One of the most important changes to the new HSC English Syllabus is the kind of texts you will have to study in Year 11 Standard English Module A: Contemporary Possibilities.

Introducing the ‘Multimodal Text’!

The latest and greatest for Year 11 English Standard Module A and we’re going to teach you how to use it to get that Band 6 in HSC English!

What is a ‘Multimodal Text?’

Put simply, a multimodal text is a text which communicates meaning in more than one way, so any text which incorporates more than one of these kinds of communication is multimodal.

For instance, film can be focused on within ‘Contemporary Possibilities,’ because it uses the modes of representing (visual imagery) and speaking to communicate.

However, there’s a chance you could study something more complex: for instance, BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ is given as the focus text in NESA’s sample unit, because as well as communicating through speech and image, it also communicated with print, in the social media presence and blog that its creators published.

Why does preparing for a Multimodal Text matter?

While there’s a chance you could be prescribed a film, you still need to understand the implications of multimodality.

NESA’s description of Contemporary Possibilities includes the passage that students “analyse and interpret the ways composers use and manipulate a variety of aural, language and visual devices to shape our understanding of what we listen to, read or view and may explore notions of hybridity and intertextuality.”

Hybridity’ simply means the meanings created through multiple modes of communication, and ‘intertextuality’ means the use of another text within a text.

The new Preliminary HSC and HSC courses are designed for a changing world where new kinds of technology are giving creators new ways to express meaning. It’s therefore in your best interests to become aware of how different kinds of communication can affect how texts are received and interacted with.

To familiarise yourself with different multimodal texts, check out these examples:

Junko’s Story: Surviving Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb

 

Australian War Memorial (This one’s NESA approved — it used to be a prescribed text for Year Twelve!)

 

17776: an American Football Story

 

Antarctic Dispatches

 

Rebuilding Haiti

How do I respond to a Multimodal Text?

For multimodal texts, you will likely need to address both visual techniques and literary techniques, as most of the examples out there use both.

However, there are other elements unique to multimodal texts, such as their potential interactive nature.

For the best analysis, you will need to likely need to think about what a multimodal text does that would not be possible if it weren’t for its use of multiple modes.

If you need to brush up on your visual and literary techniques, we’ve published great cheat-sheets for both. Find the visual technique cheat-sheet here and the literary technique cheat-sheet here.

For an example, I’ll look at Matt Huynh’s multimedia adaptation of Nam Le’s ‘The Boat,’ available here.

Let’s say I had to complete a task in which I had to discuss how the text’s hybrid form allows for the creation of mood.

As with other texts, you can’t go wrong with a good TEE table.

Technique Example Effect
Simile “face as smooth and impassive as that of a ceramic toy soldier.” The use of a simile comparing allows Hunyh to convey the numbness that Truong is feeling due to his distress and unease.
Salience The blankness of Truong’s face compared to the murky grey around it. The salience made through contrast draws the audience’s attention to Truong’s face, which complements the print description.
Interactivity As the audience scrolls down the graphic novel, the picture consistently moves side to side. This interactive element allows for a greater sense of immersion, as the unsteadiness and sense of tension felt by Mai as she searches for Truong is emphasised.

While this is a basic example, it highlights the grasp of ‘hybridity’ needed in order to analyse a multimodal text: I’ve discussed how different modes (visual and print) have been used together in order to create an atmosphere of unease and tension.

I’ve also discussed the interactive element of the text, which shows an understanding of this text’s uniquely multimodal properties.

Action Point: Analyse a multimodal text.

Step 1: Find a multimodal text!

While if you were required to find your own multimodal text, you could always use a film, it would be better to use one which will allow you to discuss its hybridity. So: you could look for an interactive graphic novel (like The Boat) or a museum’s website’s virtual tour.

However, here’s a list of some multimodal texts:

Junko’s Story: Surviving Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb

 

Australian War Memorial (This one’s NESA approved — it used to be a prescribed text for Year Twelve!)

 

17776: an American Football Story

 

Antarctic Dispatches

 

Rebuilding Haiti

Step 2: Get Started On Creating TEE Tables

Just as with other texts, TEE tables are a great way of collating techniques and keeping a bank of evidence as you progress through your study of a text. Having a tabulated list of evidence will also help you to check at a glance that you’re maintaining a range of modally different techniques.

If you’re not sure how to create a TEE table is or why they’re important, check out this guide!

Step 3: Practise writing!

The best way to get better at writing is through structured, regular practise!

At the moment, there’s no previous model examples for analysis of multimodal texts, but you can’t go wrong with scrutinising the marking rubric, drafting and redrafting, being sure you answer the question, and showing an understanding of the unique opportunities for the making of meaning offered by multimodal texts.

For some tips and extra support practising writing a Band 6 HSC English essay, check out our article here!

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Cameron Croese completed his HSC in 2013, earning first place in his cohort in Advanced English, Extension English 1, and Extension English 2. Privately tutoring throughout his university career as an English and Education student, he enjoys helping his students at Art of Smart understand, write well on, and enjoy their texts, as well as assisting with other aspects of school life. He is a contributing editor to his student magazine, in which he has had reviews, feature articles, and short stories published.

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