Joy Peyton


Yah well thinking about secondary immigrant students, secondary school English language learners. I think it is good um to think about those uh are you interested in those who just come here as a secondary school age? Because I think that’s uh an interesting and hard thing to think about. Students who come to the United States when they’re already high school age. Let’s say they’re um let’s say they’re sixteen so they would probably be placed the way we do things in the United States, a sixteen year old would probably be placed in a tenth grade class, I would think. So we could focus on that that helps us to um to think about one particular um group. What… the thing we do in the United States is to associate age and grade placement. So somebody who comes sixteen will probably be placed in a tenth or eleventh grade class no matter what they know um no matter what they are able to do and no matter how much schooling they have had in the past. So, if you think that um we think about elementary school students who starts school here in the United States, they’ve gone through the whole school system and they learned how to do school to be in school when they are very young. Um, somebody who comes here is coming from a different school system with different rules, different ways of doing things, different ways of relating to teachers, talking to teachers, relating to other people in the school, other school staff and other students. Or they have not been in school very much at all because of war in their country, because of poverty, because of transitions that they’ve been involved in. So they come here one thing they need to learn to do is just be in school. Their academically we can think about them in terms of academics, um social, social fea—aspects of their lives and financial. Um so, a—lets think about academically for a second. Academically, um, they’re very often behind, they’re not always behind. We have students that come from other countries. They come at high school age, middle school high school age and they’ve been in school and they’re they’re fine. Uh they they know how to do school and even if they don’t speak English they won’t be academically behind and they will be literate and so it doesn’t take them long to learn English, to become part of the school and to move right through. Um, stereotypically people have thought about Asian students in that regard, but it’s not always true of Asian students. There are waves of Asian students that come in from various countries who don’t have that background and they don’t move through um quickly in that way. So, um, if if a student comes in in high school age they may be way behind. So they need to learn English probably. Um they may need to learn the basics of literacy, ah writing from left to right instead of right of left, ah, the whole concepts of print having meaning, how to create uh, letters in certain ways even if they know representing language in their own way language. They may they may or they may not but hey need to represent oral language in English in the ways that we do. They need, in high school, they need to associate text with graphics and photos um and all the things that that accompany text. They need to know how to make meaning of all those various things. They need to uh learn the content that is going to be taught. They may be very behind in the content so they need to catch up. So while high school students are moving through at a certain pace if they are going to graduate with those high school students um they need to make very rapid progress so they often need to be in school more time than the high school student who started out in the United States. So they might need more time everyday in school and more time across the school year in school, and it also helps them we’re finding with um experiments with block scheduling. It helps them to have time that’s not fragmented in the way we fragment the high school day with fifty minutes doing this fifty minutes doing that fifty minutes doing something else, changing from person to person to person, teacher to teacher, uh colleague to colleague in their classes. So all of those things um need to be thought about. Also when we’re thinking about academics um we’re by the time the student reaches middle school or high school age we’re already thinking about what their transition will be to the next thing after high school. So, the courses they are taking are they able to accumulate high school graduation credit. Are they able to accumulate college credits, which high school students in the United States are doing. Ah, do they know how to get to the next stage. Do their parents know? Many um high school students in the United States start the college application process and th--thinking about where they will be next probably in tenth grade intensively and then applying for college, visiting colleges, talking with colleges, writing their essays in the eleventh grade so that by the twelfth grade they’re sort of finalizing where will they go. Well this is a complicated process with a lot of help from parents who have learned how to navigate the system. So all of those things come in to play academically. Then there is socially. Um, they were part of, if they came here middle school high school, for one thing, they’re coming here at a very difficult time of their lives, adolescents. Uh, they’re feeling probably insecure, they’re struggling with all of the issues that ana—adolescents struggle with. Um there they might have come from very strong social networks. They’re trying to co—enter into strong social networks so how do they do that? They might have gender issues that they are dealing with. What’s it like to be a female and in school, how do you act, what do you do, who are you able to talk to, who do you not talk to, how do you talk to other people. Um, and th-there are, let me say that academics are not the only thing that are important in high school. Particularly, just for your own just for ones own growth, but also for making the transition to post-secondary education certainly and to work. So there are social groups, there are clubs, um, many students who come here as immigrants and non-English speakers are can not be in those clubs because they don’t meet the basic criteria. So we need to think about how to integrate students into school uh socially. Then there is financially. Um, students in high school often come without ah parents sometimes not often but uh sometimes they come without parents ah sometimes they come without strong financial support. Students who are born and raised in this country are use to some sort of financial network usually that’s supporting them. Uh, so many of these students have to work, or they do work, and they have to fit that into their school day and into their academic program. And then how will they make it financially into any kind of post-secondary education. That’s a big issue. Just how do they pay for the test that one takes? The Toful(?) The SAT’s. Ah, how do they whatever test they have to take in order to enter the college they want to go to. Some students don’t have the money to pay for that, they don’t know where the tests are given and they don’t have a way to get there.

