31 SES 04 A, Multiliteracies and Multimodalities: Sociotechnical and Participative Perspectives on Information Creation and Consumption
This paper draws on a poetry and music project initiated by a producer at the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. The project has been running for a year and has been carried out in cooperation with teachers and students from three public schools. The focus in this paper will be on the participating children in Grades 1 and 2 from one school, who have been encouraged and supported to write poetry in their classrooms. In January 2020, the children performed settings of their poems in collaboration with children from other schools as well as musicians from the Symphony Orchestra. We as researchers have followed this project from the start, and will present preliminary results in this paper. The aim is to investigate what it has meant for the participating teachers and their students to be involved in the project, and to find out about the multiliteracies that were used and performed during the processes in the classrooms and in the final performance. We ask:
In what ways and through what kind of multiliteracies, including various modalities and languages, did the children express themselves?
Which affordances and/or challenges emerged in relation to the teachers’ and the children’s perspectives, and why?
This study is motivated by an interest in democratic aspects of children’s participation and agency, and the crucial role which multifaceted literacy competences play in this. Over the last four decades, the definition and meaning of “literacy” has broadened and evolved. From entailing only the ability to read and write, literacy is now interpreted as using language in socially and culturally situated contexts (see e.g. Baynham & Prinsloo, 2009; Heath, 1983; Street, 1993). Further, multimodal forms of expressions impregnate Western societies of today, which has an impact on how children develop language and how they think about communication.
Barton (1994) proposes that literacy, including different modes of text, takes place on different occasions in life. This multimodal perspective on literacy highlights how different modes and types of text, such as talk and gestures, are combined in communication. According to Kress and Van Leeuwen (2001), all communication is multimodal and includes several interacting semiotic systems. The New London Group (1996) has identified five comprehensive systems to define meaning making: written and linguistic (the use of vocabulary and grammar); visual (the use of, for example, colour, light and shadow); audial (the use of sound, music, noise and silence through pitch, volume and rhythm); gestural (the use of hands, facial expressions and body language through speed, stillness, and rhythm); and, finally, spatial (the use of proximity, direction and position). Multimodal texts that children encounter include texts in theatre, video games, movies and picture books. When children play, dramatize, draw, paint, write and compose stories, modalities are combined, such as gestures, sound, colour and script. Drawing on the plurality of texts and media in current societies, Luke and Freebody (1997) propose that effective literacy learning needs to integrate and balance practices of coding, functional use, meaning making and critical analysis of texts. Comber and Nixon (2004) describe this literacy approach as a focus “not only on what children read and view, but also on what they design, compose and produce across a wide range of genres, medias and modes” (p. 116). Further, aesthetic expressions can play significant roles in children’s identity building and meaning making and this might lead to transformative learning, i.e. when learning brings about changes in attitudes and thinking patterns, providing opportunities to act in new ways and changing identity formation (Bamford, 2017; Illeris, 2014), which could be considered useful for both themselves and for society (Dahlbäck et al, 2018; Hall, 1989).
The school in question is situated in an area characterized by socioeconomic inequality. A majority of the students speak a language other than Swedish in their homes. These students do not per se have lower cognitive and/or literacy abilities, but these conditions do affect teachers’ work in comparison to teachers’ work in schools in more affluent areas. Several methods were used for creating data: participant observations in classrooms, focus-group interviews with participating teachers, individual interviews with five children from two classrooms and teachers’ documentation from the process. On five daylong visits, we have observed poetry writing in the classes. Focus-group interviews were chosen as a methodological approach with the purpose of creating active and dynamic discussions, making it possible for several different views and experiences to be voiced among the teachers (Halkier, 2010). Five individual students, with various language backgrounds and attitudes regarding literacy were selected. Through individual interviews with these students we were able to capture the personal perspectives of these specific children. During the interviews, we used poems, pictures and music created by the students to stimulate reflections from their individual perspectives. All poems created by the focus students have been collected and documented. In this research project, we study events from the perspective of teachers and pupils based on the following empirical material: • Observations from poetry writing in the classrooms • Poems/pictures/music from 5 students and 10 transcribed interviews with these students. • Teacher documentation of the whole process. • One transcribed group interview with 5 participating teachers. The analysis of the created data material will be carried out in accordance with the aim and the research questions. The analysis of the classroom activities, together with the analysis of the focus-group interviews and the individual interviews, will enable us to develop further knowledge about conditions and possibilities for children’s participation, and development of literacy competences through the multiliteracies that they had access to via this project. Also, the analysis will shed light on challenges and affordances that came to light. The focus of the analysis will be on the meaning that is created and designed through various multiliteracies and aesthetics (Cummins, 2001; Comber & Nixon, 2004).
