Parallel Pedagogy: Make New Friends…But Keep The Old…

About Parallel Pedagogy …One is silver and the other’s gold. In Digital Literacies: Social Learning and Classroom Practices, Kevin Leander defines parallel pedagogy as “a way of describing how old and new literary practices, including print texts and visual texts, may be fruitfully taught side by side, rather than the ‘old’ being a precursor to the new or being replaced by it” (2009).

I decided to explore how to potentially use such parallel composing in the classroom for vocabulary instruction. Unfortunately, a lot of vocabulary instruction (presently and for many years) looks something like this book below…

Definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and complete the sentence…You would think that Vocabulary Workshop must be effective as many schools have been depending on this little orange book for decades. Well….WRONG! (probably, mostly…) Students memorize the words to get the grade they want on a quiz/test and then “dump” the knowledge! In other words, there is not continued application. So how can learning transfer more effectively occur in classrooms?

Wiggins and McTighe (2011) discuss that learning transfer is more likely when students are given multiple opportunities to apply their learning in meaningful (authentic) contexts or new situations (p. 4).  Using digital platforms is extremely authentic for Gen-Z. Furthermore, when the learner is able to understand underlying concepts and principles, transfer is much more likely to occur.  Wiggins and McTighe offer the flip side by examining that poor conditions for learning transfer include when knowledge is learned at the level of rote memory (p. 5) (i.e. memorizing words from an orange book) .  An example of proper transfer conditions would be using these new vocabulary words in multiple contexts and to continuously employ them throughout not only the semester, but also across grade levels.  Otherwise, students “dump” words that they have memorized as soon as the corresponding quiz has passed.  Wiggins & McTighe cite experiential learning as a method of avoiding memorization-only knowledge as it stimulates multiple senses in students and it is likely to be stored in long-term memories (p. 6). 

So while some of the activities in the orange book may be beneficial, for students to gain long-term transfer and to move beyond memorizing words just for an assessment, students must apply their learning to other contexts in the classroom and also to their lives. Many teachers are having students create vocabulary flashcards where they draw a picture depicting a word’s meaning (or they can paste on computer graphics). I decided to take that a step further and investigate using storyboards for vocabulary instruction. Enter Before I started making my own storyboard, I selected six commonly taught vocabulary words for ninth graders: absolve, escalate, mediate, alleviate, mortify, and pacify. The story that I wrote is about a student who gets his calendar dates mixed up and shows up to school dressed as a cowboy and utilizes/revolves around these words. In my model, all vocabulary words are underlined and in all caps to make them stand out for the student.

Panel #1 of my storyboard creation. Using the 9th grade vocabulary word- “Mortified.”
Panel #4 of my storyboard. Using vocabulary words- “Escalate” and “Pacify.”


About/Analysis of StoryboardThat:

StoryboardThat is relatively easy to use and the free option includes a large image library and flexible layouts. There are specialized versions available for the education, business, and film industries. Constraints Teachers get 2 weeks for free and then can choose to pay monthly or annually based on the number of students in their classroom.

Affordances The free version allows you to select from a number of Scenes, Characters, Textables, Shapes, Infographics, etc.. In my example, I mainly just used scenes (different school settings- music classroom, basketball court, hall with lockers, etc.), characters (can select adults, teens, jobs, sports, cultural, etc..), and textables (where I got the speech bubbles and a banner that I used in the final panel). With the characters, users can select a color for their hair, eyes, clothes, and shoes). There are also options to record audio and to comment on your own and other users’ creations. Users can run their storyboard as a slideshow presentation on the site, or download the individual panels and insert them into a program such as PowerPoint.

A blank storyboard with the image library and layout options listed across the top two menu bars.

StoryboardThat serves as a strong example of using parallel compositions in the classroom because it takes the traditional strategies of writing a sentence (print texts) and/or drawing a picture (visual text) using a vocabulary word and fuses them together with digital technology (animations). Students (especially those who love animation) will have a fun time creating their own characters and placing them in various situations that may either mirror their lives or implement some fantasy options (monsters and myths option). Because students/users are coming up with an original, continuous story across several panels, they are more likely to remember the words and their definitions beyond a quiz as they are using them in multiple contexts and are stimulating multiple senses. Furthermore, students can print, download, and share their storyboards with each other, permitting them to learn from each other as some may be using the words in contexts/situations that others had not considered.

