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Recently I’ve been spending most of my time thinking about my dissertation research and my academic job applications. My dissertation focuses heavily on multimodal texts and their new media adaptations. Many of the jobs I’m applying to have a focus on digital texts and composition, which fits well not just with my research, but also my teaching practices in writing and literature courses. I’ve already gone over a literary analysis group project that works well with my literature students. So today, I thought I’d break down a multimodal composition group project that has worked really well in my first year writing courses. If you’re looking for a creative group activity for your composition students that requires a good amount of research and analytical thinking, this post is for you.If you're looking for a creative group activity for your composition students that requires a good amount of research and analytical thinking, this post is for you. #ELA Click To Tweet
A Basic Description
Here’s the basic description I use at the top of the assignment sheet. Note, the definition of remediation that I provide in this paragraph is just a written reminder for my students to check back on later during the project if necessary. I first go over the concept of remediation with my students during a class discussion with examples texts like Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss.
Okay. Here’s the beginning of the assignment sheet:
For this project, you will work in groups to recreate a text of your choice (really, any text you want) into different genres. The term remediation usually refers to the process of changing a text from one medium to another (for example, a book (print) into a movie (digital)). As a genre remediation, this project requires you to (at least) change the genre of the text (so you can change a movie into a movie trailer, even though they both use the same medium). You will choose one source text as a group, and you are each responsible for creating a remediated text based on it.
Since my ENG 101 classes have 23 students, I have students get into 5 groups of 4 students and 1 group of 3 students. I remind them to double-check with their group mates on what source text they want to remediate. If 4 of them want to remediate a favorite horror film and the 5th student gets nightmares just watching horror film movie trailers, that group isn’t for them.
Looking for tips on designing a group project from scratch? Check out this video/blog post on group project design.
The Remediation Requirements
Now, one goal of this activity is to help students see just well (or poorly) different genres can interact with one another. Also, how even with the same source text, different genres will require the use of difference conventions and will require they pick and choose different elements of the source text that fit well with their particular remediation. Multimedia and multimodal composition skills are also one of the learning outcomes of our writing program, so this project really brings that learning outcome to the forefront of my students’ minds.
Here’s how I break down the basic requirements for the remediations:
Each of you will use a different genre, and your project as a whole must meet the following requirements:
1. All of the remediated texts must have a written component
2. At least one remediated text must be digital
3. At least one remediated text must be non-digital
4. At least one remediated text must have a visual component
(These requirements do not need to be separated among multiple texts. If one of your texts is digital and has a visual component, for example, then requirements 2 and 4 will have been met.)
The two semesters I had students complete this project, all groups picked a movie or TV show as their source text. I made sure no group used the same source text, so there would be no overlap when students presented their remediations. I also clarified that “non-digital” didn’t mean they couldn’t use any digital tools to create that particular remediation. They could type up and design a magazine article on their computer, for example. But, it would be for a print version of a magazine, not a digital one. So hyperlinks or videos, for example, were not genre conventions that they could use for that particular remediation.
For the first requirement (including a written component), I didn’t require a minimum amount of words. The written text just had to be present at some point in a way that fit the genre. For example, students included individual words and short phrases on screen in their movie trailers. A couple students made Instagram accounts for fictional characters. As such, the captions counted as their written component. The point wasn’t to make them write a lot in their multimodal compositions themselves, since that’s not a genre convention common to plenty of multimodal genres. The rest of this project would require plenty of information best shared in written form, so I welcomed remediation genres that required very little writing in and of themselves. [I introduced students to the free tool, Canva, so that students had plenty of multimodal genre templates to work with when creating their compositions. Here’s a video on how I use this tool when teaching.]
All Project Elements
If you’ve read my other blog posts related to teaching first year writing, then you know that ISU’s writing program focuses more on writing research and rhetorical genre studies than on the traditional essay writing assignments. As such, we use Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) at the foundation of our teaching, and we focus heavily on having students practice their metacognitive skills via “uptake genres.” So, the following project elements are assigned based on this approach to teaching writing and writing research. You’ll likely not include these exact project genres, but they might provide some inspiration on how to design the rest of your version of this activity.
Each of you (as in individually, not as a group) will turn in a Research Outline, a CHAT Genre Analysis, and an Object of Production (Your Remediation). You must also turn in a copy of or link to your source text. If your object of production (remediation) is in a format that cannot be turned in through our LMS class website, bring it to class on the due date instead. Everything else will be turned in via our LMS.
Genre Remediation: The genre remediation you create based on the source text your group chose to remediate.
Research Outline: This document will illustrate your research process. This includes sources relating to your group’s source text genre, and on the genre you used for your remediation. Include the same type of information as the first two projects: source title and hyperlink (if digital), how you found it, summary of source, relevance to project, and struggles with understanding it or applying it. For example, if your source text is a music video and your remediated text is a book cover, then your outline will include sources that discuss the conventions and goals of both these genres.
CHAT Analysis: Like Unit 1, this project requires a formal genre analysis. Consider how the 7 CHAT elements affect both your source text’s genre and the genre of your remediated text. For the source text, you have the option of creating 1 CHAT analysis as a group. If you do this, you will still need to turn in an individual analysis of you remediated text.
Group Presentation: As a group, you will have 10-15 minutes to present your projects. In this presentation, you should at least describe: why you chose your source text, how you researched your genres, what conventions your genres have and how you used or subverted them, and how working in a group affected your research, learning, writing process. Any other information you include is up to you. If you’d like, you can use visuals during your presentation (powerpoint, prezi); however, this isn’t required and nothing needs to be turned in for this element of the project.
All-in-all, I definitely recommend assigning students to write up some form of reflective or analytical piece about their work on this remediation process. This step is essential in creative projects, in my opinion, as it really helps students make connections between fun, creative work and the critical reading, watching, and thinking skills they used when completing the project. Also, the group presentations are a must, as they really show you what your students really focused on during the project and how they see their remediations all working together. Plus, these amazingly innovative projects deserve to be shared with the class as a whole. I’ll personally never forget the Finding Nemo movie edited to appear like the movie trailer for a horror film.
• Research Outline = 30
• CHAT Genre Analysis = 35
• Object of Production (Remediation) = 20
• Group Presentation = 15
I like using a 100 point system whenever I take a points approach to grading rather than percentages. [Here’s a video I created about grading unit projects.] As I mentioned before (and is evident in this grade breakdown), the object of production is not as important as the research that helped them create the remediation and the analysis they did of the genres via CHAT and the group presentation.
So here’s a group project that really gets students excited about practicing their multimodal composition skills. It’s also a fun project that involves a lot of individual work, so students shouldn’t get too worried about how their grade will be affected by the group aspect of the project. With the outline and CHAT analysis included, grading can take a while. So, here are some tips on making grading faster.
Comment below: How do you approach teaching multimodal composition with your students?
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