Mini-Zines for RBA Structure

Mini-Zines for RBA Structure

Overview: Students create "mini-zines" to help them conceptualize the organization and structure of their RBAs.

Activity Title: Mini-Zines for RBA Structure

Author(s): Tessa Brown

Courses: PWR 1 & PWR 2

Activity length and schedule: 30 minutes-1 hour, during RBA revision process

Activity Goals:

  • Create a mini-zine out of your research
  • Have fun encountering your research in a new mode in a low-stakes way
  • Think about structure, key concepts, and key moves

Activity Details:

Bring in markers and white printer paper for the class, enough for everyone to have access to a few markers at a time and 1 page per student with a few extras, as well as a few pairs of scissors.

I teach this activity in the context of talk about structure when students have begun drafting their RBAs. The activity tends to speak for itself, but some related activities or commentary we engage around structure include:

  • having students outline their existing drafts
  • having students look at the structures of peer-reviewed articles they are citing
  • having students draw Venn diagrams of their theoretical frameworks

In my class, these conversations are all in the air when we approach zines. You can make a complete class session doing 1-2 of the above activities and then the zines.

I start the activity by telling students we are going to make mini-zines. I give some light history of zines as radical homemade magazines that were popularized in the 80s and 90s in resistance to corporate-controlled media, that they were usually made through collage and then copied on (ideally, your boss’s) copy machine, and then circulated through newsletters and word of mouth, often sent to incarcerated people for free. Zines are now circulated through major fests in places like Brooklyn and SF.

The mini-zines have to be folded in a specific way, so I lead the class through folding them together, demonstrating for them. (It is good to practice beforehand.) The folding is pretty simple and has 1 slightly tricky cut and final fold. You can see how to make a 1-page mini-zine on this "Fanzines" Tumblr post. I put this graphic on the overhead while I lead students through the following steps (which I can teach you if you need help!):

  • fold the paper the long way (I say hot dog way for laughs)
  • unfold and fold the paper the short way (hamburger way for more laughs)
  • unfold and fold the outer edges toward the inner fold
  • unfold, refold the short way, and then cut into the fold to the perpendicular fold
  • refold the long way, grasp the edges, push so the cut parts and the paper becomes a T, and then press into a book shape

Once everyone’s papers are folded, I give super simple instructions: make your project into a zine! Think about what goes on the cover, what goes on each page, and how to make it readable for an audience that doesn’t know your project. I also clarify that this is not to be turned in, it is just a generative activity for them.

Then I put on some chill music and simply give the students time. They will dive right in. If you can spare 30 minutes of working time they will use it!

I also have a collection of small books and zines that I bring into class that day. While the students are making their zines, I let them come up to the front and look at my collection. In PWR 2, I frame zines or small booklets as a genre they could engage for their G/M projects.

At the end of the class, I ask students to share pages of their zine or some reflections on how it felt to make the zine. Students often remark on the pleasure of encountering their project in a low-stakes space; of how they had to think critically about what is most important given the small space of the tiny zine; and how the 8 small pages of the mini-zine made it easier to think about structuring their papers. In PWR 2, many students often also make bigger zines for their G/Ms, some of which are copied and circulated to the whole class.

Since many students don’t conclude their zines in class, I also end by suggesting they keep their zines with them as brainstorming tools for when they are writing. If they feel stuck, they can keep filling in the pages.

Have fun!