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Using multimodal analysis to unravel a silent child's learning

Flewitt, Rosie (2005) Using multimodal analysis to unravel a silent child's learning. Early Childhood Practice: The Journal for Multi-Professional Partnerships, 7 (2). pp. 5-16. ISSN 1467-4947


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Although the English Foundation Stage Curriculum for children aged 3 to 5 years recognises that children learn through talk and play and through ‘movement and all their senses’ (DfEE & QCA, 2000: 20), there is comparatively little theoretical understanding of how children learn through diverse ‘modes’, such as body movement, facial expression, gaze, the manipulation of objects and talk, and there is little practical guidance on how practitioners can support children’s ‘multimodal’ learning. Indeed, mounting research evidence indicates that since the introduction of a national early years curriculum and early years assessment schemes, practitioners have felt under increased pressure to focus on children’s verbal skills in order to provide evidence of children’s literacy and numeracy skills in preparation for primary education (see Flewitt, 2005a & 2005b). In the context of these changes, this article relates the story of Tallulah, a 3-year-old girl with a late July birthday, who, like many summer-born children in England, spent one year in an early years setting before moving to primary school aged just 4 years. The article draws on data collected as part of an ESRC-funded study that explored the different ‘modes’ young children use to make and express meaning in the different social settings of home and a preschool playgroup (Flewitt, 2003). Examples are given of how Tallulah communicated her understandings at home through skilful combinations of talk, gaze direction, body movement and facial expression, and how others in the home supported Tallulah’s learning. These are then compared with examples of how Tallulah communicated in playgroup, primarily by combining the silent modes of gaze, body movement and facial expression. The article identifies how the different social settings of home and preschool impacted upon her choices and uses of different expressive modes.

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