Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Robb Ross: Commentary 2: Unsworth article and presentation

July 13th, 2014 · No Comments

Our group had some difficulty with the Unsworth article and of even understanding what E-Literature is. At first it seemed too nebulous of a topic. Even mid-presentation, my group-member Peter disagreed with one of my definitions of E-Literature. However, in the end, I discovered that I have previously engaged my students with forms of E-Literature, while some of the IB Assessments I have conducted involved aspects of it. So while I was at first somewhat dismissive of its meaning and value, it turns out I’m actually a proponent. My involvement with this presentation provided me with some ideas and resources with which to more effectively integrate E-Literature into future lessons.

E-Literature involves the “comprehension and composition of images and text” (Unsworth, 2008, p. 62). I see this enriching the understanding and engagement of texts through a two-stage process. First, I would use text and/or images to facilitate understanding and knowledge of the text. For example, in the past I’ve used sites such as (a paid resource site of which I’m a member) to access what Unsworth defines as “fairly traditional lesson plans and tasks for teachers to download,” a category he defines as “Interpretation/Response” (Unsworth, 2008, p. 69). Another aspect of E-Literature that belongs to this category involves the use of online forums to discuss texts (Unsworth, 2008).  In the past I have used discussion forums on the Moodle course website, to positive effect. This involved creating five discussion questions about the text, and asking students to respond. Any student can respond to any other students’ comments. This was an invaluable tool that allowed the students to express their opinions of the text outside of class time.

The second stage (in my view) involves evolving from understanding and comprehension to creation. Unsworth suggests that students “…write stories in the style of particular narratives, sometimes additional episodes” and contribute “… the creation of images” among other possibilities (Unsworth, 2008, p. 69). In the past I’ve engaged students in activities that could have been further exploited   including elements of E-Literature. For example, one official IB assessment requires students to add an additional scene to a play, write letters between characters in a play, or change genres and write an additional scene of the play as a short story. While the focus is on fostering creativity, this assignment exists in isolation. A collaborative extension could be for students to select images associated with these texts and post their work online for the entire class to see and respond to. As well, other students could continue, for example, adding to the additional scene in the play.

I thought as a first attempt our group’s hyperlink workshop went reasonably well. However, it became quite clear that our lack of parameters and constraints resulted in our classmates mainly posting irreverent images. In a real class situation, I would have to add some constraints so that such a lesson had more value. As well, I would clearly assign certain students a stanza or passage of a text to ensure there isn’t overlap.

On a final note, I forgot to mention that E-Literature somewhat reminded of a book series I read as a kid titled Choose Your Own Adventure. In this series the point of view is in the second person ‘you’ giving the reader empowerment over the text. Every few pages, you got to choose the direction of the story from three or so prompts,  with numerous illustrations in the books. To me, Choose Your Own Adventure seemed like the print precursor to a form of E-Literature. I Googled it, and sure enough, there is an online ChooseYourStory that includes several of the kinds of features of E-Literature outlined by Unsworth. The site describes itself as:

… a community-driven website centered on Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style storygames. Members create their own storygames, read and comment on other members’ storygames, participate in the forum, and improve their writing ability. (ChooseYourStory, 2014)

ChooseYourStory would seem to have embraced the spirit of the original print version while using the internet to expand opportunities for collaboration, expression, and developing writing skills.

 Works Cited

ChooseYourStory. (2014). Retrieved from, English Teaching Online. (2014). Retrieved from

Unsworth, L. (2008). Multiliteracies, E-Literature and English Teaching. Language and Education, 22, 62-75. Retrieved from



Tags: e-literature

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