I have been attending the 4Cs (Conference on College Composition and Communication) here in San Francisco for the past two days. What has struck me most is the extent to which "composition instructors" and the field in general are, not always willingly or happily, revising the notion of composition to include not only the essay of the past but the visual and multimedia forms as viable alternatives. They speak of "visual rhetoric" as well as more traditional rhetoric as applied to essays or speeches. They speak of the rhetorical strategies used in effective Power Points with no less frequency than they do of these same concepts being applied to a movie, blog, wiki, or even 140 character Twitter message.
In the future, teachers will, it seems, all need to know and provide more deliberate instruction in rhetoric as kids compose–using images, words, sounds, mixed media, mashed-up genres–for our classes. And we will have to look to and make more room for such compositions in the future for this is clearly the direction the college are going.
Some years ago I went in an Apple store to get something. On the wall was a giant poster of verbs. This was about 2004. Looking at the list, I suddenly realized that these were the verbs of literacy (for kids) but not (for most, anyway) of school.
The word compose derives from Latin and Old French and means "to place." The last two days at the 4Cs conference have challenged me to reflect on my "place" in students' education and the place of such multimodal composing in my class. What are the verbs that describe what you–and your students–do in your class?