Making sense


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Making sense ESOL students in mainstream writing workshops
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x, 252 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Naranjo, Cindy Jane
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 2000.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 241-251).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Cindy Jane Naranjo.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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notis - ANE3454
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Copyright 2000


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.

Dr. Fu's

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

English education.

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

been possible.



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 ...... .............. ............

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .... .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..


SENSE.......... ............

......... .....61

Ms. Nunley
Mrs. Goode

Writing Workshop.
Writing Workshop

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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



Status of the Class
Mini Lessons........
Drafting... .......
Writing Conferenc


.......................... ..... ...........C........................................................96

e s ......C. .S..... S .. .. .. .. .. .... .......... .*. ....e

Family M ember Conferences...... .............................. ... ................................ ...........
Teacher Conferences ........................................................ ...... .... ..........................

Group Share....

PROGRESSES ...... ........ ...... ....... ...... ...... ......................... ...... .... ...... ....... ...... ...... ..122
Status of the ClassF............................ ..................... ..................... ..... .. ......................... 122
M ini Lessons ...............................................................................................................124

W writing Conferences .......... .......................... ...... ....... ................ .................... ........... 129

Parent and Peer Conferences
Teacher Conferences............
G roup Share ...............................

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Status of the Class
Ss *. T .-.


Atypical ESOL Students...
Typical ESOL Students.....

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Literacy Development: The Vygotskian Perspective ..................................................




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



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




Cindy Jane Naranjo

December 2000

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.



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.

Atypical ESOL

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

the study:

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

(LEP) students

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;

Harklau, 1994;

Platt, 1996).

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.

Instead of

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.

The Florida

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.
(p. 2)

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

curriculum comprehensible.

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.

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.

While the

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.

And we

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

writing workshop?

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;

Beal, 1996;



McDermott, 1994;

Morris, 1991;

Swoger, 1989).

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;

Harklau, 1994;

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

process writing.

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.


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.

The roots

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.

and static.

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

knowledge construction.

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

unidirectional process.

From a Vygotskian perspective, mediation also refers to the use of tools.

Tools in

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;

Wertsch, 1985).

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.

Much instruction

Even manipulative

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.

(p. l1)

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.
(p. 15)

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

actual development.

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.

stated earlier,

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

inspired scholars.

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 &

Hiebert, 1996).

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

cultural activity."

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

mediated action.

That is, the basic unit of analysis is the individual engaged in the use of

the mediational system in a particular situation (Dyson, 1993a).

Literacy researchers

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
p. 4)

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;

Dauite, 1993).

More specifically,

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

kindergarten classroom.

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.

(p. 29)

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

symbolic repertoires.

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

other media.

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.

In essence,

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

third-grade classroom.

They focus specifically on how students use written narratives to

construct and interpret academic material while interacting with others.

When children

work with peers, their talk around narrative constructions tends to be highly social and

effectively charged.

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

writing research.

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

literacy development.

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

first annual

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.

For instance,

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;

Beal, 1996;

Dudley, 1989;

McDermott, 1994;

Morris, 1991;

Swoger, 1989).

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).

Townsend and

Fu conclude that a process-oriented writing workshop benefits not only mainstream,

middle-class students, but students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

as well.

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.

A comparative

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
p. 176)

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,

lack fluency.

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.

One African-


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;

Bialystok, 1991;

Cummins, 1986a,1986b, 1991;

Cummins & Swain, 1986;

Freeman & Freeman, 1992;

Genesee, 1987


Lindholm, 1991;

Snow, 1990;

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.

After controlling

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).

(Cummins, 1987


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

Ogbu, 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

"becoming somebody"

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


In short,

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"

(D'Amato, 1987


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

they read.

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

complementary approaches.

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

United States.

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.

A nonjudgmental

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

predetermined hypothesis.

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.

Successful ethnographic

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

following year.

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.

personal narratives,

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.

One also


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.

These same

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











Country of

































* Father's

educational attainment, Mother

's educational attainment

Data Collection

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.

