Multimodal Mondays: Visual Analysis and Content Creation for Beginners in Two Parts

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317773_pastedImage_12.jpgToday's guest blogger is Jeanne 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

Here’s the reality: many of us are Gen-X’ers (or older), and we sometimes (often) feel overwhelmed when we try to navigate digital writing spaces. We may even feel like imposters. But from social media posts to their own Tumblr or blogging pages, students are always already writers in digital environments, and we know that our students need us to facilitate their emerging expertise in these spaces.


Here’s the good news: we can mentor our students to use the same rhetorical behaviors that we know how to teach, just mixing up the texts they produce through these behaviors. Try one or both of the assignments below, using the guidelines for analysis as feedback tools that are familiar to most of us already. Let me know what you think in the comments.


Measurable Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, students will be able to:

  1. Analyze visual arguments in multimodal writing environments
  2. Apply criteria for analysis to everyday pieces of digital, public writing
  3. Create digital content for public consumption (Part 2)


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 items from Andrea Lunsford’s texts. 


Assignment (Two-fold)

Part 1: In class, students choose a website, blog, or other electronic text to visually analyze using these criteria.

  1. Aesthetics — How does the piece look to you as the viewer?  Is it pleasing, disturbing, ineffective, what?  How would you describe it to someone who didn’t have your educational or social experience?
  2. Characterization — Who or what are the players that relate meaning in this piece?  How are they related to each other, to meaning, to the audience?  What is their purpose? What is the author trying to say through them?
  3. Structure — How does the author organize the piece?  Does it seem effective to you? Think about how this structure impacts negotiated meaning of the piece.
  4. Meta-Discourse — What does this piece say in its sub-text(s)?  How does the piece comment on itself?  What does the piece say about the genre in which it resides?
  5. Cultural Impact — What effect does the piece try to have on cultural constructs such as gender, race, class, age? Is it a re/mix or an original analysis of these constructs? Is its message negative or positive?


Part 2: Out of class, students develop a webpage or blog post based on Guidelines


Academic blogs serve many of the same purposes as traditional essays.  Further, they also have the same parts, such as:


  1. Introduction - In a blog, authors use conversation as a rhetorical tool to convey a message and engage with an audience. Introductions will also have a banner, header, or image "above the fold" (no scrolling) that invites the reader to engage with the topic.
  2. Thesis - You state your purpose outright. In a blog post, it is OK to write "this blog post will..[insert your verb here]. You may write explicit elements of your claim, but more often bloggers don't. So, you must be mindful of your post's organization and make sure you stay on-mission with your message.
  3. Support - In an academic blog, support for your claim comes in a diversity of multimodal content items.  Make sure you frame each piece of support, whether you use videos, podcasts, images, or GIFs, or alphanumeric text. You frame your support in your own voice.
  4. Conclusions - Academic blogs do, indeed, have conclusions! You should expect to wrap up your argument and support in no more than three sentences. Always include an invitation for commenting and feedback. Re-iterate your contact information.


Academic blogs also have a few additional required elements:


  1. Tags - By inserting tags in your post, you help searchers find your post among millions of others on the Internet. Think of tags as digital keywords that describe your main argument and topic.
  2. Working hyperlinks - In blogs, hyperlinks serve as visual elements and way-finders to create a multi-linear, interactive experience for your audience. Double check all hyperlinks in multiple browsers to ensure viability.
  3. Accessibility Compliance - You must caption all videos, provide alt-text for all images, and use color schemes that are readable by all audiences.  To review ADA compliance, check out: "Learn About Section 508" and also Bohannon's post, Multimodal Mondays: The Importance of Designing for Disability Considerations



Students may already have their own blogs or websites on which they write. For instructors looking for free options, try WordPress or Edublogs, which provide intuitive, easy-to-use templates for web-composing beginners.  I participated in a Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) initiative several years ago and found it to be a useful platform as well. Instructors may also find web hosting services on Wix and GoDaddy and even their own universities.


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.