting ways that we might revise them. Please keep these for ongoing reference.

An "A" range assignment:

  • Fulfills all aspects of the assignment: Explores fully how and why the writer became literate, not necessarily by reporting on every part of the process, but by selecting and presenting significant moments in the process, developing fully the significance of the events/moments chosen; does not make this essay merely a personal narrative, attempting instead to make the writerís personal narrative relevant and meaningful for a larger audience; explores and develops fully issues such as "why" and "how"; accounts for past, present, and future considerations
  • Has a clear and consistent focus and a consistent sense of audience
  • Develops the discussion fully by providing ample support for assertions; includes varied support, using specifics and examples that are clearly sufficient, strongly relevant, and refreshing
  • Explains and develops how and why the support is significant
  • If it uses materials from other sources, those choices are appropriate and relevant; use of material is accurate; material is skillfully incorporated and accurately documented
  • Because the piece is focused and purposeful, it does not merely answer the various questions in the list of discovery and exploration prompts; instead, it uses answers to those prompts to accomplish its larger purpose; in other words, the piece is controlled by a purposeful, perceivable, carefully planned, consistent, and logical organization
  • Contains an opening that provides an appropriate context and a clear focus; a body that fulfills the promises of the opening; a closing that is effective and thoughtful
  • Uses discourse blocks and paragraphs effectively; contains body paragraphs that develop fully one idea in each paragraph or fulfill one purpose in the discourse block, relate clearly to the central purpose of the discussion or to the purpose of the discourse block, and relate clearly to preceding and following paragraphs
  • Reflects thoughtful attention to choosing sentences that are lively and varied; contains no major sentence errors
  • Is consistently clear, never causing the reader to ask questions that are not answered in the text
  • Is free of grammar and usage errors

We will be discussing how "B" and "C" range assignments differ from "A" criteria.

Assignments and Evaluation | Portfolio 1