Writing as Activism

At comPOSITIONblog Nicole Papaioannou writes about teaching first-year composition.

While I’m not a big activist person, my uni is. Social justice is a big deal here. This assignment, Music as Activism, sounds like something I might be able to in my classroom and actually make work.

Each semester, I have made sure to spend at least one day talking about music and lyrics as forms of activism. I have my students read the lyrics of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Linkin Park’s “Hands Held High,” and Eminem’s “Like Toy Soldiers.” I also share YouTube videos of these songs, so that they can listen to the them as they read the lyrics. In class, we talk about which songs were effective at carrying across their message and do close readings, dissecting lyrics, talking about tone, and evaluating audience appeal.

Today, they also used this conversation about music to workshop their Writing as Activism projects, all of which are based upon very different topics.
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In the end, I was impressed by the soundtracks that my students compiled. They put a good deal of thought into them. Even the students who had challenging topics, for which practically no songs directly addressed the issue, managed to figure out what they wanted to say about those topics and find songs to help them make sense of their activist projects. Some of them even shared links to the songs so that I could listen to them. All in all, I think this is a workshop I will be assigning in future courses.

She has the instructions for the workshop in her post, too.

Not only am I blogging about this here, I am also sending it on to the director of FYC as a suggestion for a paper. We’ve been changing up what we’ve been doing in lots of ways. Our fourth paper for the semester (for our grad TAs at least) came from an SCMLA presentation by Brian Blackburne. That means this week’s assignment for the “proposing a solution” paper was changed based on last week’s conference. I like that kind of flexibility!

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