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					       Literacy, Fluency and Video

Storytelling: A Strategy for Teaching

      English Language Learners
                                                Duax & Phoenix




               Ms. Victoria C Duax & Ms. Mary L Phoenix

               California State University, Sacramento




     During the Spring of 2005 we were in the course
"Education for a Democratic, Pluralistic Society" as part

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of our work for our Masters in Educational Technology. At
the same time, I (Vickie) had the experience of videotaping
children performing at the Oral Language Fair held annually
at my school site. A standout performance was by a 6th grade
boy in speaking in Spanish. The combination of learning
about digital divide issues, and the fact that there is a
lack of suitable content in languages other than English on
the World Wide Web, along with watching this student
perform in Spanish led me to think that it would be
extremely powerful to put videos of children speaking in
their own language on the web. Other children who also
speak that language would have a new resource that they
could understand and use to learn English.

     Storytelling is as old as language. It crosses all
boundaries of age and culture. The seed idea for this
action research project comes from an experience I (Mary)
had while tutoring a student in 1983. As part of my
requirements for my teaching credential program, I was
given the assignment of tutoring a student for 15 hours.
The student I was given as a good candidate for tutoring
was a 15-year-old girl who had arrived from Mexico only few
months before I met her. Her oral language comprehension
level was that of a second grader. When I first observed
her in class, a remedial seventh grade reading class, she
had her head resting on her forearms and appeared to be
sleeping. I removed her from the classroom and we went to
the library. The story her class was reading did not seem
relevant to her in the least so I suggested she tell me a
story from her life, something that impressed her,
something that she would like to share with me. She
proceeded to tell me about a visit she had made to Mexico
City where she went to a shrine where there had been a
vision of the Virgin of Guadalupe. As she described in
detail the story of Juan Diego's vision, I wrote the story
in a student theme book. When we had finished the story, I
asked her to read it. To my surprise, she could read every
word. I then made an audio cassette tape of her reading her
own story. She was so excited to hear herself reading that
she wanted to share her accomplishment. She even played the
tape for her boyfriend in his car on the tape deck.

     The story she was telling me has deep cultural
significance. It is the story of how Mexico City came to be
built on its current site. The vision of Juan Diego, an
indigenous Mexican, is also the reason that the Virgin of
Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. My student

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storyteller was identifying and describing in detail the
very essence of her cultural heritage.

     Our AR project took three self-selected participants
and coached them through writing and reading stories about
significant events in their lives. We used a variety of
techniques to help the students in both writing and reading
their stories. Techniques included video and audio
feedback, reading while listening, repeated reading and
digital storytelling. We posted the videotapes of the
stories in both English and in Spanish on the web. We found
that the students responded positively to the process. In
every case, the student improved in fluency. We used many
methods to show validity. We checked with other teachers
including the reading teacher, the classroom teacher and
the EL teacher. We checked with the students themselves
about how they felt about the whole process. We generated
many gigabytes of video and audio data as part of the
documentation. We also blogged our AR project with the
DuaxAxis Blog.

                          Area of Focus

     The focus of this study is to introduce multimedia and
storytelling into the reading process of selected EL
students and observe the effects. We also wanted to use
the resultant video recordings to create culturally
relevant online content in the form of a web page
showcasing the video stories of the participants. Each
participant’s web page shows the participant reading their
story in English as well as their native language, Spanish.

                     Research Questions
What effect does storytelling with multimedia have on
fluency?
How does multimedia affect the process of literacy?
What effect does including and honoring the native language
have?




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     Link to Review of Literature
     The review of literature addressed literacy, fluency
and the effect of storytelling and multimedia on these
processes in regard to learning to read.

     Techniques described in the literature review were
employed to guide students through the process of writing,
reading and recording their stories. Some of the
techniques employed were:

                Reading with feedback
                Listening while reading
                Repeated reading
                Digital storytelling

                         Background
     The Middle School we used is located in the urban
fringe city of Riverbank in Stanislaus County, California
and instructs 733 students in grades 6, 7 and 8. The
student population is 61% Hispanic, with 31% listed as
migrant. The average instructional reading level at
Cardozo, for all grades, is 4.9. For 6th grade, the mean
instructional reading level is 4.4, for 7th grade it is 4.6
and for 8th grade 5.5.

