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274 Posts authored by: Andrea A. Lunsford Expert


Last week I had an opportunity to visit with colleagues and students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. It has been some years since I was last there and I was amazed to see how the campus has grown—up to 65,000 students! As a kid growing up in Florida, I had only the U of Florida and Florida State to choose from (and Florida State was just moving to co-ed!), so seeing all the new campuses that have grown up over the decades is impressive indeed.


I was glad to see the Department of Writing and Rhetoric (no longer part of English) thriving and met some grad and undergrad students who told me the Department’s mission resonated with them:

Everyday life in the 21st century involves composing and understanding complex messages in multiple media and in varied contexts. In order to address challenges related to composing, rhetoric, and literacy in school, workplace, civic, and community settings, Department of Writing and Rhetoric (DWR) faculty engage in innovative research and teaching, often collaborating with students as well as community and campus partners to undertake this work. Additionally, as a department, we provide academic and public leadership on writing-related issues.
Students in our undergraduate and graduate programs receive a comprehensive education in writing and rhetoric that enables them to communicate effectively, persuasively, and ethically across a range of civic, professional, and educational contexts.

The Department offers a BA in Writing and Rhetoric and an MA in Rhetoric and Composition as well as a Professional Writing Certificate—and oversees the First Year Composition Program and The University Writing Center. I was on campus to address the Department faculty and students, and the person who brought me to campus thoughtfully let me out right at the door to the new building the Department occupies. I was to wait for her to return from parking, but once inside I spotted The Writing Center and made straight for the entry. The young woman at the reception desk welcomed me and introduced me to grad student tutors and gave me a tour of the light and airy—and spacious—Center. Throughout this post are a few photos of the Center.


From the Center, I got to tour the Department offices and take a look at the curriculum. I was particularly impressed with their outcomes statement and with their assignments for both Writing 1101 and 1102, especially when I got to read examples of student work. For the first course, I read essays that had been published in their Stylus: A Journal of First-Year Writing, notably Julie Wan’s “Chinks in My Armor: Reclaiming One’s Voice”; Shravan Yandra’s “Note-Taking Involving Native and Modern Languages: A Detailed Analysis of My Code-Meshing”; and Jaydelle Celestine’s “Did I Create the Process? Or Did the Process Create Me?” These essays engaged me thoroughly—they were well thought-out, well written, and managed to balance traditional research with personal experience offered as (powerful) evidence.


Students I spoke with were enthusiastic about the courses they were taking, which is always refreshing when those courses happen to be required. Writing about the program, one student said

The writing program is really a journey into the art and science of communication. I thought I knew what to expect, but I was utterly and pleasantly surprised. This isn’t your mother’s comp program—this is ‘take it to the real world’ stuff.


The day I visited UCF was November 6, mid-term election day. I spoke with students about their writing and how they hoped it could help them get their voices heard. Some had managed to vote on campus, but others who came from out of state had not voted: they promised to look into absentee voting in the future (!). But what an uplifting experience it was to visit yet another outstanding writing program, to know that in the face of so much negativity and division and, yes, even hate, that writing teachers are keeping faith, continuing to engage and inspire writers to write honestly, think critically, and speak their own truths.


Image Credit: Andrea Lunsford


I’m writing this post on November 5, the day before midterm elections, 2018, and writing with my heart in my mouth. Tomorrow, as I’m speaking to instructors and students at the University of Central Florida, our country will be making momentous decisions, from coast to coast, about the kind of citizens we want to be, about the kind of leaders we want to elect, about the kind of country we want our children and grandchildren to live in, and about the kind of language, discourse, and argumentative strategies we want our leaders, and our citizens, to adopt. To say I’m nervous doesn’t begin to describe this state of anxiety.


So tonight I am thinking of other times, other places, and specifically about the early days of this much-hoped-for democracy. I’ve had occasion to do so because this weekend I met my grandnieces, now 14 and 11, in New York for a weekend of theater. I had seen Hamilton when it first arrived on Broadway but not since; the girls had not seen it BUT know every single word of every song in the show, complete with accents and hip-hop beats. They were beside themselves with excitement as we walked the ten blocks or so from our hotel to the theater and waited in line to take our seats. The moment Aaron Burr stepped forward to sing

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten
Spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

they were mouthing the words along with him, and they stayed on the edges of their seats through the entire three-hour show. And what do they think the show is about? They are pretty well up on the history, I was very glad to know; they have Miranda’s Hamilton book and read the essays in it along with his annotations of some of the key lines. Along with the rest of the crowd, they cheered when they heard

There would have been nothin’ left to do
For someone less astute
He woulda been dead or destitute
Without a cent of restitution
Started workin', clerkin' for his late mother's landlord
Tradin’ sugar cane and rum and all the things he can’t afford
Scammin' for every book he can get his hands on
Plannin' for the future see him now as he stands on (ooh)
The bow of a ship headed for a new land
In New York you can be a new man

(and a new woman too, they said). And later they stood and cheered when they heard “Immigrants: we get the job done!”


So they know some of this very complex history of our early democracy, and they understand that they too are immigrants, that all Americans except for indigenous people are immigrants. And Hamilton has helped them understand this concept and apply it to their own lives—and to the arguments swirling around them and all of us.


Whatever happens tomorrow, I will be glad to have seen Hamilton again and to have had a chance to talk with young people about what they see in this play, what they hear in its lyrics and view in its moving choreography. And to have thought about what immigrants have brought to this country, and will continue to bring if we allow them to. We could do a lot worse right before this election than to listen to—and really hear—Miranda’s lyrics. When I meet instructors and students at UCF tomorrow, I’m going to ask how many have seen Hamilton or listened to the soundtrack—and hope that a sea of hands goes up.


Image Credit: (Public Domain)

Milya MaxfieldToday's guest blogger is Milya Maxfield, an instructor in the Academy of Inclusive Learning and Social Growth and a writing center professional at Kennesaw State University. She has a BSW and an MAT in Secondary English Education, and her experiences working with individuals with disabilities inside and outside the classroom have shaped her areas of study, combining her love of digital spaces, writing, differentiation, and accessibility.


