Cultivating literacies among emerging bilinguals : case study of a third grade bilingual/bicultural community of practice



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This study focused on emerging bilingual students in an urban elementary bilingual classroom. Schools and teachers play a fundamental role in emerging bilingual children’s language acquisition and academic preparation. Emerging bilinguals currently enrolled in U.S. schools must learn a new academic language and academic content in a climate marked by standards-based reform and anti-immigrant sentiment. Utilizing case study methodology, this investigation explored the ways in which emerging bilinguals and their teacher co-constructed literacy practices and the connection between literacy practices and identity. Microanalysis of discourse was performed on data collected during literacy practices to examine positionings, the ways people present themselves in a situation. Data included field notes from classroom observations, audio and video recordings, teacher and student interviews, and artifacts in the form of student work and district and curriculum documents. Participants engaged in a wide variety of literacy practices utilizing material resources of the classroom, their teacher, their emerging bilingual abilities, and prior experiences both in and out of the classroom as resources to construct meaning from texts. Literacy practices were characterized by high expectations for student achievement and group membership, the development of students’ linguistic and cultural knowledge, building students’ self-efficacy related to literacy, and affirmation of participants’ bilingual/bicultural identities. Students demonstrated several positionings during literacy practices. Analysis of these positioning suggested that their identities were shaped by their participation in literacy practices and their interactions with other members of this community of practice. The community of practice that participants co-constructed was characterized by a focus on inclusivity, purposeful opening of interactional spaces, expanding repertoires of practice, and caring. Results of this study suggested that teacher and student disposition and affect can be taught, which raised questions about the current focus on only knowledge and skills in teacher education programs rather on teacher disposition and affect. There are also implications for teachers and researchers who have an interest in communities of practice and effectively educating emerging bilingual students.