Okay, um, the language learning task of a high school student is very different from that of the elementary school student. First of all we should just think about the environment in which language occurs that um in elementary school um teachers now know that
they need to bathe elementary school students in language so there are reinforcements all over the place, posters on the wall that are in in sync with what the students are learning. Books, book corners, um books that students can read that are at their level. The room is usually rich in language. High school students are in an environment where, for one thing, the classes are not often language rich. Um, bulletin boards might be hodge podge, they’re often um student papers posted up around um up on the boards which are very nice that’s that’s how people publish in high school but it’s not a language rich environment. So that’s something to think about is how does one create a language rich and relevant environment for high school students. Something that grabs them e—um and that reinforces what they are learning. Um, their their environment changes to like I said they go from class to class to class. Um, so they don’t have the same reinforcements around them. They don’t have the kind of coziness that happens in elementary school. This is our place and we’re all here together. It can be harsh in high school where you move from one thing to another. The teachers um in high school are often teaching their subjects they’re not teaching people. They’re — I should – that’s that’s too harsh. Um, their their primary focus is on the content that they’re presenting. So it’s different where I’m trying to adjust what I’m saying to you because you’re responding to me. Um, and I’m thinking about how I’m going to help you grow as an individual um and I’m gearing everything to that and watching to see if you’re growing or not. In high school often I’m setting a standard that that’s the content that I teach. If it’s geometry, there are certain things that need to be achieved, certain knowledge that needs to be imparted and key vocabulary terms, many, many, many vocabulary terms that need to be acquired and I’m focusing on that and so my language is often um, geared not to the person but to the level of the content area that needs to be learned. Does that does that do it or not. So –well –let me just add that we have — if if we think about the language in high school class, let’s take geometry. We have vocabulary, complex vocabulary that’s not intuitive um that’s often counter-intuitive to what we the ways we normally use language. Um, we have difference in tactic structures that we use and that we take for granted and then we have high level content and it’s not um usually uh adjusted for the individuals who are in the class.

I I think I’d just like to say that those those who are developing programs for secondary school students and those who are working in programs for secondary school students um all of us should be thinking very critically all the time and not assuming that things are in place. We should always be looking around and saying academically where do they need to go and what do we need to change. We need to be very willing to be critical of ourselves and of the situation and to be change agents and I don’t mean critical in a
negative sense. Um, we need to be involved in in critique, and supportive critique realizing that um critique is hard, change is hard and it’s threatening to all of us and we are all sitting there saying am I doing a good job, am I going to be here next year, am I making a contribution. So we need to be um involving, loving, supportive critique at all times so that our students succeed.

