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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“There will only be English in kindergarten”: The emergent literacy cultural models that Mexican-American Spanish -dominant Head Start preschoolers encounter at home and school
by Cuellar, Delis, Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2008, 258; 3335402
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study investigates the conceptualizations of emergent literacy held by teachers and mothers at a Head Start program serving second generation, Mexican-American children and the culturally responsive teaching practices occurring in that setting. The participants' conceptualizations were ascertained using a cultural models approach and compared with the intent to learn if discontinuities between the mothers and teachers exist. The participants' cultural models were examined using a sociocultural framework that proposes the use of the students' prior knowledge as a basis for teaching.

The center's lead and assistant teachers and the first generation Mexican-American mothers of five of the center's students were interviewed using both ethnographic techniques and case study methodologies to better understand their cultural models for emergent literacy. To complement these interviews, participant-observer field notes focusing on the everyday interactions that occurred in the classroom, in teacher-parent meetings, at teacher trainings, and during classroom outings were collected over a period corresponding to one academic year.

The teachers' and mothers' cultural models for emergent literacy development proved to be almost completely discontinuous. The mothers' cultural models were found to emphasize the clarity of language output, the importance of Spanish development as a means of cultural and ethnic identity development, and the concept of educación, which in their view is the foundation for all learning in the early years. On the other hand, the teachers' were found to emphasize the complexity of language output, the importance of English language development in preparation for English-only kindergarten, and the appropriateness of phonics-based instruction to further the children's pre-literacy skills.

The teachers' attempts at being culturally responsive were found to emphasize only folkloric elements of Mexican culture, and the educational utility of their efforts was marginal. However, after careful observation, it was discovered that both the mothers and the teachers employed culturally responsive teaching methods as recommended in the academic literature, though they were not identified by the teachers as such over the course of their interviews. Recommended practice and policy changes to address the less functional aspects of this learning environment are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
School: Arizona State University
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Bilingual education, Early childhood education, Hispanic American studies
Keywords: Emergent literacy, Head Start, Mexican-American, Preschoolers, Spanish-dominant
Publication Number: 3335402
ISBN: 978-0-549-88850-5
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