Language Positioning Within Peer Discourse in Dual Language Classrooms

Abstract

Bilingualism and biliteracy represent one of the goals for dual language education, but prior research shows that the separationist manner through which programs are structured contradicts this goal. To understand these problems, this study applies a critical framework. Through the lens of positioning theory, I explore peer discourse to discover how students are positioned as bilingual or monolingual speakers in peer interactions in order to understand the nuance of bilingualism within dual language classrooms. This is important for the group of students researched in this study because the language positions they continually undertake ultimately have long-lasting impacts on their emerging identities. To gather data, observations of 18 third-grade students (around eight years old) enrolled at the Dwight Bellizzi Dual Language Academy in Hartford, Connecticut were conducted over a seven-week period in two classrooms with different languages of instruction: Spanish and English. Through analyzing descriptive field notes collected during observations, this paper seeks to answer the following questions: How does the implementation of the school’s formal structure, a 50-50 language immersion model, influence the classroom atmospheres where informal peer interactions occur? How do students discursively position themselves and their peers as bilingual or monolingual speakers? Field notes were first analyzed at a broad level to contextualize the atmospheres in which peer interactions occurred. Secondly, an analysis of peer interactions revealed four themes in which elements of bilingualism are present in each: translation, language code-switching, using a language different from the conversational context, and private communication. I argue that although the school’s formal structure separates the two languages of instruction, the positioning that occurs within informal peer discourse contradicts prior research as it reveals students are engaging with bilingualism

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Trinity College

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Last time updated on 24/01/2024

This paper was published in Trinity College.

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