An exemplary submission of a case study was submitted by Luz Alina Muñoz Rivas, who holds a bachelors in music, minor in dance and a masters in Education. She is working to obtain a Bilingual Education Advanced Certificate at Touro College, Graduate School of Education, Tesol, and Bilingual Department, to append to her NYS Ed. Professional teacher certificate in music.
For the Touro TESOL EDPN 671 Theory and Practice of Bilingual and Multicultural Education, the course reviewed the impact of historical, legal, sociological, and political issues in relationship to the education of culturally and linguistically diverse students. Students explore the evolution of attitudes regarding bilingualism and multiculturalism in the United States. Emphasis will be placed on developing multicultural competence as educators, with areas of focus including cross-cultural communication in the classroom and with parents; how the language and culture of the home and the community impact student learning; cultural factors in the relationships between the school and the community. Models of multicultural and bilingual education were presented and analyzed. A final project was a case study with interviews which Ms. Rivas conducted.
Luz Alina Muñoz Rivas:
Bridging the Divide Project is an arduously focused attempt to place myself in a family’s shoes in order to understand how they have constructed meaning from their experiences. As I endeavor to do this, I explore their views about immigrating or their role in the host country, educating their children, and engaging with the educational system, and other relevant findings. In my findings, I will include: Part I – setting, family background, an explanation why this family was chosen for this study, social, economic, educational, and personal backgrounds, if applicable: Immigration (first, second generation) experience. Relatives in the area, Funds of knowledge, cultural competencies, and difficulties encountered (e.g., prejudice, discrimination). Part II – Analysis: How language and culture interact in the formation of a student’s identity, Identifying any cross-cultural conflicts apparent in the interview process and distinguishing between cultural boundary and a cultural border, selecting appropriate teaching techniques based on knowledge of students’ cultural backgrounds, how the importance of the home culture and the effect on student learning and Part III – Conclusions and Recommendations.
Part I – A. Setting
- Describe the setting in which the dialogue took place.
- Huntington New York at their home on 3/28/19 at 8:30 a.m. until almost 10 a.m.
- Dialogue with youngest child (Little Miss X) in music classroom 4/5/19 at 9:20 a.m. and observed her in DL classroom setting on 4/10/19 at 11 a.m. ‘til 11:40 a.m.
- A small and very clean house on the top of a hill by a narrow two way street.
- Small Clean Living room with sofa, love seat and wall TV with family pictures
- Chihuahua dog greeter
- Describe the neighborhood and reflections about your walk-through.
- Living in Huntington. Huntington is a medium-sized coastal town (i.e. on the ocean, a bay, or inlet) located in the state of New York. With a population of 18,176 people and nine constituent neighborhoods, Huntington is the 104th largest community in New York.
- Narrow streets are lined with multiple storefronts and busy traffic with cars and trucks traveling to and from.
- Major street divides 400K homes from 1.5 million dollar homes
- Private pools all around the neighborhood
Walk through was safe and relatively comfortable.
- Family Background
- Parents are Latin American and Bilingual (Spanish & English)
- Family is Christian
- Young Mr. B participates in a young Single Adults program at the local church
- Miss Y is an 8th grade student in high honors. She has won their annual art contest 8 years consecutively. Wants to grow up to be a lawyer.
- Little Miss X and Little Mr. W go to church with their family every Sunday and participate in a primary organization for children 18 months to 11 years of age. She does sports on Fridays at their elementary school and is a member of the church’s primary organization.
- Explain why this family was chosen for this study.
