Thursday, August 30, 2007

Literacy Lifeline

"The best vision of the future is grounded in the best understanding of the past. With this in mind, draw a personal literacy lifeline..."
-Donald McAndrew, excerpt from Literacy Leadership

Tonight was the first meeting of Katherine's class, The Reading Writing Connection. I'm looking forward to it much more than the one I took with her last semester, Theories of Writing, which was so hard-core theory it hurt. This one's a little more touchy feely with reflective writings and all. As our first reflective exercise, we created literacy lifelines. The idea is that you map out your reading/writing history and where you had your high points and low points. We had odd-shaped paper and Crayola markers and everything. It was a very hippy assignment, and even kind of fun. Though, I think I would've liked it much better had I not been dealing with a brand new head cold and mild fever.

We did some sharing afterward, and a few people mentioned having breakthroughs and epiphanies thanks to seeing it all laid out in front of them. Things like, "I stopped reading anything, and writing anything for a long time. Then I came back to school and as soon as I started reading again, I started writing again too." Kinda neat.

It also firmed up how my process works. In general, reading comes before writing for me. Most of what I write is somehow reacting to something I've read. If I'm reacting negatively, I'm basically trying to do it better than the essay, story, etc. that I read. If I'm reacting positively, I'm trying to stretch the concept in what I read, or see where else it can lead me.

For my part, there were no major epiphanies, though it helped me realize just how large a role various teachers have had in my enjoyment of reading and writing. Teachers are important. Last semester I had a chat with my friend Shawn, and she told me how one of her professors from another school basically flat-out told her, "You suck at poetry, never write it again." Funny, since she doesn't. Still, that one comment from one person stuck with her and from then until just this past summer, she hadn't written any poetry because she believed she couldn't. With respect to the literacy lifeline, that's a low point.

Here are a couple of points on my lifeline:
1st grade - learned to read
5th grade - had an awesome teacher who always read to the class for a while after recess
6th grade - I wrote my first ever complete story, everything up until then was only starts
Junior year of high school - met Camii and started writing letters to her when she moved
Sophmore year of college - took my first creative writing workshop class with David
This year - started a blog about writing

I think it's funny to see the overlap in what I try to talk about in this blog and what Katherine wants us to do in class. "I want you to reflect on and analyze your reading and writing process," in short, figure out how it all works for me. Here, I already have a head start. Very cool.

So, let's get meta. Why don't you do your own literacy lifeline? Take a big sheet of paper and map out the high and low points of your reading and writing history. What kind of patterns do you see? How do reading and writing connect in your mind? In your process? Notice anything you hadn't realized before?


-John said...

Before I went to my first group meeting, I sat down and wrote every ounce of evidence to support the case that I had a history of reading and writing. I was amazed at how much ended up on the page. I didn't use crayola products, but I think the effect was the same. I definitely surprised myself, and found the activity can become an exercise in acknowledging accomplishments once thought trivial.

Ali said...

Was there anything specifically that surprised you? Katherine made the comment that a lot of people have "Aha!" moments when they do this. Kinda interesting. I don't know how important the Crayolas are, though I'm sure they can't hurt.

Debbie said...

Interesting. The dialogue with the Inner Heckler exercise brings up some similar things, too. But I have a brand new 96 box of Crayolas at home. Might be a fun and informative project.

I do know that it wasn't long after I finished college and started reading for fun again that I also started writing again.

-John said...

I think the surprise was the amount of what I wrote down. I had always had an inkling, but once I put it to paper, it was like the reveal of a mystery story, when all the clues come together at once, and there is a big "DUH!" moment.