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Silenced Partners: Language Learning and the Role of Bilingual Peers in High School

by Avary Carhill-Poza - 2018

Background: In schools, a major obstacle to drawing on emergent bilingual students’ knowledge and skills in their first language is a widespread lack of awareness about language use among adolescent English learners, including how peer talk can connect knowledge and abilities in both languages to school-based learning. Although research often acknowledges the importance of engaging students’ home language and culture to bridge to academic literacies in English, few have explicitly examined bilingual peer talk as a resource for language learning during adolescence.

Purpose: This study explores how emergent bilinguals engaged multiple linguistic codes to scaffold their own academic language development with peer support.

Research Design: Ethnography and discourse analysis of student interactions were used to contextualize and analyze the academic language use of four Spanish-speaking adolescent immigrant students, taking into account the affordances of classroom discourse structures and peer talk.

Conclusions: The study describes the linguistic resources available to Spanish-speaking adolescent immigrant students through their peers and shows that emergent bilingual youth used academic language in both Spanish and English most frequently—and in more elaborated interactions—while off-task or in less supervised spaces. Classroom discourse structures often limited student participation, particularly when students used nonstandard linguistic codes.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 11, 2018, p. 1-32
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22487, Date Accessed: 6/14/2021 11:32:49 AM

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About the Author
  • Avary Carhill-Poza
    University of Massachusetts Boston
    E-mail Author
    AVARY CARHILL-POZA is an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research examines the ways peer groups and classroom contexts shape the language learning experiences and outcomes of emergent bilinguals in urban schools. Her current projects also look at how innovative policies and practices afford linguistically diverse adolescents opportunities to use their multilingual repertoires in learning academic English and academic content. Dr. Carhill-Poza has published on these topics in the American Educational Research Journal, The Modern Language Journal, and Linguistics and Education, among others.
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