- Recommended by my supervisor
- Children are DL learners that were born in the U.S.A. and have or are being taught by Mr. EZ
- Bilingual family
- Latino culture- 1st generation
- Strong family support for better education
- “Sojourners” with the intent to be permanent
- Sturdy signs of good assimilation of both Eastern American and Latin American cultures evident
- Judeo/Christian culture
A brief history of the AB family:
Mama A, a sojourner, arrived as a single mother to the U.S. from Honduras with her 3-year-old son nineteen years ago with the intent to become permanent. She quickly acquired L2 skills in order to find work and make a permanent home of New York, U.S.A. Mama A works part-time as a waitress and Papa W works as a foreman for a luxury ship on Long Island. They are all permanent residents except for U.S. born children that are U.S. citizens. Their oldest son (now age 21) has been diagnosed ADD and has been educated in the U.S. his entire life. He can speak English well and can understand conversational Spanish. Mama A married fifteen years ago and since then gave birth to three children while living in New York: Miss Y; age 14, Little Mr. W; age 10 and Little Miss X; age 8. Their two daughters qualified to take part of the school’s DL program. The following diagram shows each member of the AB Family, age, place of birth, countries and cities where they have lived as well as ages when children immigrated:
- Social, economic, educational, and personal backgrounds.
Social: Papa W currently works at the bay and Mama A works as a waitress and live in an affluent neighborhood. They have strong Christian values, strong family values and strong extended family connections despite the distance.
Economic: Both are working and live in a 400K house and own a car.
Personal Backgrounds: She arrived to NY a single mom and with a strong desire for education and L2 acquisition in order to support her family.
- If applicable: Immigration (first, second generation) experience. Relatives in the area?
- Mama A and Papa W are first generation with permanent residency status
- No relatives in the area but they maintain strong connections with them
- Funds of knowledge, cultural competencies, difficulties encountered (e.g., prejudice, discrimination).
- Very happy home, church and school environment
- After 15 years and only under the Trump administration did their family experience scrutiny for their nationality and culture in the school setting where her son was asked by another student if he was undocumented.
- The educational experience from the family’s perspectives
This family has had no issues with enrollment and supporting their children in their school. Interactions with teachers and administrators have been and continue to be proactive. They are very satisfied with the schools in their area. Despite one of their sons delay in classifying him with dyslexia, there has been nothing but support and good experiences. Both their sons have IEPs and have been given the services they need to do comfortably well in their school district. Both daughters (ENL students) are soaring in their dual language cultural identities both academically and socially in their school environments as their family actively takes part in their DL program. This is working well for them. If it were not for this, they would not have had the same positive impact on their progress since Honduras’ bilingual schools would not have been feasible because they are very expensive. Also, Honduras does not have a system for support of children with special needs. This explains the educational experience from the family’s perspectives.
Part II: Analysis
In an effort to develop an understanding of how language and culture interact in the formation of the student’s identity, I found that “little miss X” and her sister, “Miss Y” and their brothers have assimilated with both mainstream American and Latin American culture via a strong family support system and an active church community. Even more so, by little Miss X and Miss Y, whose participation in a DL program at their public school have amalgamated their student identity. Since kindergarten, they have had both their L1 and L2 embedded in academic content. A third-grade teacher I observed teaching “little miss X” (Mr. EZ) said they’ve utilized educational resources in two languages: Journeys (English) and counterpart, Senderos (Spanish) reading programs among other dual language materials. We discussed the limits of translation in a bilingual classroom setting, the use of code-switching and translanguaging, using the arts for bilingualism and biliteracy; and reading aloud in bilingual settings. “Little Miss X” has grasped onto components of culture in a modernized society as mentioned by Haiyan Gu in “Developing Related Cultural Awareness in TEFL”, where Gu (Gu, 2017, p.472) clearly states that language learning cannot be separated from culture. He says the most important components of culture in a modernized society must be included because it is the language that is already embedded in the culture. These components are the system of belief, customs, morals and emotion of the target culture and language teaching should occur in conjunction with the related culture. It is a symbolic communication. Gu clarifies for us that culture has been defined by different perspectives (Gu, 2017). From my own performance artist standpoint, I’d say culture is defined as the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. However, in terms of society, culture is often defined as the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social groups. He finally concludes that a commonly accepted view is that culture is the common knowledge and values that people of a particular group share.5
