Academic, Emotional, and Social Growth in the Second Language Classroom: A Study of Multimodality

Academic, Emotional, and Social Growth in the Second Language Classroom: A Study of Multimodality

Rachel Floyd, Jill Castek
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4906-3.ch008
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This study sought to understand the relationships between socioemotional learning (SEL), second language learning, and digital literacies, and specifically addresses multimodal instruction and composition. Twenty-two students in an intermediate high school French classroom were asked to read an authentic francophone novel and take on one character's persona by creating an Instagram post that reflected that character's viewpoint. Students shared their posts with the class, discussed connections to the novel, and reflected on their composition process. Three data sources were iteratively coded using inductive and deductive methods. The Four Resources Model was adapted for this activity and framed the analysis. Students showed evidence of humor and empathy which led to decreased language anxiety and improved socioemotional learning. The use of an authentic text and the integration of commonly used, real-world social media tools encouraged SEL and helped lower language anxiety. Recommendations and implications for instruction are discussed.
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Previous Research

Multimodality and L2 Learning

Multimodality has become a much-researched topic since Kress & Van Leeuwen (2001) described multimodality as “the use of several semiotic modes in the design of a semiotic product or event” (p.20). Within the field of L2 learning, many researchers have theorized and performed research on the use of multimodality in the L2 classroom. Vigliocco, Pernis, and Vinson (2014) argue for a multimodal approach to the study of language learning, as face-to-face communication has always been multimodal, for example gesture and tone play an important role in communication, in addition to spoken words. Other researchers have highlighted that multimodal communication has become much more important in the digital age and have noted that the expansion of multimodal meaning-making should be accounted for in learning and teaching. Learning to read a webpage, for example, “means developing the skills to understand not only the text on the page, but the whole multimodal ensemble of writing, images, layout, graphics, sound, and hypertext links” (Hafner, Chick, & Jones, 2015 p.1).

When students are asked to read a text, it is therefore incumbent on the instructor to support not only their L2 development, but their understanding and interpretation the text. In fact, reading a multimodal text is often beneficial for learners as the other modes can scaffold understanding of the L2 (Plass et al., 1998; Royce, 2002). This is because, as Abraham and Farias (2017) state,

multimodal texts more effectively support second language reading by providing input that caters to different learning styles and that they are familiar, authentic, and contextualized to the learners’ lives. Moreover, these texts facilitate learners’ meaningful interaction not only intratextually, by exploring the text/ image semiosis, but also intertextually, by allowing readers to become literate in the different genres that are constructed multimodally. (p. 66)

Thus, while learning is supported by the use of multimodal texts, it can particularly help with the development of L2 learners’ broader understanding of meaning-making and genres.

One aim of all well-designed learning, and L2 learning even more so, is to lower the affective filter (Krashen, 1982). The affective filter is a theoretical construct in L2 learning that refers to the emotional variables associated with the success or failure of acquiring an L2, since it is common for learners to experience language anxiety. To communicate in an L2, learners must perform complex and non-spontaneous mental operations which can be difficult. Any performance in the L2 can make learners feel as though they cannot fully communicate which may conflict with their sense of self as competent communicators, leading to anxiety (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986). Gilakjani, Ismail, & Ahmadi suggest that “attention to the meaning-making potential of the various multimodal designs can help language learners to cope more efficiently as they face new modes of information presentation” (2011, p.1326) It may be, therefore, that multimodal composition can aid students in lowering their language anxiety.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Socioemotional Learning: Learning how to manage emotions and relationships, make responsible goals and decisions, and demonstrate empathy.

Social media: In this context, a simulated Instagram activity was designed that used a template put on Google slides to be shared in the classroom context. Social media sometimes includes character selfies, or pictures taken of oneself to represent identity or perspective.

Choice: Opportunities for learners to select a focus or direction for themselves, which promotes student-directed learning that amplifies voice.

Language Anxiety: The particular anxiety that surrounds the use of a second language.

Multimodality: An inter-disciplinary approach that advances the idea that communication and representations involves multiple modes including visual, aural, embodied, and spatial aspects.

Second Language (L2) Learning: Learning a language that one does not speak fluently as a native language. L2 can be in contexts where the language is or is not the native language of the community, or where the learner has experience with the language already (as with heritage speakers) but does not have full mastery of the language.

Digital Literacies: The use of information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information; encourages access to texts and information, promotes creativity in self-expression.

Semiotic: Making meaning through the use of signs and symbols, sometimes including words.

Voice: A quality of language that reflects authorial choice; an agentive lens for understanding reading, writing, and learning processes.

Authentic Text: A text that is made by and for native speakers of a language.

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