Piper – Writing 5: Expository Writing

Course: Writing 5: Expository Writing
Instructor: Wendy Piper

Please compare any key aspect of either text that we’ve read to any pop cultural representation. You could think of whether there are any characters that resemble Hester Prynne alive in culture today. If so, how is she treated in contemporary representations? Are there similarities or dissimilarities to Hawthorne’s treatment of her, or of Dimmesdale, Pearl, or the Puritan town’s people.

What about key characteristics of O’Connor’s novel, Wise Blood? Are there characters similar to Hazel Motes or Enoch in today’s culture, albeit in different forms than O’Connor may have envisioned. Are there movies, television shows, or is there music that indicates a similar character or thematic aspect of O’Connor’s text?

This multimodal assignment will have the same function in this Writing 5 class as one of your formal papers. Its purpose will be to help you to continue to develop your skills in composition, critical thinking, and argumentation. You’ll be making a claim in your iMovie adaptation that will reflect back on one of our novels.

The length of the films will be 5-7 minutes. We’ll undergo two formal training sessions, and will be assisted by RWIT tutors, and the staff of the Jones Media Center. We’ll have two sessions during class time in which we’ll present our films to the class.

Example of a Final Project

Boone – Writing 2-3

Course: Writing 2-3
Instructor: Prof. Stephanie Boone
Assignment: iStory, A Digital Composition

You will produce a digital composition, or film, based on your Homestory and/or the Place Essay (whole or in part)-pieces you composed in fall term, but which now you may revise for the sake of this assignment, and which makes a claim about yourself, or some issue of place and memory in your life.

While this film will be inspired by the personal and use material you produced in fall term, it should be constructed with the conventions of an academic argument in mind. Your composition should assert and support a claim about you, and should observe kindred matters of style and structure, such as transitions, unity, grammar, and mechanics. Yes, you will make the same sorts of rhetorical decisions for this film, as you would for a traditional paper. In pursuit of your claim, you will work with images and sound. You may indeed use written text in this film, as well. The paper is not forgotten, or subverted in this assignment; rather it achieves new dimensions. The geography of the traditional paper has changed. Argument can be visual.
A caveat: Though this assignment may ultimately “feel” useful to you personally inasmuch as it uses the personal as its primary source material, still you should construct a film that is appropriate for public consumption in this college classroom-your peers, tutor, and professor-and about which you can be comfortable “showing” it to your public audience, whether here or elsewhere, now or later. The assignment calls for an argument, not a confession. So, choose your material wisely. Make this an E3-rated film. Exercise discretion.

    The following restrictions apply to your film-no exceptions:

  • Length: 2 minutes minimum to 3 minutes maximum (running time includes any element of the film- audio or visual).
  • Visual: 1-10 images and 25 discrete words (excluding credits), maximum, You may not use any animation.
  • Audio: any kind of audio (voiceover, song, sound effects). Consider the 3-minute limit when you include audio.
  • Medium: use iMovie. You may use video in your iMovie, but you are limited to one minute of video, however you choose to use it (as a block or in discrete segments).

  • Use video advisedly. It does not insure a better film or grade.
  • Cite secondary sources and images or audio recordings of others that you use in making the film.
  • Be ethical.
  • Keep it simple.

To assist you in making your film, we will hold several workshops with a technology specialist that will address how to use images and audio in iMovie. You should consult Jones Media Center tech specialist when necessary, and to schedule equipment.

You should set about conceptualizing your film and collecting images and audio elements as soon as possible. Planning is critical to producing a successful film. To that end, you will complete the following steps in your filmmaking process:
Treatment Plan, * as long as the form allows, Level 4 Complete the “video treatment plan” that I will provide in class. You may get this template early in the term, if you would like to. In your plan, you will have to consider your audience, purpose, production schedule, visual content, audio, and structure. Use a working title for your film.

Storyboard, as long as it takes, Level 4 Complete the Storyboard template that I’ll provide in class. The sooner you develop your Storyboard, the better. As you make your film-

  • Consult the personnel in and schedule equipment in the Jones Media Center, or go to jones.media.center@dartmouth.edu
  • Schedule time with RWIT tutors at www.dartmouth.edu/~rwit for extra tutoring.
  • Learn more about iMovie at www.apple.com/imovie
  • i/I/Movie: A Digital Composition, film and commentary, 3 minutes, Level 5

You will submit your film in DVD or CD form to the class and to your professor, for in-class screening. To your professor, you will submit your final treatment plan and storyboard, plus a one- to three page commentary on your filmmaking experience. In this commentary, address the problems you encountered, the solutions you found, the resources you used, and the after-thoughts you have about your process and product.

