A Child’s Meaning-Making during COVID-19

Conference: The Asian Conference on Education & International Development (ACEID2022)
Title: A Child’s Meaning-Making during COVID-19
Stream: Language Development & Literacy
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation
Laura Brass, University of British Columbia, Canada


Situated in a bounded socio-geographical context (i.e., Vancouver, Canada), this ethnographic individual case study provides an in-depth analysis of a bilingual young girl’s home literacy practices of meaning-making established across semiotic modes (i.e., linguistic, visual, audio, spatial, embodied, kinesthetic) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Framed within multimodality as its main theoretical perspective and drawing and play as semiotic modes, this study aligns with research that integrates child literacy within semiotics and ethnography. The participant—an 8-year-old grade four Canadian-Haitian girl—identifies English as her first and French as her second language. The project unfolded over a two-month period (between February and March 2021) and consisted of 13 open-ended informal interviews and three sessions of imaginative play. Inductive coding and In Vivo codes were used for the thematic analysis of the 16 participant-generated artifacts (e.g., written texts, drawings, cartoons, books, toys, objects, art, photographs). The findings revealed two interrelated themes: drawing as collective meaning-making and play as embodied anthropomorphic meaning-making. Through drawing, the child made meaning collectively by establishing a zone of proximal development that allowed for situated learning as a means of communication. The participant displayed an anthropomorphic stance by talking with her toys as if they were animated beings. Her doll and stuffed animal acted as avatars for herself, pets, and siblings, as well as resources used to mediate interactions with the mother. The findings show how the child’s interactions with humans and non-/other-than-humans contributed to her multimodal meaning-making during COVID-19, which might be beneficial for children in different contexts.

Virtual Presentation

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