Multimodal Assignments for Advanced Language Students

I entered last year’s Learning Community on digital writing assignments with the idea that my somewhat non-traditional class topic (soccer in the French-speaking world) would lend itself well to non-traditional writing forms. While I learned a lot over the course of that semester, one of the most intriguing ideas I engaged with was how language classes can take advantage of the flexibility of multimodal writing assignments. The course I taught was at the 300-level : my students had taken many French courses before, but were still looking to improve their language skills. More importantly for the purposes of this blog post, a lot of them were looking for “everyday life” applications of language- they wanted to acquire linguistic skills that would allow them to talk to peers, read articles online, use social media, and interact informally online and off.

 In my soccer course, I encouraged students to use as many of these skills as possible as they created websites previewing the 2018 World Cup participation of six teams with a large population of French speakers (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal). The students produced compelling and varied writing for this assignment- the genres they wrote in ranged from tactical analysis of matches, to player profiles, to scripts for podcasts, to song lyrics. But one of the most rewarding aspects of this assignment was the interactive link page each group had to create. This part of the website project grew out of a discussion with my fellow group members about how to create digital assignments that took advantage of the online form, rather than just having students simply host online same kind of writing they otherwise do “on paper.” I asked students to search as broadly as they could for information (in French) about their team across a variety of digital formats: articles, videos, podcasts, and Twitter accounts. They then had to aggregate this information, divide it by type or use, and present it to their hypothetical future website visitors. Their presentations had to include a short summary of each source that would entice visitors to click on the link, and clarify to them what they to expect when they followed it.

Beyond taking advantage of the digital form of the hyperlink, this assignment also mobilized new linguistic competencies for students. The process of finding links required them not just to read but also to watch and listen to audio in the target language, something that does not often happen in formal research papers. When it came time to curate and present the links, students also needed to use a different writing modes from an analytical paper: they had to summarize, persuade, entertain, and keep their writing consistent with the less-formal tone of Internet communication.

For language classes, multimodal assignments can encourage not only new approaches to writing, but also exposure to new linguistic registers and new contexts for language use.

Thanks for reading!

-Erin Twohig