I think I’ve found my niche. As I read through Pamela Takayoshi and Cynthia L. Selfe’s chapter in Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers, I found myself wanting to underline everything, writing “yes” and “agreed” in the margins repeatedly, and needing to go plan a multimodal unit right away to teach to my seniors. Then I thought, wait, I already have a unit like this planned. Maybe that’s why I like it so much; I’ve been trying to incorporate multimodal projects into my curriculum for the last few years without knowing exactly what to call them.
Multimodal compositions appeal to me for several other reasons, too. First, they’re fun and students like them. I’ll just say that right off because this is one of the most persuasive reasons for me. Learning should be fun, and it usually has a much higher chance of being fun if students find the material relevant. Which brings me to the second reason: as Takayoshi and Selfe argue, multimodal comp is very relevant while the relevance of composition classes are sometimes called into question. So, they say, “If composition instruction is to remain relevant, the definition of “composition” and “texts” needs to grow and change to reflect peoples’ literacy practices in new digital communication environments” (3). They argue that the types of composition typically produced in today’s classrooms are the same as the ones “produced by [our] parents and grandparents” (2). In other words, texts inside educational institutions don’t match the texts used and created outside. I think an attempt to match these worlds up is a good way to engage students and increase the relevancy they see in their own learning.
Some of my classmates argue that although multimodal composition is important, it shouldn’t supplant the traditional curriculum (and by that I mean rhetorically based writing tasks) that currently makes up first-year comp. Takayoshi and Selfe argue that multimodal composition
“requires attention to rhetorical principles of communication” (5) and that “it is the thinking, decision making, and creative problem solving involved … that provide the long-lasting and useful lessons students can carry into multiple communicative situations” (4).
So, I think it’s possible to include one multimodal assignment during the semester or even offer it as an option along with the traditional writing assignments. As a secondary school teacher, I know I’ll have plenty of time to include a couple multimodal projects in senior English class. I do have the luxury of an entire school year, probably 21 weeks more than a college instructor gets. (But then I have a lot more to cover, too)
Up next for me and the seniors is satire, one of my favorite topics to teach, and my students will have the options of print, video, sound, or images to compose their satires. I can’t wait to track down Selfe’s book and read some of the samples recommended by the authors. I’m sure I’ll be able to find plenty of material aimed at secondary English teachers, too.