21st Century Literacies for World Languages

Every other year our department hosts a community event to showcase how learning a second language helps students develop their literacy skills. At this Literacy Showcase, students, parents, and community members can browse trifold boards (much like a science fair) and participate in interactive displays that share how different teachers across languages address literacy throughout their courses in grades 1-12.

This year, the event had a subtle, but important, change. The name of the event went from Literacy Showcase to Literacies Showcase. In an effort to align our work with an initiative from the National Council of Teachers of English, our department decided to demonstrate how we are preparing our students to be literate in the 21st century. The NCTE position statement is so closely related to our work as world language educators, it’s worth a quick read in its entirety:

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to:

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

~NCTE Position Statement on the Definition of 21st Century Literacies

The purpose of the Showcase is not for teachers to go out of their way to create a special one-time-only project to address these Literacies, but rather, to show how we routinely address these Literacies through daily activities and projects that are naturally embedded into our curriculum. For my display, I highlighted a warmup activity I begin my 5th grade classes with throughout our study of South America:

¡Hola, Siri! Using Siri to explore the weather, climate, and geography of South America.

Let’s face it, while important to understanding culture, the topics of weather, climate, and geography can be rather dry for students — especially when your students are 11 years old. In an effort to bring these topics to life, and to give students opportunities to hone 21st century literacies, we begin every class with a quick chat with Siri (we are fortunate, for the first time this year, to have 1:1 iPads). Here’s a quick breakdown of our activity:

  1. Students pick the name of a city in South America from a basket as they walk into the classroom.
  2. If needed, students switch their Siri settings to Spanish.image of iphone screen highlighting the settings app followed by an image of the iPhone settings screen highlighting the Siri optioniPhone screen with siri "language" option highlighted followed by an iPhone screen with "English" language option selected
  3. Students ask Siri “¿Qué tiempo hace en [ciudad, país]?” (“What is the weather in [city, country]?”)iPhone screen with "que tiempo hace en Bogota, Colombia" asked in Siri with the answer "Mira, aqui tienes el clima de Bogota, Colombia, para hoy: 53, mayormente nublado"
  4. Students are given 3 chances to ask Siri. If, after the third chance she still doesn’t understand, they tap to type their question.iphone Siri screen with "tap to edit" highlighted in Spanish
  5. Once they have their information, students record the current temperature and a symbol to represent the weather on a map*. Sometimes we use a map drawn on the whiteboard, other times we map the information on digital, collaborative cork boards like Padlet. *If students can’t locate their city on a map, they use Siri  to help them by asking “Where is [city, country]?” in Spanish.two 5th grade students mapping current temperatures on a whiteboard map
  6. While waiting for the other students to finish, they practice giving a brief weather report either individually or with a partner.two 5th grade students laying on the floor with iPads talking to each other
  7. Once their weather report is ready, students find their city in Google Earth and spend the remaining few minutes exploring that city using Street View or the Panoramio Photos layer.

    Student using google street view on iPad. Image on iPad had a Payless shoe store.

    Can I just take a moment to say how excited this student was to find a Payless?

During the event, my trifold board displayed a description of this warmup along with some photos of students completing the different steps. I also included steps for participants to try it out for themselves on their own devices (which many of them excitedly tried out!)

Image of the trifold board described in the paragraph above.  Another new aspect of this year’s Literacies Showcase was creating infographics to show how each project addressed the 21st century literacies, skills, and the world-readiness standards. Each trifold display had a poster with a QR code participants could scan to see the infographic. Here’s mine:

Infographic explaining the details of the project. For a text based version, click the image to be brought to the original website.
If you enjoyed reading about my project and would like to see examples of projects from different languages in grades 1-5, check out our Literaciesn Showcase 2017 site!

Literacies Showcase banner

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