Description
     In this study, three students were selected, based on
several criteria. The criteria used to select the
participants were as follows:

          English language learner
          Enrolled in a specialized class for extra help
           with language
          Reading level at least two grades below their
           enrolled grade

     The end result in mind was to video record stories
written from each participant’s own experience. The videos
would then be posted to the Internet. The procedure was
documented and trends in the learning process were
observed.

     Alejandra


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     The initial participant was a student named Alejandra.
Alejandra is a 6th grade girl enrolled in a SDAIE
(Specially-Designed Academic-Instruction in English)
language class where she receives clarification of concepts
in her native language, Spanish. She is rated between a
level 2 and 3 for language proficiency. Level 5 is
considered totally English proficient. Alejandra’s
instructional reading level is 4.3 which indicates that she
can recognize words and comprehend reading material at the
same level as a student in fourth grade at the third month
of instruction.

     Alejandra met with me regularly on a one to one basis
after school for story-constructing sessions with an
average duration of 40-45 minutes. We met a total of 18
times during September and October of 2005. Alejandra had
a good attitude from the beginning as evidenced by her
willingness to talk about her life experiences and share
details. Alejandra was intrigued with the digital
equipment that we used to record the sessions. After the
first time I used the digital voice recorder, she wanted to
work it herself. I allowed her to do this and she easily
mastered its operation. Later on, as we began to video her
story, she noticed procedural nuances and would gleefully
mimic them. If I forgot to give her a cue, she would
remind me. Alejandra enjoyed the process as much as the
result.

     We began our process with simple interviewing where I
asked questions about Alejandra’s life and her
relationships with her family. Due to many tangents that
did not lead to a story she wanted to choose, we started
using a graphic tool. We began drawing a timeline of the
events in Alejandra’s life. The process of drawing the
timeline turned out to be more important than the events on
the timeline itself. As we worked together on our
timelines, Alejandra started remembering and sharing more
details about more events in her life. The discussions we
had led fairly quickly to an enjoyable excursion she had
one summer with her Aunt Ochita and two of her cousins.
The recounting of this experience would be her story.

     Alejandra dictated the story to me as I wrote it into
a logbook. When the story was completed, I had Alejandra
read the story as we recorded it. Despite the fact that
Alejandra was reading a story that originated from her own
experience and that she had only just dictated the story to

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me, she had difficulty reading her story. She would use
her finger to track the words, paused frequently to sound
out words and the reading was lacking in tone, phrasing and
emphasis. It sounded very choppy and flat. I played the
recording back to her and she was, at first, astonished at
the sound of her own voice. I initially made no
corrections or suggestions but simply asked if she wanted
to try again. As her recordings proceeded, some of her
errors decreased while others persisted. She still felt
the need to track the words with her finger. After a few
tries, I started making corrections and coaching her about
tone and phrasing. The accuracy of her recordings began to
improve. By this time I had also typed the story to
facilitate her ability to read it.

     The next phase of the project was to video record
Alejandra reading her story. At this point she needed to
let go of her habit of following the text with her finger.
Her initial video recordings were flat and lacked tone and
phrasing as did her audio recordings. I would let
Alejandra view herself after each video. She was quite
eager to see how she looked. I continued to coach her
about tone, phrasing and emphasis as we proceeded. Here I
employed a method known as reading while listening.
Alejandra would read the “script” while at the same time I
read along with her. I tried to pace my reading a little
ahead of her while exaggerating the tone and emphasis.
This method was very helpful and produced immediate
improvement. Alejandra became progressively more animated
and expressive as she read her story for the camera. The
more she practiced, the better she became. She also became
increasingly more self-confident. By the time we had
finished with her story in English, Alejandra was very
proud of her story.

     The last part of the study was to have Alejandra read
her story in Spanish. She was unable to translate it so I
asked a colleague to do so. The resulting story presented
a challenge for Alejandra. She did not know how to
pronounce many of the words and it was hard for her to
read. We practiced in a similar way to the English story
and made several video recordings. Since it was not
possible for me to read with her for tone and emphasis, we
concentrated on pronouncing the single words that she was
stumbling on. It was necessary to break the story into
much smaller parts than we had for the English story.


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     Finally, I edited the two stories and constructed a
web page, which was subsequently posted to the Internet.
When Alejandra saw her web page, she was delighted. As she
watched the video of herself reading the English story, she
would recite the story out loud, making a big deal out of
the dramatizations she had added. Her Spanish story was
interesting to her but to a much lesser degree than the one
in English.

