MAKING SENSE: ESOL STUDENTS IN MAINSTREAM WRITING WORKSHOPS
CINDY JANE NARANJO
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Cindy Jane Naranjo
Several individuals made my graduate studies both possible and rewarding.
each of them I express my appreciation and gratitude.
First of all, I thank the members of my doctoral committee, particularly Clemens
Hallman and Robert R. Sherman. I thank Dr. Hallman for honoring my perspectives and
having faith that it would all come together. My deepest gratitude also goes to Dr.
Sherman for the guidance he provided in the process of revising this dissertation.
after retiring, Dr. Sherman's willingness to provide critical comments and ask insightful
questions was instrumental in bringing clarity to this work.
I also thank Danling Fu for
her scholarship and insightful comments.
insights about my work contributed to
my development as a scholar.
I sincerely appreciate the professional support Ben F.
Nelms provided throughout my doctoral studies.
His willingness to take me under his
wings as a graduate student allowed me to balance my love of both ESOL education and
I am also deeply grateful to Arthur Newman.
Simply put, I am a
better student for his being such an excellent teacher.
I extend my deepest appreciation also to my parents, Frank and Anita Pietro.
While my mother is no longer living, I continue to feel her presence and support.
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Thomas, Julie, and Cate.
Their presence in my life gave me the foundation to reach for a
I am truly grateful to my children, Matthew and Emily, for bringing perspective
to this process.
Although they may not remember my graduate school years, I will
remember how their unconditional love and warm hugs sustained me.
Finally, I am
eternally grateful to my husband, Andy, who supported my work in so many countless
His words of encouragement, our long discussions, and his companionship and
advice in the wee hours of the night as I plugged away at my dissertation will never be
I also appreciate his willingness to take over on the household chores, so that I
could bring closure to this process.
Lastly, I wish to thank the teachers and students who participated in this study.
They generously shared their time and ideas, without which this study would not have
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A CKN O W LEDGM EN TS ....................... ............................. ...................................... ....... iii
LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................... v
A BSTRA CT... .... ......... ...................................................................................................... ix
I. BA CKGROUN D FOR THE STU DY ................. ................ ................ ..... ........ ...... ... .......1
W writing W workshop ...................... ............... ...............................................................4
Purpose of the Study ...... .. .... ........ ....... ..... .... ... .......................... ................... .. ....... .......... 7
Significance of te of the Study ..............
Overview of Chapters...................
Theoretical Assumptions Undergirding Social Constructivism..
Literacy Development from a Social Constructivist Perspective
.. .. .. a. .. a .. ** .*
Research Studies Examining Writing from a Socially-Oriented Perspective
Second Language Literacy Research: Role of First Language Literacy...............
School Adaptation Research on the Differential Academic Success of Minority
III. M ETHODOLOGY ....................................................................................................41
. m,,o m, 0 J o,, m .. .... .... .... .. .. ... .. .. ............................ 1 0o~mY
itW DI g 4 ,b O t l I6 O 6O~ t II 10 ,
II. REVIEW OF LITERATURE ........................................................................................12
Students ...... .............. ............
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .... .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
IV. BEGINNINGS: ATYPICAL ESOL STUDENTS' PROCESSES OF MAKING
*CC***c** *CtCsceS **** C** S C**S CCS S ccSs C**5 CCC **C* C*C ***5 CcC**#5 Ces CCCS**5 SC...... .62
Status of the Class ......................................................................................................... 66
M ini Lessons..................... ........................................................................................CS*...71
Drafting .... ..... .................... ................. ..... ......................................... .... ....... ..................75
W riting Conferences ................................................................ ...... ................82
Parent Conferences ..............................................................................................82
Teacher Conferences .... .................................................................... .... ....... ..... ........ 86
Group Share ...
S. ...TYPICAL ESOL STUDENTS' PROCESSES.. .. ... ... .. .. .. OF. .. MAKING... ... .. .. ..... .. 9 1
:. TYPICAL ESOL STUDENTS' PROCESSES OF MAKING
Status of the Class
.......................... ..... ...........C........................................................96
e s ......C. .S..... S .. .. .. .. .. .... .......... .*. ....e t..........................ee...m.
Family M ember Conferences...... .............................. ... ................................ ...........
Teacher Conferences ........................................................ ...... .... ..........................
VI. EVOLUTION: EXPERIENCES OF ATYPICAL ESOL STUDENTS AS THE YEAR
PROGRESSES ...... ........ ...... ....... ...... ...... ......................... ...... .... ...... ....... ...... ...... ..122
Status of the ClassF............................ ..................... ..................... ..... .. ......................... 122
M ini Lessons ...............................................................................................................124
W writing Conferences .......... .......................... ...... ....... ................ .................... ........... 129
Parent and Peer Conferences
G roup Share ...............................
* C Ce e e. .. C . .... ... .C ..... ... .... C c... t..... C te... .. ..
S*CC Se C C S.. ***e **.. ..*.*.. ..... .. .. ...t ....S ..CCoCB *CeCS.etC.C| SS C.....
VII. EVOLUTION: EXPERIENCES OF TYPICAL ESOL STUDENTS AS THE YEAR
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Status of the Class
Ss *. T .-.
VIII. EVOLUTION: OTHER REGULATED WRITING TO SELF-REGULATION .... 168
Atypical ESOL Students...
Typical ESOL Students.....
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Literacy Development: The Vygotskian Perspective ..................................................
IX. EVOLUTION: THE SOCIAL NATURE OF WRITING FROM A BAKHTINIAN
Atypical ESOL Students ................. ................................. ................. ............. .......
Typical ESOL Students..... ....................... ... ........................ .. ...... ................................
Literacy Development: The Bakhtinian Perspective
............. .... .. ........................*.. .210
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS .......... ...... ..... ...................... ................. .........218
F in d in g s...............................................................................................................
The Process of M aking Sense........................................... .................. ..............
Transition from Other-Regulated to Self-Regulated Second Language Writing
The Function of W writing ..................................... ... ..... ..... ...................................
Implications for Instruction.................
Inclusive ESOL Education Trends .......
.'.. '.'.. ...........C .. C ..... .... ..... ......C... ... .. ........2,. .2 3 8
REFEREN CES ...................................... .........................................................................241
BIO G RA PH ICA L SK ETCH .......................... ........................ ....................... ..................252
LIST OF TABLES
1. Summary of ESOL Student Background . .. . ... ....... ...... ... .. ... .. ... ..... ........... ....47
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
ESOL STUDENTS IN MAINSTREAM WRITING WORKSHOPS
Cindy Jane Naranjo
Chairman: Clemens L. Hallman
Major Department: School of Teaching and Learning
This ethnographic study examines the effectiveness of the writing workshop model
as an instructional tool for promoting writing competency and community membership for
both typical and atypical ESOL students.
Typical ESOL students live in poverty and
largely are dependent on the school for developing second language literacy skills.
ESOL students, on the other hand, come from middle-class homes and are not exclusively
dependent on the school for developing second language literacy skills.
The purpose of this
study is to document the experiences of typical and atypical ESOL students in mainstream
writing workshops in order to identify factors that influence the process of learning to write
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To investigate the experiences of ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops,
ethnographic techniques are used:
and writing sample analyses. The
participant observation, formal and informal interviews,
theoretical orientation framing this study is social
In particular, a social constructivist perspective is utilized to analyze the
writing development of ESOL students as they interact with their peers and teachers.
The findings of this study indicate that the process of learning to write in a second
language is different for typical and atypical ESOL students.
Atypical ESOL students
rely on extensive mediational support from their parents in the process of learning to
write in a second language, while typical ESOL students rely on mediational support from
their teachers and peers.
The findings of this study also suggest that the function of
writing changes in the lives of the ESOL students as they begin to use the written word to
negotiate membership in the "unofficial" peer world of their writing workshops.
the process of learning to write in a second language involves more than encoding words
on the page;
it also involves figuring out the kinds of social work that can be
accomplished with the manipulation of the written word.
For ESOL students, it also
involves learning about norms and expectations of the target culture and language.
BACKGROUND FOR THE STUDY
This is an ethnographic study of what it means to be an ESOL student in a sixth-
grade mainstream writing workshop.
The primary participants include six ESOL students
from typical and atypical backgrounds based on the national population of ESOL students
in the United States.
The typical ESOL student in the United States lives in poverty and
largely is dependent on the school for developing second language literacy skills.
According to the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs (1998),
75% of all limited English proficient students in the United States attend high poverty
Parents of typical ESOL students generally have limited English skills and
limited educational experiences beyond high school.
Atypical ESOL students, on the
other hand, come from middle to upper-middle-class homes where one or both parents
have college degrees and well developed English language skills.
students also tend to have more opportunities for developing first language literacy skills
than do typical ESOL students.
Moreover, atypical ESOL students are not exclusively
dependent on the school for developing second language literacy skills.
The purpose of this study is to examine the process-oriented writing experiences
of both typical and atypical ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops in order to
greater academic failure (Platt, 1996).
Three questions guide data collection throughout
1. How are the experiences of typical and atypical ESOL students different in a
mainstream writing workshop?
2. How do ESOL students use the stages of process writing, in a mainstream
writing workshop, to develop language and literacy skills?
3. How do ESOL students use the stages of process writing, in a mainstream
writing workshop, to become members of the writing workshop community?
This study is framed in the context of a national trend occurring in the United
States with respect to the education of second language learners.
In many schools
throughout the United States, the number of limited English proficient
being mainstreamed into "inclusive" classrooms before fully developing English
proficiency is increasing, as more districts adopt inclusion models to educate language
minority students (Harklau, 1994).
Inclusion refers to "the provision of instruction within
the conventional/mainstream classroom to students with special needs and/or talents"
(FDOE, p. 1, 1995).
Although "inclusion" historically is associated with special
education students, it quickly is becoming associated with language minority students as
In an inclusion model, for example, LEP students are instructed in mainstream
classrooms alongside their monolingual peers, rather than in self-contained ESOL
classrooms or self-contained bilingual education classrooms.
Most research on language learning for ESOL students focuses on these students
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few studies that do focus on ESOL students in inclusive environments reveal that ESOL
students in mainstream classrooms often are marginalized and isolated (Fu, 1995;
Moreover, research with respect to ESOL students in
mainstream settings generally reveals that ESOL students often are not given the support
they need to become members of the class in a mainstream setting or the support they
need to achieve to their potential.
The trend towards inclusion can be seen in California where voters in the state
with the largest student ESOL population in the country enacted Proposition 227 in 1998,
which eliminates all forms of bilingual education and ESOL instruction.
offering a host of instructional programs for limited English proficient students,
California schools are required to enroll all children with native languages other than
English in a mandated one-year English immersion program.
At the end of the year,
students are placed in mainstream classrooms, regardless of their English proficiency, and
with no assistance for those who are not yet fluent in English.
The nationwide trend towards inclusion is seen also in the state of Florida.
administering a survey to Florida school district ESOL coordinators, Harper and Platt
(1999) find that the most prevalent instructional model for LEP students in the state of
Florida is an inclusion model at both the elementary and secondary levels.
Department of Education draws a sharp distinction between "inclusion" and
"immersion," the latter being the instructional practice of placing LEP students in
dynamically a part of the class as any student that is perceived as routinely
belonging to that class. Inclusion may not lead to oblivion: a student may not be
included and then neglected, but included and supported, included and integrated.
Since a 1990 lawsuit filed on behalf of language minority students against the Florida
Department of Education resulted in a Consent Decree, Florida is under a federal court
order to meet the requirements of this Consent Decree.
These requirements include
training teachers to adapt content area instruction for LEP students to make the
In order to meet the requirements of the Florida Consent Decree, a massive staff
development effort is ongoing in the state, giving teachers varying amounts of training in
ESOL strategies (Platt, 1996).
It is assumed erroneously in many cases, however, that
mainstream teachers in the state of Florida are using ESOL strategies with LEP students
and are making their courses comprehensible (Harper, 1995).
It also is assumed that
students are learning English through course content in the inclusive mainstream setting.
One method that is advocated by some researchers for learning English in the inclusive
mainstream setting is the writing workshop.
As a result of a shift in writing pedagogy from a product-centered focus to a
process-oriented emphasis (Hillocks, 1986), writing workshops became tremendously
influential in the 1980s, particularly at the elementary and middle school level.
writing workshon model at the elementary school level largelv is defined by Graves
is defined by the work of Atwell (1987).
Atwell describes seven principles that guide
teaching within a writing workshop model at the middle school level:
Writers need regular chunks of time--time to think, write, confer, read,
change their minds, and write some more.
Writers need time they can
count on, so even when they aren't writing, they're anticipating the time
they will be.
Writers need time to write well.
Writers need their own topics.
Right from the first day of kindergarten
students should use writing as a way to think about and give shape to their
own ideas and concerns.
Writers need response.
Helpful response comes during--not after--the
It comes from the writer's peers and from the teacher, who
consistently models the kinds of restatements and questions that help
writers reflect on the content of their writing.
4. Writers learn mechanics in context, from teachers who address errors as
they occur within individual pieces of writing, where these rules and forms
will have meaning.
Children need to know adults who write.
We need to write, share our
writing with our students, and demonstrate what experienced writers do in
the process of composing, letting our students see our own drafts in all
their messiness and tentativeness.
Writers need to read.
They need access to a wide-ranging variety of
texts, prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction.
7. Writing teachers need to take responsibility for their knowledge and
We must seek out professional resources that reflect the far-
reaching conclusions of recent research into children's writing.
must become writers and researchers, observing and learning from our
own and our students' writing. (pp. 17-18)
While one writing workshop does not necessarily look like another, there is a
common thread that runs throughout most writing workshops (Hydrick, 1996). The
work their way through the writing process.
In other words, instead of merely receiving a
final grade on a final draft, students receive feedback throughout the composing process
from both peers and the teacher.
Statement of the Problem
The writing workshop model is an effective instructional vehicle for promoting
community membership and writing competency with white, middle-class students and
other more diverse student populations.
Cummins (1986a) sees potential in the writing
workshop for promoting community membership and writing competency for ESOL
students as well. According to Cummins, the writing workshop model potentially is
empowering because it "encourages students to assume greater control over setting their
own learning goals and to collaborate with each other in achieving these goals" (p.28).
However, there is a paucity of research investigating Cummins'
of the writing workshop model with ESOL students.
claim about the potential
A few researchers examine the
experiences of atypical ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops and find that the
writing workshop model is an effective instructional vehicle for promoting community
membership and writing competency for atypical ESOL students (Townsend & Fu, 1998).
The experiences of typical ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops receive little
attention, though they make up 75% of the ESOL population.
The few researchers who
examine the experiences of typical ESOL students in any kind of inclusive, mainstream
setting find that typical ESOL students often experience academic failure and social
why are the experiences of typical and atypical ESOL students different in a mainstream
What factors influence their experiences?
What factors impede or
facilitate the process of making sense or the process of learning a second language?
important to determine whether mainstream writing workshops are effective for both
typical and atypical ESOL students given the growing number of ESOL students in the
United States and the disproportionate number of them who experience academic failure.