At its core, the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth at Kennesaw State University and the Advanced Leadership and Career Development (ALCD) program are designed to be “fully inclusive” and help “students who do not meet higher-education requirements for admission” integrate into the general student population, giving them similar experiences and socialization to those of their peers. These shared experiences make an enormous difference as they leave college and enter the workforce (Migliore, Butterworth, & Hart, 2009).


I developed this Communication Story Assignment for the internship class that Academy students take in the first year of the ALCD program. A communication story in the context of this assignment is an easily customizable, generally digital tool that individuals with disabilities use to teach others strategies for effectively and respectfully communicating with them (Pouliot, Müller, Frasché, Kern, & Resti, 2017). Students work on this project for the entire semester, completing mini-assignments and homework every week. The final product in my class is a 2-4 minute video and includes four main components: an introduction, their story, tips for communicating, and a conclusion.


VERY IMPORTANT: If you are doing this activity with students with diagnosed disabilities, make sure that they feel comfortable self-disclosing. Reiterate that they only need to discuss their disabilities if they want to.


Learning Outcomes

Upon completing the assignment, students will be able to

  • Record and edit footage using everyday technologies, such as their phones and tablets.
  • Advocate for themselves using their Communication Story to negotiate a healthy and productive working environment.

Note: Learning outcomes may vary beyond these initial two because scaffolding and differentiation are critical to this assignment’s success.


Background Reading for Students and Instructors

  • The St. Martin's Handbook: 16d, "Considering Visuals and Media"; 17b, "Writing to be Heard and Remembered"; 17d, "Practicing the Presentation"
  • The Everyday Writer (also available with Exercises): 3b, "Plan your Text's Topic and Message"; 3c, "Consider your Purpose and Stance as a Communicator"; 3e, "Think about Genres and Media"; 3f, "Consider Language and Style"
  • EasyWriter (also available with Exercises): 1c, "Considering the Assignment and Purpose"; 1e, "Reaching Appropriate Audiences"; 1g "Considering Time, Genre, Medium, and Format"



Prewriting and Planning

  1. On the first day of class, we have a class discussion about what my students find challenging in their internships and jobs, particularly those difficulties which involve communication (and miscommunication).
  2. I show my students two videos: Disability Sensitivity Training and Young Stroke Survivor with Aphasia: Laura.
  3. We discuss what components of the videos we liked and what we might want to implement in our own videos.
  4. Using the "Do This, Not That" Graphic Organizer, students write:
  • What people should do or not do when communicating with them
    Example: Use my name when you want to talk to me.
  • How individuals can implement these tips
    Example: Start a sentence or instructions by saying, “Milya...”
  • Why doing these things would help them to better communicate
    Example: Sometimes I don’t know that people are talking to me because I’m so focused on doing my own thing.
  • How it makes them feel when individuals accommodate these communication strategies
    Example: I know that the person really wants to talk to me and values what I have to say.


Write, Write, Write, Revise, Revise, Revise

  1. Students expand the “Do This, Not That” graphic organizer entries to build the first draft of their scripts:
    Example: When you want to talk to me, start your sentence with my name, Milya. Sometimes, I don’t know that people are talking to me and it seems like I’m ignoring you when I’m really not. Signaling that you want me to be a part of the conversation makes me feel like you value my opinion and want me to participate.
  2. Students are put into pairs and given a cut-up version of the transcript of the Young Stroke Survivor with Aphasia: Laura video. After they piece it back together, we have a class discussion about what information each piece of the script contains and why they decided to put the pieces in the order that they did.
  3. Based on the order and information the class decides on, we build an outline for what each section of their videos should include:
    Introduction: name, major, year in school, career aspirations, relevant interests
    Story: who they are, how they got there, and why they are making this video
    Tips: 3-5 of their best tips for communicating (either dos or don’ts) with justifications
    Conclusion: most important takeaway and a thank you
  4. Before students begin filming, they peer review each other’s scripts.


This is the part of the assignment that is most variable depending on what your final product looks like and which technologies you plan to use. Almost all of my students used the cameras on their phones, tablets, or laptops to record themselves. While some edited in additional content, such as pictures or additional videos, most recorded the video in one take and did not use any video editing software to make changes.



The number of ways to scaffold and differentiate this assignment are as unique and varied as your students, but here are a few suggestions that worked for mine:

  • Allow students to handwrite, type, or dictate using a speech-to-text program.
  • Provide a list of possible tips for students to choose from.
  • Use additional graphic organizers to help students write their scripts, especially the introduction and the conclusion.


Because this assignment was designed for an internship class, it needed to have immediate, tangible, practical application for the students. More than helping others communicate with them, this assignment was designed to help my students identify and address communication barriers in a proactive, productive way. On the first day of class, one of the things we talked about was how we cannot control how others interact with us, but we can choose how to interact with them. Most of my students feel hurt when they are treated differently, so they were thrilled at the opportunity to help others “treat them normally.” From listening to their struggles—and from struggling myself to find alternate ways of explaining concepts in class—I’ve learned just how much the environments they interact with are not designed for them. As I have searched for resources to assist my students, I realize they have to accommodate others far more often than they are accommodated. While I hope creating this video is indeed a learning experience for my students, I also recognize that by interacting with them and learning to see from their points of view, I may be the one who benefits most from the project.



Pouliot, D.M., Müller, E., Frasché, N.F., Kern, A.S., Resti, I.H. (2017). “A tool for supporting communication in the workplace for individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or autism.” Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals. 40(4) 244-249. doi: 10.1177/2165143416683927


Migliore, A., Butterworth, J., Hart, D. (2009). “Postsecondary education and employment outcomes for youth with intellectual disabilities.” Think College: National Center for POstsecondary Education for Students with Intellectual Disabilities. Vol. 1.


