Multimodality in ELT

I am delighted to announce the publication of my latest paper Multimodality in ELT (Oxford University Press).

Traditionally, students in the ELT classroom have been taught the four skills: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. However, we need to keep pace with the world in which our students live: a world full of images and sound, blended with text – a multimodal world. We must reconsider what contemporary ‘communication’ means and teach students to communicate in a realistic way with the world around them. Students need to learn how to ‘read’ multimodal texts (viewing) and convey meaning themselves through multimodal texts (representing). This new literacy is vital if students are to learn English in a way that is relevant to the way they live and how they interact with others.
The first part of this paper looks at what is meant by multimodality and multimodal literacy, and then discusses the important concepts of viewing and representing and how these can be incorporated into classroom practice. Then the paper considers the implications of multimodal literacy on how and what we teach, and what this means in turn for course materials. Finally, if multimodal literacy is to be fully recognized and implemented, then it needs to be reflected in assessment criteria, so that students are being assessed on material that is relevant to their lives, now and in the future.
The key messages in this paper are:

  • In today’s world, communication includes more than just speaking and writing. Now learners need to build in visual, aural, and spatial dimensions to communication too.
  • The traditional four key skills of reading, listening, writing, and speaking are no longer sufficient. We must expand the key skills to include viewing and creating multimodal texts as well.
  • Using videos and images in class isn’t an optional fun activity anymore. It is essential to use multimodal texts for analysis, debate, and discussion.
  • In order to communicate effectively in today’s world, whether at school, in further education, or at work, students need to be proficient in multimodal literacy.

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