One way to integrate the use of technology in literacy instruction that encompasses both the cultures and languages of a two-way bilingual program is by having third or fourth graders use a word processing and/or a multimedia computer program to record and write family stories. Since personal stories are oftentimes expressed better through a first language, these stories could be written in the dominant language of each individual student. They could also be written in a student’s second language to provide literacy practice and to encourage students to seek help from their peers whose first language is their own second. These stories should be shared with all students, as they provide opportunities to both share an individual’s culture and language.
In the prewriting stage, a variety of multicultural literature such as A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams, Fiesta by Zapata, Keeping Quilt by P. Polacco, Kwanza by D. Patmon-Burden and Three Kings Day by Zapata could be used to stimulate discussion about culture and customs. At this point, the students and the teacher could share their own family stories about things like celebrating different holidays and traditions.
This would also be an opportunity for parents to become involved. Children could be encouraged to ask their parents and older family members to share stories about their family. They could then return to the classroom to share these stories orally with other classmates, perhaps bringing in photos or heirlooms to help in illustrating the story. Parents might even be invited into the classroom to share personally, or to help their child record and write down their family story. When parents participate in these stories, the story becomes an important gift passed from parent to child and then from child to parent (National Education Association, 1997).
Also in the prewriting stage, children can use graphic organizers to create story maps and/or write the beginning, middle, end main events and ideas of the story. Some students may even want to explore their ideas further by creating illustrations for their stories using a program like Kid Pix. This would be especially helpful for those writing in their second language so they can start identifying difficult words and ideas that they might need extra help in expressing.
The software programs HyperStudio or ClarisWorks for kids are great tools to use when students are ready to write the first draft of their stories. Both contain multimedia programs in which documents can be created and the text can be combined with sound, graphics, pictures, and movies. Students can use these features as they are writing their stories or add multimedia upon completion of the text part of their stories. Another option is for children to use a program like the Bilingual Writing Center to write the first draft. In this way, students can have the benefits of a complete word processing program without the potential distraction of a multimedia format. If only a few computers are available, another possibility is for students to use AlphaSmart 2000 Laptop Computers which are simple word processors that can save up to eight files of text. These computers are both portable and lightweight and can even be brought home to involve parents in helping their children write their family story. After the writing is complete, these files can be uploaded from the AlphaSmart 2000 onto a Macintosh computer or onto an IBM compatible computer.
Revising and editing of stories can be easily and efficiently executed on the computer. Text can be manipulated by copying and pasting, or changed by adding and deleting words. Students can also use spell-check, grammar-check, and the online dictionary and thesaurus in editing their work. Children writing in their second language can be helped in revising and editing their stories by students for whom the language of the story is their more dominant one. Peer helpers will in turn build skills and vocabulary in their second language by conferencing with a student in which the story is written in their less dominant language.
Students can add multimedia to their family stories by using the program ClarisWorks for kids or HyperStudio. These program allow students to include graphics, animation, video, music and sound clips along with the story’s text. In addition, pictures made from the software program Kid Pix can easily be imported into either multimedia program. Using a digital camera allows the writers to further personalize their work. Students can take pictures of themselves or their families, and then these can be downloaded to the computer to become a part of their stories.
An author’s reading of the story can also be recorded on the computer. By recording their family stories, students can practice skills in reading and speaking in both Spanish and English. Children with a different language background could be especially helpful in this activity when stories are being recorded in the author’s second language. Students could listen to each other’s recordings and assist and encourage each other’s pronunciation.
Upon completing these family stories, students would likely become very excited to share them. Presentation of these stories would be another way to get parents involved. When students are ready to present their story in school, parents should receive a special invitation to see and hear their child’s story. These family stories could also be shared at a Parent’s Night at school, or during a parent/teacher conference. Stories could also be saved on a disk for each student to keep as a part of their electronic portfolio. These would also be perfect to save as examples for the following year’s class when they begin writing their own family stories. These stories can then become part of a data base that new students can add to each year, as well as serving as models for new students.