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Multimodal Mondays: Day in the Life: A DIY Assignment Using Immediate Media, Archives, and Animation to Engage Student-Scholars in Digital, Public Writing

posted: 11.3.14 by Andrea Lunsford

Students encounter public writing every day of their lives. While they are often critical consumers of such multimodal rhetorics, they more often need their teachers to guide them towards critical production of everyday public rhetorics. They need us to help them to decide invention—what it is they want to say; to discern arrangement and style—how are they going to say it; and to revise—prepare it for an audience who, like them, consumes more digital than printed texts.

If your students are like mine, they have a general distaste for “Dear Teacher” essays, preferring instead to produce critical compositions that carry meaning for them and their peers in popular culture. At SPSU, I have further found that students like to create performative texts on cultural topics of their choosing. While I understand, and usually agree, that self-choice of writing topics develops student stakeholders, in a first-year, first-semester composition course, students often need some structure while exploring cultural identities. The assignment I am writing about this week provides a DIY-packaged compromise that gives students opportunities to curate media from a specific cultural experience while maintaining the consistency that is sometimes necessary for first-year writing instruction. For this assignment, students will tweet, archive their tweets, then produce a 30-second expository animation that describes a “day in the life” of an identity they embody.

Assignment Goals:

  • Learn to effectively use Twitter as an invention tool
  • Learn to effectively use Storify as an archival tool
  • Learn to rhetorically articulate thoughts in 140 characters
  • Achieve meaning through critical organization of texts on-screen
  • Produce multiple texts that explore an identity within popular culture
  • Evaluate oneself and others for rhetorical delivery and invention

Background Reading for Students and Instructors:

Acts of reading and viewing visual texts on rhetorical elements are on-going processes for attaining learning goals in democratic, digital writing assignments.  Below, I have listed a few foundational texts.  You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list.


Before Class: Student and Instructor Preparation

Prior to assigning “Day in the Life,” I watch the bell hooks interview from the Media Education Foundation (or read the transcript). FYI—if you want to center more assignments around identity in popular culture, I suggest James Miller’s Acting Out Culture.

Our class then explores together what it means to embody identity(ies) as both individual and social processes. There is no need for a grand, theoretical discussion; we usually just talk about who we are in our different discourse communities, focusing on popular culture. However, you could also run this assignment using digital identities only, or even a specific identity.

To begin the assignment, everyone first agrees on a hashtag (#), because they will be tweeting!

In Class and/Or Out:

Students choose an identity that they already or might want to embody in either physical or digital spaces. They brainstorm their ideas with partners or in groups.  Then, they take 24 hours to tweet through their chosen identity, producing a minimum of 20 tweets, to describe immediate events that they observe or participate in through that identity. To make archiving easier, students tweet using the agreed-upon hashtag (#). The hashtag is important, because it directly informs part two of the assignment: archiving.

During the next class meeting, students use Storify, a free social-media archive, to rhetorically arrange and curate their tweets into a story that explains their “day in the life” through their chosen identity. If you don’t have access to a computer lab/classroom, students can complete this part in the library or on their own.

At the next class meeting, students use their curated tweet-stories to produce a 30-second animation that describes what they think are the significant parts of their identity stories. We use the program Go Animate, but there are many other free choices out there. Some of my students prefer Source Filmmaker.

Next Steps: Reflections on the Activity:

At the next class meeting(s), students present their final animations and justify the rhetorical choices they made at each step (about 1 minute per step). They discuss diction/audience/purpose and the Elements of Multimodalities. The entire community provides feedback during and after the demonstrations, engendering synthesis of our key terms for everyone.

This activity series is definitely DIY. You, as an instructor, don’t have to be fluent in ANY of the digital tools (but it always helps!). You can run this series using the help pages for Twitter, Storify, and Go Animate. You can run this series in-class or out. Try it and let me know what you think. Please view/use the instruction sheet (edit as you need) and view student samples here: Day in the Life Assignment Page.  Also, please leave me feedback on this page!

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

Guest blogger Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Southern Polytechnic State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become accountable for their own growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies, critical pedagogies, and New Media theory; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing student scholars. Reach Jeanne at:



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