This study examines whether the mainstream writing workshop model is an
effective instructional tool for promoting community membership and writing
competency for both typical and atypical ESOL students.
This study also addresses the
gap between actual classroom practices and the findings of research about the experiences
of ESOL students in mainstream classrooms by focusing explicitly on their experiences in
mainstream writing workshops in one Florida public school.
In addition to examining the
effectiveness of a writing workshop model for ESOL students, this study also sheds light
on what the process looks like for ESOL students.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to document the experiences of typical and atypical
ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops.
My goals are to identify factors that
influence the process of making sense, or the process of learning a second language, to
discover patterns that help explain the nature of the process, and to discuss those patterns
in the context of the lives of the typical and atypical ESOL students.
From my initial
1. Why is the process of making sense different for typical and atypical ESOL
What cultural meaning do ESOL students, both typical and atypical, give to
their experiences in a mainstream writing workshop?
After further data analysis, I added more questions:
How does the function of writing change over time for typical and
atypical ESOL students?
How do ESOL students use the process of writing to construct social worlds?
What factors influence how typical and atypical ESOL students use the process
of writing to construct social worlds?
In addition to examining the process-oriented writing experiences of typical and
atypical ESOL students, the purpose of this study also is to examine how ESOL students
construct meaning in mainstream writing workshop settings using the lense of social
One of the primary assumptions undergirding social constructivism is the
belief that humans do not simply "find" knowledge, but construct it in interaction with
Social constructivism is an applicable theory for understanding how ESOL
students construct meaning given that learning to become a member of a community and
developing English proficiency skills are processes that involve other persons and other
This study serves as a further application of the theory by examining how ESOL
students negotiate meaning in mainstream writing workshops.
This application of social
Significance of the Study
Early writing workshop research is conducted predominantly in white, rural
settings, where it is found to be an effective instructional vehicle for promoting
community membership and competency in writing.
More recently, researchers examine
the impact of writing workshops in urban settings (Wentworth, 1990) and the impact of
writing workshops on remedial or "at-risk" students (Allen, 1995;
These more recent studies
generally find that writing workshops can be implemented successfully in a variety of
contexts with a variety of students.
While a number of researchers recently examine the
impact of writing workshops in more diverse settings, little systematic research is
conducted on writing workshops for students who speak English as a second language.
Given that many ESOL students with limited, yet developing, English proficiency find
themselves in mainstream classes where they often experience isolation and academic
failure (Fu, 1995;
Platt, 1996), it is important to examine their
experiences, particularly in a writing workshop setting that many have theorized to be
promising for culturally and linguistically diverse students (Cummins, 1986a;
One important aspect of this study is the comparative analysis of the experiences
of the typical and atypical ESOL students in a mainstream writing workshop.
There is a
substantial body of research that supports the effectiveness of the writing workshop
workshops, we may be better able to address further the academic needs and
appropriateness of writing workshops for ESOL students.
Furthermore, a comparative
analysis of both typical and atypical ESOL students may shed light on how and why their
experiences and performance may differ.
An understanding of their similarities and
differences provides knowledge about how mainstream writing workshops might be
conducted in order to cultivate success for both typical and atypical ESOL students.
Overview of Chapters
In Chapter II,
review the early and the current literature on the writing workshop
approach and the research that relates social constructivism to the writing experiences of
monolingual students and second language learners.
I also review the research that
focuses on second language literacy and school adaptation studies that focus on the
differential academic achievement of minority and immigrant students.
argue that a
comparative analysis of the lived experiences of typical and atypical ESOL students in
mainstream, middle school writing workshops is neglected in the research related to
In Chapter III, I explain the methodology used to gather and analyze the
In Chapters IV through IX, I present, analyze, and discuss my findings.
specifically, I document how typical and atypical ESOL students make sense of
mainstream writing workshops.
By documenting how the ESOL students make sense of
process writing, I show that the process is different for the typical and atypical ESOL
factors influence the process of making sense for the typical and atypical ESOL students.
I argue that the effectiveness of writing workshops is not generically found in the model
itself, but instead in a host of factors that influence its effectiveness.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
In the literature review that follows, I first discuss social constructivist theory and
its underlying premises.
Social constructivism later is used as a perspective to critique
the other studies included in the review, and it is also used to analyze and interpret the
data in later chapters.
Following the section on social constructivism, I discuss studies
focusing on the writing workshop model, followed by a review of second language
literacy studies, and a review of school adaptation studies that focus on the differential
academic achievement of minority and immigrant students.
Theoretical Assumptions Undergirding Social Constructivism
The theoretical orientation framing this study is social constructivism.
of social constructivism can be found in the work of Vygotsky (1978), extended by the
work of researchers such as Bruner (1986), Rogoff(1990), and Wertsch (1985, 1991).
Before discussing the primary assumptions undergirding social constructivism, it should
be pointed out that different perspectives about constructivism exist.
According to Ernest
"there are almost as many varieties of constructivism as there are researchers"
While many perspectives about constuctivism exist, this study is framed by a
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[M]ost learning in most settings is a communal activity, a sharing of the culture.
It is not just that the child must make his knowledge his own, but that he must
make it his own in a community of those who share his sense of belonging to a
culture. (p. 127)
While different positions about constructivism exist, the various forms of
constructivism are bound together by von Glaserfeld'
(1989) first principle of
According to von Glaserfeld,
"knowledge is not passively received but
actively built up by the cognizing subject" (p. 182).
Such a perspective of knowledge
construction recognizes that knowing is active, that it is individual and personal, and that
it is based on previously constructed knowledge.
In other words, knowledge is not fixed
It is not a set of facts or concepts waiting to be discovered, nor is it something
that exists independent of the human mind.
Rather than being seen as a passive activity
where knowledge is transmitted from one person to another, knowledge construction is
seen as a participatory activity.
It is constructed by individuals as they attempt to bring
meaning to their experiences (Zahorik, 1995).
Grounded in von Glaserfeld's first principle of constructivism is what Spivey
(1995) refers to as the metaphor of construction.
of structures from preexisting pieces. More spe
The metaphor is about the building up
:ifically, the metaphor describes
understanding as the building of mental structures. Understanding is not built up from
received pieces of knowledge in a linear fashion. Instead, the process is recursive, and
the building blocks of understanding are the product of previous acts of construction.
"The distinction between the stnictnre and content of understanding can onlv he relative
While social constructivists recognize the construction of knowledge by
individuals, they emphasize that knowledge construction always occurs within specific
contexts, primarily as a result of social interaction. That is, individuals construct
knowledge, but it is socially and culturally mediated.
In other words, the learner's
construction of knowledge takes place through social interactions and with the help of
Therefore, social constructivists regard individuals and the realm of the social
as interconnected (Ernest, 1995).
Human beings are formed through their interactions
with each other, as well as their individual processes.
Ernest (1995) explains that an
underlying metaphor for social constructivism, with respect to the mind, is that of persons
in conversation: "Persons in meaningful linguistic and extralinguistic interaction and
dialogue" (p. 199). Within the social constructivist model, there is no metaphor for the
wholly isolated individual mind.
Instead, the mind is viewed in a broader context where
meaning is socially constructed.
The concept of mediation is important in a social constructivist model of
Vygotsky broke new ground when he emphasized the social
context in which learning takes place and when he cited the concept of mediation as a key
element in this process.
From a Vygotskian perspective, mediation refers to "the part
played by other significant people in the learners' lives, who enhance their learning by
selecting and shaping the learning experiences presented to them" (Williams & Burden,
1997, p. 40).
This significant person, whether parent, teacher, or peer is the mediator of
words, the role of the one with the most knowledge is to mediate.
Mediation, however, is
not a one-way process where adults or more knowledgeable peers play a dominant role.
Mediation is an interactive process with learners contributing to the mediation process.
Bornstein and Bruner (1989) point out that within the social context of the family, for
example, the actions of children affect those of the parents as well as the other way
Hence, once again, mediation is an interactive process rather than a
From a Vygotskian perspective, mediation also refers to the use of tools.
this sense refer to anything that is used to help solve a problem or achieve a goal. One of
the most important tools in the mediational process is language.
In fact, scholars from a
social constructivist perspective see language as fundamental to thinking, problem-
solving, and learning (Barnes, 1994;
Language provides the tools that
learners need to think and the tools that more knowledgeable members of a community
use to help explain the world to the learner.
The "persons in conversation" metaphor
discussed earlier also reflects the importance ascribed to language in a social
constructivist model of knowledge construction.
Language is regarded as the shaper of
the human mind as well as the summative product of the human mind.
and learning also take place directly through the medium of language.
or hands-on learning takes place in a social context of meaning and is mediated by
language and its socially negotiated understandings.
Raphael and Hiebert (1996) point
Language is the primary means through which such learning occurs.
The interconnected nature of individuals and the realm of the social is embedded
in the learning process as discussed by social constructivists.
perspective, learning occurs twice for every child: "First, on
the individual level;
From a social constructivist
the social level and later, on
first, between people (interpsychological), and then inside the child
(intrapsychological)" (Vygotsky, 1978, p.57).
Drawing on the theoretical insights of
Vygotsky, Raphael & Hiebert (1997) expound on this idea.
What is learned occurs first in the public domain where it is used in social ways
by one or more knowledgeable members of the culture and made visible to the
It is only after social interactions within a public domain that individuals
adopt and adapt what they have observed and begin to use privately what they
have learned. This process of moving from the publicly shared use of strategies,
concepts, and ways of thinking to private individual use is called internalization.
The process of internalization captures the interrelated nature of the social and
individual dimensions of learning reflected in social constructivism.
However, in order
for this refining process with a more capable person to be effective for the child,
Vygotsky contends that "intersubjectivity" must be established.
That is, the two parties
must be in tune with each other, and they must share a common purpose. Put more
simply, each party must know what the other is trying to do (Rogoff, 1990). When this
harmony between teacher and students, parent and child, or between students occurs, both
parties are able to recognize, examine, negotiate, or mutually adopt each other's
of actual development refers to the child's level of performance while working alone and
unassisted in a problem-solving situation.
For Vygotsky, the level at which a child can
function when interacting with a teacher or a more capable peer goes beyond the level of
Vygotsky uses the term "potential development" to describe this
enhanced level of performance (Jones & Thorton, 1993).
Vygotsky introduces the zone
of proximal development when relating actual and potential development.
(1978) contends that a child's zone of proximal development is "the distance between the
actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of
potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in
collaboration with more capable peers" (p. 86).
The lower boundary of the zone of
proximal development is the actual level of development, while the upper boundary
represents potential development. Platt (1996) illustrates Vygotsky'
zone of proximal
development with the following example.
A small circle can be drawn to represent a learner's zone of actual development
(ZAD) with respect to a particular task, such as reading a sentence or two from a
story where the learner knows all but one or two words.
s/he can do on his or her own.
Thus, the ZAD is what
However, given the task of reading two or three
paragraphs from the story with 12-15 unfamiliar words might be too difficult for
the learner to accomplish independently.
The area between the smaller circle and
the circumference of a larger circle drawn around the smaller one represents the
That is what the learner can do with assistance:
zone of proximal development.
teacher, parent, or tutor seated alongside listening to the reading, for example. (pp.
The zone of proximal development focuses on those intellectual capabilities that have not
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Building on Vygotsky's work,
Wertsch (1979) describes four levels of transition
when moving from the social dimension to the individual dimension of learning.
Vygotsky observed that the locus of control with respect to a novel task
begins outside the learner with the task being mediated or regulated by another person.
When the learner internalizes the knowledge to perform the same or analogous task, the
learner is said to be self-regulated.
According to Wertsch (1979), the transition from
other-regulated to self-regulated, or from the social dimension of learning to the
individual dimension of learning, involves four levels summarized by Platt (1996).
At the earliest level, the more proficient person and the learner do not share the
same communicative context. The task sit
learner in such a way as he can participate;
uation has not been defined for the
she is not yet on "the right page."
the second level, the learner just begins to make connections between what the
teacher says and what he is to do, needing explicit directives to make those
At the third level, the learner is able to follow the teacher, and starts
taking over "strategic responsibility" for the task.
At the fourth level, the learner
takes complete control of the task, this regulation being demonstrated by the
At the early stage the
learner's talk to himself as he works through the task.
learner may say almost nothing, while at the fourth stage, he takes over the talk, as
well as the activity. (p. 9)
From a Vygotskian perspective, it should be noted that learners, regardless of age, move
back and forth across the developmental stages when faced with extremely difficult tasks,
particularly when the tasks involve unfamiliar domains.
The premises of social constructivism outlined in the above discussion are used in
this study to examine the experiences of ESOL students as they learn to write in a second
In addition to examining the nature of the mediational role others play in the
Literacy Development from a Social Constructivist Perspective
Literacy development from a social constructivist perspective, like the process of
learning, also is grounded in the work of Vygotsky and is extended by several Vygotskian
Written language is characterized as a "higher psychological process,"
a term coined by Vygotsky (1978) to distinguish what is learned through social mediation
from biological processes that develop without social mediation. Literacy, like all other
higher psychological processes, originates in social interaction. That is, the development
of written language is facilitated through interactions with more knowledgeable members
of the social and cultural communities found inside and outside the classroom (Raphael &
Children become literate members of the community in the context of
relationships (Daiute, 1993).
They learn about written language, its form, purposes and
processes, while interacting with others in the context of a literacy activity.
literacy, from a social constructivist perspective, is "an inherently social enterprise,
engaging readers and writers in ongoing collaboration with others....
"(Daiute, 1993, p
Vygotsky illuminates the important role that social activity plays in the
development of writing when he suggests that writing should be taught as a "complex
Children acquire knowledge of the written system as they "assume
varied social roles and engage in valued cultural activities"
(Dyson, 1993a, p. 80).
the acquisition of linguistic knowledge and social knowledge is inextricably linked.
From a social constructivist perspective, literacy development also involves more
That is, the basic unit of analysis is the individual engaged in the use of
the mediational system in a particular situation (Dyson, 1993a).
operating from a social orientation examine the development of written language in the
context of children's social lives as they interact with peers, parents, and teachers.
examine written language as a mode of social discourse and human development, not just
as a distinct cognitive skill (Daiute, 1993).
Literacy is [seen as] an activity, a way of thinking.... And it is a purposeful
activity people read, write, talk, and think about real ideas and information in
order to ponder and extend what they know, to communicate with others, to
present their point of view, and to understand and be understood. (Langer, 1987
When literacy is seen as a dynamic process shaped by social context, and is
understandable only in relation to the context, the focus of literacy is on the whole
activity, not isolated parts or a hierarchy of skills based on units of written language.
Moll (1990) rejects the idea of the zone as teaching and assessing "discrete, separable
skills and subskills" (p.7).
(Daiute, 1993, p. 122). CI
Literacy is a set of "social functions, practices, and forms"
children understand the numerous features and aspects of written
language as they occur in meaningful contexts of interaction.
