«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
Of course, I owe many thanks to my dissertation committee. Deepest thanks to my advisor, Sarah Warshauer Freedman, for listening to my earliest ideas about what I thought I was seeing in TWI education and this Spanish Immersion program, for her continued encouragement as my ideas began to form more clearly, and for her enthusiasm as I worked through my data analysis and writing. Thanks also to Laura Sterponi for providing a vision of literacy that helped me understand the ideological nature of what happens in elementary school classrooms. And finally, thanks to George Lakoff, whose work in metaphor has revolutionized the thinking of so many of us, for his help in understanding the profound importance of the metaphor in this study. I feel humbled to have received help and support from each of them in this process. I would also like to thank Jabari Mahiri and Guadalupe Valdés for serving on my orals committee, and for their encouragement along the way.
During the past few years, I have participated in Sarah Freedman’s research group, and can say that without them, I don’t know if I could have succeeded in accomplishing this work. They all have been so unfailingly supportive and encouraging in this work and in life in general. I will miss meeting with them, but will look forward to hearing of their successes in the coming years. Many thanks Agnes, Amy, Betina, Dafney, Emily, Gabriela, Grace, Kate, Katie, Kim, Liz, Logan, Maria, Paul, Rose, Suzanne, and Tony, among others.
Many thanks also to Patricia Baquedano-Lopéz for her consistent encouragement during some difficult times in my studies, for her inspiring courses in Narrative Theory and Language Socialization which made me feel that I could find a place in the academic environment of the Graduate School of Education. I also must thank Elana Shohamy, who served as a visiting professor of Language Policy during my course work. Her course and interest in my theoretical framing provided me invaluable ways of thinking about this study. My thanks also to Claire Kramsch for serving as one of my readers on my earliest papers on TWI education. As have so many other GSE doctoral students over the years, I received important support from Ilka Williams, who helped me navigate the rocky waters of deadlines and paperwork. Many thanks to her as well.dabach In reality, I began my process of thinking about what it means to learn a second language when my local elementary school began teaching Spanish to 4th, 5th and 6th graders as part of a Federal effort to fund foreign language and area studies. I thank my elementary Spanish teacher, Mrs. Wilson, for introducing us to basic conversational Spanish, and everyday language domains that would help me succeed in my junior high v Spanish classes, and later in high school. Though I did not have AP courses available to me at my suburban Sacramento, CA high school, I did have a great teacher who showed us that Spanish could be used for the intellectual work of understanding Art History and literature. Through Nancy Smith I caught the vision of living a bilingual life, of using Spanish for understanding myself and the world. Her mentoring led me to my next language adventure, earning a bilingual/bicultural college degree from Elbert Covell College, University of the Pacific. While a student at ECC, I never thought that what we were doing, studying all the material of the core curriculum and many major courses in Spanish, was as complex a process as I now know it was. I thank all my ECC professors and todos los Covellianos, in particular those who have fought to reinstate the bilingual college experience at University of the Pacific. Maybe now I will have time to join you in the fight!
I have been tremendously encouraged by the growing interest in multilingual writing in my professional field of Composition Studies. My decision to pursue a Ph.D.
in Education and literacy studies was greatly influenced by my time serving as Assistant Editor of College English under Jeanne Gunner’s leadership. Not only was Jeanne’s mentorship crucial for my professional and academic development, my work at College English provided me a vision of some of the pressing language policy issues relevant to teaching composition at the college level. I thank Jeanne for the opportunity to develop a new professional vision for myself.
During my doctoral studies, the English Department at Santa Clara University has been a source of moral support. As I continued to work full-time teaching First Year Composition classes during the whole of my doctoral program and dissertation study, many colleagues have pulled for me, and will cheer for me as I finish the process. Some of them have been encouraging as I explore ways to bring bilingual writing instruction to SCU, and I thank my Modern Language colleague, Jill Pellettieri, for her work with me on developing a sequence of writing courses in Spanish and English. Many of my students have been supportive as well, showing patience as I have juggled my own deadlines and course work with reading their essays. In particular, I thank the students in my Fall 2011 classes who have been eager to call me “Dr. Merritt.” Much closer to home, I thank all the members of my faith community, both local and spread all over the world, for their prayers and encouragement during this prolonged process. It has taken me away from many of the spiritual and service activities I would have otherwise participated in, and I am looking forward to a new phase of life that will afford me time for them.
Finally, I thank my family for tolerating the sometimes extended periods away from them because of this work. They have been very patient and I look forward to seeing Patricia, my mother, Kevin, Dianna, Dharma, Derek, Mike, Bryson and Jaden more frequently in coming months and years.
My husband, Chuck, and daughter, Emily, have been my most ardent supporters over the years and I can’t express my thanks to them enough. They are my inspiration and emotional center and seem to see me always in my best light. I am truly blessed to share a love of education and language learning with both of them, and can’t wait to see what new projects and adventures we might share in future years together.
