When you read the title of this blog, your first thought was likely, “What is multimodal literacy?” To answer this question, let’s break down the word “multimodal” into two parts – mode and multi.

Modes are the ways people communicate. There are five main modes: linguistic, visual, spatial, aural, and gestural. Linguistic mode focuses on written or spoken communication, such as word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, vocabulary, or grammar. Visual mode communicates through what a person sees, such as images, signs, symbols, or videos. It has a visual design component which focuses on colour, layout, font type and size. Aural mode is what someone hears, such as voice, tone, background noise, music, or silence. Gestural mode communicates through movement and includes facial expressions, body language, or hand gestures. Spatial mode uses physical layouts to communicate such as position, spacing, distance between elements in a text, or proximity between people/objects.

Multi refers to the many modes applied at once. Think of a text which includes written words (linguistic mode), pictures (visual mode), and audiobook (aural mode). When used separately, each mode communicates a message; however, when combined, these modes communicate a much stronger message which is accessible to more people. These texts can be printed or digital. Some examples are picture books, graphic novels, comics, videos (with closed-captions), or websites. Consider the table below created by Oxford University Press ELT (2023) which demonstrates the different modes used for certain printed or digital texts.

Now that you understand what multimodal means, what does it have to do with taking English at CVS?

Modern society recognizes each person communicates and understands in a different way. One person may be excellent at remembering written information while another remembers everything they see or hear. Some cultures rely heavily on one mode for communication; for example, the gestural mode is foundational to communication for Italians. Technology also enables the use of multiple communication modes when creating texts or digital media. One hundred years ago, printed texts with some visual elements (linguistic & visual mode) were the main methods of communication. Today, one website article can include all five modes.

Our students must develop communication skills for all modes. These skills will help them create texts or media forms through which they communicate best, and they will help students understand the bombardment of information they see in a short period of time. Students must learn how to engage with and understand a research article as well as they understand a TikTok reel. They must learn how to engage in conversation using aural and gestural skills to ensure clear communication. English courses at CVS include many opportunities for students to create digital texts such as websites and media forms (ex. recorded videos) to improve their skills through various communication modes.

With multimodal communication also comes new learning to be responsible and safe digital citizens. Most of today’s communication is done on the internet. CVS English courses teach students how to remain safe when engaging with digital platforms and how to create positive digital environments. Students often do not realize what they share online is permanent and can greatly affect them and those who see or read it.

So, how do these multimodal communication skills impact our students’ faith? Modern culture is becoming increasingly apathetic, and even hostile at times, to Christian beliefs. Less and less people truly understand what Scripture says. Our English courses teach students to view all communication and understanding through a Biblical lens. This helps students communicate what they believe, why they believe it, and to consider how someone else’s beliefs compare to Scripture’s teachings. Clear communication and understanding of Scripture is important for students as they engage with a secular world. In CVS English courses, students learn how to share their faith and how faith affects their understanding of texts, media, and responsibilities as communicators.

Sources: Oxford University Press ELT. (2023, November 16). Multimodality and multimodal literacy: What are they and why are they important in ELT? Oxford University Press, https://teachingenglishwithoxford.oup.com/2023/11/16/multimodality-and-multimodal-literacy-elt/