Young Children's Translingual and Transnational Writing in an Urban Literacy Classroom
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Although published children’s book authors often draw on multiple languages in their writing, young children are rarely invited to bring these funds of knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992) into their literacy classrooms. Instead, children often compose within the confines of increasingly narrowed literacy curricula (Whitmore & Wilson, 2017) focused on mastering “the basics” of writing, including spelling, grammar, and even penmanship (Dyson, 2013). This dissertation explores how one teacher pushed back on “the basics” by inviting his students to draw on the breadth and depth of their linguistic and cultural resources in an instructional unit focused on writing poetry. Drawing on theories of emergent literacy (Teale & Sulzby, 1986) and translanguaging (Garcia, 2009), this qualitative, single-case study (Dyson & Genishi, 2005) uses ethnographically-informed methods to explore how students in this highly linguistically and culturally diverse second grade class took up this invitation. Findings indicate that many of the students who participated in this unit utilized translanguaging practices as they composed poetry. Students drew on emergent writing practices as they composed code-meshed poetry that blended English with the languages they spoke at home, including Spanish, Chinese, Yoruba, Urdu, Amharic, and Tibetan. Additionally, they drew on digital and relational tools as they engaged in translation, including participating in discussions around the most effective ways to translate particular words. Students also explored their transnational affiliations as they wrote. They expressed conflicting and varied feelings about migration, composed poems inspired by internationally-produced media, and drew on their experiences to reframe narratives about immigration. Finally, near the end of the unit, students drew on their translingual and/or transnational resources for a particular purpose: to resist dominant and/or other cultural influences through poetry written about their names. Some students reclaimed names that had been changed upon immigration and corrected their peers’ pronunciation of their names. Others pushed back against their home and heritage cultures by expressing desires for names more closely associated with English. The research presented in this dissertation suggests implications for teaching, teacher education and further research that examines and supports linguistic and cultural diversity in the elementary school classroom.