Multimodal Mondays: Using Storify to Explore Topics

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This post was originally published on September 9, 2013.

Small, low-stakes multimodal activities are great for reinforcing many of the concepts covered in your handbook. Best of all, you and your students don’t have to learn sophisticated software or have access to advanced equipment in order to work on multimodal assignments.


Explore a topic with Storify

Background reading before class

Broaden students’ ideas of what it means to explore a topic by having them read the relevant chapter or section in their handbook before your class session:

Ask students to be ready to discuss the methods of exploration they have used successfully or that they would like to try.

In class

For students who aren’t familiar with Storify, explain that it’s a Web site that allows users to pull disparate pieces of information from social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, and more—and collect them to tell a single story. Users may then publish these stories and embed them on their own social media sites, personal blogs, or in e-portfolios. Some stories link elements with original text, but many don’t. Storify makes it easy to search for snippets of information on a topic and pull all the pieces together to see what results.You may want to walk through the tour of Storify in class. Look at one or two examples with your students; you can search for current topics of interest on Storify, or consider these:

  • The story “The rise and fall of the CNE’s cronut burger” tracks a food craze at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition—and the food-poisoning outbreak that followed. The story includes background on the cronut as well as reactions to the cronut burger posted before and after the outbreak.

As a class, you can develop some guidelines for what makes a good Storify post based on the examples you explore together. Consider discussing the following:

  • How does Storify compare with other exploration methods discussed in the background reading? How might methods such as freewriting or clustering work in conjunction with Storify?
  • Does the Storify format allow you to see the full scope of an issue? Why or why not?
  • What elements appear in these stories? How does including them enhance the story being told? What else might have been included?
  • How can Storify help you explore a topic you’re interested in?


For homework, ask your students to select a topic that interests them or a topic about which they will be writing for class, and then have them create a Storify post in which they explore the issue using pieces of information drawn from social media. Ask students to share their Storify posts with the class either by presenting them or by posting them to a shared space on your course management system or e-portfolio.

Reflection on the activity                 

Ask students to reflect on the activity, using questions like these as prompts for discussion or writing.

  1. How did you approach finding the different elements that you included in your Storify post? What keywords, hashtags, or other methods did you use to narrow or expand your search?
  2. Why did you decide to include the elements you did? What were the criteria you used in order to decide an element was worth including?
  3. Do you think your post gives a “full picture” of your issue? Why or why not?
  4. Do you think you could use your Storify post as a starting point for writing a longer academic essay? If so, how? If not, why not?
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.