Monday, December 8, 2008

Ethnography Paper One Pager

Double Standard Expectations Regarding the Best Way to Teach Language:
An Analysis on Code-Switching, Standard English, and
ESL Students in the English Classroom
I. Framework for the Investigation
After a semester of diving into different issues that affect and influence teachers in their everyday classrooms, I could still not grasp my mind around one. Rebecca Wheeler, an English professor with an MS and PhD in linguistics and author of “Code-Switch to Teach Standard English”, claims that students are more apt to learn standard English if they understand the rules and regulations of non-standard Englishes. She also states that code-switching in the classroom can be used to enhance, if not expedite, the proficiency of standard English. Yet, some questions still remained very unanswered in regards to English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.
Whose role is it to teach standard English to ESL learners if code-switching is allowed in an English classroom?
How does different discourses within a classroom affect ESL learners?
How does the use of only verbal standard English in an English classroom compromise the cultural identity of ESL learners?
II. Context of the Investigation
To answer these questions I decided to interview a woman who learned the British standard English as a young girl in Sri Lanka. She arrived in the United States at the age of 18 and attended Shrewsbury high school in Massachusetts for another two years. I also interviewed Tricia Rabusin, a fifth grade teacher at Palm Avenue Elementary in San Bernardino, California and Doctor Patricia Bailey, a professor at the Colorado State University and instructor of world literatures.
III. Research Methods
Primary and secondary resource data was collected and analyzed in several ways. Imara Dean, the Sri Lankan woman, was interviewed over the telephone, Tricia Rabusin was interviewed via email, and a personal face-to-face interview was conducted with Patricia Bailey. Because ESL students arrive into different school systems at different times, I wanted to have a wide variety of opinions; thus, I included the input of an elementary school teacher, a woman whose primary language was not English in an American high school, and a university professor whose studies focus on both language and world literature.
IV. Investigative Results
As I compared the two out of the three major themes that emerged from my research of my primary sources, I began to question my secondary sources. The first theme is that language reflects socio-economic status and primary discourses can lead to outsider status if language, as a tool, has not been properly taught to or has not been acquired by the speaker. The next theme is that cultural identity is challenged by family and community more than it is by teachers, whose role is to teach, engage, and model standard English. The third theme, the teacher’s responsibility to address problems with standard English and to teach by example, was not a theme that challenged the secondary sources but raised some questions about the “students” that the authors were referring to.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

he said/she said/I say

In the works that I have read, the authors have talked about code-switching as a neccessity in the classroom, how ESL students may feel anxious in the situation and might not speak (therefore not expressing their code, therefore not practicing/analyzing their codes to gain a greater understanding of standard English) and that democracy/advocacy in the classroom creates involvement and interaction from student to active learning.

The gap that still exists is that I want to know if advocacy would help engage ESL students, therefore allowing them to be more active and therefore helping them towards a greater understanding of the rules and uses of standard English.

I think that I will speak with the presenter that we had in the classroom for the Case Study presentation because she seems to be very knowledgeable on the topic. Also, I will be speaking to a JH teacher who will let me know if advocacy assignment would help in her classroom. What does she think and so on.

Friday, October 24, 2008

How can a teacher manage a multitude of discourse and dialects to increasingly diverse classrooms

I feel truly passionate about his because English is my second language. I am troubled with the possibility of an ever changing discourse styles (code-switching) in the classroom. I would like to look further into it. Yes, teaching kids to code-switch is important. Using one's discourse is also quite okay when the audience is of the same discourse. But, could a teacher trying to manage all types of "codes" in a classroom, or should I say, could a teacher allowing all types of codes in the classroom be allowing for a continuation of possible "incorrect" forms of "standard English". For instance, would a discussion with many different codes become distracting to students? Acceptable, yes. In an English classroom? I am not quite convinced. In a blog, yes! In classroom discussions? I am not quite sure. Had I been exposed to many codes while learning English, would I have been learning the incorrect "standard English"? And, if I was, then how difficult would it have been for me to learn the standard? If the classroom is not where standard English is a must, then where is the learning place to learn standard English?

I still am quite confused about all this and need more time to think about it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gee and Delpit

1. In the Gee article, it is Gee who is speaking. He is speaking to an audience of either educators or anyone interested in education. In Delpit's article, she is speaking to Gee and those who are familiar with Gee's work. They are both arguing about dominant discourses. Gee says they can't be learned, Delpit says they can.

2. Gee makes an argument and Delpit responds with a counter-argument. They disagree because Delpit thinks that one can learn a dominant discourse and that just because you are not born into it, you cannot achieve it. Also, she argues that major problems in learning a dominant discourse are not always present. By saying that something cannot be achieved, it leaves a sense of uncertainty and hopelessness with teachers and students alike.

3. I might enter the conversation by responding to both of their articles. I would mention Gee's argument, agree with Delpit's argument and then introduce my own experience and knowledge, especially since English is my second language.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Language Investigation #3

I came to the United States in 1989 and could not speak one single word of English. I was nearly 10, in third grade, and could not understand, read, or write anything. It was frustrating, to say the least. But, only 2 years later I was reading classics. Classics, you ask? Yes! Let me explain.

