Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Amy Seely Flint

Second Advisor

Laura May

Third Advisor

Gertrude Tinker Sachs

Fourth Advisor

Tasha Tropp Laman


While many research studies have examined the early literacy development and experiences of monolingual children (e.g. Clay 1982, 1991, 2001; Dyson, 1984, 1993, 2003), there are few studies that investigate the early literacy development of young emergent bilingual students (Dworin & Moll, 2006; McCarthey et al., 2004; Moll, Saez, Dworin, 2001). Drawing on sociocultural theory (Rogoff, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978), 1995), critical race theory (Ladson-Billings, 1998; Solorzano & Yosso, 2009; Taylor, 2009; Yosso, Villalpando, Delgado Bernal, & Solórzano, 2001) and ethic of care perspectives (Noddings, 1984), this case study examined emergent bilingual students’ writing development during writing workshop in the context of an “English only” official curriculum. Questions guiding the study were: (1) How do emergent bilingual writers participate in writing events? (2) What social, cultural, and linguistic resources do emergent bilingual writers draw upon when engaged in the composing process? and (3) What impact do these resources have on emergent bilingual writers’ understandings of the writing process?

Data sources included teacher, student, and parent interviews; field notes and transcripts of focal students' talk and interactions during the whole class mini-lessons and share sessions, individual writing time, and teacher/student writing conferences, and student writing samples. Constant Comparative approach (Charmaz, 2006; Glaser & Strauss, 1965) was used to analyze the data. Findings from this study indicate that emergent bilingual students draw from rich social, cultural, and linguistic repertoires as they write. Findings also indicate that issues of power and agency play out as student position themselves within the group based on language proficiency. On the basis of this study, teachers can support students as they draw upon their rich resources by supporting talk in multiple languages in the classroom. This study also demonstrates how the politics of language education impact young students as they position themselves in the classroom based on access to linguistic resources. Implications for classroom practice include challenging deficit perspectives that fail to view students’ home language and culture as a resource in learning. Teachers can support students as they draw upon their rich resources by encouraging talk and writing in multiple languages in the classroom. Further questions are reasied about English only policies that deny students opportunities to engage in multilingual practices as they learn to read and write in classroom settings.