Strategy Guide

Teaching With Multiple Modalities

6 - 12
Strategy Guide Series
Differentiating Instruction

About this Strategy Guide

In this Strategy Guide, you'll see how one lesson utilizes tiered texts and multiple modalities in order to meet the learning style needs of students.

Research Basis

Because of their diverse literacy needs, our students need us to differentiate the product, process and content of learning according to their learning style, interest and readiness. Beginning with Howard Gardner's research on multiple intelligences and expanding with the proliferation of new technologies that have led to new literacies, literacy research continues to explore ways that multiple modalities influence the literacy and learning of our students. Through the use and creation of multimodal texts, students have opportunities to use linguistic, visual and audio modes in order to experience, conceptualize, analyze and apply meaning.

When possible and armed with information about the learning style habits of our students, we can use multiple modes of learning in order to engage students in meaningful literacy activities. No lesson requires the use of every mode but instead should be an intentional response to the learning style needs of our students. The more ways we teach, the more likely we reach our students and hone their ability to learn.

Strategy in Practice

Our aim should be to move away from the traditional practices of teaching with one modality (typically linguistic) for all students in a lesson. Instead, if we recognize that our students learn in different ways, then we also need to recognize that our students need us, when possible, to teach lessons with strategies that allow students to process information through multiple modalities. When possible and based on the knowledge of  your students' learning style needs, provide opportunities for students to:

  • Talk about their Learning: Use Think-Pair-Share, Save the Last Word for Me, Take a Stand or another structured discussion strategy in order to help students process what they are learning. If students understand, they can explain it in their own words. By talking and using their own language to make sense of learning, students are incorporating new information into prior knowledge.


  • Use or Create Visual Representations: Ask students to create a mural of a chapter they've read. Ask students to use a 9-Box visual strategy to summarize the 9 most important events in a text. Ask students to compare and contrast an excerpt from a text with a cultural artifact or to create a visual that represents a character. Similar to the power of using language, creating and using visual representations assist students in synthesizing new information in a meaningful way.


  • Utilizing New Media: Ask students to find, view and use CNN news clips that accompany, expand upon or replace traditional print articles. Ask students to read the blog entries of an author in order to analyze the potential authorial intent behind a text. Guide students through the use of a blog, wiki, podcast or Power Point in order to represent learning of the student, literature circle group, or class. New media is multi-modal and our students need us to guide their understanding and use of new literacies.


  • Write in Many Modes: Rotate the responsibility among students or student groups of updating the class blog. Ask students to keep their reader response journal online and provide them time individually or in groups to record their thoughts about their novels, inquiry project, etc. Create time and space in the class for students to use writing as a reflective, clarifying, or therapeutic experience when reading, responding to or preparing to discuss texts. Sometimes the quality of the writing necessitates inclusion in a portfolio. Other times, as teachers, we can be more concerned with the quantity of meaningful opportunities to write. Quick Writes, letters to peers, personal learning statements, truth statements, etc. are easy ways to engage this modality.

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