Okay, well what it means to be a heritage language student is is evolving. The whole term of heritage language learner and who is one and who isn’t one. Um, so right now
when people talk about heritage language learners, heritage language speakers um they’re talking both about indigenous languages which would be American Indian languages and about the languages of immigrants. So, both of those groups are not sorted out right now and so we need to be careful because we very often think uh we very often think about Spanish speakers. Um, which is which are heritage language speakers uh but there are also um speakers of languages that have been here before English speakers got here. Um, heritage, l–let me think here for a second. Yah, um, because I was talking about about um definitions. Oh, go-in-in terms of definitions let me also add that um there are questions there are questions about who is a heritage language speaker, um. African American students now in the United States often want to learn African languages, um, they want to learn Swahili often and so theirs their African languages gaining ground and Swahili being one of them. Are African-American students heritage language speakers? This is the question people are thinking about when they themselves don’t have uh uh close connection of the language or the culture and neither do their um immediate ancestors. Their connection to the language goes very far back and if they’re thinking about Swahili um it’s not a mother tongue of anyone it’s a lingua-franca (?) and so we’ve always thought of heritage language as the mother tongue of someone, their first language, but actually Swahili is no ones first language. So these are are questions that make the the issue fairly complex. But if we think about um her-uh –about heritage language speakers in our schools um these are basically people think about students who speak a language other that English as a mother tongue or as a native language. These students are increasingly in our in our schools because of immigration of course, um, and increasingly interested in developing those languages because of interest in our lang – in our country in maintaining and developing languages other than English. So we find speakers of non-English languages in foreign language classes, so we will find in Spanish classes that have been considered foreign language classes we will find increasingly Spanish speakers in those classes. Teachers um are not necessarily prepared through our traditional professional education programs. Um ah in in our in in–in the the sorry, in the academic programs that prepare teachers to be foreign language teachers, they’re not necessarily prepared to teach by their training to teach students who speak the language already um and you know about the culture, possibly more than the teachers do um who possibly speak the language more fluently, with a better accent the teacher does and who possibly have deep cultural understandings that mono-ligual English students will will
not have by visiting a country. So this is a challenge. Um, speakers of languages in our schools like Spanish, Korean, um Mandarin, have, as I said they have cultural knowledge, they have grammatical knowledge that they don’t necessarily know about formally and they they really need a different instructural program. Ask me something else because I’m getting lost.

Second side of the tape

Well if they have if if wa—wa—what would be the benefits of a Spanish-speaking student taking Spanish? Okay the first thing we have to say is that all of us are language learners even in English. We need to, this is something that we don’t talk about too much so that we don’t have a good understanding of it but all of our language needs to continue to develop, so that all the time it turns out that I’m a language learner in the areas that I’m developing, my language development can’t stop. If my language development stops um than my language fossilizes, it doesn’t grow, and it doesn’t grow into new arenas. So let’s say that we have uh a Spanish speaker who is in who is ten, I know one who grew up speaking Spanish at home um and of course when she went to school he Spanish immediately decreased. Her use of Spanish decreased and now she very often speaks English at home and she certainly speaks English at school because that’s what’s cool to do, it’s not cool to speak Spanish at school. Her Spanish needs to develop a lot. She has home Spanish but the less she speaks it at home the more it fossilizes the more it stays the same, the more it becomes not like Spanish. The more English she picks up, even at home when they speak Spanish English is entering into that Spanish so her home language needs to, her home Spanish needs to develop, her community Spanish needs to develop, and certainly her academic Spanish needs to develop and she needs to speak Spanish in the complex ways that proficient Spanish speakers can speak in business settings, in academic settings, in um high level social settings of Spanish speakers. So we sometimes assume that because because a child comes to school speaking Spanish that their uh proficient uh Spanish speaker, but they’re not a fully proficient bi-lingual unless they continue to study and develop in both English and Spanish. So if they have appropriate instruction in Spanish their Spanish will continue to develop. Oh I didn’t even mention that they need to learn to write in Spanish, which they won’t bring from home probably, they need to be, they need to know the literature, Spanish literature, Spanish culture. There are just vast areas to learn about and to learn in, that all of us are doing in English, but we need to do, if we want to have a country in which all of us speak at least two languages and that includes English then all of us need to be very intensively involved in learning our English and another language.