Have you seen the Heineken ad that aired in the UK last year, the one that ended with “Open Your World”? If not, it’s worth a quick look here. I’ve been thinking about this ad a lot during the past couple of weeks, as Trump lurches from one outlandish, chest-thumping, ranting rally to the next, as pipe bombs are delivered to leading Democrats all over the country, as anti-Semitic slurs and threats are hurled, along with murdering bullets, at worshipers. Is it possible, in such times, to open your own world, or to open anyone else’s?


Heineken thinks it is, and in the experiment that the ad reports on, they show how. Six people, with radically opposed viewpoints on everything from climate change to transgender issues, are put into three pairs. The people do not know each other and do not know what the experiment is really about: what they do know is that they have met and spoken with the organizers a bit, and they have agreed to meet and to build something together, using instructions given to them by the organizers. And so the pairs get their marching orders and begin to work, assembling tables and chairs—building things. They chat as they work and get to know each other, sharing sometimes very personal information: one man reveals that he has experienced homelessness, for example. Then they are asked to stand and watch a brief video, which features statements they made when first speaking with the organizers. One pair, a trans woman and a conservative older male, are particularly memorable: on the video, she reveals that she is transgender; he opines that transgender is “just not right.” After they watch the video together, the organizers give them another instruction: take two beers out of a cooler (it’s a beer ad, after all) and place them on the structure they had built together. Then decide whether to sit and talk over a beer—or to leave.


Each pair decides to stay and talk, and during that talk the man who had been adamantly opposed to accepting trans people says “I’ve been brought up in a way where everything is black and white―but life isn’t black and white” and they go on from there, the woman saying “Well, I’m just me.” They exchange information and decide to stay in touch. Perhaps the world has opened a bit for this particular man, and for others who participated in this experiment.


I’m hoping to watch this video with a class of students and ask them to write a reflection on it immediately after and then use those reflections for some class discussion on listening, on really attending to other people. I’d like then to come back to the ad after six or seven weeks and watch it again, and reflect again, this time noting ways in which the students’ attitudes and ways of seeing and hearing and understanding the ad may have changed or become more complex.


I’d also like to ask them to consider what difference it may have made that the pairs were asked to work cooperatively on a project together and that they were doing so face to face, in real time. Can they begin to think of their work in peer review or on collaborative writing assignments as an opportunity to make something together, to build a word-house they can all inhabit? At its best, such work can open worlds. And minds. It’s work teachers of writing are always committed to.


Image Credit: Pixabay Image 3737229 by rawpixel, used under a CC0 Creative Commons License

My Life with Charles Billups and Martin Luther King: Trauma and the Civil Rights Movement. You will not know this book because it hasn’t been published yet. In fact, it might never have been published had it not been for the brilliant persistence and effort of Keith Miller, one of my heroes in our field. You do probably know Miller’s work—his books include Martin Luther King's Biblical Epic: His Great, Final Speech and Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources, and his essays on King, Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, Frederick Douglass, C.L. Franklin, and Fannie Lou Hamer have appeared in our field’s best journals. And if you know Miller personally, then you’ll know that saying he is “persistent” is a vast understatement: an absolute ferret for information, Keith will follow a research thread to the ends of the earth—if it relates to social justice and freedom.


It’s this persistence (I’m guessing) that led him to Helene Rene Billups Baker, daughter of Charles Billups and author of the book noted above. Baker had never written about her father, a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement and a major leader in Birmingham whom King sought out for advice and counsel. She says she had never written about him—and had not talked much about him either—because of the trauma she lived through in her childhood and young adulthood, trauma that effectively silenced her. A near-death experience made her rethink that silence, however, and the result is this book, which Miller is publishing. A mesmerizing storyteller, Baker lets us see Billups as his daughter knew him, observe him as he takes on major leadership in Birmingham, fear for him as he organizes protests, watch with horror and admiration as he prays for those who beat, torture, and almost murder him, and tremble as he faces Bull Connor’s dogs and firehoses, telling them to “Turn on the hoses! Turn loose the dogs! We will stay here ’til we die!” As Baker tells it, her “daddy was shedding tears when he told Bull Connor that nobody was moving.” When the firefighters refused to turn on the hoses, telling Connor to “turn them on yourself,” it marked what some call the “spiritual climax” of the entire Birmingham campaign and illustrated the power of nonviolence.  It also left his daughter deeply traumatized and fearful, desperately determined to protect her father. 


When Keith sent me the manuscript of this book, I literally could not put it down: I read it straight through, and then read it again, time traveling back to Baker’s childhood and trying to see events through her young eyes. Baker is determined to tell her father’s story, to make sure that people remember him for the hero he was, and to honor that memory. And he comes to life in her pages; we get to know him through his daughter’s words.


I’ve been thinking a lot about writing assignments and have written recently about the University of Oklahoma’s program assignments, which ask students to (among other things) look closely at a group they belong to and reflect long and hard on how that group influences and informs their values and their thinking and their practices. I wonder how many students, in responding to such an assignment, which calls for meta-cognitive assessment and self-reflection, take a look at their family’s past, at their ancestors, as Baker does in writing about her father. I know, for example, that my great grandfather fought, in Tennessee, on the side of the North in the Civil War and that he and his wife had my grandmother when he was in his 50s; she used to tell me stories of sitting on their porch listening to him and other soldiers who had been through the war talking about those times. But that’s about all I know. What if I used the same persistence Miller has shown in pursuing research to learn as much as possible, not just about my great grandfather but about the regiment he fought with, the battles they were in, the Tennessee Smoky Mountain region he returned to, and its inhabitants at the time? What might I be able to learn that would help me think more deeply and critically about my own beliefs and values, about how they developed and where they came from? And how might that help me think about and try to understand the values held by other people and other groups? It’s a task I’d like to undertake!


I know that many teachers of writing encourage students to engage in this kind of self-reflective research that often includes ethnographic research as well as archival research and that such projects often result in the kind of writing that builds agency in students and helps them experience the power of writing to change them and to change the world. In these soul-destroying times, I can think of no better way to resist nihilism, not to mention deep depression, than to engage in such teaching and learning.


P.S. When Baker’s book becomes available, I will write another post on it; I think you’ll want to read it!