I am humbled by all the support I have received in completing this work and even more humbled at the prospect of having left anyone out of my thanks. So many more I
Winter 2009: Learning Biología in Mexico In the warm February sun, in Erongarícuaro, Michoacán, México, a small group th of 5 grade students from California sits on the ground in a large circle together with several Mexican middle school students, and the lean, forty-something biologist who is leading their taller (workshop) on biology and the natural history of the area. Ignacio has led such groups of American and Mexican children in explorations of their surroundings most weeks during the year, for somewhere near 20 years. He is a staff member of El Molino, a camp dedicated to giving children an active learning experience in science and local Michoacán culture. As he animatedly waves his hands toward the nearby mountains and lake, explaining how the ground on which they are sitting was a lake-bed only 20-some-odd years ago, the kids listen, ask and answer questions, and laugh at his stories and analogies, made exaggeratedly humorous to appeal to pre-adolescent sensibilities. Ignacio smoothly transitions from telling about local natural history, to getting the kids to think about how the same principles at work in Mexico are at work in their own home town, to urging them to make sure they study hard, because they will have to solve all the problems that their parents’ generation has only just begun to identify. Later, Ignacio will take the group down to the nearby stream to “hunt” for leeches (by putting their bare feet in the water on the muddy shore!), and, facetiously, will try to convince them that, now that doctors have rediscovered the value of leeches in medicine, they should start a new business, called Sangüi-BlockBuster, to rent out leeches to hospitals. During the taller, Ignacio has engaged in this wide array of topics and discourse entirely in Spanish, and all the Californian students, most from Englishdominant homes, have participated fully in the process, following even his most circuitous stories, which sometimes lead to outrageous punch-lines. Several of these students have chosen to attend this taller because their older siblings, who attended this camp in past years, remember Ignacio fondly, and told them they just had to take his taller on biología.
While Ignacio runs his taller, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, other Midville students are attending talleres in homes, on farms, in studios, all over Erongarícuaro. Some are learning to care for farm animals, others making local artisan crafts, others learning to produce a radio show, all in Spanish. In four sessions, they listen to and learn new ways of thinking and using language, new ways of being, associated with semiotic domains important in the history and current lives of the people of Erongarícuaro.
Here on their annual 5th grade trip, the Californian students are from Midville School District, and have participated in the Midville Spanish Immersion (SI)1 Program I will use the term “Spanish Immersion” and its abbreviation “SI” in referring to the specific program of this study. I will use the term “Two-Way Immersion” or “TWI” in reference to programs that use a dual-language approach to learning and using languages.
since they were in kindergarten. Many of their siblings also formed part of the Spanish Immersion program before them, and some of them are now in high school. Students from the Midville program have been attending El Molino every year since 2001, when the first cohort of 5th graders came to experience the Montessori-influenced camp and its hands-on, socially- and linguistically-immersive education. The kids keep a journal every day, commenting on the new experiences they are having, and will return to their classroom after a week to finish up their final year of elementary Spanish immersion education.
In Ignacio’s taller, it is obvious that the Californian 5th graders and the Mexican middle schoolers, from a Montessori school several hours away, have become comfortable with each other as they hold hands, laugh and chat during their walks through the fields. While they may be aware of cultural differences between them, language is not a barrier, but a resource all the kids share and use to learn from each other. During the week, they use it to play futból (soccer), make purchases in the local grocery stores, visit a local day care center and read to pre-schoolers, and end the week with a dance party. Many former Midville Spanish Immersion students remember this week as the most outstanding highlight of their elementary experience and can recall very clearly the talleres they attended, the friends they have made. They will return to their classroom to write about their experiences, and will finish their final year of elementary school reading La gran Gilly Hopkins and talking about bullying, writing about all the usual 5th grade curricular materials, and producing short fictional works in both English and Spanish.
Spring 2009: Preparing for the Spanish Language AP Exam
In April of this same school year, Mr. Mann’s Spanish 4 Advanced Placement (AP) students are immersed in preparing for the Spanish Language AP exam scheduled to take place in early May. Close to 30 students are jammed into his medium-sized classroom, in which he has arranged desks so that tables of students can face each other, but still focus on his centrality as the most experienced Spanish-speaker, reader, writer and grammarian in the class. Mr. Mann is an experienced, well-loved teacher, who knows how to orchestrate his class through various practice exercises that will prepare them for the exam they are going to take soon. To encourage spoken participation, he rewards answers from students with dólares, small slips of paper that they can trade in later for participation points that will boost their class grades. Many students participate in discussion, though the differences between the students’ fluency, the linguistic complexity of their responses, the naturalness of their accents, is marked. A few of the more fluent students in the class come from Spanish-dominant or bilingual homes, and are, along with a few students who are from English-dominant homes, former students from Midville’s Spanish Immersion program. They participate the same as other students, responding to Mr. Mann’s promptings, receiving rewards, even though they have had a significantly different experience of language learning and use than have had the students who have arrived here through traditional Spanish Language classes they began sometime between 7th and 9th grade.
One of this class’s culminating experiences of language study will be the Spanish Language AP exam, administered on the same day all over the United States, in the same way in each location. At Midville High School, where 100+ students will take the exam, all the students will be placed at tables in the school’s library, in view of all the proctors, none of whom speak Spanish. All the students will be issued, along with their test booklets, a tape recorder to be used with the oral exam. After two hours of reading comprehension and essay writing sections, the students will finish with their oral exam.
During the two oral portions of the test (one that requires students to engage in a dialogical conversation, one that requires them to give a short speech on a topic about which they receive information from two written and one spoken text), all 100+ students will have two minutes to deliver an oral address, all at the same time. They will bend low over their recorders or bring the recorder close to their faces, as they work to shut out the voices of their neighbors and speak over the din in the large room. Fortunately, Mr.