Production of multimodal texts can be an effective plurilingual strategy. There are numerous types of digital multimodal texts: books, films, blogs, posters, web pages, slideshows, memes, collages, animations, podcasts and trailers. Digital multimodal texts can engage students in learning a range of different texts across the curriculum, such as story-telling, recounting, informing and persuading.
Multimodal texts can be digital and non-digital. Both have advantages and create rich opportunities for language and literacy learning. The use of digital texts additionally helps students to develop digital literacies.
Samples of their work are shared in this section.
Stories from the classroom
Using home language scripts
Tony (Year 3/4 EAL) created the book Chinese New Year using two languages - English and Mandarin - both in written and oral form. A significant feature of this book is the use of the home language script which he independently produced using Google Translate. He was very eager to try writing in his home language. It was a new experience for him, and his reading in Mandarin was less confident than his reading in English. However, the use of all modes of meaning-making (linguistic, visual, aural, spatial and gestural) supported Tony in this experience, illuminating the capacity of digital multimodal production to support the development of his literacies in both languages.
Chinese New Year by Tony
Including oral language and visuals especially benefits students who are not confident reading and writing a home language (or English). In this case, they can be supported by the sound function and script on Google Translate. This will not only help to engage them in home literacy practices but also extend their digital capabilities. Students can further use the Roman alphabet for languages that share this alphabet or transliterate different scripts into English. Ilyas (Year 3/4 EAL) decided to write Somali, which uses the Roman alphabet, in his text on birthdays.
Birthdays by Ilyas
Which language comes first?
Sadik (Year 3/4 EAL) created a multimodal book about Eid celebrations using Google Translate. He used English and Somali in both written and oral forms. An interesting feature of the book is the order in which languages appear. English always comes first as a written language. However, in his voiceover, Sadik starts reading in English initially but in the two last scenes, he swaps the order of languages and reads in Somali first. Whether he did this consciously or not, this approach highlights the importance of both languages.
Eid by Sadik
Antonia Ioannou, one of the teachers from Collingwood English Language School, noted that representing languages equally was not typical in students' work. While positioning English first reflects the significance of English in students' school lives, it also positions home languages as less valuable. She suggested that more equal representation of languages in multimodal books should be explicitly encouraged.
“I think it’s important that we give examples to students, but maybe a range of examples with different ways of presenting the languages instead of just having English at the top, say Greek at the bottom and recording in both. Show them maybe three examples of different ways that they can present theirs. I think that’s important because often our students look at one and copy. So we need to give them those options.”
In addition to showing relevant examples, other strategies can include:
(1) considering different layouts of the pages and positioning languages thoughtfully; (2) using colours, fonts and font size to emphasise language or show equal importance; (3) placing different languages first in different parts of the text and signpost a switch.
Students' use of multimodality
The use of visuals and voiceover is a significant feature of multimodal books. There are a number of ways these can be used. These ways depend on the students' familiarity and capacity to use digital technologies as well as the time available for multimodal production.
Students' traditional drawings
The use of students' drawings as illustrations is a productive starting point. This can be helpful with younger students or students who are unfamiliar with digital technologies. For her book, Lujain (Year 3/4 EAL) prepared a set of drawings. These were then photographed with the help of an iPad and used as illustrations in her book created in Book Creator. Such an approach built on Lujain's strengths (for example, drawing) and also provided opportunities to extend her digital literacies and multimodal literacies.
My Languages by Lujain
Ready-made Google images
Aleesha (Year 3/4 EAL) designed and created a multimodal book about Indian Day using
Book Creator. Aleesha used a number of ready-made Google images as illustrations in her book. These images play both an aesthetical and storytelling function, and show her careful re-contextualisation of Google images for her own purposes. To further extend this important learning experience, students can be encouraged to be more playful with the use of ready-made images as well as to reflect critically on the visual culture in their lives.
Indian Day by Aleesha
Students' digital drawings
Ahmed (Year 3/4 EAL) created his own illustrations for the book with the help of the 'paint' tool in the Book Creator app. Each page contains his original drawings which effectively enhance some ideas of his written and oral work. Students can also be encouraged to develop more sophisticated interplay between written/oral elements and visual elements: (1) written/oral text and the images tell the same story; (2) images enhance the written/oral text; (3) the images and the text create a new story that is only told through the interaction of both; (4) the images and the text tell different stories.
Eid by Ahmed
The book by Frixzie illustrates remixing, or using both digital images and drawings, as an approach to the inclusion of visuals in digital multimodal texts. Frixzie (Year 3/4 EAL) transformed ready-made Google images by adding her own drawings to produce a new creative visual text. This process generated a space for rich meaning-making and creativity. This is especially important for EAL students who are often only expected to produce functional language as they improve their English proficiency.
Birthdays by Frixzie
Creating multimodal texts
Multimodal texts combine two or more modes such as written language, spoken language, visual (still and moving image), audio, gestural, and spatial meaning.
Multimodal literacy is an emerging area of importance in the literacy curriculum as everyday communication practices are increasingly shaped by information and multimedia technologies.
Multilingual multimodal texts and EAL/D learners
EAL/D students and their families engage in multimodal texts that are presented in a combination of languages such as bilingual books, subtitled videos and translated documents.
A discussion on plurilingual approach to learning. Plurilingual awareness refers to a person's ability to use their knowledge of different languages.
An example of a multilingual approach to teaching and learning – Indigenous context
A video on how students at Purnululu Aboriginal School use Gija and Kriol in the classroom.
Languages and Multicultural Education Resource Centre translanguaging resources
A reading list which includes links to articles, reports and Australian case studies as well as the titles of books on translanguaging that are available at the Languages and Multicultural Education Resource Centre (LMERC)