Project-Based Learning

Article Title: Project-Based Community Language Learning: Three Narratives of Multilingual Story-telling in Early Childhood Education

Authors: Lotherington, H., Holland, M., Sotoudeh, S., Zentena, M.

Journal: The Canadian Modern Language Review, (2008), 65, 1 (Sept.) 125-145.

This collaborative action research takes place in a public school in Toronto, Canada. The three teachers involved and the researcher are committed to perfecting pedagogies which support emerging literacy, and value the many home languages that their students bring to their classrooms. Each teacher also tries to incorporate digital technologies into their multi-modal, multilingual, early childhood, story-telling projects. I chose this article, because it fit into the theme of project-based learning, and it intrigued me with its visual documentation of multimodal teaching techniques.

The first teacher describes how she uses the classic story of The Three Little Pigs to work on curriculum standards in art, math, language, social studies, science, and technology in a first-grade classroom. The story was retold in different home languages using parent volunteers. The students use the story as a mentor text to create their own original stories. They create sequenced, plasticine storyboards in a box. The teacher then photographs each sequence, and puts them into an iMovie. The students then narrate their movies in a chosen language. NETS*S 1a. & 1b. are addressed with this project as the students use existing knowledge of their home spoken language to generate a new product/process as a means of personal expression. They create an original digital movie with the help of their teacher. NETS*S 2b. & 2c. are addressed by the sharing of the iMovies with the class, and the fact that the class discusses cultural differences before creating their iMovie’s. NETS*S 4b. is attended to when students manage their storyboard sequencing to complete their projects. NETS*T addressed includes those which focus on creative inventiveness, incorporating digital tools, and participating in a local learning community through the application of technology.

The second teacher uses an Aesop fable as a mentor text for students to create their own Kid Pix stories in small groups in a kindergarten classroom. Each group’s creation is published using either a Kid Pix slide show with audio attachments of students telling their story, or a PowerPoint slide show with text boxes. Parent volunteers and Educational Assistants help translate the stories into three different languages. The NETS*S and NETS*T discussed in the above classroom setting would also be addressed with this classroom project.

The third teacher uses the story of The Little Red Hen to create a multilingual word wall. A digital camera and camcorder are used to document classroom activities which included building the story in many languages, and cooking the foods presented in the story. Parents were encouraged to help translate the story, and view the pictures and video of the culminating activities. The study also discusses the use of on-line translators in the absence of community volunteers.

I found this article of interest, because almost every school has some children who speak other languages at home. The teachers in this study used many modalities to encourage emerging literacy including technology. They also used technology to produce something of value for the parents and to honor the multilingual nature of their community. The school district in which I work has many students learning English as a second language. We have two dual immersion schools which focus on English and Spanish, and many Korean students at the school where I work. This study presents an example of honoring home languages, and incorporating them using technology. Whether simply documenting with digital photos and video, or creating stories and movies with software, the goal is the same. It is important to share projects with parents, and the community. It is also important to honor and respect the cultures, and languages that our students bring to the classroom. I would be willing to try any of these uses of technology.

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4 Responses to Project-Based Learning

  1. agrandjean06 says:

    I feel it is important for us as teachers at any school (and across the nation) to honor students who speak another language. Many different types of people come to America for a quality education and want to know that their child is having their needs met. You stated that you were interested in trying a task similar to the article you discussed. Have you tried something like that before? It seems as if it can be an affective way to teach. I felt you article was well written and informative to understanding this type of material better. Nice work!

  2. srazmus says:

    Wow! I am impressed with how creatively technology can be integrated into the primary grades. As a middle/high school teacher, when I think technology in the classroom, my mind immediately goes to the higher grades. I never doubted that technology could be used with the younger students. I just haven’t spent much time thinking about it. The first example you described, in the first grade classroom, was something that, if I had my own kids, I would want them to do. I like the combined complexity and simplicity of the project. There were so many valuable steps involved that all required the use of different skills and the involvement of family and culture. I like the fact that it honors the students’ cultural identity, requires them to communicate in multiple languages, and requires them to create their own product based on a pre-existing one. (And all in first grade!) It also uses technology without completely replacing other methods. It sounds like a project that could be easily adapted for older grades as well.

  3. I was very interested in the innovative nature of how a number of technologies were used to teach so many different subject areas. The use of various technologies really seemed to bring the learning objectives to life in a very vibrant way. Designing the project such that in unfolded in multiple steps was a very natural way to use a number of technologies in a very intentional way. I was impressed to see the sheer number of NETS standards that were incorporated in this approach.
    I was also encouraged to see learning happening is a way that so thoroughly and thoughtfully incorporates home languages into the lesson planning. This approach makes the learning and inclusion very genuine, rather than forced or hokey.

  4. Kelly,

    I really like this study for many reasons: They used a very well know story that also has many versions and perspectives and allowed the students to create their own, I have not seen a teacher use a story to cover so many standards across the curriculum, and they invited parents into the classroom. This was obviously a very time consuming project for the teacher, but I can only imagine that the students loved it. This is one of the neatest projects I have heard of. I have not thought of a multilingual word wall, but is another good idea. The projects seemed to not only benefit the students, but their family and community members as well. What better way than to increase parent and community involvement! Through my own experiences multilingual students love it when their language is incorporated in the classroom.

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