Academic journal article Language Arts

Linguistic Repertoires: Teachers and Students Explore Their Everyday Language Worlds

Academic journal article Language Arts

Linguistic Repertoires: Teachers and Students Explore Their Everyday Language Worlds

Article excerpt

As an elementary and middle school teacher in the United States, England, India, and Australia, I came to the realization that successful teaching and learning occurred when I recognized the skills, understandings, and experi- ences of my students and built on them when and where I could. In these linguistically and cultur- ally diverse communities around the world, I also knew that my students used languages and literacies in myriad ways and in multiple communities and contexts. However, I was never aware of the full complexity of those communicative repertoires, in large part because there was no place in school to recognize or build on them; monolingualism was treated as the norm. In Australia, where this study took place, the curriculum asks teachers to recog- nize and build upon students' skills and understand- ings, but, for the most part, it silences bilingualism and hybrid language practices. Through viewing multilingualism as the norm, it is possible to use and build on students' entire linguistic repertoire; this view also has the potential to enrich the teach- ing and learning taking place in classrooms.

how Language Works

In this age when much attention is given to the chal- lenges of developing academic language, social lan- guage is often dismissed or seen as "less complex" or valuable. Yet, considerable literacy research acknowledges the value of everyday communica- tive practices and recognizes that literacies encom- pass multiple languages and practices that support ongoing purposeful socialization (Pennycook, 2010). This way of understanding language can be seen in the Syllabus for the Australian Curricu- lum: English (Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority, 2012). Unlike the new Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts adopted by most US states, the Australian document is informed by a functional model of language derived from the work of Michael Halliday (2009; Hal- liday & Hasan, 1985). This model is described by Derewianka (2012) as an approach "concerned with how language functions to make the kinds of mean- ings that are important in our daily lives, in school learning, and in the wider community" (p. 129). This contemporary model of language, studied and implemented by researchers and educators over the last two decades, informs the classroom literacy practices of the teachers in this study. Central to this model is the notion of register. Halliday and Hasan see three variables constituting register: 1) the sub- ject; 2) the relationship between the participants; and 3) the channel of communication (whether the language is spoken or written).

Building on Students' understandings and Abilities

Recognition of language complexity is important because everyday language practices and students' linguistic repertoires are valuable cultural resources and funds of knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & González, 1992) that can be built on in school. Sociocultural research has documented the expe- riences of young people in and out of school set- tings and the dynamic literacy practices that accom- pany them. (See, for example, Heath, 1983; Hull & Schultz, 2002; Orellana, 2009.) Through close examinations of everyday contexts (Lewis, Enciso, & Moje 2007), educators are developing new under- standings about the richness of these practices and ideas about how to leverage them in school, thus providing strong evidence of the value of recogniz- ing and building upon student practices, skills, and understandings (Gutiérrez, Morales, & Martínez, 2009; Lee, 2007).

Ongoing research has identified connections between "everyday" and disciplinary language practices. This body of work includes Carol Lee's (2007) research on African American discourse practices and rhetorical skills and literary tropes in high school English classes, as well as the work of other researchers who have drawn on the skills used when translating across languages and registers in the same language (Martínez, 2010; Martínez, Orellana, Pacheco, & Carbone, 2008; Orellana, 2009; Orellana & Reynolds, 2008). …

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