This shift in perspective
involves redefining our notions of what it means to be literate and what counts as basic
From this perspective,
"social discourse is a basic skill" (Daiute, 1993, p. 122).
Bakhtin (1981, 1986), a philosopher interested in language and literacy, extends
the discussion about the social nature of writing when he discusses the "dialogic" nature
power and status vis-a-vis others, (b) the purposes that have brought them together, (c)
the topic of their discourse, and (d) the history of other conversations, other dialogues,
they have had" (p.10).
Thus, oral and written texts are situated within a web of human
When people speak or write, they position themselves, they respond to
others, and they anticipate a response from others.
Each text, then, is a "dialogic"
reaching out in a world that reverberates with voices "talking to, past, and over each
other" (Dyson, 1993a, p.10).
If texts are embedded in social dialogues, learning to write involves learning to
participate in diverse social dialogues.
Dyson (1993a) points out that the classroom is a
complex place where multiple social worlds intersect and coexist.
There is the official
school world where children are "students," the peer world where children are
coworkerss" and even friends, and the world of the home community that reforms itself
in the classroom.
Within the different social arenas of the classroom, diverse social
dialogues are constructed.
Although there are no clear lines of demarcation between the
different social worlds of the classroom, each social arena requires "particular kinds of
social work and values] particular kinds of ways with words" (Dyson, 1993a, p. 2). Pt
another way, each of the social worlds found in the classroom is a language world
suspended inside the larger language world of American English (Dyson, 1993a).
national language such as English is composed of "a multitude of concrete worlds"
(Bakhtin, 1981, p.288).
Each of these worlds embraces its own social and linguistic
child is operating in, and in school there are multiple such worlds potentially operating at
any given moment, each with its own values.
Research Studies Examining Writing from a Socially-Oriented Perspective
Some researchers examine social constructivism as it relates to the writing
experiences of children (Dyson, 1989,1993a & b;
some researchers examine how writing develops in the course of children's lives as they
interact with others.
Dyson (1993b) examines the development of literacy as a cultural
and semiotic tool by exploring the literacy development of young children in a
Dyson examines how writing functions and develops in the
child's social world and the situated nature of that development.
After examining the
writing experiences of Anthony, Dyson (1993b) finds:
Anthony's capacity as an individual to gain control over the written system in
particular activities is inextricably linked to his participation in a social world in
which such activity is important.
To learn a mediational tool, including talk or
writing, children need other people who not only model and guide the appropriate
processes but also respond to their efforts (their spoken words, written texts,
drawings and paintings) in situationally and culturally appropriate ways.
In another study, Dyson (1989) observes the changing role of writing in the lives
of eight primary school children while they participate in a daily composing period.
gain insight into child writing as mediated action, Dyson attends to the children's entire
She attends to early scribbles and marks on the page, but she also
attends to the children's talk, their drawings, and their play in the context of their early
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as literacy begins to mediate more of the social and intellectual work carried earlier by
Dyson's longitudinal study identifies the challenges these children face in
accomplishing through story writing what they earlier had done through drawing and
Dyson concludes that the precise nature of the challenges depends in part on the
children's particular artistic styles.
Some children who enact dramatic adventures while
drawing and narrating a story, for example, are unable to capture their dramatic actions
and voice in the written text as the "accumulated actions piled on [their] drawings did not
easily spread out in written words" (p.31).
Gradually overtime, however, all of the
children begin to assume greater control over the kind of information they include in their
drawings and in their written texts.
Written stories begin to contain more narrative
actions, while pictures become illustrations of main ideas.
One major developmental change observed by Dyson is from the "young
use of writing as a kind of prop, an interesting object to be used in various
kinds of social and often playful activities, to the deliberate manipulation of written
language as a mediator through which social activity occurs" (p. 28).
Not only do friends
become characters in the children's written story, but the children also include certain
words and actions in their stories in order to amuse and tease their friends.
words become mediational tools in the sense that they serve multiple functions within the
social lives of the children.
Dyson concludes that the developmental roots of the
Daiute et al. (1993) also examine social constructivism as it relates to the writing
experiences of young children.
More specifically, they examine the role that social
interaction plays in the development of literacy among 16 third and fourth-grade
In order to examine the role of social interaction in literacy development, the
researchers contrast teacher-student collaborating efforts with peer collaborating efforts
with respect to writing.
Daiute et al. find that during teacher-student collaborating
efforts, the teacher tends to be goal-directed as she engages her students in thinking about
the text from a structural point of view.
She kept up the pressure to move on to the next aspect of the task--the next part of
the narrative--and she focused on strategic aspects of composing such as taking
the reader's point of view, writing catchy opening sentences, including vivid
descriptions, and composing before revising. (p. 61)
During peer collaborating efforts, on the other hand, children draw on emotional
and social resources to make sense of a writing task.
The children tend to build their
composing strategies on social interactions like "playful banter, debating, and role
playing" (p. 61).
The researchers also observe a general penchant among the children to
use collaborative discourse to link the text to their personal lives in order to make sense
of the activity.
The researchers conclude that the teacher, with her expert literacy
knowledge, is helpful to some children.
However, the nature of the interaction around
literacy is more important than the absolute expertise of any partner.
While experts can
instruct children on culturally privileged features of literacy, children also must have
opportunities to integrate these features into their own diverse. spontaneous oral and
Daiute and Griffin (1993) explore the social construction of written narratives in a
They focus specifically on how students use written narratives to
construct and interpret academic material while interacting with others.
work with peers, their talk around narrative constructions tends to be highly social and
In the social context of peer interaction, children interactively
explore meanings and make sense of academic material by using evaluation devices in
their writing (i.e., exclamation points, capital letters, and enlarged print size as markers of
When children work with the teacher, evaluation devices are used less
frequently, and their talk around narrative constructions tends to be cognitive in nature,
focusing on narrative categories and literacy topics rather than personal meanings.
While the structural and personal approaches to narrative tend to be relegated to
different collaborative composition situations, we find that a balance of the two is
most helpful to children who want eventually to be able to use multiple forms of
narrative in and out of school. (p. 119)
Daiute and Griffin conclude that evaluation and empathy are powerful mediators of
thought and action for children who do not readily use explicit metacognitive skills.
Allowing children to take personal, evaluative stances in their narrative writing about
academic material, as they are more likely to do with their peers, encourages children to
work with a wide range of academic material.
Researchers adopting the premises of social constructivism are responsible for
expanding literacy theory in recent years by considering factors typically overlooked in
These researchers consider social and affective factors in student
contributes to understanding how literacy develops in the lives of children.
these studies demonstrate the potential power of classroom interactions for supporting
Much of the research that relates social constructivsm to student
writing, however, focuses on young, monolingual children in the early stages of literacy
Little research examines the writing development of ESOL students using
the lense of social constructivism, particularly at the secondary level.
Given the growing
number of ESOL students in the United States learning to write in a second language, my
study attempts to extend social constructivist literacy theory by examining the writing
development of ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops.
An examination of the
writing experiences of ESOL students from a social constructivist perspective allows one
to explore further possible relationships between monolingual students and second
language learners with respect to writing.
Writing Workshop Research
During the 1980s, the writing workshop model began to be tremendously
influential with respect to composition instruction, particularly at the elementary and
middle school level.
Atwell (1987), Calkins (1986), and Graves (1983) provide powerful
models for implementing a writing workshop with native English speaking students.
Their work reveals that children of all
can produce creative and interesting texts in a
workshop setting when
writing is treated as a nal
tural. onen-ended activity: when it is sunnorted by a
In the course of documenting how writing workshops unfold in her own eighth-grade
classroom, Atwell (1987) also shares results from the state of Maine's
assessment of the educational progress of all eighth graders.
[The] eighth graders in this small school isolated at the end of the Boothbay
peninsula, achieved Maine's second highest scores in writing....Results were
reported as percentiles, and fully a fifth of Boothbay's eighth graders scored at the
ninety-ninth percentile...Almost half of [the] students scored above the ninetieth
their mean score was at the eighty-seventh percentile.
And the results
included all eighth graders--special education, Chapter I, everyone. (p. 259)
Other researchers also find that writing workshops have a positive influence on student
Atkinson (1993), for instance, conducts a meta-analysis of recent research in the
teaching of writing.
Of the three instructional strategies meta-analyzed--writing
workshop, computer applications, and the teaching of inquiry skills--Atkinson finds
workshop approaches to be the most effective.
Other researchers who examine the
impact of writing workshops in more diverse settings also find generally that writing
workshops can be implemented successfully in a variety of contexts.
Wentworth (1990) finds that a writing workshop can be implemented successfully in an
urban setting, while other researchers find that writing workshops can be implemented
successfully with remedial or "at-risk" students (Allen, 1995;
However, all of these studies, whether
about middle-class, mainstream students or more diverse student populations, focus
exclusively on writing competency, rather than on the social nature of writing or on what
it means to be a student in a writino workshnn
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While some of the initial groundbreaking research on writing workshops is
conducted predominantly in white, rural settings, and while a number of researchers
recently examine the impact of writing workshops in more diverse settings, little research
has been conducted with respect to writing workshops for students who speak English as
a second language.
One strand of the limited research in this area focuses on the teacher
and the challenges of implementing writing workshop with second language learners, but
not on the lived experiences of ESOL students themselves.
Using survey data, Peyton et
al. (1994) describe how some ESOL teachers find that they are constrained particularly by
limited time, space, and resources when implementing writing workshops in pull-out,
self-contained ESOL classes at the elementary and middle-school level.
In the classroom,
these ESOL teachers report "struggling with the dynamics of student writing fluency,
conferencing and sharing, revising and preoccupations with correctness" (p. 469).
(1996) and Samway (1992), moreover, describe how writing workshops can be structured
to accommodate the unique needs of students learning to read and write in a second
language in self-contained ESOL classrooms.
The research to date makes a valuable
contribution to our understanding of the constraints faced by teachers when working with
ESOL students in a writing workshop setting and how it is possible to meet the needs of
students in self-contained ESOL writing workshop classrooms.
However, it does not
shed light on what it means to be an ESOL student in a writing workshop, nor does it
shed light on the nature of the process for ESOL students, particularly in a mainstream
Another strand of research looking into the writing workshop approach and ESOL
students focuses on the experiences of atypical ESOL students who have the opportunity
to develop first language literacy skills while learning English, or ESOL students who are
proficient readers and writers in their first language before learning English.
and Fu (1998), for instance, conduct a case study using a second grade Chinese boy,
Xiaodi, who, like many ESOL students, arrives in this country with no English language
However, unlike many ESOL students, Xiaodi has the opportunity to develop
literacy skills in Chinese while learning English.
Townsend and Fu find that after one
year in a mainstream reading and writing workshop, Xiaodi emerges "from being a quiet,
shy second-grader who spoke little English to a popular classroom member,
demonstrating Chinese writing to fascinated American students, drawing illustrations for
eager classmates, and mentoring other, newer Chinese students" (p. 193).
Fu conclude that a process-oriented writing workshop benefits not only mainstream,
middle-class students, but students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
Chiang (1992) also finds that a process-oriented writing workshop cultivates
community membership and writing competency for culturally and linguistically diverse
students, after examining the writing experiences of 16 ESL students in a self-contained
writing workshop at the college level.
These students are not only proficient readers and
writers in their first languages, but they also have advanced language skills in English and
members in a writing workshop setting.
However, given that the greater number of
ESOL students experiencing academic failure in the United States are students without
the opportunity to develop first language literacy skills and students without many of the
advantages that the ESOL students in the above mentioned studies had, it also is
important to investigate the experiences of the these ESOL students.
analysis of the experiences of typical and atypical ESOL students in a mainstream writing
workshop setting is a neglected, yet important, area of research.
A comparative analysis
should shed light on the similarities and differences in the experiences of these ESOL
students and how educators can meet their needs more effectively.
Many scholars theorize about the potential of writing workshops to accommodate
the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students. Giroux (1987) recognizes the
writing workshop as a possible new form of school literacy predicated on the social and
cultural experiences of students rather than on a transmission curriculum predicated on
language forms and ideal texts.
Cummins (1986a) also suggests that the workshop
approach to writing instruction recognizes the social and cultural embeddedness of
teaching, learning, and schooling, and as such has the potential to empower students.
workshop model is empowering because it "encourages students to assume greater
control over setting their own learning goals and to collaborate with each other in
achieving these goals" (Cummins, 1986a, p.28).
However, both Giroux and Cummins
caution that while a writing workshop may offer a potential resolution of the dilemmas of
Crucial to this argument is the recognition that it is not enough for the teacher to
merely dignify the grounds on which students learn to speak, imagine and give
meaning to their world.
This is important, but it is also crucial for teachers to
understand how schools, as part of the wider dominant culture, often function to
marginalize, disconfirm and delegitimate the experiences, histories, and categories
that students use in mediating their lives.
This means understanding how texts,
classroom relations, teacher talk, and other aspects of the formal and hidden
curricula of schooling often function to actively silence students. (Giroux, 1987
Giroux and Cummins
see potential in writing workshops for culturally and linguistically
diverse students, but remind educators that writing workshops also may delegitimize the
experiences and lives of students if educators assume writing workshop arrangements are
neutral or are interpreted by all students in the same way.
It is the intent of this study to
explore the different meanings and interpretations that ESOL students give to their
experiences in a mainstream writing workshop setting.
Another strand of literature provides an alternative point of view about the
appropriateness of process writing for diverse student populations.
Delpit (1995) finds
that process writing is predicated on the belief that fluency must be cultivated before
students can be expected to conform to conventional standards.
Such a belief
presupposes that many students, particularly culturally and linguistically diverse students,
Delpit disputes such a claim, arguing instead that many white middle-class
teachers fail to recognize the fluency of their culturally and linguistically diverse students.
Given that many culturally and linguistically diverse students already possess fluency,
writing pedagogy in the classroom should focus on skill instruction.
fluent. (p. 16)
Delpit does not suggest that a writing process approach to literacy development is wrong
or that a skill-oriented approach is right. Ir
from the interaction of the two approaches.
stead she suggests that much can be gained
Delpit's arguments are compelling, but like
many other writing process researchers, her arguments focus on the writing competency
of students and the influence a teacher has on that competency, not on what it means to be
a culturally and linguistically diverse student in a writing workshop setting.
Second Language Literacy Research:
Role of First Language Literacy
Much of the research on second language literacy focuses on the role that first
language literacy plays in its development.
A number of researchers find that literacy
skills developed in the first language not only transfer to the second language, but also are
crucial to academic success in the second language (Au, 1993;
Cummins, 1986a,1986b, 1991;
Cummins & Swain, 1986;
Freeman & Freeman, 1992;
Wong Fillmore & Valdez, 1986).
In fact, first language literacy is a strong predictor of academic success in a second or
even third language (Swain, Lapkin, Rowen & Hart, 1990).
Students who know how to
read and write in their first language generally are more successful learning how to read
and write in another language, and as a result are more successful in school (Collier,
Ramirez (1991), for example, finds that students enrolled in late-exit bilingual
programs out perform students enrolled in early-exit bilingual programs and in inclusive,
other programs when they receive a significant amount of primary language instruction
and develop first language literacy skills.
