Today’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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website: Acts of Composition
Although we can do a lot to teach writing, most of us know that it is ultimately through habitual practice that students become better writers. We can structure activities that make our classrooms more conducive for learning, but it is the act of writing itself that promotes experienced learning. This kind of ritualized practice is the same for multimodal and visual storytelling.
I use visuals and images in my classes in many ways: I have students include them in their compositions as visual rhetoric, use them for invention activities, and to teach rhetorical analysis. I have students tell stories with and through images, text, sound, motion and incorporate them in many other multimodal texts and projects. While I promote visual activities throughout my classes, the semester-long Image-A-Day Challenge engages students in the ritualistic habits of visual storytellers along with metacognitive activities through active reflection.
There are many other similar “challenges” of this sort that involve participants in ritualistic creativity. For example, Project 365 challenges participants to take a photo every day for a year, Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) encourages writers to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days, or Inktober, where every October artists all over the world take on the drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. Famous artists such as Monet and Van Gogh valued ritualistic creativity and craft through painting and repainting the same haystacks (and other subjects) to extend their skills and better understand the shifting details one learns through practice and reflection.
This multimodal assignment is simple to integrate into any classroom structure and operates in the background along with other assignments in a class. I ask students to participate in the “Image-a-Day” Project in which they capture an original image every day of the semester. Students must compose the images themselves rather than pulling them off the internet or from other sources. This daily image work keeps them focused on the in the present and the reflective activities (on at midterm and final) asks them to look back and make meaning across the whole collection through connections and patterns. The images can stand on their own or can present as associated sequences. Ultimately, the images should engage their audience and tell their stories for the required period of time – the semester.
Background Readings and Resources
- The St. Martin’s Handbook
- The Everyday Writer with Exercises
- Easywriter with Exercises: Ch 5: 5b – Reflecting on your work
Steps to the Assignment
- Designate a place for students to archive their Image-a-Day galleries. My students curate them on course blogs in which they archive all their work in the class but they can also collect them through other photo sharing apps or websites, Google Drive, or even in Word documents. Teachers can choose the location and application that works best within their existing framework.
- Have students compose and store an image a day for every day of the semester (including weekends). I require them to compose, curate and digest the images each week and include purposeful captions on all their images. They should take into account visual narration, visual rhetoric and design aesthetic. I encourage students to compose in both in naturally occurring environments through an observational perspective and to try their hand at composing particular, intentional meanings. I give them credit for completion each week for accountability and as an incentive for ongoing participation.
- Students share their developing collections with others or choose one to contribute to a full class slide show (see previous MM post Grab and Go Galleries ) to give them ongoing opportunities to share their emerging stories.
- Midway through the semester, students reflect, in writing, in which they read across the series and look for patterns, ideas and connections between the images. These reflections ask them to move beyond the images in isolation and look at the ways the collection reveals something about their lives over a time.
- For their final reflection, they create a cross-linked reflection in which they once again reflect, in writing on the patterns, ideas, meanings over span of the whole term. They explain, to an outside audience, their processes and the meanings their collections reveal about their journey, their worldviews or ideas during this time. Within the reflective narrative, they present (or link to) associated images that also tell their story through a visual narrative.
- In addition to the written narrative, students create a self-advancing digital slideshow (2 minutes with accompanying copyright free music) in which they select and present representative images from their collection to tell their story. They include an engaging title and can include text to communicate layers of meaning and transitions.
- Conclude with a gallery showcase in which students briefly explain their narrative and what they have learned and play their slideshows.
Here, I've included a digital slideshow of the kind students produce, displaying representative images from my own Image-a-Day project:
Reflections on the Activity
At first, students complain about having to complete the assignment every day but they lean into it, as it becomes a habit. I include a daily reminder on their weekly schedule to keep them on task. They enjoy sharing their stories with others and learn about curation and selection as they compose and categorize their images. Like most reflective writing, they come to understand the connections between things that they might not have otherwise noticed. They also leave the class with a tangible catalog of a particular time in their lives – a virtual, multimodal slice of life.
Video Images by Kim Haimes-Korn