Tag Archives: Multimodal Literacy

#NCTE 2021:  4 Resources & Takeaways

NCTE 2021 was virtual this past fall and although the in person experience of the conference feeds my creativity and teaching practices, there were still many gems online that I am still musing over. Below are the top four take aways that interest me right now.

1. Opening Session with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Americanah, and much more, offered a hopeful beginning to this year’s Convention at the opening general session. Here are some of the amazing quotes and ideas she shared:

“To be a good teacher is often not just about teaching the curriculum. It is also about those things that are harder to quantify: teaching confidence; making a child feel seen as an individual. Because when we value a student, we teach that student to value herself.”

“I want to argue that it’s important for us to make peace with discomfort. That there’s something perverse about expecting always to be comfortable. Life is messy. Sometimes discomfort opens us up to growth and to knowledge and to meaning.”

“There’s a certain kind of excessive ‘safeness’ that concerns me about what we think children should read or not read. We don’t need to be overly safe. We can afford to be uncomfortable.”“There’s something wonderful and affirming about reading about your own reality and reading what is familiar to you. And that particular pleasure should never be denied anyone. But it is equally important to read about people who are not like you.”

2. Story Telling Through Art with Bisa Butler & Dr. Gholdy  Muhammad

One of my favorite artists today is the fabric artist, Bisa Butler. She participated in an engaging webinar with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, author of Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy. These women spoke about teaching culturally and historically responsive education through 5 pursuits:

  • Identity – teaching students to know themselves and others;
  • Skills – teaching students the proficiencies needed across content areas;
  • Intellectualism – teaching students new knowledge;
  • Criticality – teaching students to understand and disrupt oppression; and
  • Joy – teaching students about the beauty and truth in humanity.

Muhammad recently wrote a curriculum for Butler’s work available on webpage linked above. You can also make a copy of this activity I created based on one of Butler’s Quilts and segregated baseball in America.

3. Poetry with Penny Kittle & Kelly Gallagher
Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher just published a new book which is a MUST READ for all English teachers. The new book, 4 Essential Studies covers essay writing, poetry, book clubs and poetry – discussion of this book is for a different department meeting. Kittle and Gallagher spoke on a poetry panel and here is a list of their favorite poems to check out. Why poetry? It’s short and accessible for students. Don’t just teach students to read and analyze poems but to write their own poems and emulate/imitate craft moves and styles of poetry. Here is what Kelly learned when Penny challenged him to write a poem.

4. Using Digital Texts to Deepen Understanding: Elevating Critical Thought

It is not about digital vs. print text, teachers need to read and create a variety of texts. Let’s consider multimodal texts for our English classrooms that include podcasts, digital text, and visual texts. Brandon Abdon (@BrandonAbdon), Alice Wu, Andy Schoenborn (@aschoenborn), and Troy Hicks (@hickstro) discuss how to use “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” from The New York Times as a multimedia mentor text, as ways to give students a choice in topic and approach. Although this was geared for APLit and APLang teachers, it is relevant for all teachers to help students prepare for the thinking process. Communicate ideas in digital ways to diver audiences beyond the walls of our classroom for civic engagement.

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Building MultiModal Text Sets & Building 21st Century Skills

The following post was a piece written for the January 2020 ISTE Literacy Journal. To read the complete journal with additional articles focusing on multimodal literacy, click here.

We live in a world where information is presented in multimodalities: visual, print, audio, digital. Yet, in schools, most teachers are still dependent on print text. Maybe there is some visual and digital texts. Audio is slowly entering the field of education with the array of informative podcasts and audiobooks to listen to great reads. If we are truly going to help students build 21st century skills according to the ISTE Standards for Students and Next Generation Literacy Standards than we need to provide more multimodal text sets for student learning and understanding. This is more than universal design learning, it is about helping students access information in all its forms, become critical thinkers of these texts, as well as creative communicators. 

When you enter my 8th grade English classroom in Rye, New York you will find students reading paperback books as well as some listening to the same text on Learning Ally or reading it on a Kindle or Chromebook. My students interact with all different types of texts depending on the unit they are studying. For example, when students are reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a classic text taught in most middle or high schools today, I supplement their historical, political, and socio economic understanding of the text by building text sets to expand world knowledge. 

According to Achievethecore.org, “A text set is a collection of related texts organized around a unit topic, theme, concept, or idea. The set is focused on an anchor text,­ a rich, complex, grade ­level text. The anchor text is the focus of a close reading with instructional supports. What is important is that the texts in the set are connected meaningfully to each other to deepen student understanding of the anchor text.” Text sets should go beyond print and digital texts. Photographs, audio text, and video can also be integrated into text sets. It is important to note text sets evolve and should be revised and updated regularly. 

The text set I have built around To Kill a Mockingbird includes an audio of FDR’s 1933 inaugural speech referenced in Chapter One of Harper Lee’s book.  Students view Dorothea Lange’s photographs from the Great Depression. Using material from Facing History, I partner with my social studies teacher to include primary and secondary sources about Jim Crow Laws and the Scottsboro Trial which influenced Lee’s writing.  When we get to the trial scene in the book, students complete an Edpuzzle and view a video of Richard Peck playing Atticus in the 1962 film adaptation. As students are watching Atticus’ closing argument they track his use of ethos, pathos, and logos. I have graphic novel versions of the text for us to dive deep into craft and structure specific chapters and use Actively Learn, a digital reading platform, for jigsaw activities when we read poetry that connects to the text and characterization.  To build in some computational thinking, this winter my students will be creating a cardboard city of Maycomb and will code Finch Robots to travel through Maycomb representing the Scout, Jem, and Dill’s journey throughout the novel. 

I am excited to add robotics and extend students’ literacy learning in my classroom. Although some parents have expressed their concerns of not focusing solely on literature in my English Language Arts class,  layering classical texts with multimodal text sets provides all the students in my classroom ways to access the text, understand the text, and engage in critical conversations about the text. 

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