How has the past year challenged or changed you?

I want to encourage you to reflect on this momentous time in history, and record and react to the dramatic events like the pandemic, the protests for racial justice, the 2020 election, the insurrection, the vaccine and other events that will define your generation– but I want you to think about them as they affect your everyday life. This is a big big time. Let’s hear what you have to say about it!

In this assignment, you will make a multimedia document (we’ll talk more about this later, but basically, it will need to have words and images, or words and sounds– or maybe all three) that answers one (or both) of the following questions:

 How has the past year challenged or changed you?

 What have you learned from the past year that you would like to share with others?

Of course, this is a big question– so you’ll need to get specific.  You’ll find some particular aspect of the year to focus on. If what you learned was how to bake bread– that’s great! If what you learned is that your grandpa’s stories are better than what’s on TV– that’s spectacular. Sometimes a small discovery like this is bigger than a huge statement like “love conquers all.” You don’t have to focus on the virus (I know we’re all sick of it). You can focus on something that brought you joy, something that got you through. You don’t have to talk about the virus at all.

There are a variety of options for what you might do for this assignment.  We’ll look at a number of mentor texts below. You might do a video essay (or a music video!) You might do a podcast, a comic book, or an infographic. Generally speaking, to pick the genre you want to compose in, you’ll want to consider your audience: what genres best reach the discourse community you want to reach? You can also use this project as an opportunity to play to your strengths. If you’re an amazing comic book artist, then a comic would be great for you. If you’ve been collecting photos of your neighborhood since fall of 2019, perhaps a photo essay will be best. Please note: you cannot do a Power Point. We’ll talk about why in class.

How long should it be?  This is a hard question to answer because everyone is writing in a different genre.  But look, this unit is worth 20% of your grade– and the last big paper of the semester so it should be substantial— the equivalent of a 4-5 page paper.

In other words, if you do a one page infographic, that’s fine! But you’ll need to write an article of at least a few pages that gives that infographic some context.

Note: you might want to read THIS for ideas. The contest has passed (sorry!) but there are some good ideas for starting places nonetheless

How will I grade it?  

  • Audience Awareness: Do you catch (and keep) your audience’s attention? Do you (more or less) stay on topic and stay away from “dead air?” Do you care about your audience? Do you have a point?
  • Care: This sounds pretty vague, because it’s going to vary by genre, but basically, this is how much of a finished product you turn in. In other words, you need to be able to explain why everything that’s on the page (or in the video, or on the webpage, or in the recording, etc) is THERE. I am not asking you to be a professional podcaster or videographer, but to put some effort in. NO SLOPPY WORK.
  • Substantiality: This is in the assignment, but what does it mean? This is slightly different from care—care means it’s not sloppy, substantial means you’re not turning in the equivalent of one night’s homework, but instead, you’re turning in a few week’s worth of work.
  • Organization: This one is somewhat self-explanatory. Is it all over the place? Or does it follow a clear path? Clarity is important to get your message across!


Tips (adapted from the New York Times)

1. Create from who you are and what you really care about.

Something has happened to you during this past twelve months that only you can tell.  It doesn’t have to be huge (see the next tip) or tragic (although it might be). What readers are interested in– you’ll have to take my word on this– is what YOU have to offer– whether it’s your particular voice and experience, or your particular eye for research. When you care, your readers will care.

2. Focus on something small to tell a larger story.

As I say above, your readers want to hear about YOU. And being invited into

your life, your neighborhood, your home, can do more to tell a reader about life in  2021 than any type of generalization. Again, this doesn’t have to be a personal story if you don’t want it to be. Even if you are doing research on the protests last summer, try focusing on one particular neighborhood, one park, one precinct.

3.Find a unique way to approach your topic by playing with genre, voice, tone, the use of detail and other craft tools.

Amid a pandemic that is affecting the entire world, it’s hard to come up with a topic that’s original. The good news is that you don’t have to — you just need to put your own special spin on it.

Let’s look at some examples:

Video essay about Toilet Paper: funny video

Photo Essays : When Life Felt Normal: Your Pre-Pandemic Moments

2020 Can go to Hell

 Note: if you do a photo essay, you should use your own photos. I realize it won’t be possible to use all your own video for video essays.

Podcasts: Opening the Blinds

How the Worst Procrastinator I Know Led Seattle’s March for Our Lives

Comic:  I Am Stuck Between Two Lives During This Pandemic

Illustration: The Strange Lives of Objects in the Coronavirus Era

Infographic: 100 New Yorkers

Helpful resources:

The New York Times on creating a Podcast (also has examples of podcasts):


For Instructors, this is a very helpful resource for teaching podcasts: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/learning/on-demand-webinar-teaching-students-how-to-produce-their-own-podcasts.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

The New York Times on Creating Comics: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/technology/personaltech/create-your-own-digital-comics-whether-you-can-draw-or-not.html

An All-comics issue of the NYT Magazine: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/02/magazine/new-york-stories-introduction.html

Comics for Pride Month: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/17/learning/annotated-by-the-author-10-comic-books-to-celebrate-pride.html?searchResultPosition=4

More resources for creating texts




 https://screencast-o-matic.com/ Screencast-o-matic is free if you want to do screen capture videos from your laptop. Word of warning: if you really want to do some close editing work, it will cost, but for the basics, it’s fine. You can upload the resulting video to YouTube. A lot of faculty use it.