Literacy from literature to multimedia
A Model to critically analyze and evaluate literature and multimedia & plan

The goal of literacy is to analyze, understand, evaluate, and appreciate communications through multiple medias. To achieve this, dimensions of communication and literature can be identified and used to understand, analyze, evaluate, and appreciate all varieties of media. Media of one type or media that includes multiple types, multimedia. Media beyond text. See definitions.

Literature includes anything that communicates and multimedia includes two or more media used in a communication. Today, media is a medium or means for communication. Which can range from: words, phrases, stories, poems, speech, print, books, pictures, illustrations, maps, songs, recordings, advertising, social multimedia, animations, art, music, live actors, dancers, graphic novels, e-books, clothes, tapestries, sculpture, internet pages and sites, videos, dramas, musicals, theatrical productions, concerts, and other creative artifacts including specific methods used to create the media: paper, pencil, ink, printers, piano, oil, canvas, violin, actors on a stage, and ... .

Today, to be literate one must understand and appreciate all media. Further, students come from diverse backgrounds where many of them and their families experience and value media, other than text, more highly than books. As such they have numerous experiences with those media to develop skill and appreciation of them, which an outstanding educator will use as a starting point to continue their education by facilitating their learning and supporting all literacies incuding text literacy. Teaching Youth Media Book Cover

Steven’s Goodman’s book Teaching Youth Media: A critical guide to literacy, video production, and social change. (2003) is an excellent example of how video opens doors to all literacy, including textual literacy. He gives multiple examples of how students, in inner city programs, were enabled to attend highly respectable colleges and universities, graduate, and find employment in fields where they depend on a high degree of literacy, a literacy that surely would not nave been achieved had it not been for this nontraditional approach. So with the ideas that literacy goes beyond a textual base, that becoming literate is similar to learning a non native language, and being multi-literate is necessary for survival and enjoyment of life, teachers need to plan experiences to facilitate literacy for all, people and media.

Therefore, a framework is necessary to help think about stories in a variety of media to help better understand, analyze, evaluate, and appreciate different literary pieces and to share our ideas with each other.

We all have literacy frameworks. Young children's frameworks may be as simple as: all stories have a beginning, middle, and end. As they grow they become more profound. Many, will not have thought about this or taken time to diagram or outline what they know about stories and how stories can be understood, analyzed, evaluated, and appreciated. Therefore, it is good to discuss ideas about different elements of communication, literacy, media, and stories used to create literature and other media; and how we can use those ideas to facilitate our understanding of literature and media and share our ideas and enjoyment with others in systematic ways.

The Greeks may have been the first to understood that speaking and writing have multiple dimensions. To them Rhetoric (the method or art of speaking) was a conversation to persuade, inform, or motivate an audience. They recognized three dimensions: 1. rational appeal (logos), 2. emotional appeal, (pathos), and 3. ethical appeal (ethos) and understood all could be intentionally used to persuade and convince people of a particular idea or argument.

While these dimensions are still good to consider, when thinking about literature and multimedia, other dimensions and their elements may be used. See literature and literacy model for examples.

Let's begin by looking at communication as an event and the different tasks of literature as dimensions to use to understand, analyze, evaluate, and appreciate literature and multimedia. Later, we can expand with additional dimensions and combining dimensions.

Communication as an event

When we think of communication as an event, we usually think of satements like the five w's and h: who communicates what, to whom, why (what intent and purpose), where, when, and how (media and style). Multiple Forms of Literacy book cover

Let's use these to identify and define elements of a communicative event. Carolyn Piazza's (1999) suggested five elements could be used to understand, analyze, evaluate, and appreciate communicative events for these ideas.

A table can be made with these events to use to analyze a piece of literature. Select a piece and give it a try!

Communicative Events to use to analyze and evaluate literature and other media
Inquiry, Use of language, Aesthetic or poetry, Story, & Information
Description of Media:

Who creates and communicates a message (author, speaker, artist, dancer, singer, muscian, actress, actor, performer, ...)
 
The messages and themes being sent for a particular intent and purpose (why).
 
The media or medium (speech, text, cloth, thread, book, page, animation, video, dance, drama, drawing, painting, How does the media effect the messages being sent?
 
Audience to whom the message is sent.
 