To participate in society, children depend on classroom practices that support them in developing complex multiliteracy competences, including basic reading and writing, but also expressing oneself and reflecting on and drawing conclusions from texts, as well as critically reviewing them (Comber & Nixon, 2004; Cummins, 2001; Schmidt, 2018). There is hence a need for many ways and multiple modalities for communicating and developing knowledge from, in particular together with children in diverse classrooms. The processes and performances in the poetry and music project meant a meeting between the students and teachers who participated, as well as a meeting between various musical genres and forms of expression. This study is a work in progress and the empirical data will be analysed the coming spring. We will therefore present preliminary results in line with the paper’s aim and research questions. Further, our ambition is to relate the analysed results to aspects of children’s opportunities for representation, drawing on Fraser’s (1997). There are, of course, several arguments for classroom work with poetry, including functional, emancipatory and literary ones. Through poetry, it may be possible for the children to discover the power of language (Heard, 1989). Poetic language reflects the variety of languages and poets could be said to work at the frontline linguistically (Hall, 1989). Children have the ‘right’ to use their imagination as well as practising their freedom of speech, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF, 2009). We will present what teachers and students learned from participating in this project where different modalities and languages interact.
Bamford, A. (2009). The Wow Factor Global research compendium on the impact of the arts in education. Münster: Waxmann. Barton, D. (1994) An introduction to the ecology of the written language. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Baynham, M. & Prinsloo, M. (2009) The future of literacy studies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Comber, B. & Nixon, H. (2004) Children reread and rewrite their local neighborhoods: Critical literacies and identity work. In J. Evans, ed: Literacy moves on. Using popular culture, new technologies and critical literacy in the primary classroom, p. 127–148. New York: David Fulton Publishers. Cummins, J. (2001). Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society. . 2nd ed. Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education. Dahlbäck, K., Lyngfelt, A., & Bengtsdotter Katz, V. (2018). Views of poetry as a competence expressed by students in teacher education. Theoria et Historia Scientiarum, volym (XV), s.101-119. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/ths.2018.007 Fraser, N. 1997. Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the “Postsocialist” Condition. New York: Routledge. Halkier, B. (2010). Focus groups as social enactments: integrating interaction and content in the analysis of focus group data. Qualitative Research, vol 10 (1), p. 71-89. Heath, B. S. 1983. Ways with Words. Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Heard, G. (1989). For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry. Heinemann Educational Books. ISBN: 9780435084950. Hall, L. (1989). Poetry for life. A practical guide to teaching poetry in the primary school. London: Cassell. Illeris, K. (2014). Transformative Learning and Identity. New York: Routledge. Kress, G. & van Leeuwen, T. (2001) Multimodal Discourse. The modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. London: Edward Arnold. Luke, A. & Freebody, P. (1997). The social practices of reading. In S. Muspratt, A. Luke and P. Freebody, eds: Constructing critical literacies: Teaching and learning textual practices, p. 195-225. Cresskill: Hampton Press. New London Group (1996) A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Designing Social Futures. In Harvard Educational Review 66 (1), 60-92. Schmidt, C. (2018). Ethnographic Research on Children’s Literacy Practices: Children’s Literacy Experiences and Possibilities for Representation. Ethnography and Education. DOI: 10.1080/17457823.2018.1512004. Schmidt, C. (2017). Thrown Together: Incorporating Place and Sustainability into Early Literacy Education. International Journal of Early Childhood, 49, p. 165-179. DOI 10.1007/s13158-017-0192-6. Street, B. (1993) Cross-cultural approaches to literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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