Hypertext Literary Analysis

This posts describes how students can explore complex texts through a hypertext literary analysis. By using PowerPoint—a common program that is readily accessible on most computers—students are able examine the multiple layers of meaning in a passage through hyperlinking words and phrases to written explanations and related media. Multiple modes are employed—including text, music, images, animation, and videos—to help students dig deep into the textual features, intertextual connections, and personal responses that produce meaning in fiction and poetry.

Creating a Hypertext Literary Analysis in PowerPoint

This strategy uses PowerPoint to create a multimodal hypertext with interconnected slides. The composing process begins by inserting the text to be analyzed on a blank PowerPoint slide, which functions as the anchor of the hypertext. Next, students can create a deck of blank slides that can easily be linked from the analyzed text. Words or sections of the text can now be hyperlinked to other slides by using the ‘Insert’ menu and designating the desired destination for the link. The majority of links will lead to other slides within the document, but hyperlinks can also be used to connect to other documents or to websites (video tutorial on hyperlinking in PowerPoint).

Once a clear and fluid structure has been established in PowerPoint, it’s time to begin incorporating multiple modes for analysis. Analysis slides will, of course, include written explanations of the textual features being explicated, but this strategy also asks students to use media to deepen and support the analysis. PowerPoint allows users to embed images, audio, and video and offers tools for editing and layering these media. Students can manipulate their chosen media to reflect themes in the text or to illustrate their personal response (see Smith & Renner, in press for more information about integrating a hypertext literary analysis in your classroom).

For example, in a hypertext literary analysis of Lucille Clifton’s poem “Homage to my Hips,” the composer hyperlinks from a PowerPoint slide that contains the original poem to other slides that include Clifton’s biographical information, intertextual and pop culture connections, a YouTube video of Clifton reciting the poem, analysis of literary devices, and personal response. Images, color, videos, and music are also used purposefully to organize, supplement, and extend the written analysis.


Example hypertext literary analysis for the poem “Homage to My Hips” by Lucille Clifton

There are a variety of ways a hypertext literary analysis can be adapted. Melanie Hundley at Vanderbilt University asks pre-service English teachers to explicate poems through hyperlinks and multiple modes (Hundley & Holbrook, 2013). Nicole Renner and I used this assignment in a 12th grade AP Literature and Composition class for students to analyze important passages from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Through hyperlinks, students examined literary elements, such as metaphors, irony, and theme. They also hyperlinked to intertextual connections, including other literary works, films, and popular culture references, as well as key words and phrases, questions, and personal reactions (Smith, 2013; Smith & Renner, in press).

This type of nonlinear and multimodal analysis supports students to develop important literacy skills, including reading and comprehending a complex literary text, interpreting words and phrases with connotative and figurative meanings, and examining themes, structures, and points of view.


Hundley, M. & Holbrook, T. (2013). Set in stone or set in motion?: Multimodal and digital writing with preservice English teachers. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(6), 500-509.

Smith, B. E. (2013). Composing across modes: Urban adolescents’ processes responding to and analyzing literature. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.

Smith, B. E. & Renner, N. B. (in press). Linking through literature: Exploring complex texts through hypertext literary analysis. In   T. Rasinski, K. E. Pytash, & R. E. Ferdig (Eds.). Using technology to enhance reading: Innovative approaches to literacy instruction. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Multimodal Shoe Poems and Digital Writers Workshop

by Bridget Dalton

The next issue of the International Reading Association’s The Reading Teacher includes a column that I wrote on ” Multimodal Composing and the Common Core Standards”.  In the column I describe a multimodal shoe poem project . To complement the article, I’ve pasted below the PowerPoint slide presentation that Blaine Smith and I created to introduce the activity and scaffold the process. Feel free to use and remix this for your students.  If you try it out, it would be great to hear from you via a post to the blog or an email (bridget.dalton@colorado.edu).

Multimodal Shoe Poem

Why start with Shoe Poems?

1. Kids know shoes – they are part of popular culture. They begin with expert knowledge and can focus on creating the poem
2. Shoe poems offer multiple entry points – they can be concrete or abstract.
Why Power Point?
1. It’s an easy to use composing tool that allows you to build with image, sound and text.
2. You can build on students’ prior experience with the tool.

Blaine Smith and I have been developing a Digital Writers’ Workshop instructional approach (Dalton & Smith, under review). For this project, we used a Demo, Create, and Share, Reflect, Respond structure, but there are lots of different ways to be successful. Think about how you teach writing and adapt your approach so that it reflects multimodal design.

Here we go! To begin, awaken students’ excitement by ‘showing and telling’.  What is a shoe poem? Why would you want to create one?
How does it work?

I try to use at least 2 examples and encourage students to come up with their own creative approaches. These 3 examples show different types of shoe poems: question-answer; shoe memory; and shoe conversation They offer choices and also show different styles of multimodal design. Tell students the blue box is information to help them – it is not part of the poem!

For this shoe memory, Claire selected a wooden floor background and a tap dancing sound effect to complement her written memory of the thrill of wearing her first pair of high heels when she was 11 years old.

This last example is likely to appeal to kid interested in sports. It illustrates a different visual style and how to use the audio-record tool to make the shoe conversation can come alive with dramatic dialogue.

Now for the fun part – create your own shoe poem. I often have students work with a partner so they can benefit from the talents, knowledge and skills that each brings to the task. Working with a partner also requires that they talk about design decisions and negotiate their collaboration.

I use PowerPoint to provide the directions for the activity. I project it on the screen while students are working, and put it in a folder on their computers so that they can consult it as needed. I do this to avoid repeating directions!

Since this was an introduction to multimodal composition for these students, I scaffolded it by putting a folder of shoe images on their desktops. Of course, if they had a special shoe in mind that wasn’t in the folder, they searched on the Internet.  While there are steps involved in creating and producing multimodal pieces, students can change the order as needed. This outlines the overall process; schedule intermittent sharing sessions so that students can present and get feedback as they go along.

Again, since these students were new to both shoe poems and this type of multimodal composition, I scaffolded it with a template they could use, if they wanted. I remind students that it is one way, and they may have a different way that will work better for them.

The Share, Reflect, Respond stage happens during the process to get feedback, and at the end, to celebrate. Students are more influenced by each other’s work than they are by teacher examples!
I combine students’ class presentations with some kind of publishing. Audience is important; the Internet offers multiple options for publishing student work. I also make color-printed hard copies when I can.

And that is a wrap, my friends! Hope to hear about the creative work you are doing with your students to transform them into designers and multimodal composers!

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