Heritage Voices:

Empowering & Celebrating Biliteracy

Stephanie Ortiz, Branson High School, Branson, Missouri

Heritage Voices:

Introduction

  • The Heritage Voices: Empowering & Celebrating Biliteracy project aims to support heritage speakers in developing their bilingual and biliterate abilities. Given the large population of Spanish-speaking students in our district, our primary goal is to provide resources and guidance to heritage speakers to successfully navigate the Seal of Biliteracy (SoBL) requirements while celebrating their achievements in their home languages.

My project specifically focused on literacy development within our Heritage Speakers Spanish courses. However, resources and additional support are provided for students outside of these courses. I hope this project will continue to support linguistic developments in Heritage Spanish speakers year after year. 

Step-by-Step Plan

Before the beginning of the school year

  • Research resources and exam materials for AAPPL/OPI/WPT tests
  • Identify culturally relevant and age-appropriate texts to increase reading proficiency
  •  Research and identify scaffolded text to support literacy development 
  • Purchase materials 
  • Set an introduction to the Seal of Biliteracy meeting time within the first couple weeks of the school year
  •  Set dates for sociocultural presentations and create a rubric 
  • Set AAPPL/OPI/WPT exam dates 

Year Round

  • Students in Heritage Spanish courses build literacy and bilingual skills through practice in the classroom.
  • Reading through novels and magazines
  • Writing in journals, creating stories, and expository works
  • Speaking through “Charla con los Vecinos” conversations with AP Spanish students and presentations 
  • Listening to authentic materials via music or telenovelas 

August

  • Conduct a meeting to discuss the purpose and requirements of the Missouri Seal of Biliteracy with interested students.
  • Hold secondary meetings with senior students to outline the project and identify languages for testing.

August to November

  • Students conduct cultural research and complete sociocultural projects comparing their cultures with those associated with their intended testing languages.

December

  • Students present their sociocultural competence projects to a panel of foreign language instructors.

February (early):

  • Organize study sessions to prepare students for exams covering listening, writing, reading, and speaking components.

February

  • Spanish AAPPL exam.

March

  • OPI/WPT exams 

May

  • Present SoBL awards and honor cords to successful recipients and candidates during the World Language Showcase 

Timeline

See plan above.

Budget

Cajas de Cartón by Francisco Jimenez

Senderos Fronterizos by Francisco Jimenez

Short Stories in Spanish for Intermediate Learners

Scholastic Magazines: “Ahora” and “El Sol”

Punto y Comma: Digital Subscription

Spanish Seal of Biliteracy AAPPL Test Practice Bundle

Button Maker

What did it look like?

Sustainability

This project can be sustained by following the steps outlined and using the purchased materials to continue literacy development for Heritage Spanish speakers. Additionally, pairing native, heritage, and Spanish second-language learners in groups is an excellent way to strengthen bilingual and biliteracy skills for all students. Given that this is the first year that the purchased resources were utilized within the Heritage Speakers courses, as the years progress, more students from this program will benefit from instruction and test for the Seal of Biliteracy. 

Reflections

This mini-grant project and the Show Me Multiliteracy program taught me a lot. First, it can be challenging to find authentic material that is scaffolded and engaging for high school students. Many texts in Spanish that are scaffolded to a lower level are aimed at younger age groups. It took a lot of work to identify material that would benefit students at different literacy levels, but the magazines I found were excellent resources! If needed, you can pair the articles with audio to provide additional support for students. 

Second, the English proficiency requirements set by DESE can be challenging for ELs to achieve, so some Heritage Speakers may meet Spanish proficiency standards but not English ones. To earn the Missouri SoBL, students must demonstrate English proficiency in one of the following: proficient EOC score, ACT score of 18 on the English or Reading position, or a 4.0 on the WIDA Access exam. We are working to combat this by closely collaborating with the EL department, working through texts together, and developing shared units to reinforce objectives in both languages.

Despite the challenges and learning curve in biliteracy instruction, this project successfully supported heritage speakers in acquiring the Missouri Seal of Biliteracy. In the first year, three Spanish heritage speakers earned their Seal. As this project continues to be implemented, the number of students who earn their Seal will continue to increase. I am incredibly proud of the students’ hard work and linguistic development. I aim to continue expanding and improving the program to empower more students in their bilingual and biliterate abilities.

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