Tracy Jackson's foreign language curriculum includes an hour and a half a week in the computer lab and another hour or so a week in the classroom, integrating Spanish words and phrases into her regular cross-curricular units. The highlight of the Spanish curriculum for Jackson's students, however, is the bilingual book project, in which they learn Spanish words and phrases and write and illustrate books containing those words. The students publish the books (in house!) and post them online. So far, these first graders at Maine's Wiscasset Primary School have written three "best-sellers" -- and a fourth is on the way! Included: An invitation to your class to participate in the bilingual book project!
Do you speak Spanish? A class of first graders in rural Maine is learning to, thanks to the Global Classroom, a Spanish language curriculum developed by teacher Tracy Jackson.
Jackson's young foreign language students attend Maine's Wiscasset Primary School. Although the state's learning standards include a foreign language component, Wiscasset's K-5 staff does not include a foreign language teacher. "We develop our own foreign language curriculum as we go along," Jackson tells Education World.
The primary component of Jackson's foreign language curriculum is the bilingual book project, in which students learn basic Spanish words and phrases as part of their regular curriculum units and then write and illustrate books containing the words in both English and Spanish. When their books are complete, the students "publish" them (in house!) and post them online. "Publishing their bilingual books online and communicating with others about their work gives the students a meaningful way to demonstrate their learning," Jackson notes.
"If other people don't know Spanish, they can visit our site and learn it." -- Kirsten
The bilingual books take from two to six weeks to complete, depending on the subject matter and the complexity of the technology used. Each child, or team of students, is responsible for creating one page of each book. Students with special needs are paired with a more able peer or receive more individual teacher assistance. "This type of inclusive, collaborative, and cooperative teaching and learning environment ensures success for all students," Jackson says.
When a book is completed, each student gets his or her own "published" copy, with an individually designed cover, to share with family and friends. Each title also becomes part of a growing collection of classroom resources from which future students will benefit. "Each child has a sense of ownership and pride in the project, because they all are independently involved in the brainstorming and creation of the genre, text, illustration, and book layout of each title," Jackson adds.
"I feel really good about making our books because I really like how everybody makes their own page. And it's Spanish and another language: English." -- Ryan
"This project could be easily adapted for all students in grades K-5," Jackson points out. "It could be used to provide meaningful acquisition of any second language, while allowing all students to be successful in a collaborative effort."
"Making books in the lab is more fun than just practicing the words." -- Laura
Spanish isn't the only skill these first graders learn through the bilingual book project, however. Technology is a huge component of the learning process. The students write and illustrate their books on the computer, using KidsArt Center, HyperStudio, scanners, and iMovies. "Students are always eager to learn more about technology," Jackson tells Education World, "and this project allows them to do so in a meaningful way, while learning to speak, read, and write basic conversational phrases in a second language. The technology supports the kids' language learning, and the integration provides many more cognitive links for the subject being studied."
"Deb Barrows, our [computer] lab director, helps a lot with this project," Jackson points out. "Initially, I needed her help almost constantly, but as the kids have learned, so have I. Now -- except for posting the books to Web pages and downloading them -- we are more independent. I've tried to learn a new skill, and build upon past ones, with each book. So far I've learned to scan and to use iMovies and Hyperstudio. [I hope to] learn animation next! With a little help and simpler pages, even teachers with minimal technology experience can do a project like this."
"Computers are more fun than plain old books." -- J.T.
Each book project ends with a student self-assessment to allow for personal reflection, student-teacher conferencing, planning, and goal setting for future projects and telecommunications exchanges.
"Students this age have great enthusiasm -- and aptitude -- for learning languages, and for learning about other cultures," Jackson tells Education World. "Integrating reading and writing and technology skills is a very effective way of allowing students to gain confidence in using those skills, of providing them with the ability to communicate their learning to others in a variety of ways, and of providing another cognitive link for the subject matter being taught. Most importantly, the kid's motivation and excitement make learning fun!"