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On My Shelf

  1. On My Shelf: A conversation between the editors

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On My Shelf: A conversation between the editors

Author(s): Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, Danny C. Martinez, and Jacqui D'warte


The editors of this issue of XChange decided to approach their "On My Shelf" piece through an email conversation. Read on below to see what each of them have been reading over the Summer.


Email Thread RE: Reading list

On May 7, 2010, at 4:11 PM, Marjorie Orellana wrote:

Hi Danny and Jacqui:
In my class last week we read Jim Gee's Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideologies in Discourse. This is the 4th edition, published in 2008. (The first edition was published in 1990.)  It was interesting to see what changed from the first edition to the last.  One important addition was a section where he unpacks why some students' ways of speaking are viewed in deficit ways in school. In the first edition, I think he left more of this for inference and speculation.

In the course we're also looking closely at new media literacies. What literacies are kids engaging in their everyday lives? What futures are we preparing them for? We're reading Mimi Ito et al's report on their study of kids and digital media. They also have a book out:  Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning)

Have you been reading anything on language or literacy issues? Let's talk about books we might want to read together this summer in a study group. And maybe we can share our ideas with the X-change audience.

On May 27, 2010, at 10:47 AM, Danny Martinez wrote:

Hello Marjorie and Jacqui,
I've also just read Gee's book and heard Mimi Ito talk about the range of literacy events that youth are participating in. I often think about how valuable this information would have been for me when I was teaching. But all I can remember from those days of teaching ESL and English to students who were considered lower performing are the boxes of curriculum that I was given and expected to teach from. The language(s) and literac(ies) of my students were never treated as a resource. I had to deviate from those texts in order to draw from my students' rich practices, yet I must admit, I was often sucked into the practice of sticking strictly to the curriculum because I had to follow a pacing plan!

What I have found most valuable for my thinking about the rich language practices of students has been Ana Celia Zentella's final chapter in her groundbreaking book Growing up bilingual: Puerto Rican children in New York.  In this chapter she calls on educators and researchers to expand the linguistic repertoires youth who are speakers of marginalized languages. Zentella argues about the youth in her study, that "...their linguistic repertoire of dialects and ways of speaking was broad and powerful….but it was ignored or dismissed as impoverished by those who demanded that it be limited to standard English, instead of expanded to include standard English, standard Spanish, and all the dialects of the community (Zentella, 1997, p. 265). So one of my biggest questions since reading Zentella, and various other language and literacy scholars is, How do we expand the linguistic repertoires of students from nondominant groups? Aren't youth already doing this given their interaction with people from linguistically and culturally diverse groups? I need to read more!

On June 1, 2010, at 10:17 PM, Jacqui D'warte wrote:
Hi Everyone,
I have been doing some reading on Academic English and I have just read an article in the Journal of English for Academic Purposes by George Bunch (2006), called "Academic English in the 7th grade: Broadening the lens, expanding access." He raises an interesting issue that I think we are still grappling with in language education the notion of moving"academic English" beyond the "academic" vs. "conversational" language distinction. He focuses on a middle school were 57% of students are designated as Limited English proficient (LEP). He presents work from a classroom in which students are engaged in a social studies tasks that are part of a curriculum that he identifies as designed to implement intellectually challenging, open ended tasks.

In this setting both language minority students and monolingual English speakers who had a reputation for lacking "academic" English, were not surprisingly, collectively able to manage the linguistic and academically challenging tasks embedded in the curriculum. As a teacher working with English Learners I was most concerned with recognizing the language demands and learning opportunities inherent in doing academic work and then supporting my students' engagement and completion of this work. I think I often failed to recognize the rich practices and existing skills and abilities that my students inherently possessed and could independently bring to their work.

The author suggests we need to include rather than exclude students from participating in a wide range of English for academic purposes. But shouldn't we also be recognizing students language(s) and literac(ies) as a resource; perhaps then we can look more closely at the"academic" vs. "conversational" language distinction that still has a lot of take up in schools and perhaps leave it behind. We might then be able to think about taking up Zentella's call for educators and researchers to expand the linguistic repertoires of youth who are speakers of marginalized languages. Yes, Danny, more to read!

On June 2, 2010, at 12:34 PM, Marjorie Orellana wrote:
All right, folks. It looks like we all have a lot of reading to do. :) And there's more...
I was just at a meeting where I talked with Richard Henne, who has a new paper in Anthropology and Education Quarterly that looks at the repertoires of communicative practice of one Lakota child. What's nice about this is he is taking this concept of repertoires of communicative practice and using it to think about how we can assess student's language competencies in ways that really respect their home language practices. He and I were talking about how we could also think about "distributed" language competencies - i.e. rather than focusing on individuals we can look at the collective language toolkits of students in any classroom, and think about how we can expand everyone's repertoires. I hope the lessons that we have posted on the teacher workroom space will be used by teachers to promote that idea.

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