Challenges of for a pedagogy of multiliteracies in the language classroom
The study by Reyes-Torres, Portalés-Raga, and Torres-Mañá (2021) exploits the potential of picture books with sound for teaching English in primary education. After an analysis of the potential of fifteen picture books, the authors opt for a story of Ukrainian origin, Loudly, soflty, in a whisper (2017), showing how to carry out the four aforementioned pedagogical acts in an integrated way, the transformative practice culminating in the performance of a dramatized musical with the story as a starting point. According to the authors, “the combination of linguistic, literary, visual, and auditory features that S[ound]P[icture]B[ook] comprise provide learners with the dynamic and plural literacies that the multimodal society of the 21st-century demands” (p. 320).
In the field of secondary education, recent research proposes not only the promotion of multimodality in the English classroom, but also the inclusion of different languages in the same text (Martínez Etxarri, and Martínez Arbelaiz, in press). Critical voices in multilingual education have praised teachers who encourage their students to mix language varieties and different modes of expression in creative and innovative ways (Kafle, and Canagarajah, 2015; Leung, and Valdés, 2019). However, as with multimodality, the main problem for teachers is often the final assessment. Using a Design-based methodology (Valverde-Berrocoso et al. 2020), in addition to contributing to the development of pedagogical knowledge in the language classroom, we offer rubrics consistent with this didactic approach.
Finally, given the increasing digitization of communication, different academics have proposed the Multiliteracy Pedagogy in the foreign language curriculum at university (cf. Kern, 2003; López-Sánchez, 2014; 2016; Paesani, Allen, and Dupuy, 2016, among others). The ultimate aim is to promote the interpretation and discussion of authentic multimodal texts, unveiling the design of social meaning, i.e. identifying the key lexis, the cultural framework and the different functional aspects of the text involved in the generation of its meaning. The subsequent creation of a multimodal text by the students would close the pedagogical proposal.
In any of the three areas discussed, dethroning the linguistic mode of communicative acts, without focusing on traditional reading and writing, may be too drastic a shift for some teachers. As we have already reported in our own experience (Aberasturi-Apraiz, Correa-Gorospe, and Martínez-Arbelaiz, 2020), adopting multimodality can be a source of vulnerability, since we are forced to use modes of communication that are less familiar to us. In any case, the experiences reported here encourage us to abandon the security of the familiar and to show our vulnerability by exploring new modes of communication in our language classrooms.