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Lengua Académica in First Grade: Expectations, Instructional Practices, and Teacher Resources

By Audrey Lucero


This study investigated the instructional practices of a team of first grade dual language teachers as they supported the oral academic language development of their Spanish-speaking students. Further, I explored the personal, conventional, and environmental resources that teachers used to facilitate such practice. Using a qualitative case study methodology, I collected data over the course of one academic year in three classrooms to better understand instructional practices that have the potential to support oral academic language development for language-minority children in general. The study was premised in sociocultural learning theory, such that academic language was viewed not only as a set of structures, but as a system of communication and means of participation in literate, mathematical, and scientific classroom communities. Therefore, the social and cognitive dimensions of academic language are discussed as well. Findings from this study indicate that academic language demands were similar across classrooms within this dual language program. Nonetheless, teachers had varying levels of knowledge about academic language and a limited repertoire of instructional moves to support its development. They engaged in both micro and macro level scaffolding but struggled to integrate content and language goals into their teaching. Their instruction also was not coherent in that it did not explicitly enable cross-language transfer for students who received instruction in both Spanish and English. Teachers drew differentially on personal and environmental resources, which may have contributed to the different instructional practices they undertook. Findings from this study are relevant in terms of what they contribute to theories of teacher pedagogical content knowledge and to the practical implementation of teacher education programs. Implications include the need for: nuanced definitions of academic language; the preparation of teachers to successfully integrate content and language; and further exploration of oral to written connections in the education of primary level Spanish-speaking children.

Topics: bilingual education, second language acquisition
Year: 2011
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