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. Creating multimodal texts that incorporate students’ home languages reflects EAL/D students’ realities of communicating in multiple modes and languages.

Teaching EAL/D students the skills to understand multilingual multimodal texts:

  • supports English language learning
  • develops EAL/D students’ ability to utilise their knowledge of languages purposefully to communicate
  • activates students’ home language knowledge and their entire meaning making repertoire and creates connections to learning English
  • emphasises the expertise of EAL/D students in using multiple languages to make meaning, to enhance their confidence and engagement in learning
  • supports students to understand the place of other languages alongside English in different situations
  • legitimises EAL/D students’ identities as users of multiple languages
  • engages families and communities as partners in the children’s learning and as audience members.

In creating multimodal texts with multilingual elements, EAL/D students learn:

  • speaking, listening, reading, viewing, writing and performing
  • planning, rehearsing, composing, drafting and revising text
  • technological skills using a range of hardware and software
  • interpreting meaning through a range of modes and languages
  • to use all their meaning making resources and languages, including English, to communicate. This helps EAL/D students to become global citizens who are able to make meaning in creative ways and negotiate linguistic and cultural differences (Blair et al. 2018).

EAL/D students learn explicitly about language functions throughout the stages of producing a multimodal text (pre-production, production and post-production). The teaching and learning cycle can be used to develop knowledge of the content, vocabulary, language features and text structure required to create multimodal texts.

In creating multimodal texts, students think critically about the purpose, audience, text structure and language features. They apply their knowledge of how a culturally and linguistically diverse audience engages with multimodal texts.

EAL/D learners come to school with a range of skills around understanding and making meaning in English and their home language. Both the students’ home languages and English can be used in the process of creating the multimodal texts, and the final published multimodal text may include some elements of home languages.

Some EAL/D students have worked extensively with written texts and are comfortable analysing, translating and manipulating English texts. Others have developed strong oral and aural skills in spoken English but are less confident in reading and writing. Teachers can use texts delivered orally to support EAL/D students' comprehension in and production of written texts, and vice versa. For example, students may read and discuss the transcript of an episode of Behind the News before viewing the story. The discussion might centre around the cultural conventions of a short clip, such as identify elements that capture a viewer’s attention but is not essential information to understand the story. This also provide EAL/D students with multiple opportunities to engage with the same language through different modes. For more information, see: Multiple exposures

Multimodal texts support EAL/D students’ comprehension because:

  • they reduce the cognitive load. For EAL/D learners with strong listening and speaking skills who require support in reading, viewing a film (in English and/or in the home language) can scaffold their familiarity with the content before they read a novel
  • they scaffold their listening with written texts. Using English subtitles when watching the news provide additional information to aid comprehension of fast or unclear dialogue. Similarly, students who need to further develop their listening and speaking skills can listen to an audio book version of a text while reading the written version. This may also reinforce pronunciation, sight vocabulary and spelling
  • visuals help to bridge cultural and linguistic barriers. While all visual texts are viewed through a cultural lens, they are often more accessible for EAL/D learners than just words alone, particularly for students at the early stages of learning English. For example, using the accompanying images as stimulus to ‘build the field’ and explain what the Great Barrier Reef or a Fun Run is before the students read the text
  • paper-based or digital multimodal texts with universal themes such as bullying or friendships (for example, the picture book Bluebird by Bob Staake or Pixar's short film For the Birds) may reduce the level of support EAL/D students need in understanding the content. The teacher scribes the vocabulary as the class discusses the wordless multimodal text. This is then used to support students to write a narrative or recount.


Blair, A., Haneda, M., & Bose, F. (2018). Reimagining English‐Medium Instructional Settings as Sites of Multilingual and Multimodal Meaning Making. TESOL Quarterly, 52(3), 516-539.

Staake, B. (2013). Bluebird. Random House Children’s Books.

Pixar Animation Studios. For the Birds [Video file].