Carlisle (1986) examines cross-lingual relationships in the writing of Spanish-
speaking fourth and sixth grade ESOL students and finds that rhetorical effectiveness in
Spanish is a significant predictor of rhetorical effectiveness in English.
for background factors, Carlisle also finds that Hispanic students enrolled in a bilingual
program perform significantly better on English writing productivity than do Hispanic
students enrolled in a submersion program.
Harley, Allen, Cummins and Swain (1987)
also find significant cross-linguistic relationships for reading and writing skills among
Japanese background students.
Those students who are proficient readers and writers in
their first language tend to become proficient readers and writers in their second language
when given the opportunity to develop such skills.
Cummins (1979, 1981, 1986b, 1991) explains that the "linguistic interdependence
principle" accounts for such findings.
To the extent that instruction in Lx is effective in promoting proficiency in Lx,
transfer of this proficiency to Ly will occur provided there is adequate exposure to
Ly (either in school or environment) and adequate motivation to learn Ly. In
concrete terms, what this principle means is that in, for example, a Spanish-
English bilingual program, Spanish instruction that develops Spanish reading and
writing skills is not just developing Spanish skills, it is also developing a deeper
conceptual and linguistic proficiency that is strongly related to the development of
literacy in the majority language (English).
Some studies also indicate that if students do not reach a certain threshold in first
language proficiency. includinQ literacy thev may experience nonitivp cliffenltiec in thw
determined the specific number of years of schooling needed for the threshold, given
individual variation across language learners, Collier and Thomas (1989) find that
students with less than three to four years of first language schooling generally lag two or
three years behind their ESOL cohorts in academic achievement in the second language.
Much of the research focusing on the role of first language literacy in the
development of second language literacy finds that instruction in the native language and
the length of time instruction is received in the native language are the most important
independent variables influencing second language literacy development.
primary language instruction is treated as a single variable, as a treatment students do or
do not receive, and is correlated with second language literacy skills.
Attention often is
not paid to what the process of learning to read and write in a second language looks like
for ESOL students and the constellation of variables, in addition to first language literacy,
that influence its development.
In addition to considering how first language literacy
influences the writing development of secondary ESOL students in mainstream writing
workshops, my study also examines the social nature of writing development.
That is, it
examines how written language develops in the lives of ESOL students as they interact
with others in a mainstream writing workshop.
School Adaptation Research on the Differential Academic Success of Minority Students
In recent years, a number of educational anthropologists examine the adaptation
patterns of immigrant students in American schools in an attempt to understand the
achievement (Gibson, 1987
& Suarez-Orozco, 1987).
According to the
cultural ecologists, the denigrating treatment of minorities in the United States applies to
both "voluntary" and "involuntary" minorities, but primarily affects involuntary
minorities because of "their own rationalization or explanation of the existing social order
and their place in it...
" (Ogbu & Matute-Bianchi, 1986, p.93).
Cultural ecologists find
that involuntary minorities who are "incorporated into a society more or less involuntarily
through slavery, conquest, or colonization" tend to experience disproportionate academic
failure, compared to other minority groups, as a result of their historical experiences and
their collective response to society's past and present oppression.
minorities respond to society's oppression with what many anthropologists refer to as
"cultural inversion" whereby members of a cultural group regard certain forms of
behavior, certain events, symbols, and meanings of mainstream society as not appropriate
for them because they are characteristic of white, mainstream America (Ogbu, 1987).
Cultural ecologists find that minority groups that experience academic success, on
the other hand, tend to be groups that voluntarily immigrated to the United States for
economic and/or political reasons. They too face barriers that make "getting ahead"
difficult, but their response to these barriers differs.
"Voluntary" minorities tend to
subscribe to the middle- class "folk theory of success" (Ogbu, 1987) that believes that one
gets a well-paying job by getting a good education. When voluntary minorities encounter
prejudice and discrimination, they tend to rationalize it. They believe discrimination is
A number of studies support the cultural ecologist position about differential
academic achievement patterns found across different minority groups.
(1987), for example, examines in a two-year ethnographic study at two school sites in
Northern California why Mexican-American students experience disproportionate
academic failure, while Central American students experience academic success.
high motivation to succeed in school among the recent Central American immigrants is
fueled by a personal concern to help less fortunate family members back home. In some
instances, parents use life savings to send sons and daughters to the United States. Many
Central American students believe that the only way to repay their parents is by
in the United States.
These students view the American
educational system as the "only way up."
In order to explain the differential adaptive patterns of school functioning among
the Mexican-American students, Suarez-Orozco highlights a key incident that occurs in
one fourth-grade classroom. The key incident is emblematic not only of a pattern that
develops throughout the school year; it also reveals how the marginalization of Mexican-
American students gets played out inside the classroom.
After the fourth grade teacher
discourages the participation of two Mexican-American boys in a classroom election, the
young boys remain unusually quiet and stop participating in academic activities for the
remainder of the day.
While the Central American students continue to study under
adverse conditions, the Mexican-American students tend to shut down.
systematically have been exploited over generations through slavery or colonization
(Mexicans in the Southwest after the Anglo colonization of the Mexican territories)
historically are relegated to low paying jobs regardless of their talent or motivation.
such, education historically has been irrelevant in their lives.
School failure among
castelike minorities "may be understood as an adaptation to the barriers limiting
posteducational awards in the labor marketplace" (Suarez-Orozco, 1987
voluntary and involuntary minorities, like the Central American and the Mexican-
American students in Suarez-Orozco's study, respond differently to the prejudice and
discrimination that shapes their adaptive patterns with respect to school.
Other researchers examining the adaptation patterns of immigrant students in
order to understand differential academic success focus on microlevel factors in the form
of cultural mismatches between the minority child and mainstream society (Au & Jordan,
Boggs, 1985; Diaz, Moll, & Mehan 1986;
Moll & Diaz, 1987
Scribner & Cole
Trueba & Delgado-Gaitan, 1988).
The cultural mismatch theory of conflict and
educational failure in minority classrooms holds that children "behave at school in terms
of cultures learned at home, resisting school and failing where the cultures of school and
home are different"
Proponents of the cultural mismatch theory
contend that the social adjustment and academic failure of many minority students is due
to cultural and language differences that manifest themselves in specific cultural domains
such as communicative style, cognitive style, motivational style, or interactional style.
the Kamehameha Early Education Project in Hawaii.
One group of native Hawaiian first
graders is exposed to mainstream Anglo patterns for turn taking while discussing reading
In other words, only one student at a time is allowed to speak.
In the treatment
group, however, students are allowed to overlap others while talking about the stories
Overlapping talk is characteristic of certain kinds of speech situations common
in student speech networks at home and in the community.
Au and Mason report that the
children in the treatment group are manifestly more enthusiastic when participating than
are the students in the control group.
Moreover, the students' understanding of the
reading texts, as measured by tests given immediately after each lesson, is markedly
greater when the students are allowed to use the overlapping speech format.
Au and Mason (1981) conclude that the academic success of the treatment group
is a result of the continuity between the children's home environment and classroom
By using a familiar conversational pattern to approach the practice of
unfamiliar concepts, such as reading a text, the overall cognitive task structure is made
simpler, given that the students are able to focus their attention on the reading of the text
rather than divide their attention between reading and a new mode of conversation.
when the students talk overlappingly about a story, a great deal of repetition occurs and
the students begin adding new ideas of their own. The students, in effect, provide
mutually constructed cognitive scaffolding for one another. The researchers also point
out that the school's acceptance of the children's mode of interaction may be perceived
Researchers operating from the cultural ecologist perspective and the cultural
mismatch perspective contribute to our understanding of how culture influences academic
While these approaches represent two different conceptual avenues for
interpreting differential academic achievement across minority groups, they are
Cultural ecologists focus on macrolevel factors outside the
classroom and home, while cultural mismatch researchers focus on microlevel factors
inside the classroom and home.
However, both theoretical approaches deal with global
generalities and distinctive features concerning various minority groups found in the
Each theory explains why, as a whole, some minority groups experience
success or failure in school.
However, neither theory accounts for individual success.
While some minority students may have difficulty in school because of linguistic and
cultural mismatches, other minority students are academically successful in spite of the
By the same token, there is an abundance of evidence to suggest that some
castelike minorities are successful in school in spite of their historical experiences.
cultural ecologist approach, like the cultural mismatch approach, cannot account for this
In my study, however, I hope to do so.
Both theories also cultivate stereotypical descriptions of minority students with
little attention given to individual experiences.
When individual experiences are
neglected, it often is assumed that it is possible to meet the academic needs of all
castelike minorities, for example, with the same kind of educational treatment.
language, is a slim one.
On the other hand, the differences among these children
are many and have great educational significance. (Allen, 1991)
While my study considers both the macrolevel and microlevel contexts of the academic
experiences of ESOL students, particularly the microlevel contexts of the classroom and
the home community, it focuses on the individual experiences of six ESOL students in a
mainstream writing workshop and the meaning those students give to their experiences.
Moreover, this study focuses on the bridges students construct between home and school
in order to make sense of their experiences, rather than on well-documented "cultural
mismatches" between home and school.
The purpose of this study is to examine the process-oriented writing experiences
of ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops, from the perspective of the ESOL
students themselves, to understand how the workshop model may promote community
membership and writing competency for ESOL students.
achieving such a purpose is ethnography
One method capable of
Ethnography is designed to describe and
understand a cultural scene from the emic (or insider) perspective of the participants.
To describe a culture... is not to recount the events of a society but to specify
what one must know to make those events maximally probable.
The problem is
not to state what someone did but to specify the conditions under which it is
culturally appropriate to anticipate that he, or persons occupying his role, will
render an equivalent performance.
This conception of a cultural description
implies that an ethnography should be a theory of cultural behavior in a particular
society.... (Frake, 1964, p. 112)
As such, the task of the ethnographer is not merely to recount events but to render a
theory of cultural behavior.
Goodenough (1976) defines the ethnographic process as one
of "attributing" a theory to members of a particular group about their collective behavior.
The culture of any society is made up of the concepts, beliefs, and principles of
action and organization that an ethnographer has found could be attributed
successfully to the members of that society in the context of his dealings with
them. (p. 5)
"Culture as such, as an explicit statement of how the members of a particular
social group act and believe they should act, does not exist until someone acting in the
role of ethnographer puts it there" (Wolcott, 1987, p. 41).
merely a requirement of ethnographic research, "it is the
Cultural interpretation is not
essence of the ethnographic
endeavor" (Wolcott, 1987, p. 43).
In order to describe and interpret the cultural behavior of those being studied,
ethnographers are concerned with holism, nonjugdmentalism, and contextualization.
The concept of holism commands our attention to the larger picture and to the
interrelated nature of the minute to the whole cultural system.
orientation prevents the social scientist from making some of the more obvious
value judgments in research. Biases are made explicit to mitigate their
unintended effects on research. Contextualization demands that we place the data
in its own environment so as to provide a more accurate presentation. (Fetterman,
1984, p. 23)
Ethnographers typically enter the field with a few guiding questions rather than a
Once in the field, the focus of one's research may shift or
become more narrow as new questions emerge based on the collection of contextualized
data from the cultural scene and subsequent analyzation of the data.
ethnographic work is predicated on a willingness to examine the larger picture rather than
focusing on a few elements within a complex situation and on a willingness to tolerate a
level of ambiguity as one's research questions and focus shift.
work also involves a willingness to maintain a nonjudgmental attitude throughout the
study and a willingness to examine behavior in the context in which it occurs.
and atypical ESOL students in a mainstream writing workshop?" evolves as my
understanding of the cultural scene deepens to "Why is the process of making sense, or
the process of learning a second language, different for typical and atypical ESOL
In this study, I use the techniques of ethnographic research to examine the
experiences of ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops from the perspective of
the students themselves.
In explaining the methodology I employ, I first describe the
research setting and the participants.
by a discussion about data analysis.
Next, I discuss data collection procedures, followed
Finally, I discuss matters of validity and reliability
so that the reader can be assured of the credibility of the research method, the data
findings, and the interpretation.
This study is conducted in a college town community in North Central Florida
during the 1997-1998 school year.
College Town is a moderate size city with a
residential population of 100,000 and a college student population of 45,000.
College Town is a diverse city with respect to its racial make up, the white, middle-class
population tends to live in the west part of town, and the black, working-class population
tends to live in the southeast part of town.
town, serves a diverse student population.
Oak Middle School, located in the west part of
Sixty percent of the school population is
white, thirty-five percent is black, and five percent of the population reflects a variety of
other ethnic backgrounds.
The percentage of ESOL students at Oak Middle School is
Town attend the center school for middle school ESOL students, some parents of ESOL
students opt to send their children to schools that are closer to home.
In fact, the parents
of the ESOL students in this study cite at least two reasons for sending their children to
Oak Middle School rather than the center school for ESOL students: close proximity to
home and the academic reputation of the school, particularly with respect to writing.
The writing workshop model at Oak Middle school was adopted in 1988 by the
English language arts teachers and implemented across all three grade levels the
I conduct my study in two sixth-grade writing workshop classrooms at
Oak Middle School because mainstreamed ESOL students typically are not found
homogeneously in a group but are scattered across a number of mainstream classes.
order to study the problem and to protect against unforeseeable participant attrition, two
mainstream writing workshop classes that have a sufficient number of ESOL students are
The writing workshop teachers in this study each have twelve years of experience
implementing writing workshops in their own classes.
Teachers at each grade level are
responsible for coordinating and implementing the writing workshop model in a way that
best meets the needs of the students at their particular grade level.
Given the grade level
coordination that goes on, there are striking similarities across the grade level writing
workshops at Oak Middle School.
For example, all sixth grade language arts teachers
encourage their students to experiment with the same five genres:
expository writing, persuasive writing, poetry, and letter writing.
All sixth grade students
also address the same portfolio analysis questions at the end of each term. and all sixth
The unity of the sixth-grade language arts team also is promoted by the
arrangement of the sixth grade language arts classrooms.
The entire sixth-grade is
housed on the east wing of the school, with the sixth-grade language arts classrooms
occupying one suite.
When one enters the sixth-grade language arts corridor, one sees
big bright green letters that spell out "Frogtown," the sixth grade motto.
student art work, poetry, and other papers written by different sixth-grade students
decorating the walls, along with a display of "Frog of the Week" awards.
The center of
the sixth-grade language arts suite houses 16 computer terminals shared by the five sixth-
grade language arts teachers.
The sixth-grade language arts teachers work well together.
While similarities exist across the grade level writing workshops at Oak Middle School
with respect to some assignments, there also are striking differences in how the teachers
in my study implement writing workshop in their own classrooms.
These differences are
discussed in Chapter 4.
Six ESOL students participate in this ethnographic study:
three atypical ESOL
students and three typical ESOL students, with a combination of atypical and typical
ESOL students in each writing workshop.
The atypical ESOL students come from upper
middle-class homes where one or both parents have either a Ph.D. or a M.D.
students took English classes in their home countries before coming to the United States,
and they have parents who are fluent readers, writers, and speakers of English.
dominant language, however, is their native language.
