Students in Ben Peine's fourth-grade class at Pine Bend Elementary are using technology to improve their literacy skills — and they're doing it in two languages at once.
As part of Peine's afternoon language arts class, Karen Martinez, Deysi Martinez and Uri Palacios, all English language learners, worked on a project in which they translated a book from English into Spanish.
Then they each created an e-book by recording their voices reading in Spanish and importing the 30 illustrations they drew.
The book, called "Me on the Map," follows a girl as she maps out all the places in her life, from her bedroom to her state and planet Earth.
"We did kind of good on it, and Mr. Peine was happy because we could do it in Spanish," said Karen.
The project involved many steps and took weeks to complete.
"This was a large project that had some real challenges to it," said Peine. By the end, "They were asking for homework."
Correctly translating every word in the book was one challenge, Deysi said, and the girls worked together to do it.
"Some words are really hard. We don't know that much Spanish because I like to speak English," she said.
Karen said it wasn't as hard for her since she speaks a lot of Spanish at home.
This was the students' first language arts project where they used their Spanish skills, Peine said.
Peine's class is filled with students using technology to learn. Students often record podcasts of their book club discussions and upload them to iTunes. And recently, when Peine asked the students to research electromagnets, they started by accessing videos online and created a document of shared notes on the topic.
In fact, the superintendent sometimes uses Peine's room to pilot new devices.
"I feel like I'm the luckiest person in the world to get to try out new technology," said Peine. "My primary goal with any tool is to get kids to think deeply and solve problems."
The "Me on the Map" project was also a way to connect students' home lives to school, Peine said.
"Valuing a student's home language is important in getting them to progress in English," Peine said. "The day they did the video, I know they went right home and told their parents about it. School went home that day."
Deysi said her parents and uncle enjoyed the e-book, while Karen's mom posted it to Facebook.
"It was pretty fun. I liked it because we can show our parents and they can understand it," Deysi said. "If parents don't know English a lot, this could help them learn."