The question that always comes up, which is, we’re in the United States don’t we need to all know how to speak English and certainly don’t those students need to learn um to speak English. And that’s true we need to start there and say certainly anyone who’s in this country want’s to speak the best English that they can, in all the areas that they can, they want to be literate in English they want to be able to make presentations, to understand presentations, to understand academic content, to be able to read the literature, to be successful in English, to be news news announcers what ever it is they want to be they need to be able to do those things at high levels in English. But we are misinformed in our understanding of how language works and the kinds of language that we need. If we, if all of us, English speakers included, want to function well in this world we need to be able to understand, excuse me, we need to be able to understand um other cultures, other languages. We need to be able to read the literature of other cultures, read the literature in other languages. It’s ironic that when students get to high school and college age that we start to think about whether they can do anything in a language other that English. So we put students in f—again foreign language classes, um, try to get them to learn Spanish, um, it use to be Latin, but that’s decreasing, um Greek, French, German, all of those important languages that um that student’s study when they get to high school and college and they need to be fully developed citizens, um, we start thinking about that in high school. Student’s who come to school speaking those languages at home, by the time they get to high school, if those languages are not developed they’ve lost them. So, we have effectively wiped out a language resource that we had, we’ve neglected it, we’ve actively tried to wipe it out in the attempt to get students to learn English and then they get to high school and college and we say oh now we need to have that skill.

We’re uh writing in a uh writing in second language and how that’s different from writing in a first language. This is complicated, it’s very complicated. Uh, let’s think for a minute first about how they’re the same. Because it’s important to think about that, um, the reason it’s important to think about it is that when we focus on the differences second language learners can be deprived of the riches that are available to those who write. So, writing, let me just say that writing opens windows for the writer and for the person who reads the writing. When people are allowed to write in whatever language they can they are opening windows in their own minds and they’re opening doors to their mind for other people. So, when second language learners come in when when English as students learning English as a second language, come in to an English class, even if there are English speakers in that class who are much more advanced that they are they need to be allowed to write and encouraged to write right away. They need to be writing, they need to writing right along with the other students. If in the beginning their writing is in their language that doesn’t matter and if the teacher doesn’t understand the language that they are writing in that makes it more difficult it makes it more complicated but it doesn’t really matter because they need to be writing so they need to be allowed to write. They, for all of us writing involves composing, it involves thinking, reflecting, composing, thinking again, writing again. It involves revising and saying no this isn’t exactly what I wanted to say, this doesn’t even have a point I need a point um it involves once we’ve said what we want to say, think about um who my audience is and how do I make it exactly right for them and then editing and then publishing. So that’s the same for all of us. Um, when a person is writing in their second language of course they’re feeling um sort of dumb. They’re feeling limited, uh, I probably shouldn’t use the word stupid, uh, but they do. We do when we’re writing in our second language we’re feeling dumb, we’re feeling limited, we’re feeling like we can’t say what we want to say, we can’t do what we want to do and so we need um a lot a lot of imput. We need to be read to, we need to read, we need to have prompts that will give us ideas. We need support um writing groups that will we need to be listened to we need to be supportive and encouraged and I know what teachers are um interested in of course is writing correctly, we need to be corrected and we need to be guided. Um, but I was actually going to bring a cartoon down here and I forgot to bring it but it’s a teacher talking to a student saying um what you’ve said is very correct but there’s no passion in it so um second language learners are often subjected to a great deal of correction before they’ve actually been able to say anything.

