Examining meaning-making through story-based process drama in dual-language classrooms
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As classrooms across the U.S. become increasingly multilingual and multicultural, there is a need for research that provides insight into instruction that builds on students’ emergent bilingualism as they reason and respond to texts, while developing their knowledge and practices in Spanish and English. To better understand the semiotic resources emergent bilingual children used during elementary language arts instruction, I employed a collective case study design toward describing and interpreting how the children and the teachers worked together to enact their understandings of socially- conscious and language-diverse texts during story-based process drama opportunities. My study drew from the converging theoretical constructs of language theory (Bakhtin, 1981; García & Kleifen, 2010), social semiotics (Halliday, 1978; Hodge & Kress, 1988), problem-posing pedagogy (Freire, 1970; 2005), as well as narrative theory (Bruner, 1986, 1990, 1991) to contribute to the knowledge base of how students learning two languages draw upon their meaning-making resources (e.g., language, text, gesture, movement, facial expression) to represent and express their understandings of this literature. I focused my data collection on the decisions students made and enactment demonstrated when their teachers offered them opportunities to step into character’s role at a story’s turning point (i.e., when the course of action turned on the moral ethical decision of a central character). Data sources included: teacher interviews, fieldnotes, transcriptions, and photographic documentation. Using multimodal discourse methods, I analyzed the data from each classroom so as to document meaning construction through semiotic resource use. Findings indicated students used multiple semiotic resources as they stepped into the story including their uses of language (e.g., English and Spanish), gesture, facial expression, body position, movement, tone, volume, and even moments of silence. Teachers recognized and supported students’ meaning-making through moves such as: participating as an agitator, ensuring connections with characters, and making a space for students’ autonomy as decision-makers. These findings suggested that students’ resource use and their teacher’s support extended beyond the turning point with evidence of meaning-making and support across the entire read-aloud experience. The theoretical and pedagogical implications of this study argue that picturebooks with socially- conscious themes in conjunction with teacher mediation provides for rich meaning- making and investment in proposing solutions to story-based problems.