Today’s guest blogger is Jeanne Law Bohannon, an Associate Professor of English and the Interim Director of Composition at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth through authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies; cultivating community engagement pedagogies; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at email@example.com and her KSU Faculty Page.
As I have reflected on some recent tweets calling out Spike Lee for his Oscar acceptance speech, I’ve also thought about how we, as teachers of writing, can affect positive rhetorical growth for our students as they too reflect on social justice and turning their thoughts into scholarly action. Our students depend on us to provide mentoring and writing opportunities that help them engage at cultural points of need. In today’s post, I want to invite readers to check out and contribute to an assignment series that engages students as public, digital researchers with a topic connected to civil and human rights.
Context for Assignment
By researching historical civil rights movements and then developing digital content curating the rhetorical activities within these movements, students gain a deeper understanding of human struggles and are able to insert their own voices into recovering and analyzing them for 21st-century contexts.
Measurable Learning Objectives for the Assignment
- Investigate a civil or human rights campaign
- Apply peer review as recursive writing process
- Create digital texts in a blogging genre for public audiences
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 texts. You will no doubt have your own to enrich this list.
- The St. Martin’s Handbook: Ch. 27, “Writing to the World”; Ch. 28, “Language that Builds Common Ground”
- The Everyday Writer (also available with Exercises): Ch. 26, “Writing to the World”; Ch. 27, “Language that Builds Common Ground”
- EasyWriter (also available with Exercises): Ch. 19, “Writing across Cultures and Communities”; Ch. 20, “Language that Builds Common Ground”
Digital Deliverables for Classroom Use
Students watch excerpts from a Civil Rights History video to introduce them to some key people and places connected to the 1960s movement. As a class group, students then choose two topics connected to the movement. Our class chose the Rich's Department Store sit-ins in Atlanta. Then, students divide into groups to craft two blog posts per group on people and places connected to their chosen civil rights topic (from either of the above sources), using the Blogging Guidelines. Drafting blog content can occur outside of class, but revision and editing are best-completed in-class. Use the Feedback Checklist to maximize effective peer time. If you can't get a computer lab (a frequent occurrence on my campus), host a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) day. Some of my students' best revisions are made on their tablets and phones! Budget time for at least one revision and two editing sessions, where students collaborate to research and insert tags, refine their conversational tones, design multimodal elements, check for accessibility and even integrate SEO analytics.
This assignment lends itself to digital, democratic learning and unique contributions across types of classes, because students choose their methods of composition, reflect on their process, and have the opportunity to present their work to their peers and publics.
Student Blog Examples
- Atlanta Student Movement Profile: June Davis – Luke Gardner
- Women in the Movement: Gwen Middlebrooks – Erin Fink
- Defending Student Activists: Donald Hollowell – Tiffany Davis
Check More Out...
Our class took these blogs a bit further and curated all of the blogs into a website: Anyone Sitting Here. Please also view a sample page: The Rhetorical Activism of Lonnie King. If your students have more content to add to our website, send it along, and we'll help get it published!
Our Reflections and Continued Work
Our class community engaged authentically with this assignment and it generated sustained work, writing and designing texts. The work brought all twenty of us together as a group, each person contributing expertise and learning from everyone else. Our research has resulted in a living digital archive and a student-produced visual timeline of the Movement’s genesis (special thanks to Kelly Key, John Phelps, and Madison Urquart). As Andrea Lunsford has taught us: our writing is valuable when we share it with the world. Try this assignment and get in touch with us to contribute to our academic website
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