Exploring Multimodal Texts

1. Building the Field: The Purpose and Features of Multimodal Texts

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To identify the modes of communication in multimodal texts
  • To explore how each mode creates meaning

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can identify the modes of communication used in a range of texts
  • I can explain how each mode enhances meaning

Graphic organiser

  • Identifying and exploring modes: docx PDF

Multimodal texts

This stage explores the modes and features of a range of multimodal texts and asks students to consider how written, visual and audio modes enhance the meaning of texts. While this sequence deals primarily with fictional texts, this introductory stage includes non-fiction multimodal texts.

Present a print and digital text and engage students in a shared analysis of how patterns of meaning are established through the various modes of communication. Model summarising how written, visual, audio and gestural patterns are used to create meaning, using the Identifying and exploring modes graphic organiser.

Suggested texts are discussed below.

1. Weather map

Display a multimodal text like a map displaying maximum temperatures across Australia. Discuss the information presented and how that information is being communicated. Question prompts could include:

  • What type of text is this?
  • What might this map be about? What makes you think that?
  • What does the reader need to know to understand this text?
  • What information is provided by the written language? Draw attention to the title, date, author, Australian Government logo, indicating that it is an official publication, the unit of measurement and the temperature scale that combines visual (colour) information with written information (temperatures).
  • How is colour used to communicate meaning to the reader?
  • How does the layout of the map make it easy to read and understand? Discuss the spatial features (e.g. white space and temperature scale).
  • What is the purpose of this map? Who might read this map?

Explain that the map is an example of multimodal text as it requires the reader to process more than one mode or means of communicating information.

Present a digital presentation of the daily weather update, available on ABC News. Engage the students in a discussion comparing the modes of communication used in the print map and the digital weather report. Model recording the information on a Venn diagram. As a group, discuss the similarities and differences in the two representations.

2. Print advertisement: The Monsters of Wet Wipes

Invite students to work with a partner and use the Looking: Ten Times Two protocol to examine the image. Facilitate a discussion about their observations. Discussion points and question prompts could include:

  • What might this text be about?
  • What is the story that it is telling?
  • What is the first thing you notice in the text? How does the designer highlight what is important?
  • How might the visual elements of this text be interpreted?
  • What information or meaning is suggested by the visual elements of the text? For example, images, colour, size, placement of images, gaze of participant, techniques such as lines and gestures to direct your reading path across the page).
  • What information or meaning is suggested by the written text? For example, font style and colour, underlining, punctuation, use of metaphor – ‘monsters’ and ‘a party in the pipes’.
  • What might be the purpose and the intended audience of the text?


Extend students by introducing metalanguage such as 'salience', 'vector' and 'focaliser'. Present a series of images and discuss visual techniques used to emphasis what is important in a text, how lines show action or direction and how the author positions the reader to see the action or image and connect with the emotions of characters. Refer to ‘Visual metalanguage for comprehending and composing visual meaning’ in the Literacy Teaching Toolkit for visual examples and an explanation of key terms.

3. Digital advertisement

Select a digital advertisement that is appropriate for your school community, taking into account the Department of Education and Training’s ‘Selecting Appropriate Materials’ policy. Ads of the world provides a good selection to choose from. Possible options include:

Ask students to work with a partner and analyse the advertisement considering how the advertisement was attempting to influence the viewer. Discussion points could include: 

  • the purpose and intended audience
  • the merging of narrative and persuasive techniques
  • the emotional response that the advertisement is aiming to create in the viewer
  • the social and cultural context of the advertisement 
  • how the advertisement is trying to influence the viewers’ behaviour 
  • how sounds and music is used to create mood
  • the meaning suggested by the visual appearance, clothing and gestures of the characters in video
  • the use of perspective and social distance between the viewer and the characters.

Encourage students to discuss, for example, whose viewpoint is being shared with the viewer? Consider the distance between the viewer and the text. Close shots create intimacy and show the emotions of the characters, close shots also present the action from the point of view of a particular character. Mid-range shots give information about the relationship between the characters and long-range shots relay impersonal, public information.

Have students identify and discuss the modes of communication and the patterns of meaning created by the written, visual, audio, and gestural modes the text. 

Engage students in a discussion to develop a shared understanding and classroom definition of the term ‘multimodal text’. Consider distinguishing between paper, digital and live multimodal texts. Question prompts could include: 

  • What does ‘multi’ mean? (many)
  • If a ‘mode’ is a form of communication or a way of making meaning, for example, written or spoken language, images or sounds, what might we find in a multimodal text?
  • Where might you see or hear a multimodal text?
  • Why might a picture book be categorised as a multimodal text?
  • What modes of communication might you see or hear in a drama performance?
  • Do all multimodal texts involve technology?
  • How could different modes of communication present information for the reader?

The VCAA English Glossary (p 8) defines multimodal texts as ‘a combination of two or more communication modes, for example print, image and spoken texts as in film or computer presentation'.

