Multimodal Mondays: PechaKucha Proposals

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This blog was originally posted on February 23rd, 2015.

In many classrooms, multimodal presentations are becoming par for the (composition) course, and other Bits authors and Multimodal Mondays bloggers have shared ways to take presentations beyond PowerPoint (see "Multimodal Mondays: Composing Identities with Literacies Experience Timelines" and "When to Prezi" for examples).

Instructors are thinking not only about different types of presentations but about different ways—and contexts—to use presentations. Traditionally, presentations have been cumulative, a capstone on a well-developed research project. But presentations can also be useful tools for invention and for establishing a writing community in your classroom. Added benefits are building visual literacy and giving a platform for visual learners to brainstorm and share their ideas.


To present research proposals and build a writing community in a class PechaKucha Event.

Background reading before class

Ask students to plan for the presentation by reading relevant content from your handbook or rhetoric:

In class

For this activity, students will prepare a PechaKucha to present their research project proposals. (If you decide the 400 seconds of a full PechaKucha is too long, you may opt to have students collaborate on a presentation, or pair students who have similar topics and can be responsible for equal portions of the slides).Take the time in class to explain the PechaKucha format and show some examples of the presentations, plenty of which are available at the PechaKucha website; it’s likely you’ll find a presentation on the theme of your course or your assignment, if you have a limited focus. It might be useful to share that the PechaKucha format was developed by an architecture firm to prevent architects from talking too long about their work. This means that this kind of presentation has real-world implications and a place beyond the classroom, and that it can be exploratory and perhaps even a bit informal. PechaKuchas are also developed to be events, featured in global PechaKucha Nights, which means that the social context of the format is one of its essential aspects.

In class, students should approach this activity in two ways:

  1. Students should use the guidelines from your research project to consider their argument, the sources they will research, and their ideas for how they might support their arguments: giving context, offering rebuttals, exploring entry points into the conversations, explaining why the topic is relevant, etc. Remind students that this stage is exploratory; they can provide several options they might pursue.
  2. Students should also think about how they might present their ideas visually in the PechaKucha format. They might consider photographs from news sources, data charts that piqued their interest (and might be used as sources later), abstract images that represent their ideas or research plans, even “selfies” in which students position themselves in the context of their arguments. Encourage them to be creative!

Together, develop criteria for a good PechaKucha proposal. For example, you might consider questions like the following to develop your guidelines:

  • What is the benefit of providing visuals to share your ideas?
  • What counts as a “visual”? Pictures?  Words? Something else?
  • How should you organize your proposal to have the most impact on your audience?
  • What are the benefits to presenting your proposal in this format rather than writing a formal proposal? What are the challenges?
  • What are the advantages of presenting to your classmates? How should the audience engage with your presentation?


Ask students to develop and present (or record) their research project proposals in a PechaKucha-style presentation that they will share during your class’s PechaKucha Event.

You can choose to structure your Event as a continuous presentation, with students jumping up to give their ideas when it’s their turn, or you can choose to have students present individually or in small groups. Adding in breaks allows for questions, while a continuous loop might make students feel like they’re all part of the same presentation and might add to a looser atmosphere. Before the Event, have students submit their slides to you, and you can combine the slides, inserting a slide with the presenter name(s) before each proposal. Set the slides to advance every twenty seconds (check out the YouTube video below to learn about the basics of setting up a PowerPoint for the PechaKucha format).

Depending on your resources or goals, you might consider making the PechaKucha Event an occasion that expands beyond the classroom, much like the official PechaKucha Nights that occur in cities around the world. Perhaps you could schedule an event for multiple sections or your course so that students in different classes can share their ideas. It’s up to you! Regardless, making the proposal presentation more of an event will stress the importance of early planning and thinking for a research project and remind students that it’s not just about the final product—each step is important and event-worthy.

Reflection on the activity                 

Ask students to reflect on the presentations they and their classmates have created, using questions like these as prompts for discussion or writing:

  1. How did setting up the proposal in a PechaKucha format help you conceptualize your writing project? How did it challenge you?
  2. How will you use the audience’s interactions and questions as you move forward with your project?
  3. What would you do differently if you were to present your proposal again?
  4. What advice would you give to other students who are asked to do this assignment in the future?

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

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.