Implementing multimodalities in a trauma-informed way may feel intimidating at first. But, keeping in mind that you can still be consistent and predictable while being flexible, that you don’t have to have all the answers, and that you can still hold students accountable, will help things go more smoothly.
Incorporating multimodality can feel like pandora’s box if you don’t have the right structures in place. Keep reading to learn how to be predictable and consistent, invite students ideas into the mix, and hold them accountable all while being flexible!
Predictable, Consistent and flexible
You can still be predictable and consistent while being flexible. Flexibility is not being soft. It’s not being a pushover. And it doesn’t have to mean chaos. Instead, multimodality and being flexible in what counts, is simply that. It’s a recognition that print isn’t the only way to communicate. You can still be predictable and consistent while being flexible in how students learn and evidence their learning.
What does that look like, you ask? Well, first, establish what modes you want to include as instruction, activities, and assessments. (See this blog post for info on each mode and ideas for incorporating each of them). Then, figure out ways to incorporate each into your instruction first. Get students familiar with what each mode is: explicitly teach how linguistic, spatial, visual, aural, digital, and gestural modes communicate meaning. This will help students make the most of each mode. After that, move into activities and assessments. Decide if you want to give students options to use any mode for a given activity or assessment or if you want to limit their options to just a few. Consider which modes are most appropriate to a given topic or skill. Before getting students doing anything new, make sure you know what counts as quality and they know as well. See below for more info on how to establish expectations.
Inviting Students' Ideas
Second, You don’t have to have all of the ideas right away! Feel free to embrace what students suggest. Once you decenter print/language and get more comfortable with the notion that other modes of communication are NOT inferior, you will be more comfortable allowing students to use their areas of expertise to communicate learning.
Third, Develop standards of quality together! To do this, work with students to analyze several examples of products in a given mode, decide what counts as quality, and translate that into expectations. Use those expectations with students to judge how effectively they have used a mode and/or how well they’ve learned the given skill or knowledge. The more you use different modes, the more you and your students will be able to judge quality. Also, by bringing students into deciding what counts as quality, they’ll be much more likely to succeed. Things to consider are: have your expectations of what a good final product will look like before getting started; if a student’s work does not meet your expectations, be very clear about what is missing, give specific feedback, and allow for redos; and decide together with students when things will be due, check in with them periodically to make sure they’re on track, and get your feedback to them before they run out of time.
Predictability and flexibility, while they may feel disparate and even contradictory, can be implemented together to support the success of trauma-affected youth. Be clear about what each mode is, what counts as quality, and give consistent feedback to students to ensure you both get the most out of each mode.
My name is Erin E. Silcox. I'm working on my Ph.D. in Literacy Education, focusing on the intersection of trauma and literacy. I want to deepen our base of knowledge about trauma-informed practices in schools and help teachers apply findings right now.