Have you ever finished a composition assignment using digital tools like sound recorders or cameras? Or have you ever assigned an audio documentary or a video adaptation of some plays? In our English class, everything can become possible.
In the study of Selfe and Wright’s (2007) Words, audio and video: Composing and the processes of production. Multimodal composition (pp. 13–28), the authors shed new lights on how multimodal composition can be applied in EFL classroom. This research mentioned two main facets of composition with alphabetic texts and digital formats. Firstly, it introduced the process of composition with words, audio and video, each has three moves:
- Move1: Putting words/ audio/ image or video to a digital format;
- Move2: Organizing, revising and editing words/ audio/ video resources.
- Move3: Sharing and publishing in each format.
The similarity is that in the first move, all three kinds of compositions include thinking about the purpose, audience and form, as well as planning and brainstorming various concepts in a word-processing program. Differences among three kinds of composition result from the different digital equipment they use and the nature of the composition. Each composition should use related tools to transform themselves into digital format, for example, typing or scanning words into computers in word composition; recording and downloading audio material into computers in audio composition; shooting video and taking pictures in video composition.
Secondly, there exist some challenges that teachers will encounter when teaching students to compose multimodal texts that contain video or audio. For instance, students may need to learn how to think about, choose, and focus on topics in ways that take advantage of the particular affordances of sound and video; they may also need to learn more knowledge about technologies, like how to operate digital equipment and compress large files.
Here is an example of multimodal assignment-composition with audio. In an EFL class, the teacher asks students to compose an audio essay which allows students to tell about their personal literacy practice with the help of digital sound recording equipment. Students are also allowed hand in their written documents, including detailed plans, storyboard, interview questions, record citations and personal reflections. An evaluation sheet is also attached for students to refer to.
(the screenplay we wrote in Joanna’s class)
In our MES program, we have similar assignment for students to compose with video. Last semester, Dr. Joanna Mansbiridge requested students to make a film project in groups. In the process of creation, students need to develop a story and write a screenplay for the scenes and plots. Students are also asked to draw the storyboards for the stories and made a portfolio for the project.
(the storyboard we drew in Joanna’s class)
In the assessment of the assignment, the projects are evaluated not only by the coherence of the story structure, the format of the screenplay and the development of the characters, the demonstration of the dialogues and clarity of the storyboard, also the application of the film techniques, such as cinematography, editing, lighting, setting and music are taken into account.
Through the process of the project, students successfully learned and developed the skills of composition and technique knowledge of filming. Meanwhile, the video presented in the final step is a great demonstration of the learning outcomes.
Here are some questions for you:
- Do you think it is important to apply multimodal composition to EFL classes? Why?
- What are the advantages and limitations of multimodal assignments?
(Edited by Lux and Elle)