Wrapping up the Quarter: Memes and Metacognition

Wrapping up the Quarter: Memes and Metacognition

[Above: A meme created by a student in Nissa Cannon's PWR 1 class]

It was Week 9 – one week to go till the end of winter quarter – and a message went out to our instructor list with the subject line, “Looking for fun research sharing activities.”

“I’m trying to coming up with a FUN (and maybe even silly) way for my students to share their work on the last day of PWR 1,” the author wrote, noting that many of the activities she had considered using “feel more serious in approach than I’m hoping to close the long, exhausting quarter with …”

A small flurry of replies, laden with innovative ideas, followed.

What the original author had tapped into were feelings that a great many of us share at this moment:

  1. That reflection and metacognition is a fundamental part of PWR, in large part because of how they help students actualize their growth as writers, rhetoricians, and researchers, especially in promoting forward transfer of behaviors, processes, and strategies.
  2. That this pandemic quarter, as we mark the anniversary of our pivot to remote teaching, has been a “long, exhausting” one, and that students – tired from weeks of Zoom-mediated engagement and with only the briefest of breaks before spring quarter on the horizon –could benefit from activities that raise spirits and morale while still serving pedagogical purpose.

Many instructors often have students summarize their research on a slide as part of “mini-presentation” or informal showcase on the last day of class, but bringing playfulness into the equation offered an intriguing variation.

A few of our instructors and their students were kind enough to share the outcomes of some of their multimodal metacognitive activities.  Scroll down for a brief gallery of last-day-of-class student work in which they use visual rhetoric and non-linear composition to reflect on and wrap up the quarter.  In each case, students did important work of synthesizing key elements of their PWR experience, while stretching themselves as rhetoricians, operating in an often non-academic mode.


Nissa Cannon had her students use a meme generator to produce their own commentary on some aspect of the course.

Some students created memes related to their research topics (related to the class theme, “The Passport, The Profile, The Portrait: Rhetorics of Identification”):



Others engaged more closely with the writing and research process:




Similarly, Norah Fahim invited her students to reflect via a Google Slideshare, where they received the following instructions: "Consider this a space to visually represent your research (and class!) journey in a nutshell. Think of collages, memes, photos of yourself, photos of your brainstorming or whatever strikes you as interesting (or amusing I hope sometimes!) from this quarter as you reached your final RBA draft." By the end of the activity, the slidedeck was populated by a rich assortment of collages that reflected on the students' journey across the quarter, using words, images, memes and even animated gifs, such as this one:



Becky Richardson writes, "I asked my students to create a Jamboard slide to encapsulate and visualize their research and experience of the past quarter. The goal was to end up with a Jamboard to remember the class and projects by -- and to try to capture some of the community, friendships, and lighter moments of the quarter.

That sense of levity and play had been especially missing in weeks 8-10, as students faced more midterms and exams and final projects -- this year without the benefit of a finals week on the horizon. As we rushed to complete those final RBAs in the same weeks, we spent a lot of our class time in serious brainstorming, drafting, and workshopping mode. After all that, on our final day of class, it felt all the more necessary to be human together. 

With instructions to play around with fonts and memes and colors, students got into small break-out rooms to brainstorm and get their visions onto slides. I wanted to put little laughing emojis around everything as I watched memes and inside jokes spring up on the boards. Funny and relatable memories! But also, as tends to happen, those jokes were often working through real concerns. That writing and research projects can make us feel like we’ve 'forgotten how to read and write' (as one student so aptly put it!). Or that, as soon as we try to explain ideas to someone outside our heads, we feel like we’re standing in front of a conspiracy theory crime board (as another student visualized it!)."




As a final example, Kath Rothschild had her students work with their research group to summarize both their research and the most important things they learned during the quarter but gave them a time limit of only ten minutes to drive home the elevator pitch concept and keep it light, simple, and silly. One group came up with: “keep your friends close, but your discourse community closer.”