For students in a Spanish/English two-way bilingual classroom, learning is accomplished in not one but two languages. In these classrooms, children whose primary language is either Spanish or English learn together as they acquire a second language while they maintain their first language. The most effective of these programs teach Spanish and English through content areas with equal amounts of instruction time in the two languages.
Children entering these programs usually begin learning in both languages from kindergarten all the way through sixth grade. This gives these students, on average, seven years toward becoming fully bilingual and biliterate, which is the ultimate goal. Since students, along with the teacher, are the language models in the classroom, instruction in two-way programs must be student centered, hands-on, interactive, and allow for cooperative learning. This type of classroom environment facilitates the students’ acquisition of the ability to understand, speak, read, and write in both languages (Thomas ; Collier, 1995).
Third and fourth grade students who are a part of a two-way bilingual classroom have been learning in Spanish and English for a period of four to five years. At this stage, these students are becoming proficient readers and writers in both their first and second language. The two-way bilingual design provides an inherent sharing of not only language, but also of culture (Freeman, 1994). Teachers should take advantage of the students’ diverse cultures and languages to enhance literacy skills in the classroom. Successful schools for diverse learners are ones that acknowledge the social and language resources of its students as assests (Dyson, 1993). When parents feel that both their culture and language is being appreciated in the classroom, it can only encourage them to feel a part of, and take an active role in their children’s education at school.
Since technology is a hands-on and interactive tool, it is well-suited to the similar two-way bilingual environment. Multimedia software contains graphic images, video, music, and sound clips which support language development (National Education Association, 1997). Word processing programs such as the Bilingual Student Writing Center and Kid Pix (a drawing and painting program) give children the opporunity to toggle back and forth to a Spanish or English mode depending on which language they are using.
ClarisWorks for kids Spanish (also available in English as ClarisWorks for kids), and HyperStudio (only available in English), allow bilingual students to combine text with multimedia. A combination of multimedia and word processing can support second language learners, as writers combine text and images in using their emerging speaking, reading, and writing skills (National Educational Association, 1997). This paper will explore one way of combining multimedia, literacy, and culture to write family stories.
Recommended Literacy Strategies Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are interrelated processes (Lipson ; Wixson, 1997; Myers, 1986). Therefore, literacy instruction and practice should include all of the various aspects of language. Children should be involved in reading a variety of literary genres, including fiction and non-fiction, poetry, folktales, and biographies (Atwell, 1987; Myers, 1986). Through reading, they can begin to view, understand, and develop different writing styles. Children also need the chance to talk with both their peers and teachers about writing as they form ideas for topics, while they are writing their first drafts, and (after the first draft is complete) in revising and editing their work. As writers work together in responding to and sharing their work, they learn from each other and their teacher about new techniques and skills, allowing them to reflect and improve upon their writing (Atwell, 1987; Giacobbee, 1986).
Writing should be an authentic activity in which students think of themselves as writers (Lipson ; Wixson, 1997). Children should be involved in writing that is not solely a part of a teacher’s assignment, but one that also serves a real language function, such as telling a story or being persuasive in a letter (Applebee,1986; Lipson & Wixson, 1987). Children can begin to see meaning in and a purpose for, their writing when they have a clear understanding of who makes up their audience.
These members should include more than just the teacher, but also their peers, parents, and community (Lipson & Wixson, 1997; Myers, 1986). Writers must also be able to choose their own topics to which they can bring their own knowledge and experiences to their work. This is especially important in diverse classrooms in which students come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. When they have made the decision about what they want to write about, children take ownership and pride in their writing, and they tend to care more about the content and quality of their work (Applebee, 1986; Atwell, 1987).
Writers need frequent and varied writing experiences (Atwell, 1987; Giacobbee, 1986). Children need time daily to grow as writers. However, they should be writing not just during language arts times, but across the curriculum in all areas (Myers, 1986). As they write extensively and for a variety of purposes, they will acquire different styles of composing (Lipson & Wixson, 1997). Frequent writing experiences allow opportunities for teaching and learning about writing as well. Only with practice can children bring new knowledge and skill to their writing (Atwell, 1987).
Students should be engaged in writing as a process (Atwell, 1987; Giacobbee, 1986; Lipson & Wixson, 1997). In the writing process, children progress through various stages of writing including prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing of their work. In doing this, writing becomes a more positive activity in which writers are allowed the opportunity to think, discover, take risks, and experiment (Brown, 1993). This process is nonlinear and should naturally overlap at times as writing evolves and improves (Applebee, 1986).
The teaching of writing should be guided instruction that leads to more independent writing by students (Applebee, 1986). Good writing should be modeled and useful strategies and skills should be introduced naturally in a context in which they will hold the most meaning for the writer (Applebee, 1986; Atwell, 1987). A structured learning environment allows writers to bring together all that they have learned so they can eventually take more control and responsibility in their writing (Applebee, 1986).