"Naci Hablando Los Dos": Language Practices of Emergent Bilingual 4-Year-Olds In a Head Start Classroom
By: Ysaaca Axelrod
Published: 05/16/2012
Uploaded: 11/09/2017
Uploaded by: Pocket Masters
Pockets: 2012 (May) Teachers College Columbia University Ed.D. Dissertations, Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Emergent bilinguals, Head Start, language development, language ideologies, Latina/o, pre-school

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Description/Abstract: The purpose of this ethnographic case study was to examine the language
practices of 4-year-olds in a bilingual Head Start classroom, the ways in which they
negotiated between/among their languages and their emerging languages, their language
development over the course of a school year, and the possible ways in which these
language practices were influenced by their families’ and teachers’ language ideologies.
The study is situated within two theoretical frameworks: sociocultural and ecology of human development. Data were collected throughout the 10-month school year by visiting the classroom 2-3 times per week, focusing primarily on four children who represented a variety of levels of bilingualism (English/Spanish). The data include field notes; transcriptions of interviews with teachers, families, and administrators; and artifacts of children’s work. The children’s use of language was analyzed through multiple readings of the data, and the intersection between the two theoretical frameworks was used to look at the ways in which the children developed language in the classroom with their peers, nested within the ideologies and language practices of the curriculum, their teachers, family, and community.

The unusually flexible and child-centered curriculum gave the children
opportunities to interact with and learn from each other, highlighting the role and
importance of play and peer interactions in development. The teachers supported flexible language practices and allowed them to explore their language(s) in ways that supported development, including the development of emergent literacy skills.
The children’s interest in the research, particularly the field notes, suggests that there are ways to be open and explicit with them about the work that researchers do that perhaps allows points of entry for children into the conversation about research and their experiences in classrooms. Listening to children and their families, respecting and valuing their voices, and including them in conversations around language, education, and learning, can perhaps lead to a better understanding of the complexity of their experiences. School communities and classrooms need to recognize bilingualism as a strength and encourage children to draw upon their multiple identities and full linguistic repertoire to engage and learn with their peers in the classroom community.