     Jorge
     Jorge is an 8th grade boy enrolled in a SDAIE
(Specially-Designed Academic-Instruction in English)
language class where he receives clarification of concepts
in his native language, Spanish. He is rated a level 3+
for language proficiency. Jorge’s instructional reading
level is 3.6 which indicates that he can recognize words
and comprehend reading material at the same level as a
student in third grade, sixth month of instruction.

     Jorge met with me on a regular basis for story-
constructing sessions that lasted for 40 minutes. Unlike
Alejandra’s sessions, Jorge did not meet with me on a one-
to-one basis. I instructed Jorge along with Elva at the
same time. . While I was working with one subject, the
other would work independently and/or practice their story.
Jorge and Elva were older subjects and did some of their
own writing. They were also both very supportive of the
process by practicing their stories at home. Additionally,
they had their parents help them to translate the stories
into Spanish. A colleague proofed the stories prior to the
recordings.

     I started working with Jorge using the scaffolding
writing tool of a “road map.” This tool helped the subject
to remember and identify events in his life. During the
process, an ongoing interview was held to determine what
additional details the subject might remember. In
addition, the use of this tool allowed me to establish a
rapport with the subject. I was able to determine, through
questioning, which events held the most emotional
significance for him and which events were the most
interesting.   As it turns out, Jorge had been to theme
parks seven times during the course of his life. These
times seemed to represent particularly fun events for him.
Drawing from his experience, I had him write a list of
details he remembered. This helped him to remember more
details and to brainstorm all of his memories. We

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subsequently mined that list for the most emotionally
charged portion. This turned out to be a visit to Great
America that he experienced during the summer of his 5th
grade year in school. The one detail that made this visit
stand out is the fact that it involved his entire family.

     This visit would be the subject for his story. Jorge
dictated his story to me as I wrote it in a logbook.
During the dictation portion of the process, I continued to
interview Jorge for emotions and details relevant to the
events in his story. When the story was complete, I asked
Jorge to read it. His fluency, in a similar way to
Alejandra, was lacking. Despite the fact that the story
originated from his own experience, his tone was choppy, he
hesitated frequently and emphasis was either lacking or
absent. I recorded Jorge’s story with a digital voice
recorder and played it back for him. Unlike Alejandra, I
began pointing out places where the reading could be
improved from the start. I instructed Jorge about
emphasis, tone and phrasing and how important they would be
when we got to the video phase of the project. He had a
difficult time understanding emphasis so I typed the story
and we made notations where emphasis and phrasing would
change. This seemed to be very helpful for Jorge. At this
point in the process, Jorge began to develop his own style.
Rather than correct everything, I corrected only words that
were incorrect. I allowed variations that could be
attributed to language and culture to remain. An example
would be when he says “summer vacations” with an added “s”
instead of “summer vacation.” This can be accounted for by
the different use of plurals in Spanish. In a similar way,
when Alejandra referred to her cousin as the Aztec Princess
in English she continued to call her the same in Spanish
rather than la Princesa Azteca. This nickname would be
considered a proper noun and was not counted as an error.

     As Jorge practiced the story by repeated reading, his
fluency increased. He would practice the story while I was
working with Elva and also at home, with his parents. His
parents translated the story into Spanish for the next
phase of the project.

     During this phase of the project, Jorge practiced his
story in Spanish using the same techniques as before with
his English story. We used repeated reading and feedback
along with orally practicing. Jorge had more difficulty
with the Spanish story than the English one. There were

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words that he did not know. One of them, salpicadera, he
did not even believe was actually a word. The school
secretary had an English/Spanish dictionary so we looked it
up. Indeed, salpicadera is a word. It means “splash” in
English and was used to describe one of the rides in
Jorge’s story.

     During the final phase we video recorded the story;
first in English and then in Spanish. This was Jorge’s
favorite part. By this point, Jorge’s fluency had
increased remarkably. His tone, emphasis and phrasing were
much improved. In addition, he had developed some hand
movements to add a little animation to his story. For
example, when he described holding his hands up high during
the rollercoaster ride in his story, as he reads that part,
he actually raises his arm to illustrate.

