Multimodal Mondays: What Do You Stand For?

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Headshot-of-Kim-Haimes-Korn.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn, a Professor of English and Digital Writing at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning and critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy, and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at or visit her website: Acts of Composition



There will never be a really free and enlightened state until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived.

~ Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849)

In my classes, I challenge students to practice strong critical reading strategies and to learn to locate themselves in a range of voices as they read and interact with texts. Many times, students stop at only interpreting the text at hand, but I encourage my students to also seriously consider the ways the texts integrate with their own thinking and lives. Strong critical reading and writing asks students to move back and forth between the text, context, and their own ideas. Critical thinking happens when we become aware of and engage with important cultural conversations and become engaged citizens on our own terms.

Please click on the slide above to see an example of a completed "What Do We Stand For?" slideshow.Please click on the slide above to see an example of a completed "What Do We Stand For?" slideshow.For this assignment I use Henry David Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience to frame our discussion and ask students, “What do you stand for?” Thoreau has inspired generations to consciously resist injustice and develop personal frameworks for action through peaceful protest, passive resistance, and taking a stand. Many have taken up the call to stand up for injustice, or what civil rights icon John Lewis calls “good trouble.”

We use the text as a starting place to discuss historical examples of civil disobedience such as the Boston Tea Party, Underground Railroad, civil rights sit-ins, women’s suffrage, the Stonewall riots, and other acts of courageous individuals who took a stand despite personal risk. Students work in teams to talk about their ideas and consider what is important to them at this time. They create a collaborative slideshow: What Do We Stand For: A Contemporary Response to Civil Disobedience. The goal is not to reach consensus but to work to create a list of issues and ideas for which they stand along with examples to support their ideas.

There is always a risk when we open our classrooms up to potentially controversial issues and multiple perspectives on hot-button cultural conversations. As teachers, we can choose to avoid or downplay these issues or to create safe spaces where we can engage in productive, civil discourse and heightened cultural awareness in which students explore their conscience. The purpose of this assignment is not to persuade others to change their minds or even to engage in the conversations themselves. Instead, it is about identifying the larger issues that are important to students and to begin to situate themselves within these conversations.




Steps to the Assignment

  1. Have students read Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (full text from Project Gutenberg).
  2. Ask them to compose 3 thought-provoking questions and pick one passage from the text to include on a team Google Doc.
  3. Teams discuss questions and passages and work to interpret the text.
  4. Move to full class discussion in which students share passages and ideas.
  5. Present and discuss historical and personal examples of civil disobedience.
  6. Instruct students to gather in teams and discuss what they currently stand for as a group. Explain that the purpose of the assignment is not to persuade but to identify these cultural conversations and decide what is important to them.
  7. Create a Google slideshow, titled “What Do We Stand For?” Each team posts a bulleted list to a Google slideshow template (one slide for each team). Click here to see an example.
  8. Ask students to include a representative, copyright free image on their slide. (This is also a good time to teach students about searching and identifying copyright free images and using Creative Commons.)
  9. Each team then presents their slide and ideas to the class as students build upon each other’s ideas.


Reflections on the Activity

This activity is quite simple in structure but impactful in its depth. It gives all students an opportunity to have their voices heard and to consider what is important to them as individuals and as a group. It engages them in the cultural conversations and asks them to consciously explore their relationships to these ideas. Many people identify this generation of students as apathetic and unaware. This assignment demonstrates that this notion could not be further from the truth. It also helps students realize how to be morally responsible citizens and consider ways to stand up for what they believe. By engaging in these conversations, students find the courage to speak their minds and engage in civil public discourse in productive ways. Through critical reading and thinking, they understand that change begins with the individual and that it is important to stand up, not just stand by.

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.