Students in a second grade English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) reading/language arts class in Montgomery County, Maryland have just read an intergalactic plea for help posted on the Internet by the Power Rangers! The hometown of the Power Rangers, popular TV and movie action figures, has been destroyed by wicked forces. The Rangers must find a new hometown, but they don't know where. Because the Rangers themselves are all different, they want to live in a diverse community. Their Internet plea for help asks kids to describe their communities, taking into account several specific criteria that the Rangers must have in any home base. Students are invited to try to convince the Rangers to come to their town. Actually, students are engaged in a social studies and language arts simulation.
The second grade social studies curriculum calls for students to understand that the U.S. is home to many different ethnic and cultural groups. The language arts curriculum calls for students to be able to think and read in great depth to construct, extend and examine meaning through language. Students must also be able to write for different purposes and in a variety of forms, including knowledge of technology and problem solving skills. This simulation provides an innovative way for students to learn important skills in an integrated fashion.
To respond to the Power Rangers' plea for help, students will research basic facts about different cultural groups in their community. Then the class will use two primary modes of technology to gather information: e-mail to obtain information from individuals in the community, and a teacher-created web page on the Internet with links to pages containing the most current information posted by community groups. The results of research will be organized into persuasive arguments directed to the Power Rangers and uploaded in another website to be created by teachers and students.
Montgomery County is home to an extremely diverse population; the ESOL students themselves represent much of that diversity. Many of the children would like to know more about their own backgrounds and those of their friends. Understanding and valuing different groups is essential in a multicultural society. The Power Rangers are used as a "hook" to stimulate the students' interest and present a problem-solving situation for engaged learning.
This project is designed for two reading/language arts classes
for ESOL students at Weller Road Elementary School. There are
about 16 students in the two classes. The students come from a
variety of language backgrounds, including Spanish, Chinese, Thai,
and Filipino. The classes are for intermediate-level ESOL students.
Many of the students were born in the U.S.; the most recent immigrant
arrived at the beginning of first grade. Reading levels of the
students range from emergent (kindergarten level) to second grade.
The classes meet for one hour each weekday. Three class periods
per week are dedicated to this project for a five-week block of
time. Two ESOL teachers will work with the students. The project
takes place at the end of the year (in May and June).
Together, the class reads an Internet web page posted by the Power Rangers. The web page presents the call for help from the Power Rangers, with explicit criteria regarding what they need in a new home base. The class brainstorms what the students know and what they need to find out to promote their community to the Power Rangers. "We've got to help them!" exclaims one student. "We've got people who speak different languages," volunteers another student, in response to the Power Rangers' stipulation that their new hometown be multilingual. The teachers records facts and questions as students eagerly share their thoughts, always drawing students back to the Rangers' original plea for help with its specific questions.
The teachers assign cooperative workgroups to tackle specific research questions. The workgroups will use the jigsaw model. Each "home group" of four students will produce a persuasive argument describing four different ethnic or cultural groups in the community, trying to convince the Power Rangers to move to Montgomery County. To obtain the data necessary for the final task, home groups will break into "specialist groups" that will research different cultures.
The workgroups mix students of different abilities and language backgrounds. Specialist workgroups begin research by investigating potential resources and identifying e-mail correspondents that could help. Two members of each specialist group develop and e-mail a letter eliciting information from a member of the community. These students are working in the classroom, busily conferring and writing questions and revising their work. "Let's ask what kind of food they eat," says one student. "The Power Rangers said they like to eat food from lots of different countries." Reading another group's draft e-mail, the teacher asks, "Will this letter give you the information the Power Rangers want to know about different holidays we celebrate in Montgomery County?"
The other two students in each specialist group are working in the media center, accessing data from web pages linked to a teacher-developed research page. The students record information in a data log for later use in their persuasive argument to the Power Rangers. "Here, here!" exclaims one student, pointing to a number on a census page. "That's how many Chinese-speaking people live in our county. That goes on our data sheet." With another couple of students, the teacher is helping the students problem-solve as they debate whether they should include information they found for nearby Washington, DC. "Remember what the Power Rangers asked for," coaches the teacher. "Will this make them more interested in Montgomery County or not?" The teachers assess progress by reviewing e-mail letters and data logs each day. In addition, students reflect regularly on how well they are working as a group.
After data have been collected, specialist groups work together to complete an ethnocultural profile of their community group. Each student must carefully record group findings, since he or she will be expected to share these findings with the home group, comprised of students who researched four different community cultures.
In home groups, students organize data about the four different cultural groups. They match these data with the initial correspondence from the Power Rangers to craft their persuasive argument. "I found out that people from Mexico celebrate Cinco de Mayo," says one student as the group compiles information related to the Rangers' original posting. "And I found out that Chinese people celebrate New Year on a different day each year," says another. Each student will write a persuasive argument, allowing for individual assessment. Students will use the multi-step writing process. Each home group will then select one of its members' arguments to perfect as a final group product. Each home group's final product is posted on a web page to be shared with other Montgomery County students or other interested learners.
Finally, each student writes a procedural outline of how they did the project so they can demonstrate it to parents and other classes.
Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office, Friends of Fermilab, United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, and North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium (NCRTEC) which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).
Author: John Rebstock (John_Rebstock@fc.mcps.k12.md.us) School: Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, Maryland Created: April 28, 1998 - Updated: May 21, 1998 URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w98/projects/jrebstock/scenario.html