In other words, they speak, read,
parents of the atypical ESOL students report that their children are at or above grade-
level with respect to their first language reading and writing skills.
The typical ESOL students have backgrounds more reflective of the national
profile of ESOL students in the United States.
More specifically, the typical ESOL
students did not have an opportunity to learn English before immigrating to the United
Their parents do not hold college degrees nor are their parents as fluent in English
as the parents of the atypical ESOL students.
Stephanie and Nina's dominant language is St
Alex's dominant language is English, and
anish. In other words, Alex speaks, reads,
and writes more proficiently in English than in Spanish, while Stephanie and Nina speak,
read, and write more proficiently in Spanish.
Even though Alex's
dominant language is
English, he continues to be classified as an ESOL student because he scores well below
grade-level norms on standardized tests with respect to reading and writing.
language dominance of the ESOL students is an important factor to consider given the
influence it may have on the experiences of the ESOL students in a mainstream writing
The three atypical ESOL students have been in the United States less than a year,
while two of the three typical ESOL students, Nina and Stephanie, have lived in the
country one and a half years, and the third typical ESOL student, Alex, has lived in the
country seven years.
All of the ESOL students are 11 to 12-years-old.
With respect to
national origin, the students come from six different countries: Taiwan, Turkey, Korea,
Colombia, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
The students also report using
education in their home countries up to the point of their arrival in the United States.
Table 1 below provides a summary of the ESOL students'
Summary of ESOL Student Background
educational attainment, Mother
's educational attainment
Three types of data--observations, interviews, and writing samples--are used to
investigate the lived experiences of ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops. I
formally observe Mrs. Goode's and Ms. Nunley's writing workshops 110 times each, for
a combined total of 220 times, during the 1997-1998 school year.
In terms of hours, I
spend 200 hours observing the ESOL students in their writing workshops.
observer in the writing workshop classroom, I move between "passive" participation and
notes as the ESOL students participate in the daily routines of the writing workshop
I initially observe from the back of the classrooms, but given the
individualized nature of writing workshops with students working at their own pace in
various stages of process writing and in different places around the room, it is necessary
to conduct my observations from different stations in the classrooms in order to capture
the activities and interactions of the ESOL students.
For example, when an ESOL
student talks with a peer in a writing conference, I move nearby, without directly sitting
in on the conference, in order to record their interactions and verbal exchanges in my
The purpose for sitting near the conference, but not in it, is to remain as
unobtrusive as possible in order to minimize the impact of my presence.
For the same
reason, I observe the ESOL students from the side of the room when they work
independently at their tables on a draft in order to record behavior while remaining
While the observations focus on the interactions of the ESOL students, I
also roam around the classroom periodically as a passive participant in order to capture
the activities of the monolingual students so that comparisons between the ESOL students
and the monolingual students in a writing workshop setting can be made.
Once the students are comfortable with my presence in the classroom, my level of
At this point, I move back and forth between passive and
According to Spradley (1980),
"moderate participation occurs
when the ethnographer seeks to maintain a balance between being an insider and an
outsider between narticination and ohservatinn" (n 60)
Mv moderate narticination
a moderate level, these activities do not absorb more than five to seven minutes at any
In fact, most days my level of participation remains passive with just a few
instances of moderate participation.
During the observations, I listen to what the ESOL students say and observe what
they do as they participate in the different stages of process writing.
recording whom the ESOL students interact with, documenting how these interactions are
initiated, and recording what is said.
The purpose of the observations is to understand
how the ESOL students participate in the stages of process writing to develop literacy
skills in English and to become members of the class.
In other words, the purpose of the
observations is to understand the writing development of the ESOL students as they
interact with their peers and teacher.
During the initial observations, I take what Spradley (1980) refers to as
Instead of writing complete thoughts and sentences, I quickly jot
down phrases and single words that capture what I observe.
Once away from the setting,
I immediately expand my condensed notes into typed, single-spaced protocol pages in
order to capture a more complete description of my observations.
After the initial
observations, I begin taking more detailed notes of ESOL student interactions and
According to Dobbert (1984), detailed notes are "handwritten
stenographic notes [used] to record verbatim conversations or to make detailed records of
interactions" (p. 248).
Immediately after an observation, I review my detailed notes to
fill in migcin r wnrdr or to rewrite illeoihle esntence' I then tvne the detailed field nntes
capture the level of detail I want, the ESOL students help reconstruct an interaction after I
show my notes to them.
In addition to conducting observations, I also conduct interviews throughout the
I conduct six 25-minute audio-taped interviews with each of the ESOL
students, for a combined total of 36 formal interviews.
conversations with each of the students. Each formal
a combined total of 300 protocol pages. The purpose
I also have several informal
interview is transcribed, generating
f the interviews is to understand
how the ESOL students experience process writing and to uncover the cultural meaning
they give this experience.
on my observations. Dur
The interviews also allow me to clarify questions I have based
ing the school year, I also have several informal conversations
with each of the workshop teachers and one 40-minute audio-taped interview with each
of the writing workshop teachers.
The purpose of the informal conversations and formal
interview is to gain a better understanding about instructional practices and assessment
practices concerning the ESOL students.
The transcribed teacher interviews generate
protocol pages of data.
Student writing, the third type of data I use to investigate the lived experiences of
ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops, is collected and photocopied once
every nine weeks in order to examine the changes that occur in how ESOL students use
the written system to participate in culturally valued literacy activities.
also are used in order to look at writing competency over time. Ten to
fifteen pieces of
writing are collected from each of the ESOT, students
experiences of ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops.
For example, long-term
observation in a natural setting provides categories of data that arise from the setting and
the participants, rather than strictly from the researcher.
This is important for an inquiry
into the lived experiences of ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops.
these observations form the base of the interviews, allowing for greater articulation of the
Not only do the observations form the base of the interviews,
but there is ongoing interaction between the observations and interviews.
and Spindler (1987) explain,
One observes, begins to formulate questions, asks questions and gets some
answers, observes some more with perceptions sharpened by new cultural
knowledge refines questions, focusing them on relationships that appear to be
particularly critical, observes some more, looking for repetitions of behavioral
pattern with more focus than initially, and so on, and on. (p. 20)
While the interviews clarify the observations, they also elicit information about
each participant's perspective of how he/she views the world.
another base for the interviews.
The writing samples form
Rather than simply analyzing student text for
grammatical correctness and structure, writing is examined in the context of how
students use the printed word as a mediational tool for taking action in the world.
combining field notes from observations with student writing samples, I am able to elicit
the meaning ESOL students ascribe to specific mediated events in the writing workshop
Data analysis begins with the utilization of Soradlev'
questions and identify patterns and recurring themes in the data.
According to Spradley
(1980), domain analysis allows the researcher "to uncover categories of cultural meaning
that are embedded in the ethnographic data"
Domain analysis also allows the
researcher to "identify relationships among items in the domains, and to discover
structural questions that will guide further data collection" (p. 33).
This phase of data
analysis involves preparing a domain analysis worksheet with space for both cover and
"Making systematic use of this kind of worksheet...help[s] to uncover
domains embedded in the sentences...
"(Spradley, 1979, p. 113).
After developing a
domain analysis worksheet, domain categories are identified using Spradley's (1979)
nine semantic categories of domain relationships (p. 111).
domains are identified during this phase of data analysis.
More than two hundred
Once a number of domains are
identified, I begin formulating what Spradley (1979) refers to as "structural" questions
for some of the domains.
"Structural questions are.. .specifically designed to test the
ethnographic hypotheses that have emerged from domain analysis (Spradley, 1979, p.
In other words, after tentatively identifying domains in a culture, it is necessary to
test them with informants or participants by asking structural questions that confirm or
disconfirm the hypothesized domains. For example, one of the uncovered domains is
"ways the writing workshop teacher helps students." Some of the structural questions
asked of the participants include:
"How does the writing workshop teacher help
students?" "When does the writing workshop teacher help students?" "What do students
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Once domains are verified and saturated with examples, taxonomic analysis is
According to Spradley (1980), a taxonomy is a "set of categories organized
on the basis of a single semantic relationship"
Taxonomic analysis involves
identifying relationships within and between the domains with a focus on similarities
among the folk terms. Taxonomic analysis helps uncover new relationships among folk
terms that reveal the internal structure of the domains.
Once I develop a number of
taxonomies and start developing a taxonomic diagram for major cultural domains, I start
formulating what Spradley refers to as "contrast" questions. Contrast questions get at
differences between two elements within a particular domain. For example, once I
identify the kinds of help the writing workshop teachers provide in their writing
workshops, I ask,
"How is one kind of help different than another kind of help offered by
After uncovering numerous contrasts, componential analysis is conducted in order
to identify the components of meaning for the different contrast sets.
analysis is the systematic search for the attributes (components of meaning) associated
with cultural symbols" (Spradley, 1979, p.
During this phase of data analysis, a
"paradigm" or a schematic representation of the attributes that distinguish the members of
a contrast set (Spradley, 1979, p. 176) is developed.
In addition to utilizing Spradley's
Developmental Research Sequence, data
analysis also is guided by a social constructivist orientation.
As I analyze data collected
in October and November. I uncover evidence of the social function of writing in the
requirements for the ESOL students in their workshops;
it also fulfills social purposes as
Developmental Research Sequence helps me organize the data and
important patterns in the data representing the differential experiences of the typical and
atypical ESOL students and the differential ways they work to make sense of their
inclusive writing workshops, as well as the factors that hinder or facilitate their
The lense of social constructivism, particularly an orientation informed by
the work of Vygotsky and Bakhtin, allow me to understand how children, specifically
ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops, learn to construct social worlds
through manipulation of the written word.
The lenses of social constructivism also allow
me to understand how ESOL students learn to write through social interaction with
Vygotsky's sociohistorical approach to development, including writing
development, emphasizes the importance of social activity to the development of a
symbol system, as well as the importance of a symbol system to the enactment of human
activity (Vygotsky, 1978).
In Vygotsky's view, children learn to write as they assume
different social roles and engage in valued cultural activities.
For instance, children
acquire oral linguistic knowledge as they use speech to act in the social world.
acquisition of linguistic knowledge and the acquisition of social knowledge are
inextricably linked" (Dyson, 1993a, p. 80)
Data analysis also is guided by the work of Bakhtin.
While Vygotsky illuminates
the importance of social activity with respect to writing development. Bakhtin (1981.
When assuming a new role, speakers and writers use the already spoken words of
others in order to accomplish social work.
Thus, children learn to craft voices that are
guided by a history of past conversations.
From November onward, I focus on the social dimensions of learning to write in a
As such, the next phase of data collection and analysis is guided by an
How do ESOL students use the composing process to construct social worlds?
After conducting more data analysis, I find that typical and atypical ESOL students use
the composing process in different ways to construct social worlds.
of analysis on understanding these differences.
I focus the last phase
Two final question guide data collection
What factors influence how typical and atypical ESOL students use the
composing process to construct social worlds?
* How does the function of writing change over time for the ESOL students?
Issues of Validity and Reliability
Shimahara (1988) defines ethnographic validity as "the degree to which
participant observation achieves what it purports to discover, i.e., the authentic
representation of what is happening in the social scene" (p. 86).
An indication of validity
is the ethnographer's "understanding of the meanings of the observed sociocultural
........ --l -- ... / 0 0 O X
and analysis, ethnographers must acknowledge and continually check their biases.
Having been an English teacher for seven years in both the junior high school and the
high school setting, I do not enter the classroom as a stranger.
Based on my own
experiences as an English teacher who has implemented a writing workshop in the junior
high English classes I taught for five years, I conduct this study with a positive
disposition toward the writing workshop approach.
Writing workshops honor meaning over form, the expressive use of language over
correctness, and genuine communication between teacher and students over teacher
judgment (Abt-Perkins, 1993). As an English teacher, I also developed an interest in the
education of ESOL students. With the growing number of ESOL students being
mainstreamed into my English classes, I came to realize that ESOL students have
educational needs that often are different from the educational needs of their native
English-speaking peers. I also came to realize that the educational needs of ESOL
students are not always served. These experiences provide me with an understanding of
Oak Middle School and of classroom life in general that only an insider can have.
Furthermore, I hoped the ethnographic data would allow me to identify instructional
practices that help meet the needs of both typical and atypical ESOL students in a
mainstream writing workshop setting.
In addition to my positive predisposition toward
the writing workshop approach and my interest in the education of ESOL students, I also
have an inclination toward the social constructivist view of meaning.
Knowledge is not a
set of facts or concepts waiting to be discovered, nor is it something that exists
meaning to their experiences.
In other words, meaning is assigned, not inherent in
actions or objects.
Nevertheless, while attempting to understand what it means to be an ESOL
student in a mainstream writing workshop, I take steps not to allow my biases to
influence the research task.
Long-term, repeated observations and interviews focusing on
the students' experiences from their perspectives help to ensure that my biases do not
interfere with the research task.
The observations occur on different days of the week to
ensure that I have data representative of the students'
reflective of specific days of the week.
experiences and not merely
During the formal interviews and informal
conversations, the ESOL students are asked several times to review observation field
notes with me in order clarify questions I have based on my observations and to ensure
that I am capturing their perspective rather than my own.
I also use several other sources
of information to understand what it was like to be an ESOL student in a mainstream
More specifically, I collect and analyze student writing samples
throughout the year, collect copies of handouts teachers use in class during their lessons,
and interview the writing workshop teachers and the parents of the ESOL students
Agar (1980) identifies three additional circumstances that can reduce the validity
of one's study: a participant may be inconsistent, two participants my disagree, and
discrepancies between what the participants say and what the researcher observes may
A rtt ++l^ a* a- CC ; rTn +* + an s on or 10 c a
+l-j'- /i~ m(-l-f^/i Inlnn- hv\^' ft~/ Ir~ lr ^r
and uncover inconsistencies in the data, and the reason for these inconsistencies, through
repetitive observations in the field.
No technique has proven so effective
...as prolonged participant
observation.... The longer one lives with people and the better one knows them,
the less likely it is that the presence of the investigator will produce unknown
effects upon the behavior the investigator is attempting to understand. (Edgerton
& Langness, 1974, p. 32)
Prolonged and repetitive observations increase the probability that what occurs in the
presence of the researcher would likely occur in the absence of the researcher as well.
In addition to observing the ESOL students repeatedly for a prolonged period of
time in order to reduce reactivity, I also address the issue in other ways when I am aware
that my presence is having an effect on the students.
Two of the ESOL students become
concerned about my role in the classroom when they see that I take notes continuously
After class, they quietly ask,
"Will you tell parent?"
"What you writing?" "Will you tell
After talking to them, it becomes clear that these two
students are concerned that I will tell the teacher or their parents if they do something
In other words, the students feel that I might report them if they are chewing gum
in class, for example, or passing a note, or doing science homework during writing
I reassure the students that I am not there to report back to their parents or the
I am there in order to understand how ESOL students learn to write in a writing
The two students seem relieved, but the next day it is apparent that
they still are unconvinced.