Image Credit: The Birmingham News via KKK savagely beat her father who then taught lesson in forgiveness (video) |


I’m just back from a week in London, and what a week it was! Highlights included a massive exhibit on Oceania at the Royal Gallery; a tour of architect Sir John Soane’s amazing house/museum, with its hundreds of paintings and sculptures, including the entirety of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress; and FIVE plays in six days. I saw Andre Holland in Othello (with the inimitable Mark Rylance as Iago) at the Globe and a modern musical adaptation of Twelfth Night that I’ll never forget, along with Everybody’s Talking about Jamie (look it up!) and a fabulous production of Mrs. Dalloway at a small local theater, with five actors taking all the parts. Food for the mind and the soul.


All this theater got me thinking about my great good fortune in teaching at the Bread Loaf Graduate School of English at the Vermont campus, with its magnificent theatrical productions every summer. Led by Brian McEleney from Trinity Rep, the group includes Equity actors from Trinity as well as students and faculty at Bread Loaf, and together they mount an entire production from start to finish in five weeks: it is miraculous, and I’ve seen some of the best theater of my life there. Last summer, Brian adapted Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities as a play, and the result was galvanizing, as the production spoke directly to the political situation we find ourselves in today. It was, again, something I’ll never forget, and, again, it made me think of how important it is for students to see plays as more than words on a page, as something a playwright has made, crafted, shaped, and gifted us with.


My hostess and friend in London, Julia Rowntree, is famous for making things, and especially things in clay. She is passionate about the need for all of us to connect to the world through our hands and sees claymaking as one crucial way to do so. She’s been at this work for decades, and her Clayground Collective has been highly influential in Britain’s cultural landscape, bringing claymaking projects into schools all over the UK and sponsoring innumerable community projects. For example, in 2015 the Collective’s canal-based project, Clay Cargo, sponsored a weekend during which 3,000 people built A Monument to the City and its Anonymous Makers using 5 tons of clay and erected it beside the Regent’s Canal at Granary Square in King’s Cross. 3,000 people doing claymaking! (You can see a film about this project here, and you can find out much more about the Collective in a recently-published book of Julia’s, Clay in Common, available on Amazon.)


I share Julia’s enthusiasm for making and for the makers’ movement, which is associated in this country with the participatory culture that Henry Jenkins and others have documented so extensively. More to the point of this blog, however, I believe that writing is an important form of making. In fact, we used to write on clay—and artists, of course, still do. Whatever we write on, we are shaping, crafting, forming ideas, concepts, arguments, dreams: we are part of those anonymous makers Julia and her colleagues celebrate.


I don’t think our students often think of writing in this way, however, and to that end we have work to do. In our classes, in our tutoring, and in our mentoring we need to present and represent writing in this light: as something we make with our hands and our brains, and as something we set out in the world for others to engage with, respond to, and enjoy. Maybe it’s time to bring some clay tablets to our classrooms and see what happens!


Image Credit: Pixabay Image 690404 by Free-Photos, used under a CC0 Creative Commons License

Today’s guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is 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.

One of the most valuable skill sets for students is collaboration. Multimodal tools open up opportunities for rich collaborative spaces that give students experience working together in productive ways. Digital collaboration also provides opportunities for engaged learning and the sharing of technological and design knowledge.


I emphasize this across all of my classes and group my students into Content Design Teams for the semester to encourage cohesive group identity along with an ongoing commitment and team responsibility. In these teams, students compose, review, and revise all kinds of interactive, non-linear digital projects such as blog posts, infographics, interactive feature articles, and videos. Students provide ongoing feedback on multimodal projects and work together to brainstorm and pitch ideas, form peer response groups, and write collaboratively for engaged team projects.


Background Reading for Students and Instructors



The Assignment

Below are some strategies and activities that promote group cohesion and productive digital collaboration for multimodal classrooms.


  • Team Organization: Each team creates a Google Drive space for team organization, workshop feedback, and collaborative writing. Part of their work as writers is learning how to communicate, organize, and write in these , collaborative spaces. Students are responsible for attending and participating in all team meetings, managing the team communication, and evaluating their group members’ team participation and contributions. This sets them up nicely for professional, collaborative contexts that they will experience in the future. As the teacher, I can easily review their progress and accomplishments through shared folders and organized team space.
  • Minutes – Team History and Resolution: Each team is required to record the happenings during their meetings with  minutes. This teaches them how to record discussions, shape action items, and share their accomplishments with others. They learn to compose professional communication artifacts and about the importance of curating written documentation for historical accuracy. Doing this during the meeting (on a Google doc) provides an open space for members to refer back to in order to complete tasks, manage deadlines, and build community.  
  • Establishing Group Cohesion through Visual Identity: At the beginning of the term, students create a collaborative slideshow for their team files. Each student posts an individual picture (that represents their identity) and a short profile to introduce themselves. They also include contact information for their records to promote communication.
    I also ask students use Team Selfies. This started by accident but led to some interesting discoveries. I was at a professional conference and had my students working in their content design teams while I was out of town. I got the idea to have them text me a group selfie while they were meeting. At first, it was a way of confirming students were meeting but it morphed into an important multimodal component in establishing group cohesion. I now have them take one each time they are meeting and incorporate it into their minutes or revision logs.

    Team Selfies create group identity and cohesion.

  • Digital Revision Logs for Peer Response: Students meet together outside of class as a team for peer response sessions on their digital projects. Teams create a Google doc for each session that includes an image of their meeting (all attending members) and a list of suggestions for each review. Team members are prepared to offer lists of strengths along with revision suggestions. These Digital Revision Logs create a reference document that demonstrates participation in the process. After the meetings, each student refers back to the document, makes revisions, and then records their changes as a follow-up. This process of articulation reveals their writing choices and helps teachers see changes in their digital texts (since digital drafts are replaced upon revision).

