The past three years, the writing of the bi-lingual children's books has been a collaborative effort between the Dalton High School Literacy Lab and Sandy Crow's Spanish III and IV classes.
The students come to the Lit Lab and learn about the elements of a children's book by reading and taking Cornell Notes on two informational texts. Then, the students pair up and begin planning their story line. The students use their devices to illustrate and write their stories in both English and Spanish. The high school students learned how to create, illustrate and write an online book for a target audience, which was first grade students.
Crow's students then visited Westwood Elementary to share a special morning reading books in both English and Spanish to the first grade classes in small groups. They continued to discuss with each other after the books ended, as well. Some of the high school students split off and read to kindergarten students and taught them Spanish vocabulary.
Westwood teacher Molly Chitwood said she made the analogy for her students that the high schoolers were authors just like them. "I said, just like we come up with ideas and write stories to share, these high school students had been working hard as authors to create bilingual books in their Spanish class to share with others. They not only wrote, but also illustrated their stories, using a computer program, which is something we have not done yet in first grade. They collaborated with their peers and teachers to come up with unique and interesting stories, just like we do in our class."
Dr. Kathleen Lanford, instructional coach and literacy coordinator at DHS, said one book stood out in her mind about a seven-legged octopus. "The moral of the story was that even those who are different want to be included and accepted as part of the group. It is a timeless theme that can speak to everyone on some level or another," she said.
The reaction of the first graders was magical. The group visited four first grade classrooms, and each was unique in personality. Each student was given a brightly-colored Author Autograph book mark, which the high school authors used to sign. The first grade students loved the fact that they could get the high schoolers to sign their card. Beyond being exposed to a story that was written in both English and Spanish, the students enjoyed conversing and interacting with the older students. One class has already written thank you notes.
The take-aways for the high school students were many. They had a real audience for their work. The work was purposeful and included the steps of the writing process. One student said to one of the chaperones, "I was meant to do this."
The elementary teachers have already expressed interest in repeating the event next year, as they expressed the importance of the young students interacting with adults in a different, small-group setting.
"My students really enjoyed interacting with the Dalton High students and having the opportunity to hear their stories in English and Spanish. They enjoyed making connections with the students as they read their stories, asking them questions and collecting their autographs," said Chitwood. "Some of my students are bilingual but have never attempted to write a bilingual story before. This experience opened the door for the possibility of some first grade bilingual stories in the future. This was the first year for my class to participate in this experience, and I hope it is something we will get to do again in the future."