As far as identifying any cross-cultural conflicts apparent in the interview process, I identified none. Understanding that cross-cultural misunderstandings or conflict may arise whenever there are cultural differences, I was mindful but had none nor did I see any potential of them in foresight. In fact, some potential causes or situations in which conflicts or misunderstandings can happen such as misunderstandings or conflict between different nationalities, religious or ethnic groups, did not occur because both the family and myself are of the same religion and the same ethnic group. I was aware of invisible culture knowing when teachers focus on visible culture at the expense of invisible culture, students of all ages may do poorly and in worse cases become radicalized. One case study notes, Iraqi (Kurdish and Irabic) students were doing poorly in achieving academically in the classroom. According to Reyes, it was very likely they were not adapting well to western thought based curriculum that was culturally alien to them. The western thought paradigm which merges Judeo/Christian values with evidence-based approach to scientific knowledge is difficult for non-westerners to access. For example, although Tamerlan Tsnarnaev, a college student and permanent resident (now known as the Boston bomber) enrolled in college as an english as a second language learner, he never quite assimilated. He eventually upset services at a local mosque with a denunciation of Martin Luther King Jr. and Thanksgiving. He could not understand when teachers focussed on explicit culture nor could he tolerate it. This problem affected his younger brother who was also a college student that became radicalized. Without the knowledge of the intangible aspects of culture the teacher risks overvaluing or undervaluing said culture’s differences unintentionally. It may also cause confusion. Unlike this starkly different occurrence, this family has nothing close to signs of radicalization or difficulty in the formation of a productive student identity. Cultural boundaries and cultural borders were simple and mutually understood throughout the interview process as well.
In order to distinguish between cultural boundary and a cultural border, the Dual Language/DL teacher and I briefly discussed what it means in a DL classroom verses a TEFL classroom. Similar to what the author uses in chapter 2 of Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives, we agreed upon these distinctions by utilizing this example where they argue that what happened in a sequence on page 33 was ‘‘cultural.’’ The teacher had chosen to make a moment in the reading lesson a practice session in cultural ways of speaking rather than using that moment as an opportunity for teaching children the sense of the words they were reading aloud. According to Banks, this put the spotlight of public attention on a subtle cultural difference, but it did so in an indirect way that was confusing for the students. The appearance of a small feature in pronunciation style (deletion of final t) became the occasion for the teacher’s making a big thing of a small cultural difference. But the teacher did not explain that, so it was not clear to the children that what was being asked of them was to participate in a practice session in cultural style in talking. (Banks & McGee Banks, 34) Aligning the objectives from the start would have been more effective (SIOP model). Completing the lesson by restating the objectives met or unmet would clarify what was being asked of students. However, in a DL classroom, mistakes are often made and are never critiqued because they are viewed as part of the intricate process of oral language development. What makes this distinction important is the influence on student’s understanding. Chapter 2 considers that the choice of focus by the teacher as an example of treating a feature of cultural difference as a cultural border matter rather than as a cultural boundary matter. As DL Teachers, we have a great deal of discretion in how we frame and deal with cultural difference in the classroom—as border or as boundary. Specifically, it is “The way we choose to frame cultural difference that has a profound influence on students’ understanding of what is being asked of them instructionally and on their motivation to learn” (Banks, 34).
As far as selecting appropriate teaching techniques based on knowledge of students’ cultural backgrounds, Mr. EZ, their DL teacher, uses what comes closest to the Communication Language Teaching Method and most of his instruction is born from academic texts so reading, writing, listening and speaking are all incorporated in this family’s native language. For example, in an effort to name, list by standard, and explore three important Common Core Standards as they relate to DL’s and Multicultural Sensitivity, I listed the following with relevant details as to how he explored them:
STANDARDS: RI.3.4, L3.4a, L3.6, RI.3.7
RI.3.4 – Vocabulary Activity includes use of technology & visuals in Spanish.
Mr. EZ’s room and monitor/screen
L3.4a – To determine or clarify the meaning of “Langostas” he compared a lobster and a locust which can both be defined as “langosta” in Spanish. An African locust was also compared to a Long Island grasshopper (one has longer antennae).
L3.6 – To acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships he discussed on how African locusts are located on a different continent as compared to locust found in the U.S.A. He encouraged them to take note of the reasons why they migrate, where they are from, how far they travel as well as what harm they can cause.
