On the threshold of biliteracy: bilingual writing processes of English-dominant and Spanish-dominant first graders in a two-way bilingual education program
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This observational study investigates the writing processes of young, developing bilinguals from majority- and minority-language backgrounds. The research was situated in two grade 1 classrooms in a Two-Way Bilingual Education (TWBE) program in the Northeastern United States. A TWBE program is an educational model that integrates native English-speakers and speakers of a minority language for all or most of the day and promotes high academic achievement, dual-language and literacy development (i.e., bilingualism and biliteracy), and cross-cultural understanding for all students. The following research questions guided the study: How do first-grade English-dominant and Spanish-dominant students develop as writers in a TWBE program that employs a process writing approach? (a) What are the trends and patterns of bilingual writing processes and skills? (b) Do trends and patterns differ depending on classroom context (English/Spanish Writing Workshop)? Researchers observed and audiotaped 8 focal children as they composed stories in Spanish and English Writing Workshops (WW), collected artifacts from all stages of the writing process, and conducted interviews with focal children at the end of WW sessions. Triangulation of multiple data sources provided a comprehensive view of emergent bilingual writing behaviors, verified themes and patterns, and cross-validated regularities in the data. Cross-case analyses of students' individual profiles of bilingual writing processes revealed similarities and differences in their cross-linguistic skills, as well as patterns of transfer of writing processes and skills. Patterns of bilingual writing related to codeswitching and literacy transfer (both positive and negative) for Spanish-dominant and English-dominant young writers led to the development of a preliminary model of bilingual writing development for English-dominant and Spanish-dominant students. This model presents phenomena unique to bilingual writers, relates these to bilingualism and biliteracy, and proposes anticipated expression of the phenomena for students from linguistic minority and linguistic majority backgrounds. The findings suggest that access to two languages and support for bilingualism affect both the processes of writing and the products children create, leading to the development of biliteracy and metalinguistic awareness of two languages for Spanish-dominant and English-dominant students.
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