     Jorge’s transference was also very good. The fluency
that he developed during his story in English, he applied
to his story in Spanish. A good example is the one where
he holds his arm up over his head to illustrate his actions
in the story. Additionally, Jorge reported that going
through the writing process during this project helped him
with his 8th grade writing proficiency test. This test was
given at about the time when we were in the process of
writing down Jorge’s story. This suggests that he applied
what he learned about the writing process to his academic
studies. This is, of course, a hoped for effect of the
project.

     Jorge’s videos were subsequently posted to the
Internet as a lasting documentation of his experience, this
project and to add multi-cultural content to the web.

     Elva
     Elva is an 8th grade girl enrolled in a SDAIE
(Specially-Designed Academic-Instruction in English)
language class where she receives clarification of concepts
in her native language, Spanish. She is rated a level 3+
for language proficiency. Elva’s instructional reading
level is 3.6 which indicates that she can recognize words
and comprehend reading material at the same level as a
student in third grade, sixth month of instruction.

     Elva met with me on a regular basis for story-
constructing sessions that lasted for 40 minutes. All of
the environmental conditions were the same for Elva as for

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Jorge, as I worked with both of them together. As
mentioned in Jorge’s narrative, while I was working with
one participant the other would practice their story.

     Elva displayed the most self-confidence and maturity
of the three participants. She also showed her
independence by doing much of her own writing. We began
the process, as with Jorge, by constructing a “road map” of
her life events, beginning at birth. Within only two
sessions of working on the roadmap, Elva had decided on the
focus of her story. When she was five years old, she had
gone through a ceremony in which she was baptized. This
was clearly a significant event in her life and one that
held fond memories. We proceeded to brainstorm those
memories and emotions so that we could have as many details
for the story as possible. As with Jorge, I had Elva
brainstorm and write down as many details as she could
remember about the event.

     As we filtered through the list, I interviewed Elva as
to how she felt about the different details. We focused in
on the details that held the most emotion and that were the
most significant to the flow of the story.

     When Elva read her story to me, she would read really
fast and then stop when she lost her place, made a mistake
or could not remember the word. This gave her reading a
very choppy feel. I worked with her, coaching her about
phrasing, tone and emphasis as I had with Jorge. Elva had
more difficulty than Jorge with this part of the project.
Her natural tendency was to race through the reading with
little noticeable change in tone. The best way for her to
deal with this issue turned out to be focusing on phrasing.
Variation in tone seemed to be difficult for her so I had
her insert pauses to give more meaning to her readings. We
typed the story and added marks to indicate where she
should pause while reading. We continued to use the
techniques of repeated reading and feedback as we made a
series of audio recordings on a digital voice recorder.

     Elva helped the project greatly by practicing at home
with her parents. Her parents translated her story into
Spanish for her. In the case of Alejandra, the story in
Spanish was so difficult for her that it exceeded her
ability to read it. This may have been due to the fact
that a teacher translated Alejandra’s story. There were
many big words that she did not understand and could not

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pronounce. Because of this difficulty, I decided to have
Jorge and Elva let their parents translate their stories.
This gave me two advantages. The first is that I could
ascertain the dual language literacy of the parents by the
quality of the translation and the second is that Elva and
Jorge could practice their stories in Spanish at home with
the help of their parents, giving their parents an active
role in the process.

     Elva’s fluency improved greatly. She slowed her
reading speed and smoothed out her phrasing. At this point
in the process, I decided to leave discussions of tone
alone, attributing her lack of tonal variance to the
reading style she had developed. She managed to achieve
correct emphasis through phrasing.

     As we moved into the video phase of the project, I
added an additional reading technique, reading while
listening. In this technique, I read along with Elva. As
Elva read, she could also listen to me as I applied the
correct emphasis, tone and phrasing to her story. This
seemed immediately helpful to her as evidenced by the
improved video readings. I taped each paragraph
separately. I had learned from Alejandra that reading the
story all at once would cause a downhill progression in
quality of expression. I taped repeated “takes” until Elva
was satisfied that she had done her best. We proceeded,
paragraph by paragraph until both the English and Spanish
stories were recorded.

     Elva’s videos were subsequently posted to the Internet
as a lasting documentation of her experience, this project
and to add multi-cultural content to the web.

     Elva reported in her exit interview that she
appreciated most learning about the different steps of the
writing process. As with Jorge, she took the 8th grade
proficiency exam about half way through this project. Elva
said that what she had learned during this project helped
her to know what to do on the writing exam. This kind of
transference is an indication that this project has good
potential as an enhancement to classroom instruction.