The next dav when they nonin
ePP that 1 am tnkina nntrP thpv Innk at eacnh nthpr
that doing so actually would be a breech of our agreement.
While the students still are
learning to trust me, I make a point of sharing my field notes with them, at least the notes
that pertain to each of them.
I also make a point of allowing the students to hear my
conversations with the writing workshop teacher in order to allay their fears.
talking in hushed tones, the teacher and I use audible voices.
When the students find that
these conversations tend to focus on the teacher's explanation about some aspect of the
writing workshop classroom and not specifically on them per
se, they start feeling more
comfortable and relaxed.
In order to cultivate and maintain my role as a neutral observer, I also make a
point of accepting only limited authority in the classroom.
For example, when students,
both monolingual and ESOL, ask my permission to use the restroom, or ask my
permission to work in the computer lab, I tell them to ask the teacher.
Or when the
students look to me to settle a dispute or to intervene when another student is annoying
them, I refer them to the teacher. However, if they ask me to spell a word or to add paper
to the printer, I fulfill their request. This dichotomy between what I can do and what I
cannot do reinforces my neutral observer role in the classroom.
While I have the
authority to help students in limited ways with their work, I do not have the authority to
grant permission for other activities or the authority to make students behave.
students behave in my presence as if I am not there.
When passing a note, for example,
they make sure the teacher is not looking, but have no problem passing the note in my
Recrnuse of the neutral observer role I maintain- thev learn that I will not
presence has on both the typical and atypical ESOL students and even the monolingual
Shimahara (1988) defines ethnographic reliability as the "repeatability of a given
study by researchers other than the original participant observer: the extent to which
independent researchers discover the same phenomenon in comparable situations" (p.
Trueba (1981) explains that reliability involves the "congruence between the
ethnographer's interpretation of observed behavior and the social meaning attached to
that behavior by the actors" (p. 24).
The greater the congruence is between the
researcher's interpretation and the meaning attached to behavior by participants, the
greater the possibility that other researchers will discover similar phenomenon in
In order to enhance the reliability of one's research and make it
possible for other researchers to duplicate methodology, Shimahara (1988) explains that
the researcher must attend to four different issues:
[A] delineation of the physical, cultural, and social contexts of the study; a
statement of the ethnographer's role in the research setting;
description of the conceptual framework of the research, and a complete
description of the methods of data collection and analysis. (p. 87)
I address each of the above matters.
In this chapter (III),
I briefly describe the
physical, cultural, and social contexts of the study when I describe the setting.
IV includes a more detailed description of the writing workshop setting.
Chapter III also
includes a statement about my role in the research setting and a complete description of
ATYPICAL ESOL STUDENT
PROCESSES OF MAKING SENSE
The findings that follow in the next six chapters examine the experiences of
typical and the atypical ESOL students in two mainstream writing workshops.
specifically, Chapter IV focuses on the initial processes of making sense, or the processes
of language learning, for the atypical ESOL students, while Chapter V focuses on the
initial processes of making sense for the typical ESOL students at the beginning of the
Chapters VI and VII focus on the evolution that occurs in the experiences of the
ESOL students as their English proficiency develops and as they negotiate membership in
the writing workshop community.
In these chapters (4-7), I examine the experiences of
the typical and the atypical ESOL students in five components of the writing workshop:
status of the class, mini lessons, drafting, conferences, and group share.
In Chapter VIII,
I exclusively focus on the writing experiences of the typical and the atypical ESOL
students from a Vygotskian perspective using Wertsch's other-self regulated continuum
with respect to learning.
In Chapter IX, I focus on the writing experiences of the typical
and the atypical ESOL students from a Bakhtinian perspective.
I examine how the ESOL
students use writing to establish and maintain relationships with their peers.
The present chapter focuses on the experiences of the atypical ESOL students as
The atypical ESOL students arrive in the United States with strong academic records.
Baris and Torrance never earn below an "A" in their native countries, while Sungho's
grades never dip below a "B.
These students see themselves as competent students, and
they are anxious for others to see them in a similar fashion.
The chapter is divided into
five sections, with each section reflecting the experiences of the atypical ESOL students
in one component their writing workshops.
Before discussing the experiences of the
atypical ESOL students and their processes of making sense, I first describe the two
writing workshops in this study in order to help establish the context in which this study
Ms. Nunley has a class of 28 students.
reflect a variety of backgrounds.
The 19 boys and nine girls in her class
In addition to three ESOL students from Turkey,
Taiwan, and Puerto Rico, there also are seven African-American students and 18 Anglo-
Ms. Nunley's writing workshop classroom is neat and orderly and
the atmosphere is businesslike.
The students sit at tables symmetrically arranged around
the four walls of the room, leaving a large open space in the center of the room for a
variety of activities:
student-teacher conferences, peer conferences, group share, and
When students sit at their tables, the only materials allowed on the table
tops are a pen or pencil and the paper they are writing on.
the floor next to the legs of their chairs.
Book bags must be placed on
One minute before the bell rings signaling the
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EH *-kn ~l/nn +1^/w *- YI:l.IZ/^ *A*Ai nn
If students talk out of turn during status of the class or during any other activity,
they lose participation points.
Student writing is a valued activity in Ms. Nunley's writing workshop.
white magnetic boards serve as a display for final drafts of student writing. TI
below the boards serve as a display for the three ring binders the students are asked to
purchase at the beginning of the school year for their writing portfolios.
As soon as
students bring in their three ring binders, Ms. Nunley allows them to select a cover from
among six different sheets of decorative paper for their writing portfolio binder.
sheet of paper is selected, Ms. Nunley goes to the computer lab outside her door and
prints in big block letters "John's
Writing Portfolio" across the sheet of paper.
personalized binder is then displayed on the ledge of the white board for the rest of the
class to see.
One of the hallmarks of Ms. Nunley's writing workshop is the independence she
attempts to cultivate among her students.
Before students approach Ms. Nunley with a
question, she expects them to figure the answer out for themselves.
For example, Ms.
Nunley does not want students asking her whether or not they can use the restroom.
Instead, she leaves a restroom pass in a basket on the top of a short book shelf.
student needs to use the restroom, he/she picks up the pass, stands at the door, establishes
eye contact with Ms. Nunley so that she knows someone is leaving the room, and then
he/she is free to exit.
If students are absent from school, Ms. Nunley expects them to ask
npprc nhniit y1hant thpev micPd when they return
She nln leave'P handnmit and nther
independence, Ms. Nunley also encourages students to take care of problems that might
arise with other students.
For example, on one occasion when a student asks Ms. Nunley
to intervene in a student conflict, Mrs. Nunley instructs the student to deal with it herself.
Tonya, if Robert is bothering you, get up and sit somewhere else.
You don't need
me to take care of the problem for you.
Just get up and move.
I'm not blind.
see what's going on, but it is something you can take care of. I'n
upset if you get up and move during group share. I see what's gc
discretely take care of the problem without interrupting the class.
n not going to get
)ing on. You can
Mrs. Goode has a class of 26 students, of which 14 are girls and 12 are boys.
These students also reflect a variety of backgrounds.
In addition to three ESOL students
from Korea, Columbia, and the Dominican Republic, there are six African-American
students, two Indian-American students, and 15 Anglo-American students. Mrs. Goode's
writing workshop is neat and orderly and the atmosphere is warm and friendly. Three or
four students sit across from one another or side-by-side at nine tables arranged in the
center of the room and at three additional tables arranged alongside the east wall of the
The west side of the room is reserved for student conferences.
A six-by-four foot
space is left open and free of furniture so that students can convene on the floor near the
west wall when meeting with peers about their writing.
The east wall of the room also is adorned with decorative and instructional
In honor of the sixth grade mascot, Mrs. Goode has a collection often large frog
posters running above the top of the chalk board.
On the left side of the chalk board,
Mrs. Goode displays a foster with Reading Workshoo rules and a foster of Writin2
when drafting a piece of writing.
prewriting stage to the final draft.
The nine posters document the process from the
Finally, the proofreading marks Mrs. Goode teaches
students to use when editing and revising their papers also are displayed on a poster
underneath the stages of process writing.
the walls of the room.
in their portfolios. Pe
For the most part, student work does not adorn
Student writing is housed either in the students' writing folders or
riodically, however, when students work on a project, the products
of their work are displayed in the room.
For example, when the students design
decorative book jackets for their reading workshop books, Mrs. Goode hangs the book
jackets from the ceiling of the room.
The back of the classroom houses a large library of adolescent books reflecting a
variety of authors and genres and interests and tastes.
The multicultural selection is
A small table housing a notebook for checking the books in and
out sits adjacent to the book shelves.
A spell check calculator also sits on the table and is
visited frequently by students during the writing workshop period.
Mrs. Goode's writing workshop is marked with a moderate level of noise.
Students speak in hushed tones while participating in the stages of process writing.
noise level rises too high, Mrs. Goode simply asks the students to bring the noise level
down, and they respond accordingly.
One of the hallmark features of Mrs. Goode's writing workshop is the degree of
help she provides her students.
Students are encouraged to solicit teacher help when in
doubt about a particular assignment or activity.
For example. when a student does not
cannot find his homework, Mrs. Goode sits down at his table and helps him organize his
three ring binder and book bag.
Mrs. Goode is like a mother to her students.
students come to class upset, she pats their backs and whispers words of encouragement
She might even encourage them to put their heads down or to read a book if
they are unable to focus on their writing.
Mrs. Goode's concern for the well-being of her
students is felt by the students, and their affection for her is returned.
Another hallmark feature of Mrs. Goode's writing workshop is the spirit of
cooperation she cultivates among her stude
distinctly in the peer writing conferences.
This spirit of cooperation is seen most
Even though students are free to conference at
home with family members, most students conference with a peer in the writing
Not only does Mrs. Goode encourage students to conference with one
another, but she also encourages students to help one another with respect to other
assignments or activities.
For example, when preparing for a quiz on suffixes and
prefixes, Mrs. Goode encourages students to pair up with a partner in order to quiz one
another before the official test.
When teaching the students the components of a
traditional research report, Mrs. Goode also encourages students to look at a partner's
paper if they are confused about some aspect of it.
This spirit of cooperation permeates
Mrs. Goode's writing workshop.
Status of the Class
Status of the Class is a method of keeping track of what students do on a daily
basis in their writing workshop classroom.
At the beginning of a class period, the teacher
teacher can record their responses.
In the process of making sense and the process of
reconstructing competent student identities, the atypical ESOL students engage in non-
genuine behavior during the early months of the school year in order to look like they are
participating in their workshops.
The non-genuine behavior of the atypical ESOL
students manifests itself across the different components of their writing workshops,
particularly during status of the class.
Ms. Nunley expects Status of the Class to take less than two minutes.
In order to
insure that Status of the Class is conducted in under two minutes, Ms. Nunley challenges
the students collectively to beat their best time.
When the class beats its best time, the
students spontaneously applaud and "high five" one another.
best time, a collective moan resonates throughout the class.
long responding, other students say, "Come on, come on." N
When they fail to beat their
When a student takes too
Vhile Ms. Nunley forbids
talking during Status of the Class, comments urging a fast response go unsanctioned as
long as they are not vocalized in a loud manner.
If a student pauses too long after his/her
name is called, Ms. Nunley calls the next student, returning to the skipped student once
Status of the Class is over and the class is working on their writing.
Confused and unable to respond as quickly as their monolingual peers, the
atypical ESOL students appropriate responses they do not fully understand in order to
participate in Status of the Class during the early weeks of the school year.
says "topic search" when his name is called.
He is not sure about its meaning, but he
hPnrc n nrnhir rftt thbr ctnrlontc CV21 "tnrni' vonrch
After being skipped as a result of pausing too long when his name is called during the
early weeks of school, Torrance also starts saying "topic search" or "prewrite" when he is
called during Status of the Class.
Like Baris, he is not sure about the meaning of these
words, but by responding with either of these terms, he appears to be participating in
Status of the Class like all the other students.
"I see other student like me
say 'topic search.'
Some say 'prewrite.'
I think I say that too.
Baris tell me,
It don't matter.
Just say topic search.'"
Like Baris, Torrance starts
responding when his name is called during Status of the Class, even though he does not
yet have an understanding of what the response means.
Even though the nature of Status of the Class is different in Mrs. Goode's writing
workshop, Sung Ho's early experiences are similar to Torrance's and Baris's.
Status of the Class, Mrs. Goode also expects students to announce the title of the piece
they are working on and the stage of writing it is in when their name is called, but she
does not enforce a two minute time restriction.
When students are confused about what
they are doing with the different stages of writing and what they should say, Mrs. Goode
helps confused students figure it out by walking over to their table and looking at their
previous day's work.
As a result, Status of the Class takes 10 to 12 minutes in Mrs.
Goode's classroom at the beginning of the year.
During the early weeks of the school year, Sungho accepts Mrs. Goode's
when he does not know how to respond.
After a short period of time, however, Sungho
mrann' t- : nn A.Ir n*anan n I r n lir r an n nn in-n^ in no 11/^/^ 0An Kl*l, nr1 of nTry/ rn b n ^nn
"Student conference friendly letter" when his name is called.
When writing workshop
begins, Sungho works on a draft of the letter without attempting to initiate a conference
When asked about the discrepancy between what he says and what he
actually does, Sungho says,
I don't know what say for Status of Class.
I say what Steven say.
Teacher always show class Steven work.
He know what
Teacher ask him to explain to
student at table. He smart.
He know what do.
Instead of accepting help from his respective writing workshop teacher for an extended
period of time, Sungho appropriates responses he does not fully understand.
Sungho is asked why he does not accept Mrs. Goode's help, he explains, "IV
very nice, but don't need help.
Mrs. Goode help three student now, not me....don't need
I do it.
I just say what Steven say."
Sungho accepts help from Mrs. Goode during
the early weeks of writing workshop when she also helps eight or nine other students.
However, when Mrs. Goode helps only three or four students, Sungho no longer accepts
As Sung Ho explains,
"I smart in Korea.
Alway make good grade.
I not slow
like some kid.
Don't want kid think slow.
Status of the Class is one of the first public activities students are expected to
While the monolingual students seem to enjoy the challenge and
competitiveness of Status of the Class, as it is conducted in Ms. Nunley's class, the
atypical ESOL students, at the beginning of the year, do not share their enthusiasm for
this component of writing workshop.
Not only do they not know how to respond, but
they alsn hnvp a diffinllt time rennndlino na niliiklv na the nther
nervous....I couldn't talk so fast in English like everyone else.
You have to talk
Torrance iterates a similar sentiment:
"Oh, Status of Class bad.
school first start.
I don't know what do.
At the beginning of the year, the atypical ESOL students prefer appropriating
responses they do not fully comprehend rather than accepting the teacher's help.
more important for them to participate in a non-genuine manner without the teacher's
help than it is for them to participate in a more genuine manner with their teacher's help.
From their perspective, appropriating responses without the teacher's intervention makes
them look smarter and feel smarter.