R.I.3.7 – He explains how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)
Mr. EZ taught an ELA lesson from Senderos; a comprehensive Spanish reading and language arts program that has been specifically designed for use in dual language program and bilingual instruction program. The topic was on animals that migrate.
In addition to Communication Language Learning Method, Mr. EZ utilizes what we would refer to as (Gary R. Howard’s) Culturally Responsive Teaching in a very receptive school environment. This includes the seven principles found in the model:
- “Teaching across differences” where Mr. EZ’s students are affirmed in their cultural connections by being seated in mixed performance levels of ENL. These groups of students can work cooperatively in both there L1 and L2.
- “Teachers are personally inviting”; so that Mr. EZ encourages with a gentle yet assertive tone consistently to speak in Spanish/English using academic language. He also utilized routine classroom management cues (ie: he says: sh-sh and they respond: sshhhh). His classroom has a rug for closer group instruction as well as 4 chairs joined to form a smaller group/section-about 5 sections total.
- Classroom is physically and culturally inviting: uses Smartboard, uses Journeys and Senderos; their dual language literacy program and all the student textbooks for the class are situated neatly in a designated location. Numerous visuals are provided.
- Students are reinforced for academic development when he reviews vocabulary before and ELA lesson to prompt foreknowledge of material about to be presented. Vocabulary activities are created with the use of technology (picture below)
- Instructional changes are made to accommodate differences when lesson will be conducted in Spanish but a student will insist on speaking English in response to questions regarding designated topic. He will not discourage them but will acknowledge their responses and then continue to engage them persuasively as to focussing on L2 acquisition by simply resuming in this language without switching all together.
- Classroom is managed with a firm, consistent loving control understanding the limits of code-switching and translanguaging for native Speakers. He also addresses their immediate and most basic needs quickly and judiciously. Fortunately, this child, Little Miss X, is at a school that is culturally responsive where the system understands the home language and the culture as assets and teachers know how to use it.
- Interactions stress collectively as well as individually are done with some TPR methodology.
I agree that “Singing harmony to our kids’ song rather than forcing them to always sing our song.” I agree that with all the many differences in our classroom, we need to always strive to keep improving our instruction and connect with our individual students.
- In order to understand the importance of the home culture and the effect on student learning, I worked with Luis Moll’s concept of Funds of Knowledge which is the knowledge base generated by families on the basis of their experiences (at work), social practices and their social history. I applied the strategies and visited their household and documented these experiences and became a learner instead of the teacher. My reality is altered by adapting this concept as I observed and asked about family routine and traditions. Mama A says they value family education and time at home and dedicate one night a week to family where they share their school experiences with one another. They also read spiritually focussed reading materials together: The Bible, etc., spend quality time, pray together and plan their weekly/Sunday church attendance as a family. This experience is instructional and is advised by their Bishop and church educational system. She constantly reinforces her children’s thinking skills and knowledge and works only part-time. They also participate in various activities outside of the home environment including soccer (the main sport in Honduras) and sports at school. Mama A always reviews homework assignments with them in English. She says they voice their basic needs in Spanish but will voice their academic concerns in English. She notices their strengths and weaknesses academically and will voice her opinion sufficiently so that it is addressed in school. She says she has not felt a victim to racism or gender bias but her middle school age daughter feels that it is more evident in her friends’ lives; especially friends of color and Latin American in Middle School. If these make a mistake, they will be reprimanded more severely than white Middle School aged students. She wants to grow up to become an immigration lawyer.
- In an attempt to finally seek to involve ESOL families in student learning, I discovered that Mamá A and Papa W were already aware of its importance and are consistently involved in student learning by reading as a family 2-3 times a week in the L2. Mama A speaks to them in their L1 as well. Consistent and even laborious communication between teachers and administrators is considered important to Family AB. Mama A says its a must since she believes their children’s achievement is dependent upon the interdependent nature of their involvement with the school, teachers, staff and administration.
- Physical characteristics of the home (if interviews are conducted in the home);
The home is a 400K house on a hill of a narrow two-way street. Interview took place in a small and very clean house on the top of a hill by a narrow two-way street. They have a small clean living room with sofa, love seat and wall TV with family pictures. Family AB has a Chihuahua dog greeter that sits on a lounge chair after he greets.
