Multimodal Mondays: Post-It on the Wall for an Ice-Breaker Activity

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Today's guest blogger is Jeanne Bohannon, 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

At the start of each semester, I am nervous. I don’t sleep well the night before classes start, and I try to be early on the first day. If I feel this way, I am certain students do as well. It must be something about fear of the unknown, or maybe just the need to make a good first impression. Either way, I know that we both need an ice-breaker to get our first day conversations off to a positive start.  In today’s Multimodal Mondays post, I describe an activity I use to start productive conversations about writing on the first day of class; I am also interested to hear yours! Check out the listicle below for activity instructions, outcomes, and ideas on how to engage with students in a class community from first-year composition to upper division writing courses.


Measurable Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, students will be able to:

  1. Describe how their own writing informs their professional interests
  2. Engage with classmates and instructors in discussions of writing genres
  3. Compare their writing styles to classmates and their instructor


Background Reading for Students and Instructors
312861_pastedImage_10.pngActs 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. 1, “Expectations for College Writing” and Part 6, “Effective Language”
  • The Everyday Writer: Ch. 3, “Rhetorical Situations” and Part 4, “Academic, Professional, and Public Writing”
  • EasyWriter: Ch. 1, “A Writer’s Choices” and Part 2, “Writing that Works”


The Post-It Note Ice-breaker

Multimodal often makes us think of all things digital. For this activity, we need to think low-tech and kinesthetic learning. Think of this as a sense of presence and community while gearing up for modeling class discussions for the semester from Day 1.  


Here’s what you need:

  1. Post-it or sticky notes of different colors and sizes
  2. Pens, pencils, or markers
  3. Tape, just in case the notes don’t stick
  4. Signs printed or written with categories (see below)


Hands-on multimodal activities makes us present in the moment of the classroom.


Here’s what you do:

  1. Type or write categories of analysis and place them on three walls in the classroom
  2. Frame the activity: Let’s get to know each other and the types of writing we like to produce. On each wall, you’ll see a type (or genre) of writing: personal (like diaries and journals); public (like blogs and listicles); and creative (like poetry and stories). Take three sticky notes and write down your name and what you like to write that fits into one or more of these categories. Then, place your notes in the corresponding category on the wall. I’ll join you and post mine too. Ok…go!
  3. Allow 6-10 minutes for students to write and post their notes on the walls.
  4. Gather the large group back together and ask for volunteers to name their writing. If you have a group of shy students, you can start with your own notes!
  5. Visually check which categories have the most or least notes and talk about why. A trending topic my classes have found interesting over several semesters has been discussing the intersections between personal and public writing, especially when we think about social media and how today’s writers interact on public writing platforms.



I have found that this first-day activity helps to introduce students to me and to each other. We also can see where our classmates place themselves in terms of writing genres. Students have also reported that this activity helps them situate themselves in the writing class and makes them feel less self-conscious about interacting with me. We might call it self-disclosure meets composition J


Stay tuned for Part Two of a post-it note activity – the Fishbowl.


Do you have an idea for a Multimodal Mondays activity or post? Contact Leah Rang for a chance to be featured on Andrea's blog.

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.