Authentic Interactions around Text

Learning is interactive. Just as learners vary and are engaged by diverse content and types of activities, so too should the opportunities to interact with texts be multiple and varied in order to engage, motivate, and build student comprehension. Encourage students to think about, connect with, and tie their readings to their own experiences and background knowledge. And encourage them to do this through varied ways of expression and social interactions. As they work with their ideas about texts, students increase their understanding of the issues, others’ perspectives, and build self-awareness as learners.

Working with text

Build reading comprehension with multimodal expression


There is no medium of expression that is equally suited for all learners or for all kinds of communication. A key principle of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is to provide alternative modalities for expression, both to level the playing field among learners and to allow the learner to appropriately (or easily) express knowledge, ideas and concepts in the learning environment.

How you can support multimodal expression

Using a wide variety of stories as a springboard, support students to express their skills, knowledge, and understanding using a variety of media including, but not limited to, written text. When students are given options that motivate them, they are better able to show you what they know and can do.

Teaching tips
  1. Create an example of how to do an effective voice recording, or drawing to show a critical part of a story or answer a question. Have students discuss what they think about responding in these ways. Probe students to consider: How could each method help them show their knowledge or ideas?
  2. After students have read a story, give them a compelling question to consider about the text. Ask them to write, draw, or use a recording device to record responses. When everyone is done, do a quick poll on which way students felt best helped them show their ideas. Make a chart and post the results on the classroom board.
  3. After students have read a story, ask them to use an online multimodal program such as VoiceThread to present their opinion of the story.
Lesson: Convince Me! (Relates to teaching tip 2)

Engage students in active reading and communication using multimodal expression. By the end of this lesson, students will have created an argument using visual elements, will be able to explain their design choices, and will be able to relate those choices to the overall argument.


Students need varied and recurring activities that support active involvement in reading. Engaging in activities with visual elements provides students with appealing opportunities to learn and practice comprehension strategies and helps make them more active readers. In this activity, students practice selecting a story, building an argument, identifying the main idea and important points, visualizing what those ideas mean, and expressing their own opinions about an issue.


1. Model: Provide a model of how to capture an argument through images. Some models of visual arguments can be found at these websites:

Greenpeace argument on the impact of global warming:
Public service announcement on the impact of smoking:
Picturing Modern America:

2. Model: Demonstrate how to collect supportive images from the story or internet and insert them into a Word document.

3. Guided and Independent practice: After students know they will be making a visual argument, have students choose a story to read. Support students as they begin working on this activity by asking them to share their thoughts on why they chose or made specific images.

4. Provide a template or rubric to guide students through the components of summarizing debates and making arguments. Prompt students to include images in their arguments.

5. Discuss:

Have students view and comment on peer visual argument work.
Ask for volunteers to share their visual arguments as part of a whole class discussion.





McLaughlin, M., & Allen, M. (2009). Teacher-Directed Whole-Group Instruction. In Guided Comprehension in Grades 3-8 (pp. 17-32). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Tracey, K. N. (2013). I Never Liked to Read or Write: A Formative Experiment on the Use of a Nonfiction-Focused Writing Workshop in a Fourth Grade Classroom Retrived November 20, 2015 from

Common core standards

Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

I think that they are really reading. I’ve known about UDL for a long time…. But to see the impact of the different components, to see the student who always chooses to record and never to write, or to see how students are choosing to listen to the article read to them and then some students are not choosing to do that, I’m really learning a lot about my students that way. And I think that that’s really helpful.