Connection to Standards:

Using storyboards as a means of parallel pedagogy aligns with the following ELA/Georgia state standards for 9th and 10th grades:

  • ELAGSE9-10RI4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone.
  • ELAGSE9-10W3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
  • ELAGSE9-10W6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
My Suggestions: 
  • Have students plan out their storyboard on paper first (how they are going to use the necessary vocab words and what their story is going to be about) prior to creating it on the site (in the event that their work does not get saved/technology issues).
  • Be Flexible! While there are a lot of options available with the free version, there will be some characters/settings that are not possible. Adapt/overcome!
  • Permit Student Choice! Don’t confine students to StoryboardThat. Perhaps they know of another storyboard platform or another way to parallel compose that will better suit their preferences/learning/creative approaches and allow them to transfer their knowledge using the old and the new.
  • Have students share their storyboards with one another as this will allow them to question how might different people understand this message differently from me? (Bruce, p. 40).
  • Save Money!!! Be strategic and utilize StoryboardThat just a few months out of the year to either stay with the free version or just buy a few months of the pay version.
  • Users must sign-up for a free account with an email address and verify that address prior to saving their work. It would be best for teachers/students to go through this verification process prior to spending too much time on their creations to ensure that everything gets saved! If you do not push “save,” your work will be lost (constraint).
Questions for Teachers:
  • What types of assignments/activities have you used storyboards for in your classroom? Which have you found to be successful and which would you advise against?
  • When using parallel compositions, do you find that students tend to embrace/push for one (perhaps the contemporary/digital) over the other (traditional print)? (Potenital constraint to parallel pedagogy).
  • Have you experienced students having too much fun with storyboards (creating big characters and grand adventures) to the point that they miss the learning objectives? (Potential constraint).
  • How often would you employ storyboards for vocabulary instruction? Is it best to keep trying other forms of parallel pedagogy in order to connect with a variety of learners?


Bruce, D. (2012). Learning Video Grammar: A Multimodal Approach to Reading and Writing Video Texts. In Multimodal Composing in Classrooms: Learning and Teaching for the Digital World (pp. 32-42).

Leander, K. (2009). Composing with Old and New Media: Toward a Parallel Pedagogy. In Digital Literacies Social Learning and Classroom Practices (pp. 147-163). 

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2011) Understanding by Design, Modules A & B

Remediation: My Steer’s Waltz

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Keep reading to see who these guys are!

Introduction/Background I selected to remediate Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” as we have been discussing it in terms of literary meaning in ENGL 7721. One of the main talking points in regards to this poem is that most modern day readers believe that it is a tale of an intoxicated father physically abusing his child (lots of discussion on whether the child is male or female). However, earlier audiences did not speculate violence at all, but rather just a nice little evening dance between a father and his child. Why the change? Sheridan D. Blau explains, “before the mid-eighties, ideas about abuse and dysfunctional families and discussions of alcoholism in one’s family were not part of the public discourse” (2003). With that in mind, consider how one might have viewed this poem in the 1950’s, 1990’s, and today.

My Papa’s Waltz

The whiskey on your breath

Could make a small boy dizzy;

But I hung on like death:

Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans

Slid from the kitchen shelf;

My mother’s countenance

Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist

Was battered on one knuckle;

At every step you missed

My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head

With a palm caked hard by dirt,

Then waltzed me off to bed

Still clinging to your shirt.

Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

In my initial reading (and mostly now), I certainly saw the poem as a story of abuse. It would be nice to see it as just an innocent dance, but being a millennial, I suppose my mind did not stand much of a chance on settling on that sort of interpretation (too many “After School Specials”). Words such as— whiskey, death, romped, not unfrown, battered, knuckle, buckle, beat, and palm strongly lend to the case of the poem’s predicted violence.

