Better Together Unit in Nixa Public Schools

Project Blueprint

Kara Griffin, Summit Intermediate, Nixa Public Schools, Missouri

The Kids Around the World: Better Together unit introduces students' home and heritage cultures to peers, staff, and families. Students work with their families to create multicultural/multilingual projects, which are displayed throughout the school building. The project supplies multilingual books for the school library.

Goal

The goal of the project is to introduce multilingual families to our school community and help them connect to resources to support multiliteracy.

Timeline

Step-By-Step Plan

At the beginning of the school year, collaborate with school partners to plan a weeklong themed unit.

Get everyone involved! Organize engagement activities that support the theme in all of the enrichment classes (music, art, PE, library, technology, home room). The theme is to introduce everyone to the home and heritage cultures of families who attend the school. 

Here are a few ideas for inspiration:

  • Art - Students create a Unity Tree to which each student adds a collage in the shape of their hand tracing. The collage represents their background with symbols, colors, and images. The Unity Tree is displayed prominently where visitors to the school are immediately greeted by it. During the event week, additional displays are installed that are specific to home cultures and to which students can add, as for example, origami figures to a Japanese cultural exhibit or red paper cuttings to a Chinese display.
  • Music - Students learn folk songs and dances. They are introduced to new rhythms from around the globe. 
  • PE - Students learn to play a sport or a cultural game that is popular in home countries (e.g., rugby in Australia, rubber band skipping in China, or European handball).
  • Home Room - Students collaborate on slide presentations about their home/heritage culture/country. Students engage their families at home by recording interviews and gathering artifacts to share. Family members tell a special tradition that originated from their home/heritage country and explain what it means to them.
  • Library -  Purchase a good selection of multilingual and multicultural books, particularly for the cultures represented in the student population. Invite the librarian to showcase the collection with displays, props, contests, and activities during the week of the event.

Invite families to record themselves reading books in their home languages. Obtain permission to share these videos in electronic newsletters, social media, and district communications. Use Flipgrid or a similar platform to collect these videos and curate them for sharing.

Print bookmarks to hand out to students, staff, and families. Include on them a QR code that links the readers to the list of multilingual resources that the library has added.

Design and print posters for the lobby and hallways. Add welcome/hello/thank you posters translated into the students' home and heritage languages.

Create an attractive banner that is visible from the car line to welcome families to the school. Add multilingual signage near the entrances.

Invite district communications staff and videographers to capture highlights of the week's events. Encourage them to add subtitles and translations to their planned publications. Ask to publicize events at the next board meeting and introduce the school board to the multilingual families and connect them to the local community.

Design multilingual spirit wear. Remember to order complimentary spirit wear for all family members who participate in multilingual book readings.

Make a presentation at the school board meeting before the event (if possible) and afterward. Share the video you create.

Budget

38 multicultural and multilingual books for the school library (See Amazon wish list.)    386.86
Multilingual posters for hallways; 3 digital images $12.00/each for multilingual "Hello", "Welcome", and "Thank you" signs; print posters in district print shop $8.00 each for 3 (4x2 ft. banners) https://thankyouposters.com/welcome- 01-colors-on-white/#wp_cart_anchor      44.00
Two vinyl banners for school entrance; printed by district print shop      86.80
"I Love My Library" poster (multilingual)       18.00
Bookmarks for students/staff/families listing multilingual/multicultural books added to the library. QR code on bookmark; Printed by district print shop 300 count      21.98
Design of bookmarks and welcome banner        0.00
140 multilingual spirit wear T-shirts as giveaways    863.20
Origami paper        7.99
TOTAL 1,428.83

Sustainability

After the event, continue to work with staff and students to ensure the availability and use of multilingual/multicultural resources. Continue to add and highlight new resources each year. Welcome families who speak languages new to the school community.

Use the library as a hub to connect families.

Advertise future events at orientation, parent-teacher conferences, open houses, school activities. Be visible and available at school events.

To reduce language or cultural misunderstandings, work with qualified translators prior to publishing or posting information or invitations. 

Plan for interpreters to be present at large events.

Research families’ interests and gear the fall and spring family night events to those interests to increase participation. Draw on their interests and strengths to recruit volunteers.

Who Has Done This Already?

Kara Griffin is one of four EL teachers at Nixa Public Schools. She works with approximately 50 multilingual students who speak 15 different languages. The most commonly spoken home languages are English, Spanish, and Russian, followed by Bulgarian, Telugu (India), Ukrainian, Romanian, Gaguazian (Moldova), Afrikaans (South Africa), Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Punjabi (India), and Cebuano (Philippines).

Our multilingual families are busy, but they do want to engage in their child’s learning when the assignment is easy to understand, fun, and accessible. Reaching out to families with literature in their home language improves the chances that they can communicate and participate in the learning activities. We hope the home language engagement will help them feel welcomed and supported.Kara Griffin

What Did it Look Like?

Nixa Entrance Banner

Nixa Entrance Banner

Families and visitors are greeted by a new welcome banner at the entrance, which is in view from the car line.

Our events were featured in a video to share with the school board and the community. 

ESL Department Spirit Wear

ESL Department Spirit Wear

The Nixa ESL Department is excited to offer its own spirit wear apparel: "Many Languages - One Nixa". The proceeds fund additional purchases of multilingual books for the districts' school libraries.

Multilingual Signs

Multilingual Signs

Our students can explore and learn to say "hello", "welcome", and "thank you" in many languages while they line up in the hallway. 

Visit Flipgrid to enjoy bilingual books read by our families.

We have collected bilingual book readings on Flipgrid by our own families. 

Takeaways From the Project

The most fundamental takeaway from this project was the essential role of collaboration. This unit could not have happened without the support and active involvement of our entire team: our principal, our librarian, the faculty and staff who all played a role. My principal trusted me to complete this project and the librarian helped me find books, enter them into the library system, and introduce the books to the students during their library time each week.

It is relatively complex to manage the details of this project and I needed to learn new skills. Brier, at the Print Shop, put my projects at the top of her list and advised me through many choices and edits. Sean at Wise Guys educated me on T-shirt design and rushed my the apparel order to have it ready on short notice. We were fortunate to have Tom tell our story in a professionally produced video. This allowed us to share it with the school board and throughout the district. Without a commitment from an experienced team, we would not have been able to succeed so quickly.

The hard work paid off once students started checking out our multilingual books and submitting the Flipgrid videos. It was so amazing to see our students and their families reading together in their home languages and in English. I received messages and pictures from the parents telling me ‘thank you’ for doing such a neat project.

As soon as students submitted a video, I gave them one of our multilingual T-shirts. I also gave the family member who helped them with the video a T-shirt. They loved them! I started seeing the shirts worn by siblings and parents at the youth and high school football games! Teachers and staff in buildings across the district started asking about how they could purchase one these for themselves.


The Better Together Unit at Summit Intermediate was sponsored by the iELT-Ozarks project at Missouri State University; the budget was supported with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition.

Better Together Unit in Nixa Public Schools

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