Ecoliteracy: Spanish Language, Cultural Knowledge and Teachers’ Professional Development in an English-Only Environment

Submitted by: Sara S. Garcia
Abstract: In the United States the increase of Spanish speaking children’s presence in schools requires that teachers focus attention to ways that incorporate students’ cultural backgrounds in all school subjects. Teachers can utilize the cultural identities of Spanish speaking children to highlight the cultural representation of texts in the selection of literary materials to enhance learning in the first language and facilitate content knowledge in English, the language of educational policy in California.
Purpose: The goal of this study is to raise teachers’ awareness of cultural representation in bilingual texts and use these to motivate and capture the interest of all students but especially Spanish speaking children. The interaction of native and second language and the use of the immediate environment to propagate literacy is the main focus of this study. A cyclical process that requires exploration, knowledge construction, and action at distinct phases in teachers’ cognitive and professional development by taking into account the lived experiences of their students is generated for this study.
Method: A Participatory Action Project is in progress. This presentation highlights case studies of a group of participating primary school teachers that has documented their students’ perception of cultural representation in the content of stories. Qualitative data from teacher interviews and reflections has been collected and analyzed during the first phase of the study. The purpose was to promote the imagination and enhance bicognitive interpretation in developing literacy in two languages. Children’s protocols of bilingual stories in the classroom and dialogic interviews with teachers identify and highlight what teachers did not know about the culture of their students and how they, as action researchers of their own practice, will integrate culture to better understand how learners construct knowledge through primary language use and acquisition of English as a second language.