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Reading Multimedia Texts

Adapted from “New Literacies and the Common Core,” William Kist.

Standards: Because students work in groups of 4-5 sharing their focused reading of print and non-print texts, this strategy has the potential over time to address all the standards for Reading Literature and Informational Text, in addition to W9, SL1, SL2, SL3, SL5, L3, L4, L5, L6.

“In order to thrive in the newly wired world,” writes William Kist in a March 2013 article published in Educational Leadership, “students need to master new ways of reading and writing.” In the 21st century context, “new reading” includes listening and viewing. 

In this approach to reading, students analyze multiple modes of a single complex text – the transcript of a speech followed by the video recording of the speech, for example – or a sequence of texts on a single topic or theme composed in different media.


Before reading, listening to, and/or viewing a text, introduce students to the concept of reading 21st century texts by distributing the Organizer for Close Reading of Multimedia Texts.  

After reading, listening to, and/or viewing a text, break students into groups. Guided by the Elements of Multimedia Composition Descriptors, assign each group one element of the text to analyze. For example, if the class has just read the print text of a rhetorical speech, students will work in small groups on the elements of a rhetorical text; one group will focus on the speech's message, another group on the context, a third group on the organization of the speech, and so on.  After a small group discussion, students share their observations of the elements of the text with the whole group. The process continues with the next mode. Extending the example of a rhetorical text such as a speech, the next mode could be listening to and viewing a videotape of the delivery of the speech, which often lends itself to the element of performance.

When students engage in reading film, it is helpful to provide them with a note-taking template for a Film Viewing Guide. Depending on the length and complexity of the film clip, encourage students to view the film once and note unusual or interesting sights and sounds, as well as basic information and inferences about events and characters. Then students re-view the film a second time, and guided by the film element descriptors, take more specialized notes on the camera shots, camera angles, the shot sequence, the editing, location and sets, or sound design.

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