At one-way language immersion schools, most students speak only English at home, but they soon speak their new target language—and other new discourses—at school. By discourse, I mean that kids create not only new ways of speaking, but also new ways of being and interacting! Angela Layton and I created a study in one Spanish immersion school to examine: How did first-grade students appropriate multiple languages and discourses during classroom activities? In turn, how did they support each other and their teachers in creating new discourses?
In our study, we found (like others have) that students supported each others’ learning of Spanish. Whole-class, teacher-led routines provided scripted opportunities for students to practice their new language and to translate for each other. We also found that students practiced other school “ways of being” in these spaces, like “how to behave well.” What was most interesting to us, however, was how students played with language and created discourses during small-group work. For instance, they showed a deep understanding about the structure of language, as they taught “pig Latin” to their assistant teacher. They also considered the connection between language and identity, as they thought about how each of them would be viewed by the greater society if they spoke Spanish outside of school. Their dialogues suggested that they knew that Mexican-American students could be discriminated against for speaking Spanish, while the rest of them would be praised for being bilingual.
In our paper, we consider the implications of this study for language immersion classrooms and policies. Download the paper for free from Linguistics and Education until March 26, 2014!