                  Limitations of the Study

     This study used a qualitative approach with three
self-selected participants. Qualitative research produces

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"results that can't be arrived at by means of statistical
procedures or other means of quantification" (Strauss and
Corbin as quoted in Hoepfl, 1997) While each participant
did improve his or her fluency, each participant responded
to the process uniquely. For example, the Spanish teacher
translated the story written by the test participant while
the other two participants had their parents help with the
translation. We feel that this approach deserves further
investigation, but we realize that each case is unique and
our results may or may not be duplicated elsewhere.

                          Timeline
     The study took place from September to December of
2005. Sessions with the initial participant, Alejandra,
started on September 1, 2005 and continued to completion on
October 6, 2005. The duration for each of the 18 sessions
was 45 minutes.
     Sessions for Jorge and Elva began October 11, 2005 and
finished on December 15, 2005. The duration for each of
their 15 sessions was 40 minutes.

                    Presentation of Data

    Types of Data Collected
              o    Audio recordings of sessions; Sessions
         were recorded for later review and analysis as to
         the effectiveness of methods and the response of
         students.
              o    Audio recordings of stories; The
         participants themselves were recorded reading
         their stories. These recordings were used as
         feedback for the participants to correct
         phrasing, tone and emphasis.
              o    Video recordings of stories; Repeated
         video recordings were made of the participants
         reading their stories. The stories were shown to
         the participants for feedback. The participants
         would retape their story until they were
         satisfied with the result.
              o    Journaling of observations; notes were
         kept after each session of significant events
         and/or insights that occurred during the session.
              o    Journaling of conversations with
         colleagues; Interviews with colleagues were held
         on an ongoing basis to check in and ascertain
         relevant details about the participant’s
         classroom experience and performance.

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              o    Interviews with participant’s teachers;
         Interviews with the participant’s teachers were
         held to determine what kind of extra help
         students were receiving in the classroom
         environment. Comments on the video story for
         each participant were also documented.
              o    Interview with school district language
         and reading specialist. Participant’s videos
         were shown to the district English language
         development coordinator and comments were
         documented.



                           Findings

     When looking at the results of this study, it is
helpful to review data that expresses the participants’
current reading abilities and English language
proficiency at the time of the project. The STAR test
measures current reading levels and is typically given
at the beginning and end of each school year. Here are
the results for the beginning of the school year 2005-
2006 for the participants in this study.

STAR Reading Renaissance Place is reading management
software subscribed to by the district. The STAR
program is a baseline assessment portion of the
software. STAR is a product of Renaissance Learning.
The STAR test yields data that reflects a student’s
grade level reading progress.

STAR test results
   Name     Grade     GE      PR      IRL     ZPD
Alejandra     6      4.7      24      4.3   3.5-4.9
  Jorge       8      3.6      4       3.6   2.9-4.1
   Elva       8      3.7      5       3.6   2.9-4.1

GE is the grade equivalent. Scores range from 0.0 to
12.9. They represent how a student’s test performance
compares with that of other students nationally.

PR is the percentile rank. This score compares the
student’s test performance with that of other students
nationally in the same grade. It ranges from 1 to 99.
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IRL is the instructional reading level. This is the
grade level at which the student is at least 80%
proficient and recognizing words and comprehending
reading material with assistance.

ZPD is the zone of proximal development. The zone of
proximal development defines the range at which the
student should be selecting books to read for optimal
growth in reading without frustration.


English language proficiency level (CELDT)
  Name        1        2        3         4        5
Alejandra                  X
  Jorge                             X
  Elva                              X

The English language proficiency scale used at Cardozo
comes from the CELDT (California English Language
Development Test) test given to English language
learners at the beginning of each school year. The
CELDT test assesses each learner and places him or her
at one of the following levels for optimum efficiency
of instruction according to his or her level of English
language proficiency.