- Community characteristics;
An affluent area.
- Educational background of parents; ages and grades of the children;
Mama A was not educated in the US. Neither was Dad. Young Mr. B age: 22 – HS Grad., Miss Y age: 14 – 8th grade, Little Mr. W – 10 – 5th grade, 8 – 3rd grade
- If applicable: Immigration experience (How/why they decide to come to the U.S. or the third country? What was it like?); Seeking a better life for herself and her three-year-old son.
- Child-rearing practices and philosophy; Teach a child words of wisdom and to “Choose the Right”. “Choose the right” is a saying or motto among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is taught to children and used by members of the church as a reminder to make choices that will help an individual to live righteously. The phrase is taken from an LDS hymn Choose the Right.
- Economic/work issues; None
- Funds of Knowledge (Luis Moll); At home interview, teach at Little Miss X’s elementary school music class and observe DL teacher teach inside the classroom and participate and observe in 1st grade DL teaching
- Perspectives about education. What is a well-educated child? During the interview, Mama A says “The future depends on a well-educated child.”
What are the roles of families and schools in children’s education? Mama A says “Both are very important because we can motivate them at home but if they don’t have the correct support; such as well trained teachers who understand the student’s culture and their academic needs then they will not progress.”
- Experiences with children’s school(s). “We’ve had a lot of good experiences at the Elementary School. Teachers, nurses and aids are very kind. They know all the students by name. It’s important to know that they all know your kids and they know the parents. I’m not in the PTA but they know me.”
Types of support they have received;
2 have IEPs and 2 have/are participating in a dual language program at their school.
- Misunderstandings, difficulties and challenges and how they have handled them;
There have been no misunderstanding or difficulties worth mentioning.
- What do these families want their children’s teachers and administrators to know about them and their children?
This family wants their children’s teachers and administrators to know that they are hard-working and responsible children that hope and aspire to be educated and become professionals.
Part III: Conclusions and Recommendations
The meaning of this study is derived in the prospects that I, a student, am to better understand the role of culture in student learning and engagement. Prior to conducting this study, I did not expect to find so much information about family and CLD families interconnection with teachers and administrators at the site. It was a culturally responsive school at the end of the day. My assumptions and beliefs change as a result of this experience because my views are multi-dimensional versus two-dimensional. The knowledge I acquired that I wish to share with other PK-12 teachers is that having a perspective that leads to compassion and understanding for CLD families is a must. In order to improve programs for culturally and linguistically diverse families, one should improve the understanding of faculty and staff about CLD families.
In order to provide specific, concrete examples of things teachers and schools can do to:
- Improve the understanding of faculty and staff about CLD families
I recommend more dual language programs embedded in the conviction to promote students achievement with a multicultural perspective. Reinforce the five conditions to promote students achievement with a multicultural perspective which are namely:
- School reform would be anti-racist and anti-biased.
- School reform should reflect an understanding and acceptance of all students as having talents and strengths that can enhance their education.
- School reform should be considered within the parameters of critical pedagogy.
- The people most intimately connected with teaching and learning (teachers, parents, and students themselves) need to be meaningfully involved in school reform.
- School reform needs to be based on high expectations and rigorous standards for all learners.
- Proactively develop stronger school-family partnerships through ongoing communication between teachers, parents and students.
- Adorn and make their schools and classrooms more welcoming places for CLD & non-native English speaking families and connect students’ funds of knowledge to instruction. Teachers should endeavor to make the classroom welcoming to the student through pictures, and colorful visuals as well as variety of books about different cultures including their own (samples shown below).
Part IV: Personal Reflections
Through this project I have learned to better understand the role of culture in student learning and engagement and I reflect on my preconceptions on language learning and multicultural books and stories that were utilized in the dual language curriculum that this family takes part in. I now understood, most importantly, what Luis Moll says about Funds of Knowledge and “how teachers experiences (live) interact with the academic and pedagogical knowledge their supposed to master as professional educators. He says “There is always a filter in acquiring these more academic concepts: social and emotional experiences of our lives so in a sense the teachers’ funds of knowledge become part and parcel of that element needed to assimilate that pedagogical knowledge and become an outstanding teacher.”
