Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Linguistics, Applied

First Advisor

Jaran Shin

Second Advisor

Avary Poza-Carhill

Third Advisor

Christian Chun


Multimodality offers language learners the chance to access content using non-written textual means. Because these learners are still learning vocabulary and other constructs in the L2, teachers often rely on multimodality to bridge understandings and make concepts clearer. The use of multimodality has some disadvantages, as some modes chosen may not be clear to students. This is evident in curriculum units written by teachers in Massachusetts through the Department of Education's (DESE) Next Generation English Project. The Model Curriculum Units (MCUs) created rely heavily on such sources from the internet. This thesis analyzes multimodality implemented in the MCU on Women's Rights and examines the ways teachers and students interpret the multimodal cues in teaching and learning. The unit represents a shift in the way second language(L2) acquisition is being approached in the state and a tendency to heavily incorporate multimodality into ESL education. Using Kress’ theorization of multimodality (2007), Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) grammar of visual design, and adopting critical discourse studies approach (Fairclough, 2001 and Blommaert, 2005) as a methodological/analytical tool, the researcher studied: 1) how the authors of the MCUs frame the theme of women’s rights by using multimodal cues, 2) how language teachers interpreted the multimodal resources presented in the MCU, and what instructional decisions they made in using them, and 3) how emergent language learners interpreted the multimodal resources in the MCU as well as teachers’ instructions in understanding the themes of women’s rights. Data collected included field notes, interviews, student work and curriculum documents, and thematic analysis was used to examine the themes that emerged and the written effects. Before explaining the findings, the literature review examines relevant theories in language acquisition and multimodality. The findings show that the types of multimodal resources used depended on the how the teachers interpreted the content at hand. Curriculum designers and teachers can use multimodal resources more effectively and critically when they are able to understand their own unique sociocultural backgrounds and semiotic resources as well as those of their student audiences. Additional findings and limitations of the study are discussed in the final chapter.


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