Level   1   Beginning
Level   2   Early intermediate
Level   3   Intermediate
Level   4   Early advanced
Level   5   Advanced

Data from ongoing interaction, interviewing and
development of rapport during the course of the study
showed the following trends:




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Discussion of findings

Data from ongoing discussions with participants as well as
feedback from participants' teachers indicated that the
participants were pleased to be working with me on the
project and were motivated to participate.   They indicated
that they liked hearing their voices on the digital voice
recorder as well as seeing themselves on video.
Additionally, they indicated that it made them feel special
to get out of class and do something different.   The
attention they received from working one-on-one or in a
small group made their experience more personal and their
learning more direct. The prospect of having their videos
on the Internet was exciting to them also. In each case,
when I showed them the page with their videos, they grabbed
a pen and paper and tried to write down the long URL for
the webpage.   The strength of their interest was in the
fact that they wanted to show their parents. During the
exit interview, each participant responded that they would,
"do it again" if they had the chance.



Oral reading fluency was assessed on the basis of accuracy
of word recognition, tone, phrasing and emphasis. Audio
and video recordings showed an increase in reading fluency
for each participant.   The process of developing accuracy
in reading as well as the addition of tone, emphasis and
phrasing was an emergent process. Alejandra's first audio
recordings reflected a flat tonal quality with word
recognition, punctuation and phrasing errors.   She would
read through periods without stopping and commas without
pausing. With coaching and repeated readings, Alejandra
began to improve.   Her later recordings were smoother with
fewer errors. As we progressed to each new level of
technology, her skills would sharpen. During the video
phase, she began to develop her own style of reading and
she started enhancing her story with gestures.   As a
result of developing rapport with the subject, she became
increasingly at ease with herself and her self confidence
noticeably increased.




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The recordings for Jorge and Elva reflected a similar
emergent process.   Initial recordings revealed word
recognition errors as well as a notable lack of tone,
emphasis and phrasing.   Coaching and practice yielded
smoother, more error-free readings. As with Alejandra, the
video recordings showed that the participants were
beginning to internalize their stories.   This was evident
by the fact that they began to spontaneously add gestures
and expressions to their story. Jorge, for example, points
to his eye when reading in his story that "he was tired and
his eyes hurt."



We were surprised and interested to note that there was a
trend occurring that we had not expected. Both Jorge and
Elva, 8th graders, were required to take a writing
proficiency exam to graduate to high school.    Timing was
such that this exam was given just after the writing phase
of the project. Their exit interview revealed that in the
case of both participants, they had valued the part of the
project that walked them through the writing process.
They indicated that they used the same process in order to
pass the writing exam. Such positive transference to the
classroom was a real encouragement to us.    We had not
expected to see such a direct link as this.



Other examples of transference occurred within the project
itself. The audio and video data showed that what was
learned by way of tone and emphasis carried over to the
next level of the project.   Further, there was
transference from the story in English to the story in
Spanish. The gestures that Jorge developed for his English
story, he applied to his story when he read it in Spanish.
This had a very positive effect on the continuity between
the two stories.



The role that language acquisition played was perhaps the
most surprising and interesting. Since the participants
were all English language learners from Spanish speaking
families where the primary language in the home is Spanish,
we expected the students to be more fluent in Spanish than
English.   While this may be true in oral communication,

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when it came to reading fluency, such was not the case. In
the case of Alejandra, I had a colleague translate the
story from English to Spanish.   When Alejandra first read
it, she had great difficulty with word recognition. She
reported that the words were, "too big" and she did not
know them.   We practiced the story and her reading fluency
improved but never matched the level of fluency that she
was able to achieve in English. In her exit interview,
Alejandra stated that reading her story in English was more
fun than the Spanish one.   When I showed the resultant
final videos to the district English Language Development
Consultant she remarked that Alejandra had crossed over and
was now more fluent in English than in Spanish.   The
conclusion that seemed apparent to me was that at some
point, the emphasis of her schooling on English had pushed
her fluency in Spanish into the background where it may
eventually become lost to her.



Jorge and Elva were instructed after Alejandra had finished
so I decided to try a different method for the translation
of the story. Instead of having a teacher translate the
story, I had Jorge and Elva work with their parents to
translate the story.   This proved to be a better idea. I
was able to determine the level of fluency, in both English
and Spanish, of the parents.   The school librarian is
fluent in Spanish as well as the same colleague that
translated Alejandra's story. I asked both of them about
the accuracy and quality of the translation and they both
indicated that it was quite excellent.   Further, the
librarian told me that it was translated in a very proper
form of Spanish, with no use of slang. This indicated to
me that Jorge and Elva's parents were literate in both
English and Spanish or else they would not have been able
to read the English and make grammatically correct proper
translations.   This suggested to me that Jorge and Elva
might possibly be more fluent in Spanish also. As with
Alejandra, however, such was not the case.   Jorge
struggled more than Elva, perhaps because his language
acquisition is not as advanced as Elva's. Alejandra had
the most trouble and was also at the lowest CELDT level,
level 2-3.   Both Jorge and Elva are rated at a CELDT level
of 3+ for English language acquisition; however, I suspect
that Elva is, in actuality slightly more advanced than
Jorge in this regard.   I base this conclusion on the fact
that Elva had a considerably easier time reading the

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Spanish translation of her story than Jorge. Jorge also
mentioned in his exit interview that the Spanish story was
more difficult, where Elva made no mention of it.

