The Globe: Building Critical Writing Skills
In a Second Language
The ACIE Newsletter, February 2010, Vol. 13, No. 2
By Leonardo De Andrade, Teacher, and Allison Geary, M.Ed., Media Project Coordinator, Eisenhower International Elementary School, Tulsa, OK
Entering its fourth year of publication, The Globe trilingual student newspaper at Eisenhower International School in Tulsa, OK, continues to expand its promise of providing authentic, student-directed writing experiences in both immersion languages offered at the school – French and Spanish – as well as in English. The project, which began as a volunteer-led enrichment activity, has become increasingly embedded into the upper elementary (3-5) classroom instruction in a way that supports cross-content area instruction and builds students’ critical literacy capacities.
The Globe originated as a parent proposal in spring 2006 when Eisenhower principal Stacy Strow set two key guidelines for the project: it had to foster literacy in the immersion languages (French and Spanish) and it had to align with the curriculum delivery framework (i.e., pacing calendar) which identifies instructional scope and sequence for each grade level. Taking her direction, the volunteer organizers then followed the school district’s guidelines on student publications to four goals for what became known as the school-wide Media Enrichment program. The initial goals were:
- to foster critical thinking skills;
- to reinforce immersion languages and English writing skills;
- to recognize the many disciplines involved in the creation of a newspaper and explore career options; and
- to foster stronger awareness of the media’s influence in our lives and culture.
Stemming from the goals was a calendar of enrichment program activities and learning objectives for third through fifth grades which cross-references the pacing calendar in three primary curricular areas: Language Arts, Social Studies, and Visual Arts. It was determined in the initial year that the three major components of The Globe production would be shared by the third through fifth graders as follows:
- Third Grade – Masthead design, photography and captions
- Fourth Grade – Advertising
- Fifth Grade – Newswriting
With the current pressure to meet state Academic Performance Indicator (API) target goals and the enormous federal government emphasis on testing, it is important to have a program that ties in important components of the Language Arts curriculum. The Globe project occurs within the school day activities, minimizing the need for classroom interruptions. Furthermore, it gives teachers the possibility of presenting the students with integrated concepts that build on their interests, current realities, and a meaningful experience that mirrors everyday life.
To fund the project and solicit shows of support, the organizers obtained sponsorship commitments from the Eisenhower International School Foundation, the Eisenhower Parent-Teacher Association, TK Publishing (publishers of the regional parenting magazine TulsaKids), and one of the school’s community partners, The Metropolitan Environmental Trust.
Each year, the production schedule for The Globe is plotted onto a master calendar, which works backward from the desired delivery date of the publication (typically late April). The calendar makes allowances for periodic testing intervals as well as standing school events such as foreign exchange trips, festivals, and scholastic functions. Figure 1 approximates the number of independent enrichment sessions and classroom-embedded activities required for each grade level. Their scheduling is coordinated with the third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers, and is staggered by grade (i.e., fifth graders beginning in September, fourth grade in November, etc.).
Collaboration among the faculty and volunteers on The Globe is facilitated through clearly established roles for project stakeholders. A planning team is established each school year with three or four volunteer faculty members and the project coordinator, who is a volunteer. The team serves for one year and sets the overall theme for The Globe, identifies unique student participation opportunities, develops a general story assignment list, and helps coordinate with other faculty as necessary. The grade level faculty teams (third through fifth grade) coordinate with the planning team and/or the project coordinator to complete their portion of the production (as described in Background above) and to assist with immersion language proofreading before The Globe goes to press. The school principal, as an ex officio member of the planning team, recruits members of the planning team, approves the final newspaper layout, and promotes the project to faculty, PTA, parents and the media. The project coordinator is typically a parent who works behind the scenes on project logistics, such as schedule administration, resource coordination, budgeting, extending guest presenter invitations, and working with the printer. He or she coordinates with the planning team and the classroom teachers to lead special sessions as necessary, and coordinates final graphic design of The Globe.