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On the first day of my observation in Mr. Mann’s class, I was surprised to see how small the classroom was for the number of nearly fully adult-sized students who occupied it with Mr. Mann. With barely room for the desks and chairs necessary to accommodate the 32 students in the course, Mr. Mann had not even room for a desk, but instead used a podium as his space in the room (Appendix C). Knowing that in a Spanish class, students need to practice talking to each other and working together on projects that emphasize authentic language production, Mr. Mann had organized the desks in pairs, putting two students together in partnerships. That organization seemed to alleviate the problem that would have been caused by student movement around the room during class. The pairs of desks were so close to other pairs that once students were in their seats, any movement would have been disruptive to others’ comfort and focus, and to the flow of class. The pairs of desks were organized in a U-shape, so that students faced each other, and so that Mr. Mann’s podium was central to all the students. Mr. Mann seemed to have done what he could to create a classroom that emphasized both his role as language authority, and students’ role as practitioners of language learning and use. In contrast with the spacious 5th grade Spanish Immersion classroom, which facilitated the decentralized guided autonomy characteristic of the activities in which Ms.
Teacher’s Role: Primary Source of Language Input, Teacher Control, and Rewards One of the salient characteristics associated with TWI programs is how language input in the two target languages is distributed among the teachers and students (Lindholm-Leary, 2001). While the teacher might remain the arbiter of “how to say” things in the target languages, the dual language or two-way model means to bring students who are dominant in each of the target languages together to provide other sources of language input, resulting in some positive and some problematic aspects of language learning16. In Ms. Gomez’s 5th grade class, this underlying assumption contributed to the characteristic freedom and autonomy students had in engaging in literacy practices. However, since most of the students in high school World Language classes are not yet bilingual, and have only been exposed to the target language for a relatively short time, the role of teacher as primary source of language input is larger.
Mr. Mann occupied that role in his Spanish 4AP class, as I observed in a number of ways.
During all of the classes I observed, Mr. Mann initiated conversation, determined the specific content of class time, and regulated language use through questioning, providing answers and rewarding participation in class discussions. Of course, all of my observations took place during a time in the year when the class was most occupied in preparing for the AP exam, when Mr. Mann’s input was most critical for students.
However, the organization of his room, the attitudes of students regarding speaking Some researchers identify the phenomenon of interlanguage as one of the problematic aspects of learner language input (Selinker, 1972). Since Selinker’s early work on interlanguage a number of scholars have been “wrestling” with the role that context plays in language acquisition (Selinker & Douglas, 1985; Tarone, 1983, 2000b). In the context of language immersion education, recent scholarship has focused on the phenomenon of language play as a possible alternative explanation for some of what researchers have cast as language deficits in the past (Broner & Tarone, 2001; Tarone, 2000a).
Spanish in class, and his practice of rewarding participation with slips of paper, called dólares, led me to believe that his role during these class sessions was characteristic of much of their time spent together.
Mr. Mann provided several types of language input during the classes I observed.
He modeled forms of politeness, formally greeting his students at the beginning of each class, and asking how they were. Answering with customary stock phrases, the students seemed well trained to respond to his “Buenos días. ¿Cómo estan?” each morning. As the authority in the classroom, Mr. Mann had the freedom to inquire about the absence of students, their wellbeing, even how much sleep they had been getting (Fieldnotes, 4/16/09).
Among the many posters on his walls, he included one with Expresiones Útiles (Useful Expressions), polite and frequently used phrases students might forget:
Me permite ir al bano?
Me permite tomar agua?
Repita, por favor No entiendo Gracias/De nada Por favor... (Fieldnotes, 4/21/09) He also contributed information and began discussions about cultural material in practice readings for the AP exam. After the class had completed a reading on Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a cultural celebration former Spanish Immersion students were quite familiar with, he anticipated that students might not know what the various meanings of cohete (jets, rockets, fireworks) were and provided background information about both the military and celebratory uses of the word. He further told them about the original uses of piñatas, whose seven points represented the Seven Deadly Sins. During a discussion of a chapter of La casa de Bernarda Alba, a novel they read after the AP exam, he focused class discussion on understanding the point of view of one of the main characters and her experience of living in a small Spanish town, where gossip was common and took its effect on the lives of individuals and families. As part of these discussions of reading material, he provided information about vocabulary students asked about and answered questions about verb forms and grammar.
While a significant portion of the classroom talk was the responsibility of Mr.
Mann, as a professional language teacher, he appreciated the importance of students producing language themselves, and worked to overcome student reticence through a system of participation rewards, what he called dólares. He gave them out whenever students volunteered to answer questions or contribute examples of their work for discussion in class. The students accumulated them, and turned them back in for participation points that formed part of their course grades. That students were reticent to produce language, especially spoken language, in class was apparent when he had them practice the Interpersonal and Presentational Speaking they would have to do for the AP exam. After they completed the Interpersonal Speaking exercise, Mr. Mann asked who would dare to share their recordings. When Mateo, a former Spanish Immersion student, volunteered, Mr. Mann asked how many dólares his high-risk participation would cost.