While the atypical ESOL students do not genuinely participate in Status of the
Class at the beginning of the year, they do participate in such a way that it gives the
appearance of authentic participation.
These students are not simply engaging in a
required classroom activity, they are attempting to construct identities, at least in a
preliminary sense, as competent students while learning to become members of the
writing workshop community.
Accepting the teacher's help during Status of the Class for
any protracted amount of time creates tension for the atypical ESOL students.
students feel they have lost their identities as competent students, and they are currently
in the process of reconstructing their identities.
Appropriating the responses of others
mitigates their tension, and it reduces the discontinuity between their school identity in
their native countries and their school identity in the United States.
While Status of the
Mini lessons are another component of the writing workshop model.
describes the mini lesson as a "brief meeting that begins the workshop where the whole
class addresses an issue that's arisen in previous workshops or in pieces of students'
On most days, both Mrs. Nunley and Mrs. Goode begin their own
writing workshops with a mini lesson that lasts between two minutes and ten minutes.
The writing workshop teachers generally address similar topics in their early mini
First, they both address procedural issues, explanations of how process writing
occurs in their writing workshops.
After they conduct a number of procedural mini
lessons, Mrs. Nunley and Mrs. Goode then conduct mini lessons that focus on editorial
matters, such as proper capitalization, and content matters, such as proper paragraphing
or writing effective leads.
The mini lessons in both writing workshop classrooms tend to
be interactive in the sense that both teachers solicit student response.
randomly selecting students to respond to teacher-initiated questions, the writing
workshop teachers generally call on students who voluntarily raise their hands.
Early in the year, the atypical ESOL students refrain from answering questions
because of their limited, yet developing, English language skills.
They also refrain from
answering questions in order to avoid appearing "incompetent" in front of their peers.
I don't answer question [during mini lessons]. Some time I think I know ansi
but I don't raise hand. Don't want [to] look stupid, so don't answer question.
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The process of making sense and the process of reconstructing one's competent
student identity involves more than learning how to participate in official activities;
also involves learning how to avoid participating so that one does not jeopardize his
competent student status.
While the atypical ESOL students refrain from answering questions during early
mini lessons, some of the early mini lessons do provide fertile territory for reconstructing
their competent student identities.
During the first quarter of the school year, both Mrs.
Nunley and Mrs. Goode conduct mini lessons that teach students how to operate the
computers in the sixth-grade computer laboratory. These mini lessons help the atypical
ESOL students resurrect their competent student identities. Unlike the typical ESOL
students, the atypical ESOL students bring computer expertise to the writing workshop
When Mrs. Nunley and Mrs. Goode conduct mini lessons on how to use the
computers, the atypical ESOL students are able to participate in some manner.
following field notes capture the experiences of Torrance and Baris, the atypical ESOL
students in Mrs. Nunley's writing workshop, during an early mini lesson that focuses on
the computer lab.
Today Mrs. Nunley conducts her mini lesson in the sixth grade computer lab so
that she can demonstrate how to use the computers. To aid her demonstration, she
has a computer hooked up to an overhead projector and can illuminate the
different computer windows on the big screen.
Mrs. Nunley has twelve students
sitting at terminals as she walks them through the process of opening a file, typing
a title, typing a few lines of text, and saving a file.
While the first group of
students works on the computers, the rest of the class sits on the floor watching
and waiting their turn to practice
the nm rec uxrth NArc hmlmnl
:e. Baris is part of the first group walking through
Tnrranor citc nn the flnnr niith the
not. Click this box to center.
This box to move it to the left.
Baris has no trouble following the teacher's directives.
and familiar with computers.
He seems comfortable
Torrance sits on the floor with an intense look of
concentration on his face as he stares at the big screen.
He has yet to take his eyes
off the big screen when Mrs. Nunley demonstrates the different features of the
This is one of the first times I have seen Torrance pay such close
attention to a mini lesson.
He is usually staring down at the floor.
Go to edit and select "select all." This highlights the whole piece.
Line spaces 1.5, this is how your piece should look for a teacher edit.
gives me room to write comments.
So for teacher edits, I want a 1.5 line
space. (Baris raises his hand and Mrs. Nunley calls on him.)
What spacing for final?
I'm just getting to that.
space. For final copies
When you print final copies, you will single
spacing goes back to one. (Nunley demonstrates
on the big screen so students can see the difference between the line
Instead of demonstrating how to use the computers in the computer lab, Mrs.
Goode demonstrates the process inside the classroom with one computer hooked up to
the overhead projector.
The following field notes capture Sungho's
the early mini lessons that focus on the computer lab.
After demonstrating the function of many of the keys, Mrs. Goode types the
following sentences which are illuminated on the large screen for the class to
(says the words out loud as she types) "In writing class, we will be using
MAC computers part of the time. You need to go to the computer with
draft one and draft one conference complete.
In the lab, you work on
You do not talk and visit or help anyone else.
Now the next thing I want to show you is font size.
I want you to use a
size 14 font.
(Mrs. Goode demonstrates on the big screen.)
looks over at Sungho)
(Giggling) Do 100.
What was that?
(amused) Oh, you want me to show the class what a font size of 100
I can do that.
Goode highlights the text on the
The computer lab mini lessons help reconstruct the competent student identities of
the atypical ESOL students.
While Baris is unable to answer questions during other early
mini lessons, he is able to ask questions in the early computer lab mini lessons given his
own computer expertise.
When some students struggle simply to keep up with the
demonstration, Baris asks questions about topics the teacher has not yet had a chance to
"Computer best part of writing workshop.
I know how to operate computers. I
feel good in lab.
Know what doing.
Sungho shares Baris's
feelings about the computer
lab. Not only does Sungho reveal a hint of his knowledge about computers when he asks
the teacher to change the font size to 100, but he also uses the official classroom stage to
begin the process of winning classmates over.
"I think funny when ask teacher 100 and
she do it.
Everybody like it.
They think that cool."
Sungho's seemingly simple request
allows him simultaneously to demonstrate his knowledge about computers and at the
same time forge somewhat of an "inroad" (Dyson, 1993a) into the peer social world of
his writing workshop.
Like the young children in Dyson's
study (1993a) who forge
inroads into the peer social world of their first grade classroom when they amuse their
peers with their raps and chants, Sungho also forges an inroad into the peer social world
of his writing workshop when he amuses his peers with a silly request.
see the enlarged font on the screen, they collectively "ohh and ahh," in
Such approval cultivates bonds between Sungho and his classmates and fosters
The computer lab mini lessons also helo Torrance resurrect his competent student
word Mrs. Nunley say [during computer mini lessons], but I know computer and I listen.
I love computer.
I use computer [at] home.
I learn use computer [at] school." Not only
is Torrance mentally engaged in the computer lab mini lessons, but when it is his turn to
sit at a computer terminal and walk through the process with Mrs. Nunley, he even is able
to help another student:
The font size I want you to use
Click on 16.
Torrance looks at what Mrs. Nunley does then clicks on 16.
Jacob, the student
sitting to the left of Torrance has difficulty keeping up with the lesson. Torrance
reaches over and clicks on 16 using Jacob's mouse. They exchange no words, but
Jacob nods his head indicating his appreciation. W
hen Mrs. Nunley
gives a new directive, Torrance watches what she does on the large screen, and
without a moment's hesitation, he does the same.
After he follows the
teacher's directive, he helps Jacob when he needs it.
The computer lab mini lessons allow Torrance to adopt a "helpful" student stance.
By adopting a "helpful" student stance, Torrance is able to demonstrate his computer
expertise and competence.
Torrance sums it up best himself when he says,
I feel better in lab.
Know what doing....Can help other kid."
At the beginning of the year, the atypical ESOL students engage in non-genuine
behavior in an attempt to make sense of drafting a composition in English, their second
language. When the atypical ESOL students are unable to write a personal narrative in
Ms. Nunley's writing workshop or a friendly letter in Mrs. Goode's writing workshop,
they engage in behavior that makes it appear as if they are drafting a piece of writing like
everyone else in class.
Unable to write a complete sentence in English, Baris copies the
After Sungho copies Mrs. Goode's letter, he copies the letter again another
day using his own copy as a template.
The letter or portions of the letter get copied
several times during the early weeks of writing workshop.
On the surface, Sungho's behavior looks like that of any other student in this
writing workshop classroom.
When they write, he writes.
The difference, however, is
that when the other students write, they genuinely compose drafts of friendly letters,
while Sungho only mimics the behavior of the drafting process using Mrs. Goode'
model friendly letter.
However, Sungho does not merely copy the model friendly letter
day after day in writing workshop.
Like other students drafting a letter, he crosses out
lines and words, looks up words in a dictionary, crumbles his paper after writing a few
lines, and begins the process all over again.
The following field notes reflect Sungho's
behavior during the early weeks of writing workshop when he uses Mrs. Goode's
friendly letter as a prop for participating in writing workshop.
Alicia and Jeremy pass out writing folders to the students while Mrs. Goode
conducts Status of the Class. After Sungho's writing folder is laid on the table in
front of him, he opens it and removes multiple drafts of a friendly letter he has
been working on all week.
He swings his book bag up on the table and removes a
bottle of white out, a three ring binder, and a pen, then returns his book bag to the
floor. Sungho looks through the letters on his table. He then picks up one letter
and reads it, running his finger under the words and quietly mouthing the words to
After he reads this letter, he picks up another letter and proceeds to read
it in the same manner.
reading each of them.
He spends six minutes looking through the letters and
Takes out a clean sheet of paper and begins to copy a new
letter addressed to Meiko.
Spends six minutes slowly copying the letter.
his bottle of white out and blots out two entire lines.
Spends another two minutes
alternately waving the paper in the air and blowing on the white out in order to
dry it. Starts copying the letter again. Writes two lines. Reads it and writes one
more line ByRv the end oftoday's writing workshon Siinnho reconies half of the
behavior early in the year when he is expected to draft a composition is shown in these
Torrance sits at his table removing books and a three ring binder from his
bag. He opens the binder, taking out several sheets of paper, and slowly returning
the binder to his book bag, taking his time to completely zip close the bag.
Torrance counts the sheets of paper and then makes sure they are neatly stacked
together by lining the corners up.
In the meantime, Mrs. Nunley roams around
the room answering questions and keeping students on task.
When Mrs. Nunley
nears Torrance's table, Torrance opens his Chinese-English dictionary, flipping
through the pages until he stops on one. He runs his finger down the page like he
is looking for a particular word. When
Mrs. Nunley moves to the other side of the
room to stop two boys who are talking and laughing, Torrance closes the
dictionary and follows Mrs. Nunley with his eyes. When Mrs. Nunley stops at the
table across the room, Torrance unzips his book bag and starts placing the books
inside one at a time, leaving the Chinese-English dictionary on the table in front
The atypical ESOL students spend the early weeks of the school year engaging in
behavior that make them look like they are writing or behavior that at least makes them
look busy during writing workshop.
After engaging in behavior that gives the appearance
of authentic participation, the atypical ESOL students, at different points in the year,
bring drafts of writing to class.
The English proficiency displayed in the drafts exceeds
what one might expect from students who, at this point in the year, seem unable to
compose a complete sentence in their second language.
Later, when the students are
asked about their early pieces of writing, Baris says,
My dad help me write some of my early pieces when I didn't know what to do.
know I want to write about my three little turtles.
I had my three little turtles in
I love my turtles.
They die, but I love them. I want to write about them.
It was hard writing in English.
didn't know how to tell story in English.
dad help me write story in English... .He make me say the story in our language.
When I cnv the stnrv he sav
"Now tell me the storv in English."
I tell him the
My mother help write first piece.
piece on reptile.
We get book, little book, on reptile and write
We not know story should be personal narrative about my life.
do piece on reptile.
My mother read book with me.
She tell me what word in
I understand some word, but my mother tell the word in Chinese when
My mom give me the word in Chinese.
reptile, I write piece about reptile.
English word for what I say.
I sit upstairs on comput(
After read about
er. She tell me the
Sungho explains that his parents hire a tutor to work with him after school three days a
When I [was] having trouble [in] English, I get tutor. She work [with] me and
write piece [with] me.
[can] bring it to school.
help with [the] words.
Ms. Conner help very much.
We write piece together so I
I understand what to do (the assignment).
I just need
The native-like quality of the atypical ESOL student's early work is revealed in
excerpts from "My Three Little Turtles" written by Baris with extensive help from his
father and "Reptiles" written by Torrance with extensive help from his mother
I had three little turtles called Edi, Budu and Dudu.
always went out of their aquarium.
They could swim.
I don't know how they did that.
One night I
was thirsty and I went to the kitchen to get some water.
little things on the floor.
I thought they were my turtles.
Suddenly I saw three
I wanted to check that.
When I moved my legs, I tripped over something, and I fell down.
what it was because it was dark.
heard the noice [sic] and came in
I didn't know
I hurt my left leg and arm. My mom and dad
to the kitchen. They said "What happened?"
told them the story and they laughed and laughed.
An excerpt from Torrance's writing also reveals the native-like quality of his early work.
There are many types of reptiles.
Reptiles can be divided into four major groups.
The first group is made up of turtles and tortoises.
of snakes and lizards. The third group is made up
The fourth group is made up of a tuatara.
The second group is made up
of crocodiles and alligators.
The tuatara looks like a lizard, but it is
a different type of reptile.
States, they are not prepared to draft independently compositions in English.
class unable to draft a composition creates overwhelming anxiety for the atypical ESOL
I know I suppose to write a story, a real story about me.
three little turtles I have in Turkey, but I can't. I feel so
nervous. My stomach doesn't feel so good then. I feel
I want to write about my
like I going to be sick
I learn so many words in English when I live in Turkey.
But here I forget.
I try to write my story, but I can't.
feel so bad.
I sit in class and I don't know how write.
Everyone around me writing, but I can't do it.
Torrance conveys similar thoughts and feelings.
"Beginning of year in writing workshop
very bad when we have to write.
I not understand what teacher say.
I not know what do.
I hate it.
I not know what teacher mean when say personal narrative.
For the atypical ESOL students, parental or tutorial help reduces their anxiety and
provides the boys with a prop that allows them to participate in writing workshop like all
the other students in class.
More specifically, the parent-child compositions operate like
a prop in the sense that the ESOL students are able to use the compositions to continue
mimicking the behavior of students engaged in the process of drafting a composition.
Instead of writing "My three turtles" over and over again, Baris recopies the composition
he brings to class.
Instead of making himself look busy by shifting books in and out of
his bag, and looking up words in his Chinese-English dictionary, Torrance also recopies
Instead of copying Mrs. Goode's model friendly letter over and over
again, Sungho recopies his own co-authored composition.
Although the atypical ESOL
students are not yet able to draft compositions independently in English, the parent-child
At least when I bring my piece to school about my three little turtles the piece
my dad help with me, I feel better. I feel, I don't know, I feel more safe. It easier
to copy my piece over again. Just writing "my three turtles" over and over again,
and over and over again, not really good. I didn't want anyone see what I was
doing. Then they might find out....They might see that I don't write so good in
English....When I have my piece in class about my three little turtles, it feel
I don't care if someone see my work because I have piece done.