Where, when, and in what context is the communication taking place setting, (when and where) and what context (people, historical event, emotional response, ...)  

Five literary tasks.

Another way to help understand, analyze, evaluate, and appreciate literature and multimedia is to become good at using the tasks necessary to be literate. These literacy tasks are used to form ideas and create literature. They can also be used to help respond critically to literature and multiliterature with greater depth and understanding. The five literary tasks.

A table can be made with these tasks to use to analyze a piece of literature. Select a piece and give it a try!

Literacy Tasks to use to analyze and evaluate literature and other media
Inquiry, Use of language, Aesthetic or poetry, Story, & Information
Description of Media:

Inquiry
How were sights, sounds, ideas and symbols perceived to form a literary response by the author, director, creator, or observer. How were experiences turned into ideas that were investigated in a literary fashion?
 
Language
What ways is information communicated (orally, song, pictures, animation, text, words, phrases, sentences, stories, movement, camera angles, rhythms, colors, patterns, ...)? What is the symbolic form of communication? How were the symbols of language used to communicate? How is the creator using language to communicate?
 
Aesthetic and emotional aspects
Think about how most poems communicate dual messages. A literal interpretation and an emotional sense. The emotional or aesthtic is the Poetic aspect of a piece of literature or multimedia. It is what is communicated conceptual, stylistically, through different tones or voices that creates an emotional aesthetic reaction in the audience. How aesthetically has the ideas been communicated with the symbols visually, color, shape, style, orally, textually, and in whatever other manner?
 
Story
How can or has the voice, motion, visuals, sounds, music, clothes, drama, text, ideas, letters, words, phrases, sentences... come together to tell a story? In a quality piece of literature the combination of media creates a sense of harmony that moves the plot along enthralls the viewer and brings them into the story.
 
Information
What information was communicated. Was it memorable, meaningful, persuasive, powerful, and why? What was learned from the interactions with the piece?
 

Literary and multimedia pieces can be created by teams of people where each develop a piece of media that are combined to provide a multimedia multisensory experience. The credits at the end of a movie suggests how intensely comprehensive these productions can be. With list of artists that specialize as characters, animators, producers, set designers, special effects, make-up, choreography, directors, drama coaches, artists, musicians, dancers, visual designers, text production artists, all whose pieces are put together in a video format as literature.

If we are to be an informed society, and 90% of our information comes from sources other than print, then schools must make sure their curriculums are broadly defined to include multimedia. Media beyond reading and writing. To prepare citizens who are able to make good decisions in a democratic society they must be able to fully comprehend a vast variety of media.

Identification of different elements and their messages need to be comprehended and analyzed to attain the full benefit of the artists' intentions.

Combining the elements of communicative events with the five literacy tasks

The table below shows how the elements of communicative events can be combined with the five literacy tasks to systematically analyze and evaluate a piece of literature and media that stands alone, is within a piece of multimedia, or an entire multimedia event.

Select a piece of literature or multimedia piece and give it a try. Don't worry about including something in each cell. In fact you may want to write across cells as ideas can blend from one to another. It might also be more helpful to think of the ideas in the tables as ideas on a checklist to consider.

Ways to represent ideas in different media or genre or ... Communication elements
Creator Message Media or medium Audience Setting What ways are the elements being used to communicate?

Literacy tasks
  • Inquiry
  • Use of language
  • Aesthetic or poetry
  • Story
  • Information
Information from the analysis & evaluation of the
Creator

Who creates & communicates
a message.
Information from the analysis & evaluation of the
Message

What message or purpose is being sent?
Information from the analysis & evaluation of the
Medium

How does the media effect the messages
being sent?
Information from the analysis & evaluation of the
Audience

To Whom is
the message
being sent ?
Information from the analysis & evaluation of the
Setting
When, where, & in what context is the
message being sent from and to where?
Description of Media:
( book - prose, genre - fiction) (art - oil painting, genre - fiction or non fiction)
Inquiry
How were sights, sounds, ideas and symbols perceived to form a literary response by the author, director, creator, or observer. How were experiences turned into ideas that were investigated in a literary fashion?
         
Language
What ways is information communicated (orally, song, pictures, animation, text, words, phrases, sentences, stories, movement, camera angles, rhythms, colors, patterns, ...)? What is the symbolic form of communication? How were the symbols of language used to communicate? How is the creator using language to communicate?
         