Response to iMovie Screenings, 2 pages, Level 5 Write a one-page essay in which you nominate a film as best film and post this nomination essay to our discussion board. Based on these essays the class will determine the Best Film and the Best Essay.

Example of a Final Project

Gocsik – Writing 2-3

Course: Writing 3
Instructor: Prof. Karen Gocsik
Assignment: The Dartmouth Research/Documentary Project

I make this assignment – a short documentary film about some aspect of Dartmouth life and history – in the middle of Writing 2. Using general resources, special collections, interviews, and perhaps the archives of the Daily Dartmouth, students (in groups of three) research a topic of their choice, looking not only for textual information but also for visual and audio resources. They then produce a 5 – 7 minute multi-media composition/documentary film. They also compose, collaboratively, a paper on the same subject as the film. I subsequently engage them in conversation regarding the similarities and differences of composing with different media. What skills are universal? Portable? Genre-specific?

My aim is to introduce students to finding and using primary and secondary sources, and to familiarize them with the challenges of composing an argument with multiple media. The project itself requires considerable writing and rewriting, including the proposal, the interview questions, the narrative voice-over, and the final paper. The project also requires that students research well, present their research ethically, and cite their sources when credits roll at the film’s end.

Ongoing Work
I begin by introducing my students to examples of multi-media compositions, both professional documentaries and student films. We talk about how these films are constructed, considering the soundness and the ethics of their arguments.

We follow this with two sessions with a reference librarian in Rauner. For the first session, the Rauner librarian pulls documents, images, and artifacts from Dartmouth’s history – for instance, materials on student activism through the ages. Students are encouraged to play with the resources, to comment on what they’ve learned, and to form questions for further research. In the second session the librarian discusses the Rauner resources more thoroughly and offers instruction in doing research with primary sources.

The students then meet with their groups to determine a topic and a plan. They take this plan to the RWIT Center, where a tutor reviews the plan and makes suggestions about its focus and feasibility. Students then go to Jones Media Center to discuss technology options/needs. Finally, they create a proposal in which they are instructed to:

  • State your topic and the questions you intend to pursue
  • Offer a detailed plan regarding how, precisely, your group intends to explore these questions (For instance, do you intend to conduct interviews? With whom? Will you need to film something on campus? What? Do you intend to make use of special collections? Which ones?)
  • Provide a timeline for your project
  • List your technology needs
  • Raise any questions that you have regarding the process

Students write their proposals, then meet with me in office hours, to “pitch” their ideas and discuss their strategies.

Students meet several times amongst themselves to do research, to refine their plan, and to write their scripts. They must submit scripts and reports to me according to deadlines that I’ve outlined in the syllabus.

Finally, they begin shooting. They bring clips to an i-movie workshop, run by Susan Simon, who offers instruction in how to use this software. Students edit their films in Jones Media Center, with the support of the Jones Staff and, ideally, an RWIT tutor. They also invite me to Jones to take a look at their rough cuts. I offer my critique, and they continue editing.

We screen the films on a movie night in the last week of class. Students assess their peers’ work and defend their own in a Q&A following each film. I provide popcorn.

I assess both the product and the process of this project.

Because film is a public medium, I invite the entire class to screening nights. At the screenings the filmmakers are asked not only to present their own films but also to assess their peers’ work. Before the final screening – before students cut their films – I invite them to join me in constructing criteria for assessment. I ask them to consider global and technical issues, and to determine whether or not the argument was ethically made. I average the group assessment numbers to determine a grade for the film. Student filmmakers share this grade, regardless of their involvement in the film.

Whenever you have students work in groups, it’s a good idea to give them an opportunity to assess their classmates, and to assess themselves. I’ve therefore developed a series of questions that I ask students to complete as part of their group assessment. I use this assessment to determine a process grade, which I sometimes express as a letter grade and sometimes as a plus or minus. Students are awarded these grades as individuals, depending on their individual performances.

