Technology serves as an immensely beneficial resource to students who are learning any language. Using accessibility features like speech-to-text, text-to-speech, and online resources like Google Translate have allowed beginner multilingual students to not only gain English language skills, but to be able to participate more comfortably in their classes. In my experience, students learn best when they complete interesting projects and activities that serve a purpose. They also take great pride in being able to share these purposeful projects within the school and community. This led me to the idea of creating a schoolwide language learning website that is run by our middle school students. Allowing students the autonomy to create something that reflects their languages, dialects, and cultures will help to reinforce the idea that all races are equally important and valued within our school community.
Students will use Google Sites to create a simple website that will house a collection of videos to share with the school and community. The first type of video will be short, 1-minute videos, where a word or phrase will be presented in various languages and dialects represented within the school. This was inspired by creators on TikTok who stitch together videos of people from all around the world saying a word or phrase in their respective languages. Within these student-created videos I want to ensure that Standard English is not seen as the goal or “correct” language upon which the other languages and dialects are compared. It will be up to students to decide how to best name and organize the videos to demonstrate equal value and importance. This might look like choosing phrases or expressions from other languages and dialects that might not have direct translations to Standard English. It could look like using another language or dialect first in the title of the video. Ultimately, I would like students to be the ones who make these decisions.
The second type of video would be read alouds in more than one language which can be used in the classroom, or as a resource for students at home. Not every read aloud will use Standard English. Students with accents will not be relegated to reading in their home languages, but will be given the opportunity to read in English so that there is representation of different ways that English can sound and that English speakers can be any race.
An important lesson will take place after students have created a series of videos to share on the site. To begin, students will be invited to share their observations about the different languages they were hearing which will be recorded on chart paper or digitally. Next, students will be asked to participate in a class discussion about times when they saw value attributed to language. The first goal of the discussion is for students to see that there are implications related to these linguistic differences because we live in a society that privileges White people. The second goal of the discussion is that students understand that their way of communicating is just as valid and important as that of any language and that they hold that truth even though society might tell them otherwise. Consequently, students would see other students’ linguistic differences as valid and important ways of communicating and would disrupt the social hierarchy associated with language in their own minds.
Another reason for choosing this project is for our Newcomer and refugee students to have an opportunity to collaborate with their peers in an activity where they will be able to provide their specific, linguistic expertise. Many of our Newcomer and refugee students are hesitant to interact with their peers who are further along in their English language acquisition or outside of their culture. This project will create an opportunity where everyone can contribute equally. In order for the website to be the most interesting and impactful, students will need to work together and rely on each other for information. Even the students who are newly arrived and in the beginning stages of learning English will be able to contribute to the project as much as students who are native English speakers.