Multimodal Mondays: Engaging Student Activism in Writing Classrooms

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Bohannon_Pic.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Jeanne Bohannon (see end of post for bio).


As many of my colleagues and student-scholars, I have spent the past few weeks ruminating on the culmination of our country's presidential election cycle. No matter where we live on a political continuum, I think we all agree that we need to provide spaces for and mentor all of our students to take their feelings and turn them into scholarly action. Today, I want to invite readers to checkout and contribute to an assignment series that engages students as public, digital researchers with a topic connected to civil or human rights.



Context for Assignment
Our students depend on us, no matter what happens, to provide mentoring and writing that helps them engage at a point of need. By researching historical civil rights movements and then developing digital content curating the rhetorical activities within these movements, students gain a deeper understanding of human struggles and are able to insert their own voices into recovering and analyzing them for 21st century contexts.

Measurable Learning Objectives for the Assignment

  • Investigate a civil or human rights campaign
  • Apply peer review as recursive writing process
  • Create digital texts in a blogging genre for public audiences

Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of reading and viewing visual texts are ongoing processes for attaining learning goals in dialogic, digital writing assignments. Below, I have listed a few foundational texts. You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list.

  • The St. Martin’s Handbook: Ch. 27, “Writing to the World”; Ch. 28, “Language that Builds Common Ground”
  • The Everyday Writer: Ch. 26, “Writing to the World”; Ch. 27, “Language that Builds Common Ground”
  • Writing in Action: Ch. 17, “Writing to the World”; Ch. 18, “Language that Builds Common Ground”
  • EasyWriter: Ch. 17, “Writing across Cultures”; Ch. 18, “Language that Builds Common Ground”


Digital Deliverables for Classroom Use

In-Class/Out-of-Class Work

Students watch excerpts from a Civil Rights History video to introduce them to some key people and places connected to the 1960s movement. As a class group, students then choose two topics connected to the movement. Our class chose the Rich's Department Store sit-ins in Atlanta.

Then, students divide into groups to craft two blog posts per group on people and places connected to your civil rights topic, using the Blogging Guidelines. Drafting blog content can occur outside of class, but revision and editing are best-completed in-class.

Use a Feedback Checklist to maximize effective peer time. If you can't get a computer lab (a frequent occurrence on my campus), host a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) day. Some of my students' best revisions are made on their tablets and phones! Budget at least one revision and two editing sessions, where students collaborate to research and insert tags, refine their conversational tones, design multimodal elements, check for accessibility and even integrate SEO analytics.

 This assignment lends itself to digital, democratic learning and unique contributions across types of classes because students choose their methods of composition, reflect on their process, and have the opportunity to present their work to their peers and publics.


Student Blog Examples



Check More Out...

 Our class took these blogs a bit further and curated everyone's blogs into a website: Anyone Sitting Here. Please also view a sample page: The Rhetorical Activism of Lonnie King. If your students have more content to add to our website, send it along, and we'll help get it published!

Our Reflections

Our class community engaged authentically with this assignment, writing and designing texts both before and after the recent election, which motivated us to continue our public work of civil rights recovery. The work brought all twenty of us together as a group, each person contributing expertise and learning from everyone else. We were even able to bring Lonnie King to campus to help us start a student organization dedicated to this work. As Andrea Lunsford has taught us: our writing is valuable when we share it with the world.


Try this assignment and get in touch with us to contribute to our academic website!


Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor of English in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies and critical engagement pedagogies; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: and

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.