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To Help ELLs Study the Constitution, iCivics Unveils Spanish-Language Civil Rights Game

iCivics—a set of free online educational games developed by the nonprofit founded by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor—has released a Spanish-language version of its most popular game in an effort to help English-language learners learn about the Constitution.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who joined iCivics' governing board in 2015, envisioned the project to make 'Do I Have a Right?' more accessible to all learners and to create its new Spanish counterpart '¿Tengo Algún Derecho?'

The game teaches students about American civil liberties by challenging players to run their own law firms that take pro bono cases in which clients' constitutional rights may have been violated.

A set of new upgrades and enhancements, along with the Spanish version, are designed to support all learners, but were intentionally designed with ELLs and struggling readers in mind. The new features include an English-language voiceover option and amendment guides offered in English and Spanish.

Nearly 5 million English-learners are enrolled in K-12 public schools in the United States, and more than two-thirds are Spanish speakers. Research has shown that teaching ELLs a set of academic vocabulary words intensively, over several days, and through a variety of activities helps them learn academic content.

iCivics also plans to release a series of videos and other teaching resources by the end of 2017 to help educators navigate the game with their language-learning students.

Amid the ongoing national debate over immigration, the U.S. Constitution and civil liberties have taken on heightened importance for ELL students, some of whom are the children of undocumented immigrants, or who are undocumented themselves. Advocates say the Trump administration's immigration crackdown could disrupt home lives, break up families, and roll back civil rights enforcement that has over the years exposed practices in some school districts that made it difficult for immigrants to enroll.

Back in March, my colleague Benjamin Herold explored how a Southern California teacher used iCivics to discuss and analyze the immigration debate with his middle school students.

An eight-person advisory board of education researchers and classroom teachers, including Luciana de Oliveira, a University of Miami associate professor and the president-elect of TESOL International Association, the organization for teachers who specialize in working with English-learners, provided insights during the development of the Spanish-language version.

The panel studied the original version of the game and offered recommendations on how make the make the game accessible for linguistically diverse students.

To try the game, visit www.iCivics.org.

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