Academic journal article Education

Autores Bilingues/bilingual Authors: Writing within Dual Cultural and Linguistic Repertoires

Academic journal article Education

Autores Bilingues/bilingual Authors: Writing within Dual Cultural and Linguistic Repertoires

Article excerpt

According to the California State Department of Education (2008), 1.56 million students are classified as English language learners (ELLs). That number represents 25% of the total K-12 student population statewide (6.28 million). The majority of these students, 1.3 million, speak Spanish as their primary language. Given the growing population of ELLs in California and other states as well as the continuing trends of poor academic performance for some sectors of this population, the need to address educational achievement of ELLs becomes increasingly important. Writing proficiency is among the various issues influencing academic achievement amongst ELLs.

Academic expectations in reading and writing increase significantly by fourth grade when students are expected to develop multiple-paragraph compositions, as indicated by the California English Language Arts Content Standards (1997). The implications of this demand are critical for students who are learning English as a second language. As Dutro (2005) explains, ELLs are "English language novices" who struggle to meet content expectations in English while they are in the process of learning the language.

This study explores the writing of three students in a fourth grade bilingual classroom to examine the cultural and linguistic resources that influenced their writing process. The study examines how students used the languages they spoke, in this case Spanish and English, and how they used the cultural influences available to them during writing. Particular attention is focused on the stories that students identified as their favorites as well as aspects of their composing process.

Writing in the native language and the second language

Students with multiple cultural and linguistic repertoires bring sociocultural and linguistic resources to the classroom that, if properly welcomed, can enrich their learning experiences. According to various researchers (Gonzalez, et. al., 1993; Gutierrez, 2001), teachers encourage learning when they integrate their students' cultural and linguistic resources into the instructional program. In other words, teachers can draw on what Moll (1992) and his colleagues identify as "funds of knowledge" as they plan instruction. These include various skills, abilities, and other types of knowledge students acquire through family and community interactions (Moll, 1992; Gonzalez et. al., 1993). Dyson's (2001) discussion of children's use of popular culture, found that when children incorporate ideas from media sources in their writing, they engage in a complex process of decision-making resulting in the selection of distinct "voices" and perspectives that combine with their own "voices" and perspectives to create new text that is meaningful to them.

According to Cummins' (1996) Linguistic Interdependence Principle, instructional practices that promote reading and writing in the first language build a conceptual foundation necessary to develop academic skills in the second language. Cummins' work has clarified the distinction between the basic language communication skills needed for interpersonal communication (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills-BICS) and the more specialized skills necessary to access academic content (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency-CALP). This distinction is crucial for teaching and learning as it emphasizes the importance for students to acquire English language skills to communicate orally as well as the skills needed to accomplish academically demanding tasks in all content areas. Collier (1995) elaborates on the importance of primary language development and its role in developing second-language proficiency and ensuring cognitive development:

Academic skills, literacy development, concept formation, subject knowledge, and learning strategies developed in the first language will all transfer to the second language. As students expand their vocabulary and their oral and written communication skills in the second language, they can increasingly demonstrate their knowledge base developed in the first language. …

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