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February 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 1

ISSN 1755-9715

Review of: Expanding Literacy Practices across Multiple Modes and Languages for Multilingual Students

Amber Deig is a doctoral student at the University of Florida studying Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in ESOL/Bilingual Education. Her research interests include the composing practices of bi/multilingual elementary students within English-dominant learning spaces and how students compose-to-learn. E-mail:


Expanding Literacy Practices Across Multiple Modes and Languages for Multilingual Students focuses on the needs, strengths, and learning processes of multilingual students and the use of digital technologies to support their learning. It is a collection of research projects and literature reviews and is important due to growing linguistic and cultural diversity in classrooms. This text assumes the goal of changing educators’ perspectives on traditional instructional practices by exploring the benefits of digital and multimodal literacies in classrooms.  Multimodal literacy includes the use of text, as well as images, sounds, colors, and other resources to make meaning. Beneficial for teachers and teacher educators, each chapter begins with a presentation of empirical research and ends with implications and reflection questions for literacy teacher education.

The text views educators as “active participants in social change and contributors to [the authors’] overall goal of social justice for all” (p. vii). The book is edited by Dr. Luciana C. de Oliveira of the University of Miami and Dr. Blaine Smith of the University of Arizona. De Oliveira’s research focuses on teaching English language learners (ELLs) at the K-12 level, and Smith’s work focuses on bi/multilingual adolescents’ digital literacies across contexts. The book includes both of their research, as well as the work of doctoral students and former doctoral students from the Language and Literacy Learning in Multilingual Settings specialization in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami.

In chapter 1 “Teaching Multimodal Practices to Multilingual Elementary Students through Picture Books,” by Sharon L. Smith, research centered around multimodal analyses of picture books is reviewed. Smith describes picture books as many learners’ first foray into literacy and acknowledges their importance for emergent bilingual students (EBs), who use images as resources for meaning-making. Smith emphasizes the importance of visual literacy and then describes how researchers and teachers can use the research surrounding multimodal discourse analysis to support EBs. Suggested activities include: using specific language when discussing picture books, noting how words and images interact and using text and images as support for claims.

Chapter 2, “Exploring Multimodal Representations of Words in a Fourth-Grade English Language Arts Teacher Guide to Support Emergent Bilinguals’ Vocabulary Instruction” by Irina Malova, Alain Bengochea, Susan R. Massey, and Mary A. Avalos, explores how multimodal texts can be used as resources for vocabulary instruction during whole-group lessons. The authors examine multimodal representations within a common basal reading program’s teacher guide (TG) and identify three types of scaffolding, based on Paivio and Sadoski’s (2001) three cognitive processes: representational (help students recognize words as they are written, spoken, or represented by a picture), referential (connections between the verbal and nonverbal systems), and associative (connections between multiple meanings of a word within and across languages).

Chapter 3, “Using Multimodal Practices to Support Students’ Access to Academic Language and Content in Spanish and English” by Sabrina F. Sembiante, J. Andrés Ramírez and Luciana C. de Oliveira focuses on making content accessible to students without diluting content. The authors examine common language arts, science, social studies, and mathematics textbooks in English and Spanish. They examine the features in textbooks pages to demonstrate how text and images together express content. Important features include participants, character manifestation and appearance. This chapter recommends practitioners “[engage] students in the multimodal aspects of text” (p.53), by teaching students how to take advantage of all information presented.

In Chapter 4, “The Power of Working Together: Research on Collaborative Writing and Implications for Practice,” Loren Jones provides a literature review covering how EBs can benefit from working collaboratively while writing. This review focuses on collaborative writing in elementary grades and describes students’ improvement in motivation and positive self-image as authors. Further, Jones emphasizes the importance placed upon writing skills for future academic and job success.

In chapter 5, “Translanguaging Writing Practices and Implications for Multilingual Students” Carolina Rossato de Almeida examines translanguaging, defined as the ability to move across languages and registers of speech to make meaning. Through reviewing current research, de Almeida describes benefits of translanguaging as including bilingual students’ cognitive capacity and a multitude of social benefits. De Almeida provides classroom strategies for implementing translanguaging practices during writing activities including open dialogue, translation, and using student feedback to guide instruction.

Chapter 6, “Scaffolding Multimodal Composing in the Multilingual Classroom” by Blaine E. Smith and Daryl Axelrod, outlines ways teachers can prepare students to be successful in an increasingly digital world. The authors present multimodal composing as a tool to achieve this goal, especially for bi/multilingual students. Smith and Axelrod express the benefits of digital multimodal composing for students’ learning of content and language including increased engagement and student empowerment.

In Chapter 7, “Writing for Social Justice: A Promising Practice for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Adolescents,” Kristin Kibler provides a literature review on writing projects for diverse adolescents. Kibler suggests that projects, such as counternarratives and critical reflections, can assist students in reaching their full potential and “[increase] student agency for social change” (p. 97). These projects tap into students’ experiences and build upon their strengths to develop their critical literacy skills. Kibler provides examples of successful social justice writing projects including three types of texts: narratives, performance poetry, and multimodal.

In conclusion, this text is a powerful resource for teachers and teacher educators. It is research dense, but the authors organize theory, research, and implications to make the material meaningful for a variety of audiences. However, the authors could have done more to express the dangers of monolingual bias (views which position EBs as outside of the norm and deficient).  Still, this book offers a rich description of the benefits of expanding practice across multiple modes and contributes to the important discussion of how to meet the needs of today’s students in a modern, digital, and diverse world. The editors achieve their goal, as they are able “ go beyond describing research to also provide a variety of classroom connections for practitioners and implications for teacher education” (p.viii).



de Oliveira, L. C., & Smith, B. E. (2019). Expanding literacy practices across multiple modes and languages for multilingual students. Charlotte, NC: IAP-Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Paivio, A., & Sadoski, M. (2001). Imagery and text: A dual coding theory of reading and writing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


Please check the Culture in the English Speaking world for the English classroom course at Pilgrims website.

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