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"Miss, miss, I've got a story!": Exploring identity through a micro-ethnographic analysis of lunchtime interactions with four Somali third grade students

Jean Kosha, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study is an exploration of the ways in which four Somali students use language to express their identity and assert their views. The study explores the ways in which the Somali students' home culture and the school culture influence the development of their identity. Students participated in a lunchtime focus group on a regular basis over a period of several weeks. Using a micro-ethnographic approach to analysis, the students' interactions were reviewed while considering the ways in which knowledge was affirmed and contested, examples of intertextuality and intercontextuality were identified, and ideational notations or larger world view constructs were pinpointed. In this approach, specific events and interactions were linked to the broader contexts and connections that the participants were using in their communications. The result suggests a new and deeper understanding of the way in which these Somali learners use language to express their identity and negotiate the world. As a result of the examination of their interactions, educators can take from these participants' experiences some ideas about issues to consider when working with second language learners and their families. In this study students used language to assert their own identities as well as to position others in the group. These identities were continually negotiated by students and teachers alike. Students at times pushed back against ways in which they were identified. The Somali learners spoke of changing roles in the family as a result of learning English and being relied on to translate for parents who were non-English speakers. There were occasions where students used language in meaningful and contextually appropriate ways, but without understanding the power of the terms they used. Teachers have a significant role to play in shaping learners use of language and terms and guiding them to a more nuanced understanding of language. By examining children's language, it became apparent that teachers can provide critical information to help parents of second language learners negotiate the school and district resources. Students did express their Somali language and culture as they negotiated their school experience.

Subject Area

English as a Second Language|Multicultural Education|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Kosha, Jean, ""Miss, miss, I've got a story!": Exploring identity through a micro-ethnographic analysis of lunchtime interactions with four Somali third grade students" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3589064.