Aesthetic and emotional aspects
Think about how most poems communicate dual messages. A literal interpretation and an emotional sense. The emotional or aesthtic is the Poetic aspect of a piece of literature or multimedia. It is what is communicated conceptual, stylistically, through different tones or voices that creates an emotional aesthetic reaction in the audience. How aesthetically has the ideas been communicated with the symbols visually, color, shape, style, orally, textually, and in whatever other manner?
         
Story
How can or has the voice, motion, visuals, sounds, music, clothes, drama, text, ideas, letters, words, phrases, sentences... come together to tell a story? In a quality piece of literature the combination of media creates a sense of harmony that moves the plot along enthralls the viewer and brings them into the story.
         
Information
What information was communicated. Was it memorable, meaningful, persuasive, powerful, and why? What was learned from the interactions with the piece?
         
Media - art Picture Genre - fiction or non fiction Inquiry
How were sights, sounds, ideas and symbols perceived to form a literary response by the author, director, creator, or observer. How were experiences turned into ideas that were investigated in a literary fashion?
         
Language
What ways is information communicated (orally, song, pictures, animation, text, words, phrases, sentences, stories, movement, camera angles, rhythms, colors, patterns, ...)? What is the symbolic form of communication? How were the symbols of language used to communicate? How is the creator using language to communicate?
         
Aesthetic and emotional aspects
Think about how most poems communicate dual messages. A literal interpretation and an emotional sense. The emotional or aesthtic is the Poetic aspect of a piece of literature or multimedia. It is what is communicated conceptual, stylistically, through different tones or voices that creates an emotional aesthetic reaction in the audience. How aesthetically has the ideas been communicated with the symbols visually, color, shape, style, orally, textually, and in whatever other manner?
         
Story
How can or has the voice, motion, visuals, sounds, music, clothes, drama, text, ideas, letters, words, phrases, sentences... come together to tell a story? In a quality piece of literature the combination of media creates a sense of harmony that moves the plot along enthralls the viewer and brings them into the story.
         
Information
What information was communicated. Was it memorable, meaningful, persuasive, powerful, and why? What was learned from the interactions with the piece?
         

Adapted from: Piazza, Carolyn L. (1999). Multiple forms of literacy: Teaching literacy and the arts. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill. Table 1-1 page 5

The grand finale: Adding more literary ideas to analyze and evaluate literature and multimedia

This next and last example combines ever more literary ideas to use as a checklist or guide to critique ....

As we consider more ideas or elements the complexity becomes significant and to get such a large amount of information onto paper or in this case one computer screen that doesn’t scroll infinitely can be a challenge.

In the article, Elements of Fiction, the information is displayed in a scrolling document, or across pages, with each element in a section. For this task a table seems a better choice as one group of elements will be used to generate ideas for other groups of elements.

To compare other elements: elements of fiction, genre, story, ... or whatever seems appropriate for a piece or pieces of literature, different categories and elements could be added.

Included in this table is a name for a dimension in the top row, in the second row a brief summary for the elements of the dimension in the top row, and in the third and more rows each piece of media can be identified and information related to the dimension included in the relative column.

Piece of literature or Part of a piece Communicative Events Literacy Tasks Story Elements Elements of Genre Characteristic of Quality
  • Video
  • Book (text only, picture, or combination)
  • Art, sculpture, painting, tapestry ...
  • Dance,
  • Theater production,
  • Movie,
  • Song,
  • Other
  • Who creates and communicates a message
  • The messages and themes being sent and for what purpose.
  • The media or medium
  • Audience to whom the message is sent.
  • Where, when, and in what context is the communication taking place setting
More information
  • Inquiry
  • Use of language
  • Aesthetic or poetry
  • Story
  • Information
More information
  • Setting,
  • Plot,
  • Characterization,
  • Theme,
  • Style,
  • Tone, &
  • Point of view
More information
  • Fiction,
  • Nonfiction,
  • Traditional fantasy,
  • Modern fantasy,
  • Poetry, ballad, opera, rock,
  • Art
  • Movement
  • Music
  • Theater
  • Dance
  • Video ...
More information
There are characteristics of quality for each of the items in this row and other ideas.
More information on quality characteristics for genre
Example 1

