FYC: Retrospective, part 3

Success: As a class we studied visual rhetoric. We read the chapter in the book and I introduced additional information on color and composition. We looked at several sets of images in the text, and the text itself, and analyzed those rhetorically. Finally, the students chose an artifact to analyze. They brought it to class and we did prewriting exercises on the material they chose.
Students wrote an in-class essay analyzing the visual rhetoric of the artifact they had chosen. These artifacts ranged from unique art pieces, to book covers, to images from football games.

Success: Moving from a static image to a video gave the students the opportunity to employ the same rhetorical analysis strategies to a video that they had used for an image. I introduced analysis of videos, with a post from Teaching College English.

As homework, the students watched a video on education by one of our professors and in class we watched one of the university’s recruiting videos. Both of these videos were analyzed and evaluated in class.

Challenge: One of the goals introduced for students and faculty during my orientation was collaboration. I decided that a group project analyzing a video would be a positive strategy for implementation of collaboration in the classroom.

Group leaders were chosen based on the highest level of technical experience in a given class. Then the groups configured themselves, though I did limit them to three to five students. Each student watched three videos and then sent the one they thought would be the most fun to work on to the others in their group. Each group watched all the members’ preferred videos and then chose one. Individual emails with URLs to the three commercials and a paragraph summary of each and a group email identifying the URL of the chosen commercial as well as the justification for the choice were assigned and submitted.

Success: While out of class the students were working on coming up with an analysis of their group’s commercial, in class we watched a series of commercials and analyzed them both in small groups and as a class. We began with the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial about Chicago, starring Eminem. This commercial had been used in Core and so it was familiar to all of them. Thus the students started the analysis in class from a position of strength.

Tech: Students suggested other commercials to watch and we looked them up on YouTube and watched them in class. For example, we looked at both Dove’s “Evolution” and “Beauty Pressure,” analyzing them for audience, authority, design, rhetoric, visual impact, race, and gender.

Hurdled: Digital storytelling took me a two-day class and about fifteen hours of work. I was asking the students to learn this technology on their own, while engaging in a rhetorically complex analysis, and produce a video as a group. They did a fantastic job.

In all three classes I only had one group that did not produce a video. One student withdrew from the group, sending them a notification email and cc’ing me. She created her own project. There was a second group that had significant technical difficulties, partially due to assigning the technical part of the job to a person with PC expertise, but not Mac experience. They ended up turning the project in late, with penalties applied.

Success: The students turned in amazing videos. They did an excellent job in analyzing their chosen commercials, following the assignment requirements, and creating interesting videos.

Challenge: Two groups were unaware of the contextual realities of the commercials they chose. One group chose “Stop the Bullets” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylvAovoO2kk ) and the other chose “Nolan’s Cheddar” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqlQS5CCmwI ). The first group was not aware that handguns have been illegal in England since 1989 and, as a result, even the police do not carry guns and the English Olympic Pistol Team practices in Switzerland. Because of this, their analysis of the audience was problematic; they thought it was aimed at voters who could implement gun control. The second group did not realize that Nolan’s is not an actual brand of cheese, that the commercial was British, and that the commercial was actually a video résumé for an animatronics creator.

To do: While a quick internet search did not turn up articles discussing the reason for the “Stop the Bullets” video, “Nolan’s Cheddar” showed up quickly in a videographic résumé. I am not sure that students would have recognized that is what it was, though. Next time I teach, I may want to have the students individually find three different articles—not just repetitions of the same information—on their commercials. This may help to avoid similar problems.

Success: The students used the commercial and their analysis of it as prewriting for their evaluation papers.

To do: Next time I need to be clearer on the difference between analysis and evaluation. While most of my students understood, there was a significant number (though less than a quarter) who simply wrote up their group’s analysis in their own words for the evaluation essay. This was insufficient.

NOTE: Most of the professors I have spoken with say they do not see a difference between analysis and evaluation. If that is true, then they need some rhetorical education.

In addition, the grading on that aspect of the paper actually only made a single letter-grade difference. So I may need to re-examine my grading rubric as well.

2 thoughts on “FYC: Retrospective, part 3”

  1. This activity looks great. I am trying to do the ‘right’ activities to prepare my junior composition students for college writing. Do you have suggestions? Is this something I could do with them? What other writing is vitally important in the high school setting to prepare students for college? Thanks!

  2. I think that this is an activity that juniors could do well. The fun part of the assignment was that students had to watch commercials and create a video analyzing it. If the students have the software available, this is a great assignment. This semester, it’s not due for another two weeks and I have at least one group out of ten that is already finished with theirs. A second group’s work is almost complete. They like it a lot.

    The students analyze the commercial as a group. We discussed ethos, pathos, and logos (Aristotle’s appeals) in terms of the commercials. We also looked at invention, memory, arrangement, style, and delivery (Cicero’s five canons); the applications are a little less direct, but still useful I think.

    Target audience and unintended audiences, especially those who will be offended by the commercial, turned out to be very important last year.

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