  • Team Evaluation: Having these documents and organizational spaces helps teachers evaluate collaborative work. So much of the valuable work happens when we are not around to view it. I have students evaluate each other’s performance two times during the semester with a team evaluation rubric and collaborative process reflections. I also use visual process reflections (described in detail in Multimodal Mondays: Digital Collaboration: Infographics as Process Reflections) where students visually represent their team’s processes and collaborative models. This level of accountability keeps students motivated along the way and helps them realize they are responsible for active participation and leadership roles.



This activity helps students take responsibility for their work and teaches them how to value the processes and tools that make up team organization. As a student, Tiffany Davis states, “The Content Design Teams help me get a more well-rounded feel for my creative articles. My team members help encourage and inspire me to become a better writer with their feedback and suggestions. Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying this process and workshop atmosphere.” Today, more than ever, students work in  collaborative environments through remote access and teams that operate without physical presence. Our expectations for clear communication and cohesive teams will lead students to more productive collaborative work. Students will encounter many future academic and professional contexts that demand this knowledge and use of these digital skills.


I’ve had a chance during the last month to visit several college campuses and I have come away so impressed with what’s going on across the country in terms of innovative writing pedagogy. Certainly that was the case last week when I visited my old alma mater, Ohio State, for an alumnae board meeting and had the chance to visit with Scott DeWitt, who heads up the Digital Media and Composition Program there (and has served as vice chair for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy as well as the DMAC Institute that brings students and scholars from around the country to Columbus every summer to learn how to use media most effectively in the teaching of writing and speaking).


I got to hear about a new course Scott has developed, one that features internships that call for digital media applications. In the course he is teaching now, he has four teams working on projects: one focused on undergraduate students and their experiential stories; one focused on faculty, who tell stories about their fascinations and obsessions; one that produces podcasts intended for faculty, staff, and students; and one that focuses on alumnae. Called “Mapping Alums,” this project records alumnae telling stories of their time as students and embeds these stories on an interactive object map. I think there are 20 students in the class, which personally seems a little too big to me—15 would be more manageable—but Scott is managing it with his usual enthusiasm and absolute dedication to student-initiated learning.


In addition to this exciting project, Scott has an idea for “storytelling for engineers,” which would aim to show engineers how much they need to rely on narrative to get their points across: sounds like another winner to me!


These projects are all taking place at the initiative of the Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy faculty, but they are doing so within the Department of English at Ohio State. More than almost any English department I’ve visited in the last several years, Ohio State’s is determined to reverse the enrollment decline by offering courses like the one Scott is teaching, courses that put students in the driver’s seat and support them as they take powerful messages out into the world. The Narrative and Medicine project (spearheaded by James Phelan) is another such effort, as is a new program that combines English and Math. If English departments are going to prosper, these are exactly the kinds of projects they need to undertake, ones that take advantage of the “participatory turn” in learning and that focus on what students can achieve, especially when working collaboratively.


Before I left, I got to visit the graduate “Lunsford lounge” (I spoke with one grad student who says she spends hours there every day since it is a quiet place to work away from her two teenage kids!) and saw the redesigned English office. I well remember entering that office 46 years ago when I began my PhD journey at Ohio State. For 45 of those years it has looked exactly the same, but no more! What a spruce up it has undergone, as these photos show.


I’d love to hear about innovative new curricular projects – and see photos of redesigned spaces. Please send!



Image credit: Andrea Lunsford

Andrea A. Lunsford

Focusing on Style

Posted by Andrea A. Lunsford Expert Oct 4, 2018


I’ve written several times over the last year or so about the importance of style, which Richard Lanham argues is the most important canon of rhetoric today—in a “fluff” economy when what can get and hold attention in the midst of an absolute onslaught of information is what stands out and whose style says “listen to me” loud and clear.


Style has certainly been on my mind this last week or so as we’ve witnessed two very different styles at work in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings. Christine Blasey Ford, who has said Judge Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school, presented a straightforward, understated style that came across to many as genuine and credible. Brett Kavanaugh seemed to be adopting Trump’s style of in-your-face, aggressive push-back that at times bordered on rudeness. Republican senators echoed the same style, most notably in Lindsey Graham’s shouting, name-calling, finger-pointing style. Across the aisle, Kamala Harris walked out at one point, using silence to “voice” her disagreement, while Patrick Leahy hammered away at the nominee, using repetition to drive home his points. Very different styles at work.


Which were effective, and which were not? I think it’s worth asking students to consider these questions, especially in a time of such extreme division. What styles do they find most compelling? Which ones offend them or are off-putting, and why? Was Oscar Wilde right in declaring that “one’s style is one’s signature”?


Such a discussion might be even more productive if students first wrote a paragraph or two reflecting on their own style: what words would they choose? How would they describe their style in terms of clothing? In terms of music, or sports, or film? Perhaps more to the point, what style would they like to project? How would they like others to describe their style—as writers and speakers, as members of a group or groups, and so on?


Finally, they might well take a look at a piece of writing they are particularly proud of and look closely at its style: how well does that style match with what they wrote earlier about their own styles?


Image Credit: Pixabay Image 13863 by PublicDomainPictures, used under a CC0 Creative Commons License


In the wake of Donald Trump’s statement, while visiting England, that he didn’t take questions from CNN because “CNN is ‘fake news,’” Dr. Joshua Habgood-Coote wrote an opinion piece in The Conversation arguing that we should delete the term from our vocabulary:

It’s easy to think that everyone knows what “fake news” means—it was Collins Dictionary’s word of the year in 2017, after all. But to think it stops there is mistaken—and politically dangerous. Not only do different people have opposing views about the meaning of “fake news”, in practice the term undermines the intellectual values of democracy—and there is a real possibility that it means nothing. We would be better off if we stopped using it.

Habgood-Coote goes on to offer a number of examples of uses of the term to demonstrate that it means wildly different things to different people in different circumstances, so much so that the term is now essentially meaningless. Yet we continue to hear it used daily across a wide range of media and even in college courses that try to deal with the contemporary phenomenon.


I’m inclined to agree that the term is no longer helpful in that it has no clear meaning or referent. For my part, I’d rather use “misinformation,” defined as false or incorrect information intended to deceive. This broad definition allows for other subcategories—disinformation, clickbait, propaganda, perhaps even “fake news” if it earns a clear definition.