My Remediation I chose to use Screencast-O-Matic for this assignment as I wanted to experiment with a different video recording platform. I wanted one that was free and would permit me to produce a MULTIMODAL TEXT with the inclusion of video, the recording of my voice and soundtrack. The free version permits minimal editing, but I did not find any to be necessary. Out of all the platforms/tools/apps that I have experimented with so far….this was by far the easiest! Affordances I would like to create an additional project with Screencast-O-Matic to try out the screen capture function as I only used the webcam function for this creation. The tool allows you to use both simultaneously. The free version permits recordings lasting up to 15 minutes and has a closed-captioning option. Constraints The only downsides were that the background music was not as loud as I had hoped for and I could not embed the video on this site. I had to upload it to YouTube in order to present it to you here. Screencast-O-Matic Users also have to subscribe to the pay version in order to feature other multimedia text in their recordings and to alter the speed of the video. Without further ado…ladies and gentlemen…My Steer’s Waltz...

Soundtrack courtesy of:


Okay…I know…that got kind of weird. It was definitely TAKING A RISK!

Because I interpret “My Papa’s Waltz” as a story of violence and abuse, I wanted to capture that in this remediation. However, I did not want to just straight up declare that as the only interpretation. As a result, I decided to “cast” stuffed animals as the three mentioned characters. The Steer as The Father, The Deer as The Child, and The Dalmatian as The Mother. While I am having the stuffed animals do things that could be construed as a literal interpretation of violent acts, because of the waltz music and silliness of this cast of characters, there is an ambiguity left to the work. While using stuffed animals may make a difficult topic such as child abuse easier to handle, others may think of actual animals and struggle with the “suggested” content as much as if it were done with human portrayals. Luckily, using the mode of video grants continued uncertainty as far as interpretation is concerned, as shared by Jones and Hafner, “images tend to be more ‘polysemous’, that is, they are capable of sending numerous messages at the same time” (2012). While it seems on the surface that the Steer character is intoxicated and beating the Deer character, it remains uncertain to the viewer and perhaps the characters are just goofing around or putting on a show for the Dalmatian character? So while I see the original text being about abuse, I wanted to leave my remediation open to different interpretations based on continued changes in public discourse and the consumers’ life experiences. I would categorize the relationship between my work and the original poem as COMPLEMENTARY.

This would be a robust assignment to employ in middle and high school classrooms. Because modern day adolescents have grown up in an image-driven world (there are fewer words on websites today than several decades ago), making a multi-modal text would help them to more easily attach meaning to the written text, exercise their creative muscles, and interact with the text as individuals. It would place the story in their world and through their eyes.

  • Selecting the video (sequence of images) mode allows for the affordances of images to be mixed with the affordances of writing (Jones & Hafner, 2012).
  • Sending multiple messages at the same time through multi-modal texts may distract from the main message of a text. May be inappropriate for some readings.
Questions for Teachers:
  • What type of assignments have you utilized Screencast-O-Matic? Have you used it for purposes beyond video-style lectures?
  • Have you allowed students to remediate texts in your classroom? If so, how often? What are some of the challenges faced? What kind/how many limitations do you place on them?
  • How do you discuss literary meaning in your classroom without opening the doors to- every interpretation is valid?
My Suggestions for Using Screencast-O-Matic & Remediation in the Classroom:
  • If possible, teachers should look into the pay version for the benefits of longer videos, more editing features, and usage of additional multimedia text. The free version should be sufficient for students.
  • Have students write about the decisions they have made regarding their remediation to ensure that all components of the product have a purpose and relate back to the original text.
Cautions for Using Remediation in the Classroom:
  • Parameters must be well-defined. While such assignments would provide a strong creative vehicle for students, they also may go too far out in left field if not reigned in a little bit.
  • Students may be indecisive about whether or not their work is meant to be ambiguous. Have them state definitively which direction they have chosen to go with their interpretation.


Blau, S. (2003). The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Jones, R. H., & Hafner, C. A. (2012). Understanding digital literacies: A practical introduction. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.