Multimodal literacy

​Many texts are multimodal, where meaning is communicated through combinations of two or more modes. Modes include written language, spoken language, and patterns of meaning that are visual, audio, gestural, tactile and spatial.

Multimodal texts

Multimodal texts include picture books, text books, graphic novels, comics, and posters, where  meaning is conveyed to the reader through varying combinations of visual (still image) written language, and spatial modes.

Digital multimodal texts, such as film, animation, slide shows, e-posters, digital stories, and web pages, convey meaning through combinations of written and spoken language, visual (still and moving image), audio, gestural and spatial modes.

Live multimodal texts, for example, dance, performance, and oral storytelling, convey meaning through combinations of modes such as gestural, spatial, spoken language, and audio.

Each mode uses unique semiotic resources to create meaning (Kress, 2010). In a visual text, for example, representation of people, objects, and places can be conveyed using choices of visual semiotic resources such as line, shape, size, line and symbols, while written language would convey this meaning through sentences using noun groups and adjectives (Callow, 2013) which are written or typed on paper or a screen. (For further information, see Anstey and Bull, 2009; Callow, 2013; Cloonan, 2011, Kalantzis, Cope, Chan, and Dalley-Trim, 2016.)

Why multimodal literacy is important

Young people need to be able to communicate effectively in an increasingly multimodal world. This requires teaching children how to comprehend and compose meaning across diverse, rich, and potentially complex, forms of multimodal text, and to do so using a range of different meaning modes.

As communication practices have become increasingly shaped by developments in information and multimedia technologies, it is no longer possible for us to think about literacy solely as a linguistic accomplishment (Jewitt, 2008, p. 241).

Multimodal is the combination of two or more of these modes to create meaning.

Most of the texts that we use are multimodal, including picture books, text books, graphic novels, films, e-posters, web pages, and oral storytelling as they require different modes to be used to make meaning.

Each individual mode uses unique semiotic resources to create meaning (Kress, 2010) and teaching of these needs to be explicit.