Fourth- and fifth-grade classroom case study of response to multimodal representations in children's picture books

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Reading and Language Arts


Audio mode, Multimodality, Multiliteracies design theory, Picture books, Reader response, Writer's craft

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Education | Reading and Language


The purpose of this classroom case study was to explore how a teacher and her fourth- and fifth-grade students transacted with picture books with multimodal representations, specifically those that represent the audio mode in addition to visual and linguistic modes. The rationale for this study stemmed from a lack of research on (a) changes in picture books related to the increased use of multimodality in today's society, (b) transactions with multimodal texts other than digital or technological texts, and (c) transactions with messages communicated through the audio mode.

Grounded in reader response theories (Rosenblatt, 2005), multimodality (Kress & Jewitt, 2003), and Multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996), this classroom case study (Stake, 1995) focused on a teacher and her fourth- and fifth-grade students as they transacted with picture books during their daily Language Arts block. Data sources included field notes from observations in the classroom, transcriptions from audio recordings and video recordings, interviews with the teacher and students, and samples from students' writing journals.

Several themes emerged from data analysis. The teacher's various personal and pedagogical perspectives informed her planning and instruction as she incorporated the multimodal picture books. She flexibly and creatively planned her pedagogy to include the new modes and designs represented in the multimodal picture books. Students generally understood the audio representations in the multimodal picture books, though texts in which the audio representation was integrated into the design of the book or which were well supported in classroom discussions were more easily understood. Students began to use multiple modes in their oral and written communication, as well. The opportunity to communicate using multiple modes seemed to benefit all students, including those who were seen as average or struggling literacy learners. The attention on the audio mode in addition to visual and linguistic modes of communication through the use of multimodal picture books created a positive and successful learning environment, which afforded students expanded opportunities to express themselves.


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