Spanish dual-language immersion programs in the U.S. increasingly work with both English and Spanish home language students who bring a wide variety of linguistic resources. One important approach to adapting to this linguistic diversity in immersion schools may be to differentiate support for student language development during content instruction. This paper explores a collaborative design-based study on the efficacy of instructional practices that afford increased student oral proficiency development through language-focused differentiated instruction. The school site was a grade-three classroom in an urban two-way Spanish immersion school that included students from a variety of home language backgrounds. Students from one classroom (n=24) were assessed for oral proficiency using the Student Oral Proficiency Assessment from the Center for Applied Linguistics. Focal student language production was evaluated with attention to complexity measures at the beginning of and end of the semester-long study. Focal student interactional discourse, as well as teacher and student interviews were analyzed in relation to linguistic diversity and differentiation using constructs from interactional sociolinguistics including authentication, intertextuality and adequation/distinction. Findings suggest that 1) students increased their language complexity as measured by number of different words, mean length of utterance, and subordination. 2) Students appeared to increase their participation in relation to their engagement with the target language structures, their exposure to increasingly complex language, and their developing awareness of how language works. 3) The classroom teacher's perception of linguistic diversity shifted to become less focused on "native speakers" and his conceptualization of "attention to language" changed from a focus on form to an exploration of functional options to facilitate student interaction. Teacher-identified "socially sanctioned niches" became safe spaces for students to engage with language play that reinforced their developing bilingual identities as students negotiated their relationships and made sense of content. Design and implementation of language-focused differentiated instruction is likely to promote linguistic development to the extent that it can afford (or constrain) the local emergence of bilingual identities in connection with increased language awareness, exposure to a wider variety of complex shared texts from which to draw, and access to increased participation within academic learning experiences.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2015. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Diane Tedick, Tara Fortune. 1 computer file (PDF); xiv, 253 pages.
Student Oral Proficiency in Grade Three Spanish Immersion: Linguistic Diversity, Student Interaction and Differentiated Scaffolding.
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