What I Hope to Achieve
This assignment accomplishes many things, in terms of research, critical thinking, composing, and so on.


  • Introduce students to the research process (in a way that is new to them and fully engaging)
  • Give students the opportunity to work with primary sources
  • Familiarize the students with Rauner resources
  • Expand students’ sense of viable source materials, to include audio and visual
  • Teach students how to evaluate, use, and cite these kinds of sources

Critical Thinking

  • Teach students how to read and to interrogate visual texts
  • Enable students to better analyze whether or not a visual text is “ethical”


  • Teach students how to structure arguments in new ways (documentary films do not typically have explicit thesis sentences; they are sometimes not structured linearly; they are often polyglossic; etc.).
  • Teach students to edit carefully, especially by heightening their awareness of transitions and connections between ideas within the piece.
  • Require students to write a group paper on the same topic, so that they can discover the similarities and differences in composing with different media

Additional Benefits

  • Build the class community (students work closely in small groups)
  • Familiarize students with Dartmouth culture and history
  • Expose students to Rauner Library, the RWIT Center, and Jones Media Center

Frequently Asked Questions

Why small groups?
I think students learn more from multimedia projects when they work collaboratively. First, film is a collaborative medium. But even more important, groups allow students to discuss each step of the composing process. Students have reported that they’ve argued for an hour over a single transition! This level of discussion doesn’t happen when students write papers. And it cannot happen if they work alone.

How much class time do I devote to this?
I devote four to six classes to this project: one or two to a discussion of visual arguments, two to Rauner, one or two to the i-movie workshop. Several of these classes are x-hours; four are run by colleagues. I spend out-of-class time with each group, especially when they pitch their ideas to me and when I view their rough cuts.

How much time do the students devote to this?
It depends. Students will spend several hours researching, shooting, and editing. Editing is, by far, the most time-consuming of all the processes. Students are often surprised by this; instructors need to remind students again and again that it takes a long time to “shape” their films. If you’re concerned about the amount of time this project requires, ask students to create their arguments from existing photos or video footage. This will keep them from spending considerable time on shooting.

What do I give up to accomplish this project?
Not much. This project proceeds not in place of, but alongside the other course assignments. We continue to read and discuss course materials as students work on their films. Instead of four books, I teach three; the film and group paper replace one paper – but this project, as designed, is far more demanding than a single paper.

What do students gain?
Students gain several things from this project:

  • Students’ visual literacy improves, as they sharpen their understanding of how visual texts are constructed.
  • Students learn to do research with primary sources, including archival sources and interviews.
  • Students practice collaborative composing as they conceptualize, research, shoot, and edit together.
  • Students develop a keener understanding of composition, learning how to create an argument without offering an explicit thesis; how to use multimedia resources to support an argument; how to create effective transitions between their ideas; and how to develop a visual “voice.”
  • Students consider the ethics of their visual arguments.
  • Students have fun collaborating together, a process that improves, incidentally, the community of the class.

Example of Final Project

Grantham – Writing 2-3

Course: Writing 5
Instructor: Prof. Shelby Grantham
Assignment: The Visual Essay

A 4 to 6 minute documentary film about some aspect of a Dartmouth culture that will introduce you to finding and using primary and secondary sources at the College and to the challenges and freedoms of composing with media other than the written word. The project itself does involve working with the little black squiggles, including a written proposal, interview questions, narrative voice-over, a rough storyboard, a voice-over script (if you use one), a pitch, a progress report, and a final evaluation. The project requires research and citing of sources when credits roll at the film’s end.

To produce the Visual Essay, you will be assigned to groups of three. Choosing your group’s topic involves positing some genuine question that puzzles your group about one of the cultures at Dartmouth, past or present. In conference, your group and I will distill from your question a manageable and mutually satisfying topic for you all to research. Using general library resources, special collections, interviews, and the archives of Dartmouth’s various serial publications (The daily Dartmouth, The Dartmouth Review, The Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Vox, and others), you will probe your topic, looking not only for textual information but also for visual and audio resources. Your assignment is to create and then present a 4-6 minute multi-media documentary film that argues a position taken by your group on your topic.

