Academic journal article Language Arts

"I Write to Show How Beautiful My Languages Are": Translingual Writing Instruction in English-Dominant Classrooms

Academic journal article Language Arts

"I Write to Show How Beautiful My Languages Are": Translingual Writing Instruction in English-Dominant Classrooms

Article excerpt

During Sophia's (all names are pseudonyms) third-grade writing workshop in her predominantly Latino, English-as-aSecond Language (ESL) classroom, Elian walks around the room with his Mother's Day card. He stops by his classmates' desks and holds his card in front of their eyes. The card is covered in intricate flowers and colorful rainbows; Elian points to where he has written, I love you mama in Arabic, explaining to his fellow writers, "That's Arabic; that's my language."

On the other side of town, Alexandra invites her linguistically diverse fourth-grade ESL classroom to self-select mentor texts from a collection of multilingual children's picturebooks. During an interview with Angie, Isaac points to his writing and explains his decisions about his use of multiple languages. He nods his head, smiles, and says, "Yeah, Arthur Dorros, he's my writing mentor, how he writes in English and Spanish."

More than 1,100 miles away, Susan's second graders, who are in an English-dominant classroom, are starting writing workshop. Standing and sitting around four desks, David asks Noor, a student from India, "What's that?" Noor says, "That's Hindi. Watch me write my name." Next to David and Noor is Akira, a new student from Japan, who is writing an All about Japan book entirely in Japanese just below her detailed illustrations of cherry blossoms and a Buddhist temple. Eduardo and Leon are both speaking Spanish while they write in their notebooks. David turns to Tasha, and says, "Sheesh, I gotta learn another language" (Laman, 2013, p. 1).

These three classrooms, like all classrooms, are different from one another-one a predominantly Latino, school-designated ESL classroom with a teacher identifying as bilingual, one linguistically and culturally diverse school-designated ESL classroom with a teacher identifying as an emerging bilingual, and another classroom with a monolingual English-speaking teacher in an English-dominant school responsible for teaching students with eight different languages. And yet, as we studied these three classroom spaces and their writing practices, we found they had more in common than not when creating what we deem translingual (Canagarajah, 2015; Horner, Lu, Royster, & Trimbur, 2011) contexts for writing-spaces where teachers and their students redefine understandings, norms, and practices of monolingual writing. Across these three distinct classrooms, we found that teachers and students drew on their "full linguistic toolkits in order to process information, make meaning, and convey it to others" (Orellana & Garcia, 2014, p. 386).

This study contributes to and expands upon a developing and democratic vision for teaching writing that strives to value, leverage, and teach into students' everyday languaging practices. In this cross-case analysis, we present three principles of instruction we identified to support translingual approaches to writing in the elementary classroom.

informing Theory and relevant Literature

This is a generative time in the study of language, literacy, and education as scholars theorize and examine the possibilities of leveraging students' linguistic repertoires as pedagogical resources (i.e., Gort & Pontier, 2013; Soltero-González & Reyes, 2011). In a review of the literature, a vibrant discussion among interested scholars recognizes the fluid, emergent, and integrated landscape of national languages, linguistic varieties, registers, dialects, vernaculars, regionalisms, and other sign systems (Canagarajah, 2015; García & Wei, 2014; Young & Martínez, 2011). Some scholars use the term translingual as a pedagogical orientation to writing and literacy (Canagarajah, 2013b; Horner et al., 2011; Lu & Horner, 2013). A translingual orientation

emphasizes the attitudes and perspectives that need to be cultivated toward cross-language relations in literacy. For teachers, it encourages a way of looking at the implications for writing and teaching from an awareness that languages are always in contact and complement each other in communication. …

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