Investigating a multimodal, groupwork approach to poetry teaching in a secondary school English classroom

Pillay, Kubashini
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This report explores the ways in which meaning is constructed, adapted or altered as Grade 9 English Home Language learners redesign the meaning of a poem multimodally in the English classroom in a state secondary school in Johannesburg. A unit of poetry work was designed to explore how learners, working together in groups and independently of the teacher, ‘shift’ across and within modes in the process of redesigning meaning. An array of prescribed poems chosen from official sources – one selected per group – which served as a foundation for designing and creating multimodal artefacts and ensembles, was set as primary texts. The main purpose of this report, then, is to determine how meaning is constructed in learners’ responses through their products and presentations in a pedagogic approach that is informed by both multimodality and multiliteracies. The two core concepts in this report – design and modes – are recognised as significant concepts in analysing learners’ multimodal artefacts in this chain of semiosis and compared with the characteristics of the original ‘poem on paper’. A multiliteracies pedagogy and multimodal artefact design are used to provide the Grade 9 learners the support to ‘unlock’ their potential and encourage resources to emerge from which they can construct meaning in innovative ways. Since the learners work collaboratively in groups to redesign the meaning of a poem multimodally, findings suggest that this strategy fostered the interaction of ideas, learner activity and engagement and learner verbalisation of ideas. Learners’ ideas were developed, articulated, clarified and transformed within the groupwork discussion and were made visible in their multimodal artefacts. Learners’ final products in the chain of semiosis were of good quality. In the process of redesign, as agents of meaning making, learners used semiotic resources and the integration of modes to represent their poem multimodally. The words themselves had to be extracted from the poem, redesigned and represented in another form or mode. Finally, this pedagogy demonstrates that it is possible for learners to be active designers of meaning while remaining within the prescriptive parameters of the relatively recent Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) curriculum. Learners were able to successfully reshape and resemiotise the primary text into other modal artefacts, which one could taste, smell, touch, see or hear.
This research report is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in Education by coursework and research report. School of Education, University of Witwatersrand. Johannesburg, July 2015.
Pillay, Kubashini (2016) Investigating a multimodal, groupwork approach to poetry teaching in a secondary school English classroom, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>