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Featured Outreach Strategies: Patchwork Films, Speaking in Tongues

Featured Outreach Strategies: Patchwork Films, Speaking in Tongues

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

With the support of the Fledgling Fund and in partnership with Working Films, PatchWorks Films implemented a robust engagement campaign with its award-winning film, SPEAKING IN TONGUES (www.speakingintonguesfilm.info).

Over the past three and a half years, the film has reached hundreds of thousands of students, parents, policymakers and advocates in fields ranging from bilingual and heritage language education to immigration integration, cross-cultural competency and multicultural healthcare, via a successful PBS broadcast, web streaming, and classroom, conference and community screenings. 

SPEAKING IN TONGUES and its comprehensive website and new media platforms have become a key resource for those working to increase bilingualism in general, and creating dual language immersion opportunities for students across the country. When we launched our campaign in 2009, 232 language programs were in place in the U.S. Now there are almost 400, with many more on the drawing board. We are supporting several district and statewide initiatives. Our website continues to receive 5000-7000 visitors each month. Tens of thousands of viewers have used the free, downloadable educational videos on the film’s website, our newsletter continues to reach thousands of readers, and the film’s active Facebook network is still growing. 

During our extended outreach and engagement campaign, the film – along with the related resources that facilitate various uses – has screened at a broad range of venues, from national educational conferences to local schools trying to launch an immersion program. Organizers have praised its ability to impact schools, districts and policymakers, as well as thousands of children and their families. We are thrilled with the project’s success to date, and are committed to maintaining the film and its online resources as the issue’s momentum builds.



Based on in-depth interviews with representative users of SPEAKING IN TONGUES, we’ve compiled the following advice and best practices.



Kimathi Marangu, Spanish Immersion Program Parent, Burlingame, CA

Goal: Improve the general understanding of language immersion programs, particularly for native Spanish Speakers.

What worked: A panel, including a teacher, a parent, and a school board member who had twins in the program.

Advice: Reach out to parents, and get the support of school administrators. 


Kalie Printz, Assistant Principal, Arlington Heights, IL (supports dual-immersion teachers)

Goal: To raise awareness and create support in English-speaking families for expanding the dual language program, beyond 4th grade.

Events: Two screenings with panelists at school

What worked:

• Alert Now. The first screening had 10-20 in attendance. For the second screening, the school’s “Alert Now” voice mail recording system went out in English and Spanish and 50-60 people came, including parents, teachers and administrators.

• Posting information about screening on the district website.

• Panel with alums, dual language parents, a dual language teacher and principal, and a dual language “guru” in Illinois.

• Q & A used both questions from the SPEAKING IN TONGUES website and questions people wrote on post-it notes.


“When you are trying to implement change, it’s helpful to come from within and

without and from the top and from the bottom. Teachers are definitely a target.”


Diana Zuckerman, Spanish teacher, New Palz, NY, Mid-Hudson Regional Director, NY State Assoc. of Foreign Language Teachers 

Goal: Save the districts’ language programs threatened by budget cuts.

Event: Screening and panel at a local art house theater.

Jackie Friedman Mighdoll, Founder and Director, Sponge School, Seattle Immersion centers for 0-5 with caregiver or alone 3-5. send teachers to teach after school in Seattle area. Spanish, Mandarin, French 700-1000 kids

Goal: Create more language and culture learning opportunities in Seattle.

Event: Screening and panel discussion at a local art house.

What worked:

• Knowledgeable panelists speaking from the school level and state level, and sharing research about language education.

• Getting clock hours for teachers’ continuing education for attending the event.


Parent’s interest is greater when their children are younger. Engage preschool parents.



David Rogers Executive Director, La Cosecha Dual Language Education of New Mexico


• Advocacy 


• Morning coffee with principals – orientation followed by film

• Charter school information meetings before handing out lottery cards

• Pre-school orientation for parents

• “Dual language 101” events

• Family night (movie followed by school administrator Q & A)

What worked:

• Show film to open up people’s minds – then talk about how our immersion program works.

• Screen at charter school informational meetings before handing out lottery cards.


• Contextualize it – explain how demographic and model might be different for each community.

• It’s about “preparing a multilingual, multicultural citizenry who can participate

fully on the local and global level.”


Shelly Spiegel-Coleman Executive Director, Californians Together - "Seal of Biliteracy”

Goal: Advocacy

Events: Trainings and biliteracy workshops for educators, parents, policy people, advancing new programs and expanding existing program. 

What worked:

• Showing the whole film or just clips

• SPEAKING IN TONGUES downloadable publicity materials


• Build event around a specific purpose.


Rosa Molina Assistant Superintendent, San Jose Unified School District Executive Director, Association of Two-way & Dual Language Education 


• Technical assistance and professional development of teachers and principals


• Annual conference film festival

• School district screenings 

What worked:

• Provides a great orientation to what outcomes can be.

• Benefits people who have had monolingual upbringings to see orientation of students in the program.

• Serves parents, administrators, and teachers interested in the implementation of the program.


• Determine use based on event – either show the whole film or just clips.



Survey and interview responses revealed the following activities as most effective for planning, promoting and hosting screenings.

Planning and Promotion

• Use SPEAKING IN TONGUES ’ Host a screening toolkit:

  Miniposter

  E-mail Flyer

  Email Sign-up Sheet

  Press Kit

  Photos to Download

  News Release Template

• Reach out to parents, teachers, influencers

• Arrange for teachers to receive continuing education “clock hours”

• Invite ELL and foreign language teachers

• Invite and promote informed engaging panelists

• Ask teachers to invite board members

• Advertise in appropriate publications, newsletters, blogs, etc.

• Include teachers and key influencers in planning and event

• Screen as part of film festival at a conference or school district


• Distribute PatchWorks’ handouts with resource links

• Invite informed, engaging panelists

  dual language immersion expert

  students in bilingual program

  teacher in the program

  parent in the program

  dual language school administrator

• Offer a filmmaker Q & A (live or via Skype)

• Use hosting guide questions to launch discussion

• Ask audience to write down questions for panelists

• Use clips or whole film based on setting and audience

• Offer workshop sessions with facilitator

• Offer refreshments



PatchWorks Films’ experience running the SPEAKING IN TONGUES Engagement Campaign to date has been satisfying and challenging. We are delighted by the way our film touches people, creates discussion, motivates action. While bilingualism is yet to gain mainstream acceptance, there is growing evidence that the tide is turning. Our surveys suggest that SPEAKING IN TONGUES has become an integral part of the movement expanding dual language programs across the country, and part of the more general discussion about bilingualism’s many benefits. For the first time this summer Time Magazine ran a cover story profiled dual immersion’s benefits, showcasing work our film has supported in Utah.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES was also highlighted in the Huffington Post and in Education Week in Fall 2013. Some PBS stations are rebroadcasting it as well. The film also appears as a resource in an upcoming book for parents of Chinese Immersion students, a book on raising global citizens, and NYU’s Cinema Research Institute blog, where our campaign was highlighted.

Moving forward, we are committed to maintaining our website and continuing to reach out to educators and advocates as this issue develops.


We are grateful for the support of our ongoing work from the Fledgling Fund and Working Films.


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© 2013 San Francisco Film Society