Multimodal Texts in Drama Education
Hands up if you have created multimodal texts in the drama classroom?
Yesterday I attended a professional learning session about multimodal texts at my school, jointly run by my Head of English and eLearning Leader. It got me thinking of the potential for this type of learning in drama education.
A multimodal text is simply a text presented in multiple modes. It could be information presented using audio, images, video, electronic text etc. If you think about this website as an example, there are various ways of communicating to the first-time visitor this website is all about the teaching and learning of drama. Since a site redesign a few weeks ago, the homepage of The Drama Teacher is now guaranteed to consist of standard text, hyperlinked text, clickable images, clickable videos, a tag cloud, headings and a search bar just to name a few. The conventions of viewing a web page are assumed and let’s be honest, for those of us who only hit the web occasionally, Internet navigation is normally multimodal and occasionally confusing. Here’s a multimodal text example about what a blog is from the folks over at Common Craft:
I haven’t heard too much about the use of multimodal texts in drama, although I understand it is commonplace in the English classroom. Recently I spotted a session at the 7th IDIERI (International Drama in Education Research Institute) conference a few weeks ago in Ireland, titled “Multimodal Identity Texts: Language Learning and Drama Pedagogy” by Kate McCarthy. IDIERI conferences, however, are targeted at education and research academics in our field from across the globe. Then what about you and I? Where does that leave the everyday teacher for the use of multimodal texts in the drama classroom?
A couple of weeks ago I saw a not-so-fabulous adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. As I was sitting in the audience I couldn’t help but think if I brought any of my drama students along to this show, I would need at least one or two preparation lessons beforehand, because there are more subplots in King Lear than an American television soap opera! Just following the characters is a task, much less who is related to whom and who is in disguise as someone else! Wouldn’t a multimodal text be awesome for students preparing for this? Small groups of students could explore the plot and many subplots, another group could explore the characters and their relationships, while another group could explore the various settings or themes in the play … all presented to the class “multimodal-style”.
Similarly, yesterday in a Year 11 drama class I was workshopping a scene from the wonderful Australian play When The Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell. This play’s structure is unbelievably complex: seven to nine actors portraying nine characters over four generations in five scenes – all at the one dinner table – many at the same time! Believe me, it sounds awkward, but it works brilliantly. By the end of the lesson, this cartoon reflected my students’ state of being.
Please, I’d love to hear from drama teachers out there whose students have successfully created multimodal texts in the drama classroom. What did you use multimodal texts for? Was it successful? Feel free to comment below and share your multimodal adventures with others.