HALR Chapters 9 & 10, Gee: “Ideology and Theory” Chapter 1 (forthcoming)

Chapter 9

Adolescent Second-Language Writing

Linda Harklau and Rachel Pinnow

acrolect – the variety of speech that is closest to a standard prestige language, especially in an area in which a creole is spoken.

basilect – the variety of speech that is most remote from the prestige variety, especially in an area where a creole is spoken.

“Monolingual models have also presumed that thoughts are separated from their translation into words rather than integrated” (128) <–This is interesting, especially in light of students preferring comprehensive marking of their errors and teacher editing. While language is obviously a communal oral activity, it is also a solitary pursuit while learning it, apparently, where students prefer to do it themselves with the teacher’s help rather than work in a group.

“found that English L2 adolescents in New Zealand produced more linguistically accurate and complex essays with more information when working alone than when working with peers on topics in which they possessed adequate background knowledge” (129)

“studies suggest that proficiency, cultural context, and dynamics of social interaction all affect L2 adolescent writers’ ability to work as peer collaborators and editors” (129)

“Cummins’s “threshold hypothesis,” suggesting students that students must develop a critical level of proficiency in their first language in order to reap cognitive, linguistic, and academic benefits from bilingualism” (130)  I’d be interested what the differences are between adolescents that learned to be bilingual from birth, and then learned an L3 as compared to students learning an L2 as adolescents.

There’s an overall pattern in the research suggesting that it works best for students to have decent writing skills to begin with and instruction following in order to succeed at writing in their respective L2.  Also, the integration of out-of-school literacy with in-school literacy (where have I heard that before…) is important for developing good skills.

“Villalva (2006) found that L1 Spanish students relied on social networks as primary sources for their writing, much as some students might rely on print sources, and argues for an examination of how writers are socialized into different norms for inquiry and language use outside school” (132).  That would be an interesting study. At the same time, one could look at the nature of their sources and see if it correlated with their writing ability…for instance are those most immersed in multimodal design more adept at linear writing, or less?

The discussion around the use of ICT (Internet & Communication technologies) is one that sounds much the same no matter the pedagogical topic.  “We want to use it for instruction but it’s too hard to control for negative content, but we have to do something because we are falling behind in what our students are actually doing in their literacy activities”.  It would seem the relevance beats the difficulty, much of the time.

While obviously not the scope of this piece, it would be interesting to note the cognitive and academic advantage to being multilingual, and what the cultural norms are in regard to students that are.  Based on some of the comments here, there seems to be concern that those without at least a second language will be discriminated against.  Is it the opposite now?  “[T]here is considerable danger that diverse becomes a catch-all term that creates a binary between White monolingual students and anybody else who may speak a language or dialect other than standard edited English” (135).  Hmmm…if you are superior linguistically, as one can argue that multilingual students most likely are, why would this be treated any differently than bullying a student because he has shoddy clothing, or discounted lunch, or the newest phone? Other than in rare cases, I doubt very much that these kids speaking more than one language chose to do so. It is mostly a matter of circumstance, yes? The call for more research into these topics is well-warranted.

Chapter 10

Research on the Literacies of AAVE-speaking Adolescents

Jamal Cooks & Arnetha F. Ball

“They conclude that the status of AAVE in America reflects the larger postcolonial struggles of its speakers” (143).  I wonder as I read this sentence whether America’s school system acknowledges in any way its reflection of the colonialism employed by the nation against indigenous and displaced peoples (Native Americans and slaves from Africa).  Changing the way we teach the history of colonialism can’t but help all students understand why things are the way they are.  This would be the first step in developing respect and understanding, if you were to ask me.

“the public tends to view pidgins, creoles, and minority dialects as corrupted or degenerate forms of standardized languages and to fear that their use interferes with students’ acquisition of Standard American English”  (145).

“Siegel critically examines this popular view and notes that research on educational programs shows that, contrary to the prevailing viewpoint, using a stigmatized variety in formal education seems to have a positive rather than a negative effect on the acquisition of Standard American English”  (145).

If Melvin B. Tolson can do it…right? “it is possible to instruct students in the norms of the academy without sacrificing the primary discourse that students bring from their home and community environments”  (145).  So not only do we need to do some tweaking of our history lessons, we need a set of tools for teachers that makes integrating AAVE into the classroom a simple and natural exercise.

Approaches to pedagogy with AAVE: (145-146)

linguistically informed approach: begins with the premise that teachers should distinguish between mistakes in reading and differences in punctuation.

contrastive analysis approach: focuses on making the differences between SAE and AAVE explicit, using strategies such as contrastive analysis along with other second-language acquisition methodology.

dialect readers: an approach that introduces reading in the students’ primary discourse and later makes a switch to SAE.

dialect awareness approach: seeks to infuse the fundamental principles of linguistic variation into school curricula, and students are encouraged to become ethnographers of their own and their local community’s speech patterns.

Ball’s study (146-147) is interesting in that nothing is said about the European American teachers giving higher scores to the European American students, while much is explored regarding how African American teachers score African American students higher.  Is that because of the subject of the article…I hope?  Where is the study where the scorers are unaware of the primary discourses of the writers?  If there’s one standard to be met, we don’t need that kind of impartiality.  But if we are going to acknowledge and work with true diversity (fairly unavoidable here in America), shouldn’t there be some set of practices that guide those evaluating the work of linguistically-diverse populations of students?  There it is: “Evaluators and researchers propose alternative assessments, including contextualized, ecological, and curriculum-based assessments” (147).

Herein lies the difficulty: “A long-standing challenge for those charged with the task of educating AAVE-speaking adolescents has been to provide them with the literacy skills they will need to excel in our rapidly changing society” (147).

Once again, I concur with the call for more research, as “more research is needed that can help us to understand those approaches that actually make a significant difference in literacy lives of African American students and the strategies that are most successful in working with AAVE-speaking adolescents” (149).


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