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Zoom Lecture by Dr. Heather Willis Allen

Event Type
Department of French and Italian
Aug 19, 2022   10:30 - 11:30 am  
Associate Professor Heather Willis Allen
Dr. Amy Clay
Originating Calendar
Department of French and Italian (EVENTS)

ABSTRACT: Prioritizing Multimodality in Collegiate Foreign Language Courses

Heather Willis Allen

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Over two decades ago, Kress criticized the perspective implicit in many language educators' instructional practices that texts’ meanings reside wholly in their language, stating it is "impossible to make sense of texts, even of their linguistic parts alone, without having a clear idea of what these other features might be contributing to the meaning of a text” (2000, p. 337). Given the exponential rise in 21st century multimodal digital communication practices, one might anticipate a corresponding shift in how languages are taught. A 2016 position statement by the National Council of Teachers of English (2016) argued that students need support in learning how to "compose with a variety of modalities and technologies” and that ignoring multimodality is “out-of-date and inappropriate.” Kumagai, López-Sánchez, and Wu (2016) made a similar recommendation, writing that “[w]orld language education … needs to move beyond current communicative and ‘language-focused’ approaches, and into those that prepare students to be effective producers and consumers of multimodal texts” (p. xiii).  In this 90-minute workshop, we will discuss the following questions:

  • What is multimodality and how do we experience it in our everyday practices of representation and communication?
  • How can facilitating awareness of the diverse modes of meaning that coexist in texts enhance language learners' communicative repertoires?
  • What types of instructional practices can facilitate the interpretation and creation of multimodal texts?

To illustrate ways of teaching multimodality in lower-level language courses, instructional examples will be shared from a collegiate French program implementing multiliteracies- and Design pedagogies in its lower-level curriculum. 


Kress, G. (2000). Multimodality: Challenges to thinking about language. TESOL Quarterly, 34,


Kumagai, Y., López-Sánchez, A., & Wu, S. (Eds.) (2016). Multiliteracies in world language

     education. New York, NY: Routledge.

National Council of Teachers of English. (2016). Professional knowledge for the teaching of

     writing. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from http://www2.ncte.org/statement/teaching-writing/.



Heather Willis Allen is Associate Professor of French in the Department of French and Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a core faculty member of her university’s second language acquisition doctoral program. She teaches undergraduate French culture and writing courses and graduate courses in applied linguistics and serves as Course Chair for Elementary and Intermediate French. Her research has appeared in the ADFL Bulletin, CALICO Journal, Foreign Language Annals, the French Review, Language Teaching Research, L2 Journal, and the Modern Language Journal.  Her collaborative projects have included Alliages Cultures: La Société Française en Transformation (with Sebastien Dubreil, 2013), Educating the Future Foreign Language Professoriate for the 21st Century (edited with Hiram Maxim, 2013), and A Multiliteracies Framework for Collegiate Foreign Language Teaching (with Kate Paesani and Beatrice Dupuy, 2016). She is currently at work on a monograph tentatively entitled A Design Orientation to L2 Writing Instruction.

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