Date of Award

Summer 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Curriculum and Instruction

Committee Director

Judith Dunkerly Bean

Committee Director

Kristine Sunday

Committee Member

Peter Baker


With a shift towards 21st century literacy practices and a greater variety of literature, the mere definitions of literacy and text are shifting. The focus on traditional text that heavily relies on words and supporting pictures to convey meaning has changed to text of multiple modes. Teachers are now charged with fostering new skills in students in order to help them engage with these texts effectively and to allow them to make meaning of the multimodal texts that surround them (Siegel, 2006).

In this qualitative case study, the primary investigator assumed a dual role as the classroom teacher and researcher in order to examine the meaning-making process and find trends in students’ learning, particularly in the context of a social constructivist learning environment. The study examined a group of ten first graders in an independent school setting as they explored and constructed meaning of the wordless picturebook, Trainstop, by Barbara Lehman. This genre offered an opportunity to examine meaning-making without the constraints of decoding and interpreting written text (Serafini, 2014). Students were asked to collaboratively read the book and transmediate their meanings by creating a digital book with the iPad application, Book Creator. This afforded them a means to create collaborative versions of this story on a multimodal platform.

Data collection included video recordings of student exchanges through the processes of reading, rereading, and then creating their meaning in the form of their digital book. Video transcriptions, researcher’s notes and reflections, as well as the final digital books were examined for paths of meaning-making and collaborative exchanges. The findings show how each pair approached the text differently, assumed distinctive roles, and used a blend of modes in order to make meaning of the wordless picturebook. Students collaborated to navigate, interpret, interrogate, and design their stories (Serafini, 2012), but this process also highlighted how the collaborative environment provided a means to discover performative meaning in their stories. As they blended their transactions to create a collaborative poem, these modes of reading translated into modes of creating without losing this performative nature.


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