This site provides language learning objects and language/multicultural education links for younger learners in Spanish, English, Chinese and French. The sites include grammatical concepts and readings using a cultural setting, with illustrations and geographical locations for each story. In its present updated version, it includes a blog with reviews of FL books for children, a wiki, a YouTube channel and a presence on Facebook and Twitter. It has a Delicious page with numerous annotated links and a collection of virtual picture books in the target languages.
Type of Material:
The site provides stories with artwork, photos of realia, educational links, and an area that offers the user other French, Spanish, English, and multicultural education links. The educational links provide pedagogical instruction for a variety of audiences, having something for everyone.
This material is useful in providing second-language learners with authentic language materials and realia. The site also provides some good resources for both teachers and learners when employing the educational links. The materials help to enhance grammatical concepts, reading and listening comprehension, and cultural awareness. More advanced students can explore links to media sites to hear music and news from around the Spanish-speaking world.
There are no additional technical requirements.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The goal is to expose younger learners to authentic stories and learning links that increase their use of the target language. Beginning learners will develop listening and reading comprehension and acquire vocabulary.
Target Student Population:
The target student population is primarily pre-school and elementary school children, but some materials could be repurposed and be used in high school and even college classrooms.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
The learners should possess at least high beginner reading skills and/or be native speakers of the languages addressed by the site.
The site is very "colorful and eye-catching." The stories and realia are authentic and interesting to young children. The short stories deal with some of the current issues of the Hispanic world, e.g., pollution, the environment, and the rain forest.
Mis cositas includes a variety of links for use in teaching grammatical concepts, and readings for elementary level students, featuring authentic cultural settings with illustrations and geographical locations for each story. In the Spanish version, the link to Nelson's Ojalá que llueva Café is an excellent unit to teach the culture of the Dominican Republic. The link to "Radio Live," uses Omni News which includes many Spanish speaking radio stations in the Americas.
Students provide very positive comments about the the site. One beginning Spanish student reported that he enjoyed reading the stories and said they were not too difficult to understand, even if he did not know all of the vocabulary. This student also found the Spanish links useful, especially the links to periodicals. Another student said the educational links turned Spanish "into a real-life language" for her and would show students how Spanish is used in the "real world." A French student really liked the French links, which all worked, especially the link to "Tennessee Bob."
Since the site is geared for a younger audience, it may have a limited appeal. An adult student did not enjoy the site personally, but her 4-year son enjoyed her reading the stories to him. The child liked the visual reinforcement of the photos/artwork that accompanied the written text, as did an adult student.
More interactive activities would enhance the site. One student noted that the site itself did not provide interactive games, but that the "Educational Links" took one to such sites.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The content of the stories and the links allow for great variety in developing language skills, grammar and cultural sensitivity. Language educators can assign a beginning reader with reading materials that promote comprehension and a feeling of success. More advance students can explore links to hear music and news from around the world. Grammatical concepts can be assigned for repetition and review to enhance accuracy. For example, One student found the stories taught her how "to use nouns and verbs together to form simple sentences."
Students react very positively to the site. A French student liked being able to click on some of the unfamiliar words within the stories. Another student thought that the site provided her with access to language that is not generally used in a language classroom, while another said that the site went into "more detail" than a language class can. One student thought the realia section was "neat" because it demonstrated cultural differences among countries that speak the same language. Another said that the realia could be presented in class to teach students "how to read and understand an area's currency,
how to read a menu, what stamps look like." Two of my Spanish students mentioned finding the link to "Spanish PowerPoint Presentations" under Educational Links and thought they would like to download and use those as additional study resources.
A parent observed that elementary school teachers could present the stories to their students in all of the languages and/or let the students read the stories aloud with them. She also thought that the site would be a good tool for those who might home-school or teach their children languages at home. One of the best comments from one of the students was, "I understood the writers of Mis Cositas want to promote sensitivity in educators and to educate all students in the different needs and strengths of other cultures," and she expressed that one "could believe in the truth of how one person or group can make a difference."
The content and diversity in each link allows the educator to find a site that can be utilized to enhance language learning. It can be used as a general review for students. For example, many of the themes can be used as a point of departure for simple in- class conversation. (One of the links has a complete unit related to literature and culture of the Dominican Republic.)
The "Curricular Suggestions" section provides an instructor with ideas on using the materials and introducing new vocabulary in the classroom. For example, two of my students also mentioned this section and said that the pre-reading and post-reading suggestions and materials would be helpful to teachers.
One of my students recommended more interactive activities to accompany and reinforce the stories presented. Another recommended audio recordings of the stories,
because she learns French better when she can hear it and practice repeating what she hears.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The site is easy to navigate given the wide variety of resources it contains. The menu choices are simple, the icons are large, and the layout is colorful. Young users will not have difficulty navigating the site. This site does not require technical support beyond basic skills in computers and the use of the Internet.
At first, three of my students and I did not know how to "turn" the pages for the stories, until we noticed the arrows at the top of the page, instead of closer to or below the text/photo themselves. Perhaps children would be more intuitive than adults.
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