31 SES 04 JS, Reading and Writing Competencies in Bilingual Perspectives and Consequences for Self-esteem and Identity
Joint Paper Session NW 20 and NW 31
Although children who use a language other than English are not a minority population (especially in urban areas) in the UK, it can be argued that English classrooms remain largely monolingual and (to a lesser extent) also monocultural. Monolingualism is still perceived as a norm and there seems to be an expectation of children to acquire English as fast as possible and assimilate into the English system of education. The underlying assumption for this seems to be that ‘other languages and cultures interfere with successful learning of [English] and with achievement in the curriculum’ (Levine, 1990, p.1) and therefore the learners should focus mainly on English. As Dakin (2012) explains this English dominance is driven by a high-stakes testing regime. Hence a child’s other languages are often left outside of the school gates, positioned as separate from school education and the responsibility of parents and the community. This presentation will focus on the project which looked at a problem of separateness of languages and the lack of acknowledgement and appreciation for languages other than English. Children for whom English is not their first language are often seen as ‘problematic’ (requiring additional support) and at risk of underachieving – therefore the focus tends to be on remedial work, focused on improving their English. This means that EAL children are often seen through the lenses of deficit and their skills and talents are left untapped (Jankowska, 2015).
This project moved away from the traditional focus on English and instead focuses on bilingual children’s strengths and abilities, providing a safe forum for showcasing their language skills and validating their home languages, which, in turn, may lead to an increased sense of inclusion and self-worth (Dakin, 2012).
The rationale for this project came from the body of literature which shows that educational policy and public opinion often discourage the use of children’s home languages in the classroom (Safford & Drury, 2013), without realising that there is great potential for the transfer of literacy, numeracy and other skills between the languages (Nag et al., 2014). Many teachers may also be unaware of the impact of the first language on a child’s identity, self-esteem and confidence (Krashen & McField, 2005).
The project aimed to focus specifically on the ways in which recognising and supporting the use of mother tongues within the school environment can have positive effects on learners’ identity, self-esteem and confidence, therefore enhancing children’s sense of well-being as well as increasing their ‘visibility’ within schools through celebrating their bilingual achievements.
The key research question was: ‘What impact does the celebration of literacy and linguistic skills of bilingual learners have on their overall confidence, self-esteem and well-being?’ This question lent itself to several other sub-questions – this presentation will focus only on 3 sub-questions, as follows:
- Can participating in the ‘bilingual creative writing club’ increase bilingual learners’ confidence, self-esteem (and, more specifically, academic self-esteem) and overall well-being?
- Can participating in the ‘bilingual creative writing club’ increase bilingual learners’ ‘visibility’ within schools? (Would teachers and other learners become more aware of bilingual learners’ skills and talents?)
- Can participating in the ‘bilingual creative writing club’ affect teachers’ perception and knowledge of bilingualism?
Alladi, S. et al. (2013). Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status. Neurology, 82(21): 1936-1937. DOI: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000436620.33155.a4 Bialystok, E., Craik, F.I.M., & Freedman, M. (2007). Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia. Neuropsychologia, 45: 459–464. Dakin, J. (2012). Writing bilingual stories: developing children’s literacy through home languages. In: D. Mallows (Ed.) Innovations in English language teaching for migrants and refuges, p. 11-22, British Council: London. Available at http://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/sites/ec/files/C328_Innovations_book_FINAL%202_web.pdf Flynn, N. (2013). Encountering migration: English primary school teachers’ responses to Polish children. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 8(4): 336-351, DOI: 10.1080/1554480X.2013.829273 Jankowska, M. (2015). On bilingualualism in (monoligual?) English classroom environment - the challenges for Polish-English bilingual children, their parents and schools, Sustainable Multilingualism, 5, 99-131. Krashen, S. and McField, G. (2005). ‘What works? Reviewing the latest evidence on bilingual education’. Language Learner 1(2): 7–10, 34. Levine, J., & Bleach, J. (1990). Bilingual learners and the mainstream curriculum. London: Falmer Press. Multilingual Families. (2014). http://www.multilingual-families.eu/ [Last accessed: 02/06/2015] Murphy, V. & Unthiah, A. (2015). A systematic review of intervention research examining English language and literacy development in children with English as an Additional Language (EAL). London: Educational Endowment Fund. Safford, K. & Drury, R. (2013). The ‘problem’ of bilingual children in educational settings: Policy and research in England. Language and Education, 27(1): 70-81, DOI: 10.1080/09500782.2012.685177
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