You might, for instance, start with the question, “How has Dartmouth dealt with Native Americans?” You could then use special collections to study Dartmouth’s initial proposals to educate Native Americans, investigate old documents to explore how this mission changed over the years, and look into Native American books and journals to see what educational issues various native peoples here have considered important in the past and now. Reference librarians and scholarly search engines could lead you to articles about how others, native and non-native, view Dartmouth’s Native American Studies Program or Native Americans at Dartmouth. You could look up on Dartmouth’s web pages the credentials of faculty who teach Native American Studies, decide to ask one or two to talk with you briefly in hopes of refining your understanding of what you’ve learned, and videotape the talk (with permission gained beforehand, of course). The (and only then), when you have some serious information under your belt, you might talk with (“interview”) current Indian students to find out how each of them answers your question and why. Once you have all this information, you will be in a position to decide something about your topic, to take a position on it. That will guide you in looking for and choosing images and music and other audio effects to enhance the argument or claim you want to make about this topic. From the Orozco murals in Baker to the Native American collection at the Hood Museum, the Hop’s signing of indigenous artists, the archived speeches of Native American speakers, and the special collections images of the annual Powwow, Dartmouth offers many possibilities for both sound and vision.

Similarly, you could explore the culture of women (“co-education”) at Dartmouth. Or the homecoming ritual and what it represents. You might focus on “Greek” culture here, investigating recent discussions about eliminating it, or examining recent scandals within some of the house. You could even look at the architecture at Dartmouth – how is uses space, and what the space and the designs signify or suggest about the culture of those who chose the projects, the architects, the designs, the uses (White? Ivy League? Male? Trustee? Donor?). Interviews with Geography and Art History professors, talks with the College’s office of facilities planning and its development officers (who raise funds for buildings), combing the archives for published pictures of Dartmouth, chatting with the college photographer, listening to archival tapes of speakers on architecture, consulting indices of the Alumni Magazine for letters to the editor about buildings, and soliciting from students their responses to the college’s buildings could be artfully combined with video or stills of the campus sites and backgrounded with appropriate music from the Baker bells or Dartmouth singing groups (Glee Club, Gospel Choir, Aires, etc.) to produce a fascinating documentary arguing something meaningful about the architecture here.

Or you could ask a question about the role of student protest at Dartmouth. You could ask a question about the history of black/white relations at the College. You could investigate the culture of bisexuality at Dartmouth. You could learn something about anti-racist efforts at the College, or look into how affirmative action is set up here and how it is viewed by various College groups. You could ask why at this College, “Asian” seems not to include “South Asian.” You could probe the culture of the Ivy League president at Dartmouth. Endless possibilities.

The draft proposal you submit Friday, 10/6/06, should state your question and hypothesize how your group might investigate, suggesting what might be your focus and where you might look to illustrate your subject. Might you conduct interviews? With whom? What seem at this point like profitable sources of information or history? Will you need to film something on campus? What? Where might you locate still images? Might you use special collections? Which ones? Your proposal should also speculate as to your probable technology needs.

The Preparation: We begin by looking together on Wednesday and Friday at some short examples of multimedia composition and talking about how they are constructed as well as the soundness and the ethics of their arguments. We also meet for two or three sessions with reference librarians, one at Baker/Berry (Dartmouth’s main library), one or two in Rauner (Dartmouth’s special collections and archival library). These workshops will give you experience in using the libraries here to “play” with the resources they offer, to use them to form questions for further research, and to try your hand at locating some things.

Running Time: (including credits): 6 minutes maximum, 4 minutes minimum (NO EXCEPTIONS).
Images: 25 maximum
Text Length: (excluding credits): maximum of 50 discrete words.
Audio: Any kind (voiceover, song, music, sound effects). Remember the 6-minutes limit when you choose audio.
Video: 4 minutes maximum. (Use video advisedly. It doesn’t insure a better film or grade.)
Credit and Permissions: cite in the credits secondary sources and images or audio recording of others that you use or consult. Student need to credit everything and everyone. For educational use (such as showing to the class), you do not need to get written permission. BUT-if you post your film on a web site or screen it at a public (non-educational) event, you would have to get written permissions beforehand.
Clips from distributed movies: not allowed (though still images from them are allowed – but remember that transferring such material to digital form is difficult and not always successful).
Editing: Remember that editing footage takes four times as long as acquiring it.
Final Submission: Save as a Full Quality Quick-Time file and place it in the “Final Projects” folder on the server space provided.
Keep it: Simple.

Example of Final Project