                        Reflections

     Mary and I both had high expectations going into this
project based on our preliminary experiences with English
Language Learners and storytelling. In Mary's case, the
student she first worked with just coincidentally happened
to tell a story that was both personally significant and
culturally significant. Mary's student told the tale of the
Virgin of Guadalupe and how visiting the shrine was
important to her. In my case, I had witnessed a powerful
performance in Spanish at the Oral Language Fair. I also
had the experience of sharing the videotape of that
performance with the other Spanish-speaking students at my
school. I noticed the excitement and empowerment the other
students felt while watching the video. With this as a
background, we were surprised that our first participant
chose for her significant story a mundane trip to the
bowling alley. We were also further surprised to discover
that the Spanish part of the project was so hard for the
three participants.
     Alejandra's experience is typical. She came to the
school system in first grade. She was orally proficient in
Spanish, at a level suitable for a first grader. Her
speaking skills were and are adequate for her needs. She
has progressed in the school system instructed mostly in
English with some supplemental help in Spanish. At the time
of our project, she fit our selection criteria of being two
grade levels below in reading. During the work with
Alejandra, we concluded that she was not fluent in Spanish.
This observation was confirmed when Mary showed Alejandra's
videos to The English Language Development consultant at
her district. The consultant remarked, "Alejandra had
crossed over and was now more fluent in English than in
Spanish."
     The other two participants had help from their parents
translating the stories into Spanish. This added to the
experience for these students. It became a family project,
which was an enriching experience for the students. Jorge
called the translation of the word "splash" into question
at first. He did not believe that it was a real word!
Working together with his parents enriched his
understanding of Spanish and expanded his Spanish
vocabulary. This struggle in the Native language was

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surprising at first, but made more sense when we expanded
our definition of literacy. These participants were orally
literate in Spanish but were lacking in their writing
skills.
     I found it interesting to compare Gerardo's
performance with the test participant videos. This sixth
grade boy was fully fluent in Mexico. He had been educated
in Mexico up until the fourth grade. His memorized poem was
extremely expressive. I had the opportunity to video tape
him reading an English translation of his poem. The level
of expressiveness and fluency in this reading does not come
close to the level of expressiveness in our participants,
but I think that is because he had not practiced the
English at all. However, I think it is safe to say that in
every single case practice makes perfect.
     The students enjoyed the process. Elva stated in her
interview that she enjoyed the process of actually writing
the story the best. She learned a new technique for
developing her writing. She was able to apply the timeline
scaffold to her Writing Proficiency Exam. She also
appreciated that this process will help her to remember a
significant event in her life. She said, "It helped me…I
actually do have a better memory…of that day." Alejandra
was intrigued by the technology and in her interview she
recommended that other students "take advantage of it."
Jorge enjoyed learning new words in Spanish and writing the
rough draft. Again, this suggests that Jorge might be more
fluent in English than in Spanish at this time, and that
this process helped him with his native language.

                      Recommendations

     One of the recommendations for further study would be
to write the stories in the Native Language first, and then
translate that into English instead of the other way
around. This approach might be more effective in helping
students become more fluent in English. A further
recommendation would be to do more with the actual videos.
The way the project is currently structured, the videos are
a by-product of the study. It would be interesting to take
the videos and use them in a small group context to help
teach English to Spanish speaking children. If the video
was used at the same school that the participants attended,
this could be a type of virtual peer helping.
     The process we developed in our Action Research
project shows a lot of promise. We feel that this process
deserves further investigation. Possible research questions

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                                              Duax & Phoenix


could be: "What about this process helps students improve
fluency?" "Does introducing multimedia into a reading
tutoring program improve fluency?" "How are the writing
process and reading fluency connected for ESL students?"




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