“Developing Multiple Literacies in a Website Project”
By Lucy K. Spence
For The Reading Teacher, 62(7)
Lucy Spence is a teacher of ESL students in South Carolina. Although her students were in the second grade, I think that all of the information in this article as well as the idea behind the project itself is useful for ALL teachers because it emphasizes the importance of tapping into our students unique “funds of knowledge.”
The project was to teach computer literacy to a group of ESL students who were still struggling through gaining literacy in English. Most did not have access to computers at home, and needed “rudimentary skills such as capitalizing letters using a keyboard.” Spence acknowledged that something that her group of students had in common, was the strong influence of Mexican culture on their lives. They knew a lot about this subject and were eager to write about it and share it with the world. Through the collaboration Lucy Spence with other teachers at her school as well as community members who volunteered their knowledge of computer programs, etc., the students were able to achieve an impressive website that was designed, written, and created by 2nd graders.
See the interactive website here: Mexican Heritage
What I learned from this example was that students should be allowed and encouraged to tap into their resources and write about what they know. The products that they come up with are of better quality and their commitment to the project is much higher. Also (especially with the example of the ESL students,) the use of a students culture makes them and their FAMILIES feel appreciated and encourages involvement at home. This is an effect that Spence saw in her classroom and that I hope to see in mine.
Secondly, I can really see the importance of teaching multiple literacies through writing projects in this example. The students left this project with a better understanding of English, their own culture, and how to use a computer. If all projects included multiple literacies, students would be able to achieve a lot more in shorter periods of time. I think Spence has the right idea!
Here is Spence’s Lesson Plan on Website Planning in a Bilingual Classroom.