But almost as soon as I wrote these words I said, “Wait a minute: why not just the word ‘lie,’” which the OED defines as “a false statement made with the intent to deceive.” Sounds a lot like the definition of misinformation I’ve come across in many sources. What’s up with that? By coincidence, I happened to hear a piece on NPR that addressed this very issue. When a reporter for NPR called several statements Donald Trump made on his first day in office “not true” or “false,” she said her inbox “exploded” with people asking her why she didn’t just call a lie a lie. Apparently the folks at NPR had discussed this very question and decided that the word “intent” was key: since the reporter could not read Trump’s mind (what a thought!), she could not say anything about his intent but rather about his words. So NPR rarely if ever uses the word “lie” in such situations, preferring to stick with “untrue” or “false.”


But that still leaves me with a question about “misinformation.” Turning again to the OED, I find this by-now familiar definition of misinformation: “False or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.” Sounds a lot like a lie, right? And indeed, the OED gives as first definition of the noun lie, “an intentionally false statement.”


So now I’m wondering whether “misinformation” is simply a euphemism for “lie,” which term to use in what instances, and especially how best to engage students in making such distinctions and in making sure that they are using such terms with precision.


If you have thoughts on dealing with this terminological thicket, please send them along!


Image Credit: Pixabay Image 2355686 by Wokandapix, used under a CC0 Creative Commons License

Tori BanksVictoria Banks is a graduate student at Kennesaw State University working towards a Masters in the Arts of Professional Writing with a focus in interactive narrative design and script writing in videogames. She teaches First-Year English Composition and Rhetoric courses and writes as a freelance video game journalist. Victoria’s experiences with new media rhetoric influence her teaching philosophy in the classroom, which encourages student exposure to various forms of multimodal composition.


Every semester in my first-year composition classes, I receive the same question: “Is it ok for me to do this?” “This” always refers to a definite and unbreakable rule drilled into the students’ subconscious since high school, a rule so ingrained in them that they struggle to trust or rely on their own judgement of the rhetorical situation for which they are writing or to extend their writing into new mediums.


Many students zealously follow these rules no matter the situation. However, if FYC instructors allow students to participate in multimodal forms of writing, students can begin to understand that rules, rather than set in stone, are all based on genre conventions and rhetorical situations. Using multimedia projects and themes in English Composition classrooms will expose students to various types of writing they will encounter in academia, in their future careers, and in their everyday lives.


Gaming controller,

Course Themes – Sports and Games

As an English instructor, one of my goals is to teach diverse forms of composition and rhetorics, including those in multimedia. In doing so, I hope to change students’ understanding of “unbreakable” writing rules and instead encourage them to practice assessing rhetorical situations.


It is for this reason that I chose to theme my courses around a multimodal field, games. In particular, my assignments are related to sports, video games, and board games.


Each of these areas often involve intensive writing, despite public perception, and including them in my class changes my students’ preconceived ideas about what writing is and exposes them to multimodal composition. It also allows students to view various rhetorical situations and genre conventions. Another bonus is that students are excited by the prospect of going to a sporting event or playing a video game as a part of their research.



My “New Media Argument” assignment focuses specifically on this goal. Students learn to assess a rhetorical situation before composing their own video around a topic in games. These videos could include anything from sports commentary, athlete interviews, “let’s plays” (documenting gameplay with the player’s commentary), and other video content exploring issues and arguments around games.


Background Reading

  • The St. Martin’s Handbook: Chapter 2: Rhetorical Situations: 2a, “Making good Choices for your Situation”; 2f,  “Thinking about Genres and Media”; 2g, “Considering Language and Style” and Chapter 18a, “Consider your Rhetorical context”
  • The Everyday Writer: Chapter 3: Rhetorical Situations; Chapter 4: Exploring Ideas
  • EasyWriter: Chapter 1: Writer’s Choices: 1d, “Considering the Assignment Purpose”; 1f, “Researching Appropriate Audiences”; 1h, “Considering time, genre, medium, and format”
  • Everything’s An Argument: Chapter 16: Multimodal Arguments


Assignment Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to identify the rhetorical situation (purpose, audience, and context) for their multimodal argument.
  • Students will practice defining and working within genre and medium conventions.
  • Students will compose arguments using rhetorical appeals, hands-on research, and multimedia rhetoric.


Project Components

  • Script and Outline
  • 5-10 minute Video
  • Reflection Essay


Project Steps

  • Assessing the Rhetorical Situation

Before students begin, they must first determine their argument’s purpose and the audience of their video. Once this is defined, students choose a genre that best fits their goals. Writing around sports and games appears in several forms and styles. Together we examine current genres of  videos, including let’s plays, video game walkthroughs, game ratings and critiques, sports commentary, sports interviews, athlete rankings, podcasts, video essays, and more. Each genre has a different purpose, audience, and medium. By analyzing them, students can understand how other writers make composition choices based on rhetorical situations and thus begin making their own argument in the genre of their choice.

  • Planning

Once students understand their purpose, audience, and medium, they continue into the planning and research stages. This includes outlining ideas and crafting a schedule for completing components of the project, such as scripting, editing, casting, and so forth.

  • Research

Whether it’s making observation notes while watching a sport, reviewing gameplay footage, finding other authors’ viewpoints, or conducting their own surveys, students must compile their research before approaching video composition.

  • Composing

Experimenting with creating videos gives students the ability to learn and communicate using new media. For this segment, I spend two days going over the basics of various free video software programs and the benefits and downfalls of each. After conducting tutorials, class time is dedicated to workshopping and assisting any students facing technical difficulties.

  • Revision and Reflection

Students refine their project through revision before presenting it to the class and providing a two page reflection essay. I find it important for students to reflect on their composition choices. In doing so, they begin to recognize how they assessed their rhetorical situation and made composition decisions on their own, rather than following strict rules set in place by past teachers.


