Just started Year 11 Standard and Advanced English Module A: Contemporary Possibilities and have to study a multimodal text but have no idea what it is?
We’re going to explain what exactly a multimodal text is, give you some examples of multimodal texts and teach you how to respond to one and get that Band 6 in HSC English!
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in!
What is a ‘Multimodal Text?’
Put simply, a multimodal text is a text which communicates meaning in more than one way, so any text which incorporates more than one of these kinds of communication is multimodal.
For instance, film can be focused on within ‘Contemporary Possibilities,’ because it uses the modes of representing (visual imagery) and speaking to communicate.
However, there’s a chance you could study something more complex: for instance, BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ is given as the focus text in NESA’s sample unit, because as well as communicating through speech and image, it also communicated with print, in the social media presence and blog that its creators published.
Why does preparing for a Multimodal Text matter?
While there’s a chance you could be prescribed a film, you still need to understand the implications of multimodality.
NESA’s description of Contemporary Possibilities includes the passage that students “analyse and interpret the ways composers use and manipulate a variety of aural, language and visual devices to shape our understanding of what we listen to, read or view and may explore notions of hybridity and intertextuality.”
‘Hybridity’ simply means the meanings created through multiple modes of communication, and ‘intertextuality’ means the use of another text within a text.
The new Preliminary HSC and HSC courses are designed for a changing world where new kinds of technology are giving creators new ways to express meaning. It’s therefore in your best interests to become aware of how different kinds of communication can affect how texts are received and interacted with.
To familiarise yourself with different multimodal texts, check out these examples:
Australian War Memorial (This one’s NESA approved — it used to be a prescribed text for Year Twelve!)
How to Respond to a Multimodal Text
For multimodal texts, you will likely need to address both visual techniques and literary techniques, as most of the examples out there use both.
However, there are other elements unique to multimodal texts, such as their potential interactive nature.
For the best analysis, you will need to likely need to think about what a multimodal text does that would not be possible if it weren’t for its use of multiple modes.
For an example, I’ll look at Matt Huynh’s multimedia adaptation of Nam Le’s ‘The Boat,’ available here.
Let’s say I had to complete a task in which I had to discuss how the text’s hybrid form allows for the creation of mood.
As with other texts, you can’t go wrong with a good TEE table!
If you’re not sure what a TEE Table is or how to use one, check out our guide to TEE tables here!
|Simile||“face as smooth and impassive as that of a ceramic toy soldier.”||The use of a simile comparing allows Hunyh to convey the numbness that Truong is feeling due to his distress and unease.|
|Salience||The blankness of Truong’s face compared to the murky grey around it.||The salience made through contrast draws the audience’s attention to Truong’s face, which complements the print description.|
|Interactivity||As the audience scrolls down the graphic novel, the picture consistently moves side to side.||This interactive element allows for a greater sense of immersion, as the unsteadiness and sense of tension felt by Mai as she searches for Truong is emphasised.|
While this is a basic example, it highlights the grasp of ‘hybridity’ needed in order to analyse a multimodal text: I’ve discussed how different modes (visual and print) have been used together in order to create an atmosphere of unease and tension.
I’ve also discussed the interactive element of the text, which shows an understanding of this text’s uniquely multimodal properties.
Now it’s your turn to analyse a multimodal text!
Step 1: Find a Multimodal Text!
While if you were required to find your own multimodal text, you could always use a film, it would be better to use one which will allow you to discuss its hybridity. So: you could look for an interactive graphic novel (like The Boat) or a museum’s website’s virtual tour.
Check out one of the multimodal texts we listed above!
Step 2: Get Started On Creating TEE Tables
Just as with other texts, TEE tables are a great way of collating techniques and keeping a bank of evidence as you progress through your study of a text. Having a tabulated list of evidence will also help you to check at a glance that you’re maintaining a range of modally different techniques.
If you’re not sure how to create a TEE table is or why they’re important, check out this guide!
Step 3: Practise Writing!
The best way to get better at writing is through structured, regular practise!
At the moment, there’s no previous model examples for analysis of multimodal texts, but you can’t go wrong with scrutinising the marking rubric, drafting and redrafting, being sure you answer the question, and showing an understanding of the unique opportunities for the making of meaning offered by multimodal texts.
For some tips and extra support practising writing a Band 6 HSC English essay, check out our article here!
Need some extra help analysing your multimodal text?
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Cameron Croese is a qualified English teacher, who has a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) / Bachelor of Arts (English) from Macquarie University and is currently undertaking a Masters of Education in Melbourne. A long-time Art of Smart coach, Cameron has supported over 60 students from Years 7 to 12! When not studying, Cameron is an avid writer, having won several awards for short stories, including the Alan Marshall Short Story Award.
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