My preconception about language learning is based on the notion that English from Great Britain and Castilian Spanish were considered pure, perfect and the true standard; borrowing, compounding, and cropping was a sign of a debased idiom. In fact, the notion that American English was eventually considered better than British English is new to me. I’d considered Castilian Spanish and British English of equal standard. I seemed to have believed that it was the standard that I never thought could be toppled over as pretentious as that sounds. And yet, I’m sure that it is what people thought when Latin was toppled over by a mere Germanic dialect! Yet, I welcome this new perspective whole-heartedly as an American. I’ve heard L2 learners speak and change the language before and sympathized. Now I consider it ingenious! As a music educator, I am adopting ELL methods like Suggestopedia and Jazz chants as I grapple with students’ oral language development. My preconceptions about language learning and, by extension, what is involved in oral language development? Input, Output, and interaction were interpreted by a musical standpoint which hones in on the National Standards for Music Education 2014; Connect #11: Relate musical ideas and works with varied context to deepen understanding. At first, I thought it was easy because for me since it is intuitive to chant or sing having been a singer for decades. The term “Jazz Chants” was unfamiliar to me but the approach looked so familiar that I decided to adopt it. But in my opinion, if I really want to adapt it to my teaching method, I needed to have something useful and simple.
I am happy that through this DL fieldwork experience I was given the facility to engage in teaching related fieldwork and make observations of culturally appropriate/responsive teaching practices in classrooms serving culturally, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse student populations and, by extension, reflect on those experiences in relation to theory, course objectives, and course content. Interestingly, I’ve also utilized a multicultural children’s book and created a checkers game for grade 1-3 based on the DL vocabulary found in it and created a general music lesson focused on their music genre (checkers game picture below). While doing field work at the home and school of Family AB, I have spotlighted high-quality multicultural literature in the textbook Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Journeys Anthologies and a dual language multicultural book assessed by five major characteristics: accuracy, expertise, respect, purpose, and quality. I also found one of the best selection of multicultural and social justice books for children, YA, and educators. It is a dual language book added to these for a 3rd Grade reading curriculum titled Biblioburro; A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter. I also created a checkerboard game based on words found in Biblioburro; a true story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter that is a dual language book for children, YA and adults on social justice. I intend to share the game and music with Family AB.
Yet, I am somewhat limited as a permanent substitute teacher. If I found a place in a music department similar to the school site, I would work in a culturally responsive school where there is a dual language program where I could become a dual language music teacher. I would then continue my work and continually adapt my curriculum and teaching to ensure that it is culturally responsive.
FIELDWORK PICTURES OF DL CLASSROOMS Grades 1 & 3 and General Music.
- Banks, J. A., & McGee Banks, C. A. (2010). Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
- “Teaching in 2 Languages: A Guide for K-12 Bilingual Educators” by Sharon Adelman Reyes
& Tatyana Kleyn Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-4129-7802-6.
- Common core state standards initiative found in url: http://www.corestandards.org/read-the-standards/ (Links to an external site.) Links to an external site.
- Huntington, New York (NY 11743) profile: population, maps, real estate, averages, homes, statistics, relocation, travel, jobs, hospitals, etc. http://www.city-data.com/city/Huntington-New-York.html
- Gu, H. (2018). “Developing Related Cultural Awareness in TEFL”, Advances in Social Sciences, Education and Humanities Research, volume 185 6th International Conferences in Social Sciences, Education and Humanities Research (SSEHR 2017), p. 472.
 From the url: http://www.city-data.com/city/Huntington-New-York.html
 Funds of Knowledge for Teaching: Using a Qualitative Approach to Connect Homes and Classrooms Author(s): Luis C. Moll, Cathy Amanti, Deborah Neff, Norma Gonzalez
Source: Theory into Practice, Vol. 31, No. 2, Qualitative Issues in Educational Research (Spring, 1992), pp. 132-141 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1476399Accessed: 17/02/2010 17:44