Sungho also explains that he feels better when he brings a completed composition to
"I glad when bring piece [to] class.
I didn't really know what [to] do before.
hard writing in English.
I try but I need tutor help.
At this point in the year, the atypical ESOL students rely on help they receive
from others outside their classrooms in order to make sense of writing workshop.
and Torrance rely on the help of their parents, while Sungho relies on the tutor his parents
hire for him.
While Sungho's parents are unable to provide extensive help themselves,
given their own limited second language literacy skills, they are able to provide a tutor
for their son.
Without parental intervention, the atypical ESOL students may have
remained on the sidelines of writing workshop, unable to participate.
intervention, however, at this point in the year, they are able at least to move onto the
playing field and look like players.
In other words, the help the atypical ESOL students
receive from their parents or from the tutor allows them to participate in writing
workshop early in the year, long before they develop second language literacy skills.
The pseudo-behavior the atypical ESOL students engage in the process of
learning to write in a second language is not unlike the psuedo-behavior that Platt (1996)
discusses when examining the experiences of Mary. an ESOL student in a mainstream
making, remembering, and other cognitive activities"
(Platt, 1996, p.34).
In fact, early in
the year, Torrance and Sungho adopt coping behaviors similar to that of Mary when they
are unable to draft prose independently.
Torrance stalls for time by looking up several
words in his Chinese-English dictionary and rearranging items in his book bag;
stalls for time by writing and erasing the same words over and over again; while Mary
stalls for time by "rolling her eyes upwards as if thinking, writing, then immediately
erasing what she had written, sharpening her pencils, or looking for an item in her school
bag or on her desk" (Platt, 1996, p. 31).
Unlike Mary, however, the pseudo-behavior of
the atypical ESOL students in this study is only temporary.
While Mary's pseudo-
behavior extends into the next school year and derails her academically, the pseudo-
behavior of the atypical ESOL students declines over time as they learn to write in a
second language independently.
Not only do Baris, Torrance, and Sungho receive extensive parental help in the
process of learning to write in a second language, but, they also have well-developed first
language literacy skills, unlike Mary.
That is, the atypical ESOL students in this study
enter sixth-grade in the United States with the ability to read and write in their native
This study supports the findings of several researchers who suggest that
literacy skills developed in the first language not only transfer to the second language but
also are crucial to academic success in the second language ( Au, 1993; Bialystok, 1991;
Cummins, 1986a, 1986b, 1991; Cummins & Swain, 1986; Freeman & Freeman, 1992;
1994: I.indholm. 1991: Snow. 1990: Wone Fillmore & Valdez. 1986.
know how to read and write in their first language.
The pseudo-behavior of the atypical
ESOL students declines because they genuinely develop second language writing skills,
and thus they have no need to engage in pseudo-behavior.
Conducting conferences with others about one's writing is an important
component of the writing workshop model.
Both Mrs. Nunley and Mrs. Goode expect
students to participate in three conferences with each piece of writing.
For the first two
conferences, students in both writing workshops have the option of sharing their writing
with a peer in the classroom or an adult at home.
Mrs. Goode asks peers or parents to
focus exclusively on matters of content when conducting the first two conferences.
order to facilitate the peer/parent conferences, Mrs. Goode provides a conference form
with a list of questions that conference partners are asked to consider.
The list includes
the following questions:
Does the piece make sense?
Does it have enough information?
Does it "show" instead of "tell"?
Does the beginning grab your attention?
Do you want to read more?
Does it have a good ending?
Does the title grab you?
Is this piece the best it could be?
Mrs. Nunley asks peers or parents to focus on both content and editing matters
when conducting the first two conferences.
Like Mrs. Goode, Mrs. Nunley also provides
Ask him or her to react to the content.
enough information or too much information.
not be confusing.
Discuss whether there is
Above all, the content must
Once the content is set, it's time to look at the
mechanics, the punctuation and spelling. With each draft, record two skills
mastered and two skills that need improvement. Ideally, the two skills that
need improvement should become the skills mastered on the next draft.
Choose specific skills.
1. their = ownership
Instead of saying "improve spelling," say...
!. Run a spell check before printing the draft.
Mrs. Nunley also includes a comprehensive list of suggestions conference partners can
consider when reading and conferring about a particular draft on the backside of the
After each conference with a peer or parent, Mrs. Goode and Mrs.
Nunley expect students to revise their papers based on the conference partners'
While many monolingual students in the writing workshops conduct conferences
with peers, the atypical ESOL students almost exclusively conduct their writing
conferences at home with their parents, or the tutor hired by their parents, during the
early part of the school year.
By conferencing with their parents or the tutor, the atypical
ESOL students are able to engage in all stages of process writing in their respective
writing workshops without exposing linguistic vulnerabilities to others.
The parents and
tutor complete the conference forms, with little input from the students, adding
appropriate comments in the designated boxes and sending the atypical ESOL students
back to school with revised and edited drafts.
The atypical ESOL students propel the
writing process forward by copying their revised and edited drafts inside their writing
The second writing draft involves mechanically copying the changes made
write on conference sheet I bring home.
Then he take piece and fix problem with
grammar or something like that. He tell me bring piece to school and make
changes he make. I bring to school and copy with the changes my dad make.
Torrance also comments on his early conferences with his mother when he says,
[My] mom tell me need two conference.
She need conference with me two
She fill out conference form, staple to paper and I bring to school.
don't talk about paper at beginning year.
I bring school and start next
Sungho's comments about his early writing conferences with his tutor reflect a similar
Ms. Conner read conference paper I bring home.
fill out Mrs. Goode conference form. She make
She add line.
Now it time for second d
She tell what need to do. She
changes] on piece. She cross
raft. I copy and write changes
Many of the revisions made by the parents and tutor, particularly the editorial
revisions, are beyond the current level of development of the atypical ESOL students. Ir
Vygotskian terms, the editing feedback is beyond their zone of proximal development at
the beginning of the school year.
Even though the early pieces do not need extensive
editing, given the co-authored nature of the writing, the parents and tutor include
comments about grammar, punctuation, or usage on the students' conference forms.
Some of the early editing comments include:
"Maintain verb tense," "Include articles
'to' and 'a' in sentences," and "Be careful not to use nouns as verbs."
At this point in the
year, the atypical ESOL students report having difficulty understanding the feedback they
receive from their parents and the tutor about editing matters.
After mrv dad rnmnlete the trnnferene fnrm I aSkIC
"What that anv9"
H- tell me
errors he fix.
error is fix.
My dad fix error on paper and tell me now write draft two.
He tell me don't worry.
Just bring to school tomorrow.
Torrance and Sungho share similar comments when asked about the editing their
parents or tutor do at the beginning of the year.
"My mom do conference
She tell me what need do.
I copy [but] not understand beginning of year
everything she fix with grammar things like that.
"When tutor find
problem with punctuation or grammar she fix for me then.
I write over."
the atypical ESOL students all participate in writing conferences at the beginning of the
year, the feedback they receive from their parents or from the tutor regarding editing is
beyond their current level of comprehension with respect to second language writing.
Even though the atypical ESOL students do not comprehend all the revisions and all the
sentence-level editing done by their parents and the tutor, they recopy their drafts making
the necessary changes suggested by their parents and the tutor.
The content and editorial
revisions made by the parents and tutor masks the writing proficiency of the atypical
ESOL students at the beginning of the year.
That is, the content and editorial revisions
make the writing of the atypical ESOL students appear more advanced than it actually is.
The writing conferences the parents and the tutor conduct with the atypical ESOL
students enhance the competent student status of the atypical ESOL students, particularly
in the eyes of the writing workshop teachers.
When I saw the completed conference forms, I knew that these students were
going to be okay.
That doesn't mean they won't struggle with the
language. But with the help they get at home, I know they're going to be
okay These are hardworking students who have parents who care about their
could conduct the kind of conferences that Sungho's parents couldn't, I knew
he would be okay.
His dad is a dentist, and the family really values education.
After the writing workshop teachers see that the parents and the tutor of the atypical
ESOL students are able to help at home, given their own well-developed English writing
skills, they begin seeing the atypical ESOL students as competent students who will
develop second language literacy skills over the course of the school year.
Mark my words.
By the end of the year, Baris and Torrance are
going to be writing pieces in English that look like the pieces of native speakers of
After students conduct two writing conferences with either a peer or a parent, they
are expected to conduct a conference with their writing workshop teachers.
the third and final conference is editing. The
themselves as the students' final copy editor.
that may have been missed.
The focus of
: writing workshop teachers describe
They explain that their job is to catch errors
"When you go to final copy, your piece should be near
It is my job to help you correct all the errors that were missed" (Mrs. Goode).
While the writing workshop teachers correct all errors on a particular draft, when
conducting writing conferences, they focus on teaching only one or two skills related to
those errors, in order to avoid information overload.
After the teachers conduct a skills
lesson in the course of the conference, students are required to write the skill on a
handout titled "Skills I Need to Work On.
This handout is kept in the students' writing
monolingual students in class.
The atypical ESOL students participate in teacher-directed
Their participation in these conferences, however, is non-genuine in
the sense that the writing workshop teachers tend to address their comments to the
parents or tutor rather than to the students themselves.
The writing workshop teachers
attempt to conduct grammar lessons with the atypical ESOL students, but when it is
apparent that the students have difficulty understanding, they rely on the parents and tutor
The writing workshop teachers solicit parental or tutorial intervention
during early student-teacher writing conferences:
(Flipping through the pages of Baris's writing)
This looks good, Baris.
You have draft one, draft two, and you conducted two conferences with
Now let's see what you wrote about.
begins reading the draft out loud while Baris follows along.)
(As Mrs. Nunley reads the paper, she pauses to correct errors.)
days before coming to America, I spend a night in my best friend's
That should be spent, not spend.
(Writes "spent" in
the margin and continues reading the draft)
"In the morning, they went
to their summer house.
They, reference confusion."
(Circles the word
"they" and writes "who")
Who does they refer to, Baris?
(With a confused look on his face)
Nunley: "They" in this sentence (pointing to the word) who are they?
Baris: What you mean?
Do you mean your best friend and his family?
(Doesn't respond but looks confused by the line of questioning)
You just need to state who the they are.
Otherwise it is
confusing for your readers.
Don't worry about it.
Just have your dad
look back over this with you.
When he sees what I wrote in the
margin, he'll know what I mean and he can explain it to you better.
(Mrs. Nunley continues reading the draft and correcting errors along
the way, but she stops providing explanations about the corrections she
makes during the remainder of Baris's conference.)
Here is Mrs. Nunley soliciting Mrs. Hu's help when conferencing with
says "verb tense" and avoid starting sentences with the word "so."
Good. Listen to your mom, Torrance, she knows what she's talking
I'll let her continue helping with the verb tense problem.
meantime, there are some formatting problems you need to take care
of. (Pointing to the date on the letter) Yc
closing, and signature with the TAB key.
,u need to line up the date,
See they're not lined up.
think you need to hit the Tab key eight times. It doesn't really matter
how many times as long as the date is lined up with the closing and the
closing is lined up with the signature. Do you understand?
Torrance says nothing while he keeps his head bowed.
Torrance, just give your mom the letter with my comments.
She'll know how to help you.
(Without saying anything else to
Torrance, Mrs. Nunley writes on the conference form,
separate greeting from body of letter."
She then writes "2 returns"
next to the greeting on the letter itself and hands the papers back to
Torrance with a gentle smile.)
Just give this to your mom, Torrance.
She'll explain it to you.
Mrs. Goode solicits help from Sungho's tutor during a teacher writing
Sungho, your piece about your father is well organized and it has good
paragraphing. One thing I want to focus on right now is the comma.
You're missing some commas. I marked three areas I want you to look
at. (Points to the place she wants Sungho to look at on the page.)
to the first part of the sentence.
(Reads the sentence from Sungho's
piece) "If I do something wrong." That can't stand by itself.
It needs a
comma before the part that can stand by itself, "he gets mad and I get
If I do something wrong, comma (Mrs. Goode adds a comma
to the sentence on the page) he gets mad and I get scared.
: (with a confused look on his face) I don't understand.
Why you put
(smiles and laughs) I didn't think so. That's okay
"ne, Sungho. There's three places you need to put
Marking the commas on the page.)
Here, here, and here.
. You're doing
you see your tutor again'
Just show her your draft.
Show her where I added commas and ask her
to review the rules.
Mrs. Nunley means by reference confusion, Mrs. Nunley simply instructs him to show
his dad the draft with her comments so that he can explain it to him.
When Sungho is
confused about the use of commas or other mechanical features early in the year, Mrs.
Goode instructs him to work with his tutor.
When conferencing with Torrance, Mrs.
Nunley does not attempt to conduct grammar lessons during the course of a conference,
given his limited English language skills.
Instead, she reviews the comments Mrs. Hu
writes on the conference form and then encourages Torrance to continue working with
his mother at home on matters of grammar.
If an additional grammatical matter comes
up that Mrs. Nunley wants Mrs. Hu to address with Torrance, Mrs. Nunley simply solicits
While Mrs. Nunley generally does not deal with grammatical matters
during Torrance's early writing conferences, she does attempt to address matters of form.
For example, in the above quoted field notes, Mrs. Nunley attempts to explain that the
date, closing, and signature should be lined up in a friendly letter.
Once again, when it is
apparent that Torrance does not understand Mrs. Nunley, she solicits Mrs. Hu's help.
While the writing workshop teachers rely on parental or tutorial intervention
when working with Baris and Sungho, parental intervention is particularly extensive and
important with respect to Torrance and his process of making sense throughout much of
the school year.
According to Mrs. Nunley, "Torrance would not have survived this year
without his mother's help, particularly at the beginning of the year when he didn't seem
to understand anything I said.
Even though Torrance linguistically does not understand
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such, Torrance is able to participate in all stages of process writing because of his
His participation and the participation of the other atypical ESOL
students may be non-genuine in the sense that they go through the motions of
participating in teacher-directed writing conferences without comprehending much of
what their teachers say.
Their participation, however, in the teacher-directed writing
conferences establishes important lines of communication between parent/tutor and
writing workshop teacher.
These lines of communication help the atypical ESOL
students make sense of process writing in a second language.
The atypical ESOL students receive extensive parental help in the process of
learning to write in a second language.
Unlike the few other studies that focus on the
experiences of atypical ESOL students in mainstream settings, particularly mainstream
writing workshop settings, this study sheds light on the nature of the help that parents of
atypical ESOL students often are able to provide.
Fu and Townsend (1998), for example,
discuss the positive affect that a writing workshop has on the writing development of one
atypical ESOL student in a mainstream second-grade writing workshop.
parental support, however, is not examined.
The nature of
Given their own English proficiency, the
parents of the atypical ESOL students in this study are able to draft compositions for their
children and intervene on their behalf when they do not understand a classroom activity.
While many factors contribute to the second language writing development of atypical
ESOL students, parental help also plays a significant role in the process of learning to
write in n peennd lInonirnfe