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Multimodal Mondays: Do-It-Yourself Visual Appeals

posted: 11.11.13 by Andrea Lunsford

So far, most of these Multimodal Mondays assignments have focused on taking advantage of Web technology to facilitate reflection on the writing process or have encouraged students to analyze and create artifacts for the Web. This activity will ask students to think about composing visually using objects and events they encounter in their everyday lives.


To get students to compose and analyze visual appeals they encounter outside of class.

Background reading before class

  • Everything’s an Argument, Chapter 14, “Visual and Multimedia Arguments”
  • The St. Martin’s Handbook, section 8d, “Reading emotional, ethical, and logical appeals”
  • The Everyday Writer, section 13c, “Identify an argument’s basic appeals”
  • EasyWriter, section 3c, “Identifying basic appeals in an argument”

In class

Familiarize your students with the idea that visuals make appeals by analyzing some visuals in class together. The New York Times Lens blog devoted to photojournalism is a great source with rich potential for analysis. You could also bring in a range of publications—magazines, newspapers, art books—and divide them among the students. As a class, discuss the following questions:

  • Which visuals make effective emotional appeals? What makes them effective?
  • Which visuals make effective ethical appeals? What makes them effective?
  • Which visuals make effective logical appeals? What makes them effective?
  • Based on the group’s findings, what are general features of effective emotional, ethical, and logical appeals? Are some types of visuals (ads, news photos, fine art, charts, etc.) more suited to one type of appeal than to another? Why?

Ask them to take some of the visual appeals they’ve identified and write those appeals in text. Then, as a class, discuss how the visual appeals differ from purely written appeals. Why might writers choose to use visuals instead of text?


Before the next class meeting, have each student use cameras or camera phones to compose several visual appeals. Students might find and photograph a campus rally or capture signage on campus or take pictures of their friends enjoying lunch together. There’s no limit to how many different visuals each student brings to class, but everyone should try to create at least one example of each basic appeal. Divide the class into groups at your next meeting and ask students to present their work to each other and to decide as a group on one or two good examples of each kind of appeal.

Ask the groups to present their choices to the rest of the class, and have the class guess which appeal each visual is trying to convey.

Reflection on the activity

Ask students to reflect on the activity, using questions like these as prompts for discussion and writing:

  • What types of objects or activities did you look for in trying to find examples of each of the appeals?
  • Which of the appeals was hardest for you to convey visually? Why do you think that is?
  • Ultimately, how did you solve the problem of composing a visual that communicated this appeal?
  • Do you think any part of an argument you’re writing for class would be better made visually? Why do you think that is

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to for possible inclusion in a future post.

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