Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

'It's Easy!': Scaffolding Literacy for Teaching Multimodal Texts

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

'It's Easy!': Scaffolding Literacy for Teaching Multimodal Texts

Article excerpt


I was participating in my school's cluster moderations during which Year 5 student assessment tasks were being compared, discussed and categorised according to their level of achievement. An A to E grading scale was being used, with an A representing a high achievement and an E representing a limited achievement. A C grading was considered to be a sound achievement of the assessment standard. This process aims for consistent marking across the cluster. We were comparing a number of students' multimodal stories for their understanding of how language features, images and vocabulary influenced an audience's interpretations of characters, settings and events in accordance with the Year 5 Achievement Standard for the Australian Curriculum: English (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2015). One teacher commented about the assessment task: 'It's easy. You just get your students to type up their writing, then cut and paste pictures. Done!' Indeed, a number of students had effectively completed this task receiving a grade between A and C. However, my attention was drawn to my students who had received a D or E rating. For this group of students, the task was not easy.

These students were considered to be achieving at a standard below their grade level. While the students had demonstrated some literacy ability, their samples contained a number of spelling errors and a lack of affective language, which is important for creating engagement for a reader. Additionally, the students had forgotten to use simple punctuation, such as capital letters and full stops. Many of the visual images did not appear to be positioned meaningfully throughout the texts, but instead were clustered together on a final single slide. All this contributed to the limited expression of ideas in the language and visual modalities of the texts, as well as a limited understanding of the texts' purpose and target audience.

It was noticeable that many of the students appeared to have little awareness of the way the language and visual meaning-making resources operated in multimodal texts. I was aware of research completed by Unsworth (2014) and Painter, Martin and Unsworth (2013) concerning the complexity of image-language relations and the need to address reading comprehension as a negotiation of visual and verbal meaning. I began to think about the pedagogical strategies I could use to better scaffold students' print literacy, but also to develop their knowledge of visual literacy. By doing so, I would support these low achieving students to demonstrate their understandings of multimodal texts. I settled on the program known as Scaffolding Literacy (Axford et al., 2009).

This article proposes a teaching sequence that explicates the language and visual meaning-making resources using the Scaffolding Literacy pedagogy (Axford et al., 2009) for students with low literacy achievement. The article begins by reviewing the literature around the Scaffolding Literacy approach, then the Australian Curriculum: English (ACARA, 2015) and its advocacy for the teaching of multiple meaning systems, such as language and image, will be discussed. Kress and van Leeuwen's (2006) Grammar of visual design, along with more recent work by Painter, Martin and Unsworth (2013), will be outlined as a metalanguage for discussing multimodal texts. Finally, the planning scripts used to support my students' learning have been included to help demonstrate the pedagogical adjustments made to the Scaffolding Literacy teaching sequence.

The Scaffolding Literacy approach

The Scaffolding Literacy approach emphasises the teacher's role in the instruction of the curriculum content (Axford et al., 2009). A review of literature surrounding the Scaffolding Literacy approach highlights its effectiveness for diverse audiences and learning contexts. This approach is also known as Accelerated Literacy (Cowey, 2005) and Learning to Read: Reading to Learn (Rose & Acevedo, 2006). …

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