As an

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

field notes.

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

involvement increases.

At this point, I move back and forth between passive and

moderate participation.

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

one time.

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.

This involves

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

"condensed" notes.

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

school year.

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

Writing samples

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

participants' perspectives.

Not only do the observations form the base of the interviews,

but there is ongoing interaction between the observations and interviews.

As Spindler

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

Data analysis begins with the utilization of Soradlev'

(1980) Developmental


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"

(p. 91).

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

included terms.

"Making systematic use of this kind of[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

rAn ix/lhn th+xl nP^rA thr' tpnrhpr'v hplnQ9" Th ctnrtifllrnl nilectinnc hiwirt n;entifY the lroryr

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

the teachers?"

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

second language.

As such, the next phase of data collection and analysis is guided by an

additional question:

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

and analysis:

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

Ethnographic Validity

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

writing workshop.

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


nrlif n


and uncover inconsistencies in the data, and the reason for these inconsistencies, through

repetitive observations in the field.

No technique has proven so effective 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

while observing.


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

workshop classroom.

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.

Instead of

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.

As such,

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


Ethnographic Reliability

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

comparable situations.

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;

an accurate

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





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

takes place.

Ms. Nunlev's

Writing Workshop

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-

American students.

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:

mini lessons.

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

Two large

ihe ledges

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.

Once a

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.

Mrs. Goode'

n not going to get
)ing on. You can

Writing Workshop

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.

particularly impressive.

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.

If the

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

to them.

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

workshop setting.

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.

Baris simply

He is not sure about its meaning, but he

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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.

Torrance says,

"I see other student like me

say 'topic search.'

Some say 'prewrite.'

I think I say that too.

Baris tell me,

'Just say

topic search.

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

with anyone.

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.

he doing.

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.


Irs. Goode

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

her help.

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

participate in.

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

It embarrassing.

Torrance iterates a similar sentiment:

"Oh, Status of Class bad.

Not now.

Then when

school first start.

I don't know what do.

Don't like.

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

Mini lessons are another component of the writing workshop model.

Atwell (1987)

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'


(p. 77).

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.

Instead of

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.

Baris explains:

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.
NAj~i17fk~ latc xrbch-1 n I lrnnxxi hatt~r" t~r~~1;0b n S,,-rp T 'i ra/^cjfOC hainA- Frt1 rhno


n ttPr

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.

Not today.


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

experiences during

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.

your own.

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.)



Do 100.

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

lnnks like


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


When classmates

idicating their

Such approval cultivates bonds between Sungho and his classmates and fosters

social cohesion.

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

is 16.

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 like


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
of him.

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

book say.

I understand some word, but my mother tell the word in Chinese when

don't understand.

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.

But they

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.

Sitting in

class unable to draft a composition creates overwhelming anxiety for the atypical ESOL


Baris says,

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

his composition.

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.

With parental

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;

Genesee. 1987.

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.

Writing Conferences

Parent Conferences

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

conference form.

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

out line.

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

she make.

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.

Baris says,

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.

Torrance says,

"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.

Sungho says,

"When tutor find

problem with punctuation or grammar she fix for me then.

She fix.

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.

Mrs. Nunley

even says,

"You watch.

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


Teacher Conferences

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.

writing conferences.

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

to intervene.

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

your dad.


Now let's see what you wrote about.

(Mrs. Nunley


begins reading the draft out loud while Baris follows along.)
(As Mrs. Nunley reads the paper, she pauses to correct errors.)

"A few

days before coming to America, I spend a night in my best friend's


Past tense.

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.

In the

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."

"Two returns

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

comma .

Mrs. Goode:

just f

(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

When do

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

Mrs. Hu's


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

nl-irCh nCtl1th taorakr anA ctiAn,-rt tlk- parln in fhP /oor hb iinPAcretnAo th nrnr^cc hr 10

such, Torrance is able to participate in all stages of process writing because of his

mother's intervention.

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