When I arrived in the United States in the late 80’s, I was quickly put into an English as a Second Language class for one hour a day, 5 days a week. I would leave my regular, scheduled classroom with my English speaking friends and would go into a room with 3 or 4 other kids who were just like me- on their way to being bilingual. For a long time we worked with Sesame Street books. They were easy to read, fun, and where made just for kids like us to understand. A picture coincided with a word and that was how I learned to read. But, by 5th grade, my teacher, Mrs. Jeanetta, became ambitious. I can’t exactly remember the names of the stories we were reading but they were difficult to read and difficult to understand. What I do know is that they were classics. Mrs. Jeanetta made a point to let us know that we were indeed reading difficult literature. This, she would point out, would not be literature that our friends would be reading. These classics would only be read by them in Junior High. So, one would ask, why were we reading them if our English was not even close to par with the “average” students’?

Mrs. Jeanetta was a bright woman that knew that reading such difficult works of literature would do several things for us. First, it would raise our self-esteem. As silly as that may seem, that was just as important as being able to understand the words in the text. By building our self-esteem, she was giving us the confidence we needed to join in the conversation in our regular classroom. Secondly, the difficult words allowed us to learn to become self-educators. This lesson was: if you do not know the vocabulary, you have the power to look it up. She taught us that we did not need her or anyone else to become independent in our learning. If Mrs. Jeanetta had been giving us remedial words that were already familiar to us, we might have been complacent with our language development.

Mrs. Jeanetta’s methods greatly affect who I am today, as a reader an a writer. I still feel that my vocabulary is remedial. This is not to say that I find that my education has lacked in substance. It has not. But, it has taught me to keep a little book of words I hear and read. Next to the words, I write their definition. This, by no means mean that I will remember them. But, I go back to these words often, reminding myself that language is powerful and I can use these words to express the strength at which I was my voice to be perceived.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Warm up #2, Rose 5-6

1. What kinds of reading and writing did you see students doing in school? Why do you think Rose chose these assignments?

Students at the Veteran’s Program did reading and writing that consisted of summarizing, classifying, comparing, and analyzing various texts such as poems, music lyrics, and other written literature. Rose chose these topics because he said they “were strategies that kept emerging as [he] reflected on the life of the undergraduate” (pp. 138).

2. What “rules and regulations” did students appear to be following as they read and wrote? In light of the students’ overall schooling experiences, did these seem useful or not? Speculate about how they might have influenced students’ literacy development.

The rules and regulations that students appear to be following as they read and wrote at the Veteran Program were very different from student to student. It seemed that experimentation was a very important point that Rose made. No matter what the students were writing about, what was important was that they were experimenting with different styles and different types of writing. Yes, I saw them as useful. As Todd Mitchell said, it is not what you write about. It is the act of writing that makes you a better writing. So, experimentation is the best way to learn to write. These men in the Veteran’s programs were man who were, for the most part, trying to escape their lives in the service and were trying to branch out from that life. By experimenting, they were in a way stepping away from their orderly life in the military. These exercises probably taught them that all is possible in literature and in their lives.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Language Investigation #2

Becoming a mother has taught me many things. First, it has taught me that eating is not an option, it is a mandatory, scheduled event that can or cannot involve my consumption of food. Oh, you thought I was talking about me eating? No, the child must eat, not me. Truth of the matter is that I do not get a 3 or 2 meal day until the weekend! Silly you! Giving birth also taught me that nap time is set in stone. No, no. I am not the one taking the naps; my daughter is. So, when the sun arrives to approximately 1/3 up the sky and the clock says 12pm, it is nap time. The friend is coming over? Cancel it! The dishes need to be done? Too much noise so, forget it! But, what I have now begun to realize that if I say it, she will say it or want it. What does this mean? Spell it. Spelling may not be special words that only my friends and I would know because we are moms. But, spelling does give insider status to all adults or those old enough to write. So, my mommy friends and I have become super spellers and have decided we can just about take on any 3rd grader in the National Spelling Bee.

My friend Brenda and I both have children all under 3. We also just happen to be feisty people. Because we have kids, consequently, this does happen to make us feisty moms. So, on Mondays, we get together to recap. “Man, I had a C-R-A-P weekend. You-know-who got home after watching the game with the guys and was a little D-R-U-N-K. I am not exactly sure because I was sleeping. But, he was banging into the doors a little so I think he was plastered. (Big or confusing words also are a tool we use). I was so P-I-S-S-E-D!” To which she replies, “My weekend sorta S-U-C-K-E-D. My M-O-T-H-E-R-in-law was over and she was such a P-A-I-N in the B-U-T-T. All she does is B-I-T-C…if you know what I mean.” Spelling allows us to keep our feisty individualities alive even if our body is hardly functioning due to lack of food or sleep.

The other tool I briefly mentioned is the use of big words or phrases that the kids just would not understand. The same example from above, where the mother-in-law was in town, would sound a little like this, “My weekend was sorta unsatisfactory. My husband’s doting life giver was over and she was quite irksome. She expostulated all weekend!” The only problem with this method arises when one of us does not know what the big word may mean. Therefore, spelling is our method of choice.

My daughter depends on me for many things. What she depends on me most for is to be consistent with her schedule and not teach her anything she should not know until she is about 30. That is why Brenda and I would rather D-I-E than to go to the L-I-B-R-A-R-Y today and have to go through another S-T-O-R-Y time with those C-R-A-Z-Y, overprotective moms during N-A-P time. Bring it on 3rd grader!