Exploring curriculum implications of multimodal literacy in a New Zealand early childhood setting

Calls to broaden notions of ‘literacy’ from a focus on print-based and verbal literacies to the incorporation of a range of modes of communication and representation are increasing. This paper uses case study data from 3- and 4-year-olds in a New Zealand kindergarten to explore the affordances offered by different literacies to facilitate communication and learning, and the interplay among literacies. The focus includes verbal, visual and spatial–motoric literacy modes. Several key ideas are discussed: first, that the affordances offered by particular modes may make them better suited to some tasks than others and convey meaning in different ways; second, that use of different modes in combination enhances children’s communication and learning; third, that boundaries between traditional and non-traditional literacy modes seem to be permeable; and fourth, that pedagogical discussions with parents can contribute greatly to teachers’ understanding of children’s favoured literacy modes. Implications include the need for early years teachers to take a broad view of literacies as modes of communication, conceptualisation and meaning-making, so that teachers can notice, support and expand children’s favoured modes.

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