Teaching and Assessing Multimodal Texts

Kress (2003) highlighted the importance of design when creating texts nowadays. It is not just about words on paper. Walsh (2008) suggests that, “To read and produce multimodal texts, students need to be able to  combine traditional literacy practices with the understanding, design and manipulation of different modes of image, graphics, sound and movement with text.” This is happening in schools, and has been for some years, but perhaps the main issue has been how multimodal texts have been assessed and progressed.

Anstey and Bull (2004)  developed a guide to planning and teaching multiliteracies which draws on the ideas and work of Cope and Kalantzis (2000) and Downes and Zammit (2002). I have been thinking about a recent piece of work I have done with my class and how it incoporates the aspects of this guide. The guide can be found here http://literacysummary.wikispaces.com/A+Guide+To+Planning+and+Teaching+Multiliteracies .

The class has been writing and designing a leaflet for a farm which we visited.

Learning of, through and about semiotic systems and literacies:  We had been looking at and learning about the features of non-fiction texts by examining a variety of non-fiction books. We focused on headings and captions in particular, and what they tell us. The class had already written a short guide with headings about looking after a pet. We regularly revise and improve the basic punctuation of sentences. We have been learning about common and proper nouns. All these activities fit into the Interpreting, Producing and Using Texts of Anstey and Bull’s guide.

Individual and Combined Semiotic Systems:  The children used linguistic systems when we spoke, took notes and wrote a guide about the farm visit. All the children visited the farm and so could draw on their own experiences. They  had an ‘authentic context’, as described in the guide. Then the class went on to use Publisher to design a leaflet and include photographs of our visit. This required an understanding of spatial and visual systems, the concept of design.

Multimedia and Technology: The children used the brochure template in Publisher which was new to them. They inserted our photographs.

Investigation of how literate practices operate in the world: When the leaflets are finished, we will ask the farm what they think of them. Would they attract visitors to the farm? That was the aim of the project.

The main problem we have encountered, is only having one computer between two. Most children were able to plan their own leaflet and so they were frustrated with not being able to design and finish the project by themselves.

So, Anstey and Bull’s guide shows the individual aspects of multiliteracies which are incorporated into a primary class literacy project, and it also shows how interdependent these aspects are. It seems as if the sticking point is reflecting this multimodal teaching and learning in current methods of assessment.

Walsh, M. (2008) Worlds have collided and modes have merged: classroom evidence of changed literacy practices, Literacy, 42 (3), pp101-108

Anstey, M. & Bull, G. (2004) The Literacy Labyrinth (Second Edition), Malaysia, Pearson Education Australia.

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