ACADEMIC LANGUAGE AND YOUNG EMERGENT BILINGUALS: PATTERNS OF CONTEXTUALIZING DISCOURSE IN PERSONAL NARRATIVES AND CLASSROOM LITERACY EVENTS
Gallagher, Colleen E.
King, Kendall A.
Alatis, James E.
Both personal experience narratives and classroom tasks require language use that is precise, explicit, and sufficiently elaborated for the naïve interlocutor. Language that fulfills these expectations, often labeled decontextualized language but called contextualizing language in this study, is hypothesized to be a bridge between everyday narration and academic discourse. The proposition that narrative is preparation for and facilitative of academic language and literacy development has been addressed for monolingual populations (Chang, 2006; Griffin, Hemphill, Camp & Wolf, 2004; Heath, 1983; Melzi, 2000; Michaels, 1981; Minami & McCabe, 1995; Ochs, Taylor, Rudolph, & Smith, 1992; Peterson & McCabe, 1994) though rarely for developing bilinguals. Moreover, few studies examine narrative discourse as both an individual and collaborative classroom entity in early academic language use.This study examines elements of contextualizing discourse in the personal experience narratives and classroom interactions of 20 English- and Spanish-dominant emergent bilinguals. More specifically, it investigates both elicited narrative interview data and observations of routine literacy events in two dual language kindergarten classrooms over a school year through analyses of elaboration, orientation (McCabe & Bliss, 2003; Peterson & McCabe, 1983), and pronominal reference (Halliday & Hasan, 1976; Martin, 1992; Martin & Rose, 2003). All analyses for both data sources include attention to children's independent production as well as interlocutor-supported production.Findings indicate that personal narration and classroom literacy events share many linguistic features of contextualizing discourse, though the opportunities for self-monitoring and interlocutor support differ between the two. Nonetheless, overall, engaging in personal narration is argued to be constitutive of emergent academic language and literacy development as evidenced through participants' attention to the need to tailor their stories and discussions of stories to their interlocutors. In particular, narrative elaboration, repair of potentially inadequate orientation, and interlocutor positioning are argued to signal important areas of overlap for personal narration and school-based literacy events. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for both a developmental and sociolinguistically-informed notion of academic language and culturally- and linguistically-responsive instruction of young emergent bilinguals.
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