My Reflection

My experiences with English 1101 have taught me the value of using media-based themes in the classroom and new media projects to teach rhetorical situations and multimodal composition. When I moved on to teaching English 1102, I was surprised by my students’ disappointment that there was not a final video project. They expressed how the 1101 project made them feel engaged with the research and excited to learn new types of composition other classes had not taught them. Each appreciated the agency over their rhetorical choices and the freedom to express their creativity. It became clear my students valued these skills and opportunities the most in their composition classes.


Image: under a CC0 Public Domain license.

Andrea A. Lunsford

Analyzing Silence

Posted by Andrea A. Lunsford Expert Sep 20, 2018


I was struck a week or so ago when I read Benjamin Hoffman and Tayla Minsberg’s article, “The Deafening Silence of Colin Kaepernick” in The New York Times. My interest was heightened because I had recently re-read some of Cheryl Glenn’s important work on silence, and especially on the difference between silence, which can be powerfully positive, and being silenced, which cannot. And also because I had seen Nike’s powerful new  ad, narrated by Kaepernick and featuring him along with a wide range of other athletes, both disabled and able-bodied, each one showing just how completely they can “do it.”


Most importantly, though, I began thinking about silence because we so seldom encounter it today, with the cacophonous 24/7 newsfeeds, livestreams, social media dumps, and all the other very noisy voices and messages coming at us almost to the point of harassment. At least I sometimes feel harassed, and I need to turn everything off. Everything. And enjoy the peace of silence.


I’m thinking, then, of asking students to engage in some purposeful silence, and to monitor it, its effects on others, and their responses to it. Doing so will make, I believe, for an important class discussion on the uses and importance of silence. I’d also like to ask students to read the Times article on Kaepernick and outline the ways he has used silence strategically, and how he has alternated silence with occasional live appearances, written statements. or speeches (such as his speech in accepting Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award).          


What do they take away from the article on Kaeperick? Does Kaepernick use silence in different ways for different occasions? How effective do they find his use of silence? What other examples of purposeful silence can they come up with and how do they work, rhetorically?


So I think it’s time for a little attention to silence in this most unquiet time. It’s probably a good idea, too, to turn back to Glenn’s Unspoken: A Rhetoric of Silence for the many lessons it has to teach us today.


Image Credit: Pixabay Image 2355859 by kassarcreative, used under a CC0 Creative Commons License

Andrea A. Lunsford

Writers on 9/11

Posted by Andrea A. Lunsford Expert Sep 13, 2018


The terrible, heartbreaking morning of September 11, 2001, I was preparing to welcome a new class at Stanford as well as preparing to greet the students I’d invited to participate in a five-year longitudinal study of writing. Waking up to the grim news left me, like everyone else, in a haze of shock and grief and sorrow: how could I believe what I was seeing on television as the planes blasted, over and over again, into the towers.


We immediately made plans to delay the opening of fall term that year, thinking that students might not be able to get to campus, or not want to get to campus during such a time of national mourning. But since our term begins fairly late in September, we were able to open on time, and to welcome this group of students, many of whom had lost friends or loved ones, all of whom were trapped between the horror that gripped the nation and the excitement of opening a new chapter in their lives.


Well over a decade later, I wrote to a number of the student participants in The Stanford Study of Writing, asking them to reflect on their first days at Stanford, in the wake of 9/11. Here are some of their voices today, on the 17th anniversary of the event.


I remember visiting my high school on the morning of September 11, for the last time before leaving for Stanford. My sister and I had been numbed by the news, but we went anyway to visit our former teachers. Then one of the things that is strong in my memory about that first week on campus is the acute desire I felt to establish myself as both who I thought I was, and someone more like the others. . . I came to Stanford to meet people, to discover new things, and most of all to learn. I . . . just wanted to sit in my room and read or write in my “electronic diary” as I called it at the time. –SK

I remember being depressed every morning waking up to a country at war. I remember being very angry and I was not anti-war at first. I’d say I’m still not into anti-war protests as I think it’s much more productive to be pro-peace as opposed to anti-war. –EL

When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, I was asleep on an old twin mattress on the floor of my sister’s room. M paternal grandfather was visiting, so he had my nominal bed and I was relegated to the mattress purchased for me when I was about 3. . . . Intellectually, I comprehended the event as a tragedy, but for the most part my emotions were muted. To me, the mass outpouring of grief had a hint of social manipulation to it . . . –CS

Like me, I think a lot of people had been home alone [on 9/11], most of their friends having gone off to college already, when the news hit. I am guessing it would have been a relief to talk and listen to actual people in place of sensationalistic news coverage. What I did feel strongly for a while was a sense that history, which had left me largely untouched to that point, had somehow started again and was setting into motion events that had the potential to be world-changing (in retrospect, and with the benefit of all that I learned at Stanford, I find this feeling problematic in a number of ways). –AC

The President pointed his finger to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda that night, as well as to the Taliban in Afghanistan. He announced the new Department of Homeland Security. He said, “Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.” He said we would fight the War on Terror, and that it would have “decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion.” I realized this meant we would go to war. I was scared. –SA

The thing about the atmosphere of the country in September of 2001 that I remember is the intense xenophobia that was present in some places. For me, that was perhaps the most surreal thing. I simply couldn’t imagine how you would assume that all Muslims, all Arabs, or all people that wear turbans, were terrorists. Maybe as the sole representative of a minority in my high school, it was simply a given in my world view that everyone is an individual responsible for their own actions and a group can’t be blamed for the actions of an individual. Everything we did at Stanford about tolerance and not being judgmental during Orientation just seemed redundant to me. Looking back now, I understand how naïve I was in that way . . . but I still haven’t given up my sense of optimism. I think it’s one of the things that keeps me going as a teacher: I know that somewhere in their hearts, my students are good people. . . . –HS

As we welcome the class of 2022, the last class made up primarily of students born before the devastation of 9/11, it seems worthwhile to think about the reflections from these students of the class of 2005, looking back on that momentous day.


Here’s to them, and to the class of 2022.