A dialogue journal is very simply um writing in interaction, so it’s writing that takes place in a conversation. When I started out doing dialogue journals in the eighties we were using notebooks and so teachers and students uh wrote back and forth to each other in notebooks. Of course we don’t have to use notebooks now some people still like to, like to use notebooks but dialogue journals can take place over the Internet, they can take place um, in a computer program, whatever sorts of technological set ups that people might have or prefer. But it’s a written interaction between, often, a student, who in my experience, started the dialogue and the teacher who often responded to the dialogue. Dialogue journals have taken many forms now with um a focus on on readings, they might become reading journals, writing back and forth student and teacher about what the students reading or what the student and teacher are reading together. They can take the form of student student interactions uh that are written but students/students interaction often need teacher help and guidance or they they go down um they they sink to the lowest common denominator often without teacher help and guidance. Second, for me, second language learners can benefit in many ways from writing interactively with the teacher. Um, writing uh opens the opportunity to write, opens ones own mind. So, when a second language learner comes into a classroom and is given the opportunity to write in a dialogue they start to to think about and to write about who they are in this situation at this time. The teacher who gets to read what the students has written um gets the opportunity to see who that students is. This is a rare opportunity in classrooms. It’s import—it’s an important opportunity in classrooms. Um, I, it also, a dialogue journal let’s a students who might be new to a classroom enter in immediately. I’ve been in classrooms where the teachers use dialogue journals. The students come in, it’s their first day, second, third week, second, third month of school. The student is behind. They’re doing things that are different from the other students. They look different from the other students, they act different, but when the students are writing dialogue journals that students can do that immediately and the teacher immediately can see where that student is. So they can enter in um automatically and also they can also write about where they are in the ways that they write. This is the one time in a writing program that has goals and structures and systems and topics and types of writing that must be done. This is the one time in the writing program where that student can write about uh what they what they know, what they’re thinking, in the ways that they’re able to write at that time and then they can get a response and this is also if we if we talk about a high school setting a rare time that a student can get a personal response from an individual who is paying attention to what they’re saying in the way they’re saying it and responding accordingly and then trying to help them along and when you look at that writing over a years time you can see the incremental development that’s happening there in the student and in the student and teachers interaction if you really do have a dialogue.

In, in writing workshops um, one thing that we noticed a group a group of people and I who had worked quite a bit in the schools primarily in the middle and high schools in in implementing writing workshops of teachers and what they found was that there was very little revising going on, um, and think that’s important to keep in mind in trying to implement a writing workshop. Actually, it’s very difficult these days, I think, to implement writing workshop at all. Because writing takes time and when with all the pressures that happens in schools writing is the first thing to go, that’s been my experience. So, if a person is interested in doing writing workshop in their classroom they need to be very very diligent about making sure that happens. That students have time to write, that have time to think about their writing and that they have time to share their writing and that they have time to revise. Um, in our fast paced society with many pressures it’s tempting to go from writing, composing, to editing, correcting and publishing. We’re all interested in getting out that product, getting it right, getting up there and available to the world. And what we found was that most classrooms writing workshops fell down when it came to revising, thinking about the writing, thinking about how it might be different, talking about it with others and then revising it.

In thinking about language in thinking about language in minority students, well my soapbox now is that language is invisible, pretty much invisible. We don’t talk about language very much uh we don’t know very much about how it works, about how it develops. Um, people who are talking about language don’t often don’t know very much about what language means to people. About how it works, how it is acquired. Um, so I think that we have in this country right now um not very much intelligent talk about language. Language is kind of like skin, it’s there, it’s really there but we don’t think about it very much but it’s very very important. What, the way that I talk immediately says a whole lot about who I am, where I am in the social structure, who I think I am, who I am in relationship to you. Um, it says a lot about the way that you talk, says a lot about how you are, who you are where you fit in the social structure and how you think about me. So um we often because of our ignorance about language about how it works how it’s acquired how it develops and what it means to people. We put people in boxes. We force them into ways of language uses that don’t make sense. They don’t make sense for our country and they don’t make sense for the people who are being forced into those boxes and that don’t allow language to develop in the ways that it can. And I’ll say one more thing. And that is that any ways that we use language that get more complicated and at higher levels advance all of our languages so that if uh if my ways of using language in Spanish are developing are becoming more literate, more complex, more um high level, more proficient, that is also going to advance my usage of English. All of our languages move together in our brains, it’s the same brain, it’s the same person, it’s the same set of emotions. Any use of language advances every other use of language. So to put people into boxes and force them to use one language and say no you can’t use that, no that’s unacceptable, not stol-----(?) stultifies our growth. It stops our growth it fossilizes it and also because language has many social implications it doesn’t allow us to move socially in this country in the ways that we need to we need to have connections with our families with our ancestors with our friends with our communities and without those connections we end up to be a very lost people.