Multimodal Mondays: What Counts as Multimodal? Flipping the Composition Classroom

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Bohannon_Pic-150x150.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Jeanne Bohannon.

I am teaching a five-week late summer composition class right now, which as my readers already know, is a break-neck race to the finish.  For classes like this one, I am on a continual search for innovative (i.e. quick and dirty) ways to engender students’ metacognition and rhetorical growth. In today’s post, I will describe how I take the concept of a flipped classroom and model it to fit a low-stakes, high cognition learning activity in creating deep understandings of classical rhetorical concepts.

My five-week English 1102 class is populated by a diverse group of students, as summer courses usually are. I share my course with first-year early adopters, transient enrollees from other universities, and a few non-traditional students who are returning to school after varying degrees of hiatus. We meet face-to-face twice a week, with online homework another two days per week.  Together, we had to figure a way to maximize critical reading and writing opportunities, while utilizing the hybrid course model of f2f and online.

Flipped classroom model, using digital discussion forums and new media visual rhetorics to encourage students’ metacognition of logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos.

Goals and Measurable Learning Objectives

  • Create rhetorical digital responses to peers
  • Demonstrate content understanding through community-driven, flipped content model
  • Apply understandings of kairos, ethos, pathos, and logos

Background Reading for Students and Instructors
Acts of reading and viewing visual texts are ongoing processes for attaining learning goals in democratic, digital writing assignments. Below, I have listed a few foundational texts. You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list. In addition to using Lunsford’s The Everyday Writer this semester, I am using Liz Losh and Jonathan Alexander’s Understanding Rhetoric.

Lunsford Handbooks.PNG

Before Class: Student and Instructor Preparation
Creating an academic dialogic requires some front-loaded preparation and design by instructors. For example, if the class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays face-to-face, we need to frontload content into discussion forums prior to the first weekly meeting to create the chance for independent content meaning-making and a post-forum to reflect on the week’s learning. For their part in the flipped model, students should be briefed at the beginning of the semester, and reminded frequently, of how to meet expectations of reading and posting. I have listed resources at the end of this post to help clarify the model for students.

In Class and Out

Understanding Rhetoric_Ch 2 Splash Page.PNGChapter Two in Understanding Rhetoric asks students to strategically read and explore the foundational classical terms, logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos. I want students to be able to also synthesize these concepts and apply meaning to personal and professional experiences to encourage a deeper knowledge.  Here’s what we do:

  1. I post the keywords and the reading assignment from the chapter in the week’s first discussion forum.
  2. Students define the keywords and use examples from their life experiences to demonstrate deep understandings.  Students also post visuals (such as ads) that demonstrate good or poor use of the four keywords.
  3. Students respond to each other in the forum, bouncing meanings and guiding peers, who may need extra community support. We use a course model of 300/100X2Q, which means that a student’s initial response in a forum should be around 300 words, and also that students should respond to at least TWO coursemates in 100 words or more, asking a question each time.  I have found that this model keeps the online conversations moving.
  4. In the next F2F class, students take turns leading our community talk of the keywords, using their textual posts, the visuals they posted, and the keywords themselves in their discussions.

Reflections on the Activity – Students

Here are some excerpts from students regarding their experiences with flipping:

“The flipped class exercise we did with the ads was very interesting. I enjoyed hearing people explain why they chose the images they did and how they interpreted different forms of rhetorical technique, because I saw different examples than those people pointed out. It was more interactive than just reading a post online and replying to it.” –

Roberta Bansah, Biology Major

“Well at first it was a shocker. Coming into this class I was thinking: English was one of my worst subjects, writing a lot of essays, which I was dreading… But the flipped class made me change how I actually saw English and how it could be different. I actually want to participate in class. This approach changed my attitude towards writing. I can see myself doing assignments in other classes.” – Eriol Saavedra, Engineering Major

My Reflection

Flipping a class and flipping authority to create metacognition opportunities “count” for me, in terms of multimodal composition, because they encourage students to use digital tools to become active stakeholders in their own learning and active participants in community-driven, new media conversations.

For more resources on flipping your classroom, check out Michele Houston and Lin Lin’s 2012 article, this Edutopia video, and an Educause White Paper.  

Guest blogger Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) department 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, critical pedagogies, and New Media theory; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne and

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment or be a guest blogger? 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.