Ikea the Argument

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One of my favorite class activities is Draw the Argument. On the first day that we discuss a reading, I have students get into groups and “draw” the argument of the essay, locating quotations that support their visual interpretation. The activity is always a success, whether because it switches registers to the visual, draws on the power of groups, or simply feels more like art class than writing class I can’t say. I just know it works. Last semester I created a new version of this activity using furniture assembly instructions from Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings giant. Because of Ikea’s global reach and “assemble it yourself” approach, these instructions are designed to be read by a global, polyglot audience. I begin by showing the class a set of Ikea instructions (usually the ones for the Billy Bookcase).  We “read” them as a class, interpreting the pictograms and the sequence of steps. Then students separate into groups and create a set of global “assembly instructions” for the reading we’re working on. The activity is great for all the reasons that Draw the Argument is great—but it adds more. Students must think about organization and sequence, both within the essay and within their own writing. I’m planning on using this one a lot more in coming semesters. If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you.
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.