Using Multimodal Materials to Develop Conceptual Fluency in TAFL

By Corinne Stokes
Submitted to Session P4942 (New Perspectives on Literacy in TAFL, 2017 Annual Meeting
Arab States;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
The potential of L2 visual materials for teaching cultural conceptualizations has not been fully realized in foreign language pedagogy, despite research indicating that viewing faces and images which cue the student’s native culture “hinders second-language processing by priming first-language structures” (Zhang et al, 2013). This paper argues that enabling student acquisition of L2 conceptualizations is an essential but underdeveloped component of teaching literacy and culture in the TAFL classroom. I present an argument for using diverse, multimodal materials to stimulate conceptual fluency at the lower levels of Arabic teaching, synthesizing theoretical and practical aspects of intercultural and related competences, multiliteracies, and conceptual perspectives on language teaching. I highlight the relevance of multimodal material for developing multiliteracy skills in high-frequency communicative settings such as email, online forums, blogs, and news media, as well as popular social-media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.

To support the argument for incorporating diverse visual material, I provide examples of methods, materials, and outcomes developed for novice to intermediate-level, non-heritage students of Arabic at New York University Abu Dhabi, and include student samples collected over the course of three semesters. I also introduce a web resource I have developed to facilitate the integration of relevant still images and videoclips into novice-intermediate Arabic curricula. This resource addresses various issues that inhibit incorporation of visual material into the Arabic classroom: 1) the challenge of locating material that represents a range of Arabic speaking cultures 2) the difficulty of identifying level-appropriate material 3) the time required for its collection and 4) the need to access material in a convenient format. Images and videoclips from a variety of online sources are shared and cited on an open source blog platform and tagged with vocabulary from parts 1 and 2 of the Al-Kitaab textbook. The format of presentation allows teachers to locate appropriate material by typing a vocabulary item into the search bar or by choosing a specific category.

Zhang, Shu et al. “Heritage-Culture Images Disrupt Immigrants’ Second-Language Processing through Triggering First-Language Interference.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110.28 (2013): 11272–11277.