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Translanguaging and Identity in a Kindergarten Classroom: Validating Student's Home Culture and Language in an English-Only Era

This ethnographic multi-year study examines the effects of federal and state education policies in language-minority school children’s in Western Massachusetts. Specifically, it explores, how, in an increasingly English Only era, a Latina kindergarten teacher resists Massachusetts' restrictive bilingual education law at the same time that she builds on her students’ multi-ethnic identity. Methodologically, this study combines ethnographic and discourse analysis methods and techniques analyzing the curricular effects that the NCLB and the state of Massachusetts language policy have on an underperforming school serving a predominantly Latino/a population. The focus of the study is the literacy practices enacted by a Dominican kindergarten teacher, and her students during the language arts block throughout the year. The data analysis indicates that, despite Mrs. Dominguez’s obligation to comply with the national and state mandated curriculum and regulations, she challenges and questions such policies. By making culturally relevant and pedagogically grounded curricular changes, she was able to provide her students with their home language support (i.e. Spanish) and culturally relevant content that benefited her students’ English literacy development and thus, their own cultural identity formation. These changes were informed by her ongoing professional development provided through a master’s program, as well as her genuine interest in caring for her students’ cultural and linguistic background. Regardless of the state’s language policy restricting the student’s home language use in the classroom, Mrs. Dominguez made use of Spanish, both, to mediate her teaching practices and student’s second language development process, as well as to validate her student’s home language and culture. This study unveils the lived complexities in one kindergarten classroom and how their participants contributed to each other’s identity formation. By emphasizing the importance of mediating their second language acquisition development, the participants in this classroom make use of their translanguaging ability (García & Wei, 2014), which requires high social and mental cognitive abilities in order to communicate effectively. The findings of this study are intended to inform K-12 teachers, administrators, and policy makers about other possible teaching practices that comply with national and state policies, but are grounded in cultural diversity and equality.
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