Mateo did not seem uncomfortable with offering his example, and so the reward did not seem so necessary. But after the Presentational Speaking exercise, a much more complex task that involved synthesis of two sources, one print, one audio, when Tim, a nonSpanish Immersion student, volunteered his example, a female student near him said, “Claro que es Tim. Es muy …” and asked for the Spanish word for “brave” from Mr.
Mann. The classroom exchange was filled with words like “dare,” “brave,” and jokes about volunteers being “victims” (Fieldnotes, 4/21/09). While Mr. Mann’s practice of rewarding participation with dólares may have been intended to help students overcome their reticence, and distribute language use around the classroom, it also aided him in controlling who used language and how it was used.
Mr. Mann’s classroom discussions were highly orderly, and marked by his good humor, and encouragement of student participation. However, the classroom order seemed to be based on the assumption that he was the only adequate source of language input in the class. With six former Spanish Immersion students, who had had significant experiences of reading, writing, speaking and listening in Spanish, he might have taken advantage of their experiences and language acquired to facilitate more distribution of input among the class members, to encourage more guided autonomy among them.
In fact, some of the former Spanish Immersion students seemed to long for greater natural engagement and guided autonomy in their high school Spanish classes. In their focus group, they pointed to two activities that had allowed them to focus on their language use in connection with academic content or with guided conversation. When I asked them what had been some of the highlights of the Spanish Language AP course, Teresa mentioned their study of the work of Pablo Picasso, which involved teaching from their teachers (both Mr. Mann and his colleague) about Picasso’s work, student production of a still life based on one of his works, and a class session in which they held a mock gallery showing, and had to discuss their work with teachers and students.
Teresa’s recollection prompted Virginia and others to recall how much they had enjoyed a role playing activity that took up a block period (1 ½ hours) during the year. In that activity, they were assigned roles for a “Love Boat” style mystery cruise, and had to circulate around rooms in the library where they would converse with other students to solve the mystery. They recollected that activity as pleasurable, because it allowed them freedom to talk with others. While the former Spanish Immersion students willingly submitted to Mr. Mann’s control over the class, they would have enjoyed and could have benefited from more freedom of language use in their Spanish language courses.
Literacy Practices: “There is no reading of books”
The students in Mr. Mann’s class regularly practiced reading and writing in Spanish, much of it focused, during this late part of the school year, on the types of reading and writing the students would be required to complete for the AP exam17. The exam implied an autonomous view of reading and writing (Street, 1984), assuming that the successful student would be able to read and write about any subject as well as any other. None of the readings on the exam were much longer than a page, with many as short as a few short paragraphs. After they took the exam, several of the focus group Students in the focus group perceived that in Mr. Mann’s class they had only spent the second semester preparing directly for the exam, and only practicing the various elements of the exam in the month before it took place (Focus group, 5/5/09).
participants agreed that the reading comprehension section of the exam seemed just like the standardized exam they had taken throughout their elementary school years, and it brought back memories of that APRENDA test for them (Focus group, 5/5/09). While the students in Mr. Mann’s class had read short stories from a textbook and one play during the course of the year leading up to preparation for the exam, the short, highly decontextualized literacy practices they engaged in during my observations seemed to underestimate the literacy abilities and experiences of the former Spanish Immersion students, and represented encapsulated learning of language, learning that did not reflect the realities of language use outside the classroom, nor the capacities of the former Spanish Immersion students.
Focus on Preparation for AP Exam: April-May 2009
Though shortly after Mr. Mann’s students took the AP exam in early May, they began to read a novel together18, most of the spring quarter was occupied by practicing the skills involved in the various elements of the AP Spanish Language Exam.19 The students practiced listening, speaking, reading and writing, with heavy emphasis on their Spanish language literacy abilities. Even in order to accomplish the Presentational Speaking section of the exam, they would have to read, and the Presentational Writing section of the exam required them to read two short sources (and listen to another) on that year’s writing theme. While both the Presentational Speaking and Writing sections required longer readings than the comprehension sections did, none of the reading they did during the exam or class practice was contextualized within studies of specific academic content areas, nor did their practices allow them time or suggest strategies for making personal or disciplinary meaning from the readings. Most of their in-class practice activities were drawn from previous year’s AP exams, which had been compiled in a preparation textbook they used. In this way, the reading and writing the students accomplished that quarter stood in contrast to the highly contextualized and personally meaningful reading fifth grade Spanish Immersion students engaged in.
AP Reading, Speaking and Writing: Demonstrating comprehension, limited ways of meaning-making.
They read La casa de Bernarda Alba, by Federico García Lorca, a major figure of 20th Century Spanish literature. Mr. Mann mentioned that they would read this book in preparation for the AP course in Spanish Literature, which many of the former Spanish Immersion students would take the next year. Other than a play they read earlier in the year, this would be the only lengthy work his class read that academic year. Mr. Mann seemed to anticipate that his students would not fully comprehend the book, and so supplemented the reading of each chapter with a viewing of the corresponding portion of a film version in class.
The 2009 version of the Spanish Language AP exam included both listening and reading comprehension sections, which required answering multiple choice items, as well as two writing and two speaking activities, one each considered “Interpersonal” and “Presentational.” Reading and writing at this point in the year was dominated by the limited forms and purposes of literacy represented by the AP exam, encapsulating the learning in Mr.