         
Example 2

         

Following is a brief sample for two pieces of literature: The Mailbox and Homer’s painting, Country School. Country School

Piece of literature or Part of a piece Communicative Events Literacy Tasks Story Elements Elements of Genre Characteristic of Quality
Book - text only, picture Art, graphic, print, dance, theater, movie, song, other
  • Who creates and communicates a message
  • The messages and themes being sent and for what purpose.
  • The media or medium
  • Audience to whom the message is sent.
  • Where, when, and in what context is the communication taking place setting
  • Inquiry
  • Use of language
  • Aesthetic or poetry
  • Story
  • Information
  • Setting,
  • Plot,
  • Characterization,
  • Theme,
  • Style,
  • Tone, &
  • Point of view
  • Fiction,
  • Nonfiction,
  • Traditional fantasy,
  • Modern fantasy,
  • Poetry, ballad, opera, rock,
  • Art
  • Movement
  • Music
  • Theater
  • Dance
  • Video ...
There are characteristics of quality for each of the items in this row and other ideas.
Chapter book
The Mailbox
by Audrey Shafer

The Mailbox Book Cover
Audrey Shafer - 2008
We all need someone...
Text - prose
Reader adolescents and older
Anytime modern
Help us to belong and accept those who are different
Inquiry - it seems all the major characters in the book have a secret and the author writes in a way to compel the reader to discover them.
Language uses incredibly realistic images and language to stir emotions of caring.
Poetry - the images and metaphors stir the emotions to  a level of compassion, caring, and hope for Gabe.
Story see story elements
Setting - today
Plot - orphan bounces from care giver to care giver until he is reunited with his Uncle a Vietnam War Vet that has isolated himself from most of the word.
Characterization very strong characterization of Gabe...
Theme - People will other people even when it may not be expected.
Style - Realistic with events, actions, setting, and props having a strong emotional impact of caring
Tone - Positive, hopeful, yet concern for a positive conclusion
Point of view - third person
Modern day realistic fiction
Painting
Country School
  • Winslow Homer
    School is ... or Teaching is ... or Learning is...
  • Oil painting
  • A classroom built and furnished according to the norms of the culture.
  • Functionally built to last yet plenty of space and an atmosphere to work.
  • Huge windows to let in light and symbolic to having the whole  world right outside their window.
  • Student’s clothes suggest...
  • Teacher’s relationship to her students is ...
  • Seems to be realistic to the point as comparable to a photograph.
  • However, Homer may have chosen the positions of the students, teacher, and artifacts, but how much interpretation he is making about a country school can’t be known for sure.
  • The design is rustic yet functional
  • The view out of the far windows suggests nature with rolling hills and green vegetation. Suggesting a healthy natural setting.
  • 1871 one room school
  • rural
  • Architecture
    spacious area
  • Large windows lighted area plain simple solid sturdy furniture
    built to last
  • Serious studious business like stance and positioning
    closeness for some and isolation for others
  • Instruction appears very textual based with most children focused on a book
  • Plenty of space to work on the tables
  • There are places on the tables with materials for construction or use of objects for learning
  • One young child has a cupped hand to an eye that suggests ...
  • With his neighbor's head turned toward him suggesting a maternal caring stance.
  • Appears Realistic
    However, Without the artist's notes or a participant suggesting that Homer attempted to paint a moment in time accurately, then one might claim it as fiction.
  • A viewer might claim that Homer's work was interpretive. Therefore it probably was an attempt to be historical accurate and could be labeled as nonfiction.
 

The ultimate goal is for students to become fmiliar with different categories to analyze media and literature. The table serves not only as a planning device for teachers, but as a memory device for student's learning. There will be times when students are creating or analyzing literature when such a device would be useful for them, but it should not be used as an exercise. It should be used as - Hey! how can we consider if we have thought of everything that we should? Or how can we begin to plan and record what we think when we approach a piece of literature or media in a systematic way.

Ultimately the goal is form information in a table like this to become internalized so when we read, view, or hear literature or multimedia there is an explosion of ideas that rumbles through our brain... The bigger the explosion the more enjoyable and the higher the quality of literature.

Enjoy!

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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