Provide students with a range of texts that invite examination of themes or information in modal layers, including fiction and non-fiction texts. The handouts for this stage provide examples of text types that explore similar topics or themes using a range of modes. For example:

  • Exploring modes - information texts: docx PDF
  • Exploring modes - persuasive texts: docx PDF
  • Exploring modes - recipes: docx PDF

Explain that students will be working with a partner to analyse how patterns of meaning are established in the various modes of communication. They will also consider how the modal features of each text support the author’s purpose and how modes may combine to communicate meaning to the reader.

Ask students to select a text type to explore with their partner. Provide the Identifying and exploring modes resource (available in Materials and texts) for students to record their interpretations.

Enable students requiring further support by providing texts that have modes of communication that are familiar to the students and clearly identified modal features that make meaning. For example, you could use the Exploring modes: recipes handout, available in Materials and texts.

Extend students by providing a challenging multimodal text such as Kgari, an interactive historical documentary. The text contains the following areas for investigation:

  • colour and shade
  • vectors
  • salience
  • the use of white spaces
  • sizing
  • varied voice tones and accents
  • music and sound
  • movement
  • the way text is presented and removed from the page.

Encourage discussion about how modes combine to create meaning.

Invite students to present a summary of their work to the class, identifying the modes of communication used in a selected text and discussing how meaning is communicated using written, visual, audio, spatial or gestural information. Encourage students to suggest examples of meaning being created by a combination of modes.

Ask students to complete an exit ticket, explaining and/or demonstrating how authors:

  • create a particular mood using visual and audio information
  • direct the reader/viewer’s attention or reading pattern throughout a text using written and visual information
  • let the reader/viewer know what the characters are feeling or thinking.

Students could use information and examples they have collected during the ‘Get started’ section of this stage, or they could create a short text using two or more modes of communication. For example, a print or digital advertisement, a non-fiction text or a live presentation using spoken language, gestures and visual information.

ABC News, 2020. Weather. [Online]
Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/weather/
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

ABC, 2016. Swift Parrot update. [Online]
Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/swift-parrot-update/11017046
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Allrecipes, 2013. How to Make Easy Chocolate Cake. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=ZqMqTB7RSjo
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Amplify, 2021. PlayStation To Plate. [Online]
Available at: https://www.adsoftheworld.com/media/integrated/playstation_australia_playstation_to_plate
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Australian Centre for the Moving Image, n.d. ACMI: Exploring shot types. [Online]
Available at: https://www.acmi.net.au/education/school-program-and-resources/exploring-shot-types/
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Australian Government: Bureau of Meteorology, 2020. Daily Maximum Temperature for Australia. [Online]
Available at: http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/temp/index.jsp
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

BBC Good Food, 2020. Easy chocolate cake. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/easy-chocolate-cake
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Cancer Council, n.d. It’s still the same sun. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety/campaigns-and-events/national-skin-cancer-action-week
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Clio Network: Ads of the World, 2020. The Monsters of Wet Wipes. [Online]
Available at: https://www.adsoftheworld.com/media/print/stockholm_vatten_och_avfall_the_monsters_of_wet_wipes
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Cummins & Partners, 2021. Food Made Good. [Online]
Available at: https://www.adsoftheworld.com/media/film/chobani_food_made_good
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Foley, F. & Behrend, L., 2017. K'Gari. [Online]
Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/kgari/
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2020. Project Zero: Looking: Ten Times Two. [Online]
Available at: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Looking%20-%20Ten%20Times%20Two_0.pdf
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Mitchell, A., 2019. Hollow is a Home. Clayton South: CSIRO Publishing.

National Geographic, 2020. Octopuses. [Online]
Available at: https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/octopus/
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

State Government of Victoria (Department of Education and Training), 2019. Visual metalanguage for comprehending and composing visual meaning. [Online]
Available at: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/literacy/multimodal/Pages/visualmetalanguage.aspx#link54
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

State Government of Victoria (Department of Education and Training), 2020. Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials. [Online]
Available at: https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/selecting-suitable-teaching-resources/guidance/selecting-teaching-and-learning-resources-1-3
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

The Clio Network, 2020. Find Your Joy. [Online]
Available at: https://www.adsoftheworld.com/media/film/microsoft_find_your_joy
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

The Hallway, 2021. BOYS DO CRY. [Online]
Available at: https://www.adsoftheworld.com/media/integrated/unltd_boys_do_cry
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, n.d. English Glossary. [Online]
Available at: https://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au/LearningArea/LoadFile?learningArea=english&subject=english&name=English%20Glossary.docx&storage=Glossary
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Yummy Recipes, 2014. Chocolate Cake Recipe with Step-by-Step Pictures. [Online]
Available at: https://recipes.snydle.com/easy-chocolate-cake-recipe-with-step-by-step-pictures.html
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

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