Search form

Habla Espanol? Do You Speak Spanish?


Curriculum Center

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.

Join the Fun!

Mrs. Jackson's first graders would like to share their new language skills -- and learn more skills -- by e-mailing and video conferencing with other students in the United States and abroad. The students plan to keep an online journal of their communications and create a map showing the locations of the children with whom they collaborate. If your K-2 students are studying a foreign language, the kids at Wiscasset would love to talk to them.

To learn more, contact teacher Tracy Jackson at [email protected] or lab director Deborah Barrows at [email protected]

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.

"When people explore the Internet, they will see our books and they will tell other people and the other people will want to do it too." -- Katy
The first graders have written and published three bilingual books so far. Los Animales En La Granja Morris, in which they learned the names of animals at a local farm, was created as part of their farm and harvest unit. In Los Colores, the children learned the Spanish words for a variety of colors as part of their language arts curriculum. Hola!, which was integrated into the school's K-12 character education initiative, involved learning to politely greet people and respond to greetings. In the students' current book project, they are learning color, number, and shape words in conjunction with a geometry unit, says Jackson. "By the end of the year," Jackson notes, "my kids will know color, number, shape, animal, and weather words, and they'll be able to use them in simple phrases. They'll also be able to greet others and respond to greetings."

"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."


Jackson's formal Spanish curriculum includes an hour and a half a week in the computer lab, using Jumpstart Spanish. Students spend another hour or so a week studying Spanish in the classroom, as part of their standard curriculum. "But the highlight of the Spanish unit is the book project," Jackson says.

"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."

"It's a fun project because we use technology, and it's not like just taking some words and drawing." -- Joshua

"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!"