Image Credit:  Pixabay Image 2403465 by MonieLuv, used under a CC0 Creative Commons License


This summer I’ve had a chance to give presentations at the Rhetoric Society of America (in early June), at the Young Rhetoricians’ Conference (in late June), and at the Bread Loaf School of English’s Vermont campus (in early July). On each occasion, I spoke about a concept that’s been on my mind a lot during the last 18 to 24 months at least, and maybe a lot longer than that. In short, I’ve been concentrating on the power of narrative, of story. Why? In the simplest terms, because story is the universal genre, because stories lie at the basis of all cultures, because our lives are attempts to tell particular stories that guide us. Because, as in Anne Haas Dyson and Celia Genishi’s telling book title, we have A Need for Story. Walter Fisher, defining humans as “homo narrans,” argues that “In the beginning was the word or, more accurately, the logos. And in the beginning logos meant story.” In “Life as Narrative,” Jerome Bruner argues that “the culturally-shaped cognitive and linguistic processes that guide the self-telling of life narratives achieve the power to structure perceptual experience, to organize memory, to segment and purpose-build the very events of a life.”


In the talks I’ve given recently, I’ve focused first on how teachers of writing and rhetoric, and our students, can understand, challenge, explore, and remake the stories we tell about rhetoric and its origins, principles, uses, and practices, aiming to create a history of rhetoric that is much more expansive and inclusionary than the traditional Greek and Roman origin story. But I’ve also focused on how we might also take on the responsibility for story, for narrative, and for the way stories shape our experience of the world. We know in our bones, I believe, what Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls “The danger of a single story,” which happens when whole groups of richly complex people are reduced to a single narrative. In her remarkable TED talk of that title, Adichie tells about her life as a child in Nigeria, growing up reading stories and writing stories about characters that all had “fair hair and blue eyes.” That was a single story that shaped her way of reading and writing. In her talk, she says it’s fairly easy to create a single story: just “show people as one thing and one thing only, over and over again, and that’s what they will become.”


Increasingly, I believe that it’s crucial for us to reject such single stories, along with master narratives of all kinds, and rather to pursue what I am calling narrative justice. Doing so is particularly important since I don’t see how we can achieve social justice if the narratives in which people are trapped and silenced simply will not allow for it. So we need just narratives, which can then lay the groundwork for and make possible social justice.


“Narrative justice” is not a term I have coined. We can find the concept used and developed in global health initiatives that aim to allow indigenous people to claim and tell their own stories. I believe we can learn from these efforts, from filmmaker Lisa Russell’s 2017 TED Talk titled “Promoting Responsible Storytelling in Global Health,” from Australia’s Dulwich Centre, which has pioneered a form of conversational storytelling they call “narrative therapy” and articulated a “Charter of Storytelling Rights,” and from activist Judithe Registre, who calls for “story equity” as she works on global poverty reduction.


Teachers of writing are uniquely positioned, I believe, to invite students to examine the narratives/stories that have shaped their lives, for both good and ill, to begin to interrogate those stories as well as the dangerous “single narratives” they can see at work all around them. Most important, we can enable students to counter narratives that diminish or demean them by using their own agency to revise or rewrite these narratives.


I used to begin every class I taught by drawing a thick stark line across the chalk board. At one end of the line I put “WRITING” and at the other end “BEING WRITTEN.” I still think it’s a pretty good way to begin a discussion that shows students just how much is at stake in their writing classes.


Image Credit: Pixabay Image 9017 by Hans, used under a CC0 Creative Commons License


Now that summer is winding down, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve spent these too-short weeks, the hyphen between student terms when I always hope to refresh myself and my ways of being in the world. How am I spending my time – and do I approve of what I find?


This summer, I did have a glorious two weeks when I turned off all devices and headed to Bergen, Norway, to cruise the spectacular coast of Norway and then sail down to the Lofoten, Shetland, and Orkney Islands before landing in Greenwich. For those weeks, I read mysteries, walked the decks, rode the exercise bike, hiked through tiny villages, marveled at fjords, listened to classical music and jazz—and studied the sun, moon, and stars. The long, long Norwegian twilights brought sensory delights and calm, an inward turning that felt restorative. But it took a while to get there. In fact, on the fourth day of this voyage I thought I was “coming down with something” until I realized: I was relaxed! Four days to slow down, give my racing brain a break, and ease into a space of peace and reflection.


I was ready to come home, to resume the usual pace of my life, to plunge into 12-hour days of writing and reading and work. But oh, the glories of those two weeks: they are with me still. Thus my first hope for every teacher of writing is that summertime brought you some respite, some relaxation, some deeply felt pleasures—no matter how brief.


As summer begins to lean toward fall, however, I enjoy what to me is the best time of the year: the beginning of a new school term with the new class of frosh (the class of ’22 this year!). So my second hope for every teacher of writing is that this fall will find you, refreshed and renewed, ready to plunge into the work we all share and love. In the last ten or twelve days, I’ve been visiting with teachers of writing across the country as they prepare for fall term—at Texas Tech, Loyola, University of South Carolina, Northern Illinois University (just for a start); I even got to experience the excitement of the new students, which was electric and contagious.


In all cases, I found teachers working together to craft outstanding syllabi and challenging assignments, to select and analyze readings, to consider assessment methods, to mount pedagogical experiments of several kinds, and to develop activities that engage students in challenging and productive work, and that guide them in the processes of inquiry and discovery and in the pursuit of writing about the most galvanizing issues of our time responsibly, ethically, and respectfully. Teachers everywhere are also focusing on thinking critically and rhetorically, on teaching students to be their own best fact checkers who are able to assess the information that bombards them daily and to learn to give their attention to those sources that are truly worthy of it.


At every school I visited, I argued that we and our students stand at a very significant crossroads this fall, one that demands our very best efforts to sort out truth from lies, information from disinformation, and mere hype from credible statements. In my view, our students need our guidance and wisdom perhaps more than ever before. As we need theirs.


Here’s hoping for a rewarding year of teaching writing, reading, and presenting!



Image Credit: Andrea Lunsford