Building Literacies by Rachel Mamiya Hernandez

created on Jul 31, 2015 modified on May 30, 2018 06:12



Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) uses meaningful inquiry to engage students with language, communities, and content. This project aimed to connect learners from different parts of the world in building both traditional and digital literacy skills.

According to UNESCO's 2012-2015 Round Table on Literacy Action Plan for Brazil, "Teaching children to read and write is still a major challenge", with children living in the North and Northeast of the country having the highest indicies of illiteracy. This project seeks to raise awareness around this issue and address it via a literacy campaign and the creation and distribution of books for young readers in poor communities in the state of Bahia in Northeastern Brazil.

In the project I used Hobbs’ (2010) Essential Competencies of Digital and Media Literacies as my framework for the project’s digital literacy objectives.


1. ACCESS Finding and using media and technology tools skillfully and sharing appropriate and relevant information with others

2. ANALYZE & EVALUATE Comprehending messages and using critical thinking to analyze message quality, veracity, credibility, and point of view, while considering potential effects or consequences of messages

3. CREATE Composing or generating content using creativity and confidence in self-expression, with awareness of purpose, audience, and composition techniques

4. REFLECT Applying social responsibility and ethical principles to one’s own identity and lived experience, communication behavior and conduct

5. ACT Working individually and collaboratively to share knowledge and solve problems in the family, the workplace and the community, and participating as a member of a community at local, regional, national and international levels

They were posed with the question of , how can we engage and encourage young readers in low income communities in Brazil? They also looked at the lack of representation of Afro-Brazilian and indigenous characters in Brazilian children’s literature and came up with criteria for a “good children’s book”. Thus, they wrote children’s books for children from a low income community in Northeastern Brazil. They used Storybird to create the books and created a fundraising campaign through social media and email to get friends and family to purchase copies of the books for the children in Brazil.  The books were also available in ebook versions, however the school we were working with in Brazil had limited technology. Since most of them were not able to make the trip to Brazil, they also created short videos which they posted to YouTube, so that the students in Brazil could get to know them.


Through this project my students were able to use technology tools appropriately and share information with others.  They analyzed and evaluated traditional books and ebooks and reflected on the lack of representation of certain ethnicities in Brazil.  They created original books and videos with for an authentic audience. They acted individually and collaboratively to share knowledge and solve problems in an international community. The students in Brazil also built their traditional literacy skills through reading the books and their digital literacy skills in accessing the videos from my students.

National Foreign Language Resource Center
Aug. 8, 2017
Rachel Mamiya Hernandez

Language: Portuguese

Subject Area(s): creativity, communities, global challenges, ethnic identity, education, society, language and literature

Instructional Context

Heritage Learners:

Audience Role:
Read and give feedback on books

Audience Location:
Salvador, Brazil

Target Audience Description:
School children (ages 4-7) who live in the Candeal community in Salvador, Brazil.

Product Description:
Children’s books for school children who live in the Candeal community in Salvador, Brazil.

Product Target Culture:

Language Proficiency

ILR Scale Reading:
3 4

ILR Scale Listening:
3 4

ILR Scale Speaking:
2 3

ILR Scale Writing:

ACTFL Scale:
4 5 6

World Readiness Standards


School and Global

Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

Making Connections
Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives

Cultural comparisons

Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives


21st Century Skills

Information, Media, and Technology Skills

Life and Career Skills
Social and Cross Cultural Skills

Interdisciplinary Themes
Global Awareness

Information, Media, and Technology Skills
Creativity and Innovation

Project Sequence Overview

Preparing for the Project

1. What makes a good children's book? - Students will preview and review ebooks and paper books written in Portuguese. They will identify key elements that make a good story. more detail

2. Show and Teletandem - Students Skype with Teletandem partners to find out about their favorite children's books and stories. more detail

3. Narrating in the past - Analyzing stories and identifying structures we use in Portuguese to tell stories and narrate in the past. more detail

4. A Critical examination of Children's books in Brazil - A Critical examination of existing children's books in Brazil. more detail

Launching the Project

1. Interview with Communities - Skype meeting and interview with the target audience communities. Students will get to meet the school, NGO and community participants and some of the children (if possible). They will learn more about the communities and bring any questions about likes and dislikes of the students, looking for what engages them and makes them want to read. more detail

Managing the Project

1. Project Group Work Reports - Students turn in project work reports weekly more detail

2. Story Brainstorming! - Students (individually or in pairs) come up with story ideas and pitch them. more detail

3. Individual Work Reports - Students will submit weekly individual work reports. more detail

4. Writing, Feedback, and Revising - Students will work on writing and revising stories in groups. more detail

5. Project Calendar - This is not really a task, but it is the Project Calendar. more detail

6. Editing, Illustrations, Layout and Publishing - Students work in small groups on the editing, illustrations and final layout of the books. more detail

7. Video Campaign - Students make short youtube or instagram-type videos in Portuguese encouraging the children to read. more detail


1. Final Product Assessment - Final products will be assessed more detail

2. Audience reception and Feedback - When the books are given to the children they will give their feedback. more detail