Immigrant Students and Literacy

By Marco

This semester is RLIT 6345 Transnational and Immigrant Literacies, students were asked to complete a blog post as part of a professional book project.

campano bookGerald Campano’s book on Immigrant Students and Literacy is an excellent resource to inspire teachers that teach immigrant students in their classroom. There are many lessons that we can learn from this selection. From the importance of teaching with heart and compassion, to never giving up on our students were a few of the themes of the selection. I was amazed on how effectively Campano was able to work with his students through the skill of writing. He brought out their inner voice in the form of stories that the children had been waiting to tell.

The selection follows Campano, on his first year teaching, to a very poor school district in Houston, Texas.  It was a very trying time for Campano. He faced the challenge of working with low performing students who needed a lot of additional help. A first year teacher’s nightmare was probably what the author was feeling at this moment in time. However, as teachers, one of our strengths is perseverance and Campano did not give up. He made the best out of a bad situation and even gained the respect of his students.

Nevertheless, in order for Campano to become a more effective and empathetic educator, he felt that he had to gain a better understanding of his own identity. As a Filipino, Campano had never acquired a true appreciation for his own self-identity and he felt that this affected his teaching career.  He was not able to embrace and appreciate his own culture. Although, through the process of educating his students and seeing the injustices that these children experienced, Campano accomplished his goal. Finally, he was able to foster an appreciation for his own identity.

As the story progressed, Campano moved from Houston, Texas to California. In this new phase of his life, he took a position as a fifth grade classroom teacher.  He was placed in a classroom of students that needed a lot of help. The students that he was given were children that been classified as hopeless and rejects. They were also considered lazy and incapable of learning any new material. This infuriated me because as a teacher our job is to never give up on our students. As educators, we want education to be important to all children despite their upbringing. Campano realized the importance of reaching out to his students.  He reached out to his students by having them share what was important in their life, through stories that needed to be heard. Through the use of writing Campano was able to get their voices heard. Poverty, discrimination, gang violence, and death were just a few of the common factors that these children shared through their writing.

This is a great inspirational book, which can be utilized during the staff development trainings at the beginning of the year. It will serve as a reminder that all children can learn and that we are the key that will ensure their success. This selection serves as a great inspiration to all educators.

Prejudiced Pedagogical Practices

By Alisa, Claudia and Gabriela

This semester in RLIT 6345 Transnational and Immigrant Literacies, students were asked to write a blog post as part of a professional book project.

As children, we hope to receive an education that will equip us with the knowledge needed to understand the world around us and prepare us for the world ahead. As parents, we hope our children receive an education that develops their understanding of the past, present, and future. As educators we rely on the educational programs to educate us on the professional, ethical, and developmental requirements that will enable us, not only to become certified teachers, but also to become effective teachers licensed by the state to teach.


Every child that walks into our classrooms is part of the general public we are to educate. Are our students all the same? Those who walk through our classroom doors possess funds of knowledge about their cultural background. Do our teaching practices promote or hinder the knowledge and experience our children bring into the classroom? Do we promote personal growth, acceptance, value, and understanding? Are our teaching practices targeting the needs of our students? Is the curriculum we teach true to the best of our knowledge? These are some of questions that developed while we read Lourdes Diaz Soto & Haroon Kharem’s book Teaching Bilingual/Bicultural Children. We reflected on our own educational experiences as children, as parents, our assumptions as individuals, our knowledge attained though our experiences as students on the K-12 system, undergraduate students and graduate students.

Although the three of us had very different upbringings, we each share some similarities while in grade school. The three of us writing this agree that we were negatively affected by the system’s beliefs and practices. The three of us were taught by teachers who did not allow us to speak our first language (Spanish). We were not allowed to speak Spanish, we were scorned for explaining or questioning in our home language. We were only seeking clarification. Our teachers had the mentality of sink or swim. Even now as adults whom have already obtained our teaching certifications, we were not educated on the importance of valuing the home language. We noticed that through our collaboration and experiences along with the readings incorporated in our master’s program in literacy instruction, we have realized we were misinformed. We neglected to value our own language and that of the students we teach.

Sink or Swim

From grade school to undergraduate school we conformed and assimilated to the dominate groups beliefs. We focused on getting the student to the next proficiency level. The students needed to be ready to pass the state assessment. We thought that code-switching was frowned upon. We promoted English in a way that devalued their first language. How we were taught as children, and our personal experiences has shaped us consciously and unconsciously in to the teachers we were.

World Wise

We reflected having been taught from a whitewashed perspectives. We were forced by, as well enforced, the educational system of assimilation in order to be successful. We brought those prejudiced pedagogical practices into the classroom. We felt that it was more important to assimilate. False information has been passed from the dominant culture, to the submissive minority cultures masquerading as truths. We have taken for granted that what we were taught in school was correct and true to the fullest extent. We by default were teachers teaching the way we were taught. It is not because we do not value our history, culture, or language. It is because we were not educated in ways that allowed us to place value in our history, culture, and language. If we had not been exposed to the readings about teaching bilingual bicultural children, we would not have reflected on the invalidation of our own culture.

Sharing Cultures

We are educators certified in bilingual education by the state of Texas. Yet, we reflected having felt silenced even while speaking. We reflected our prejudiced pedagogical practices. We as teachers needed to become researches of our own history, culture, and language; and that of the students that we teach. We will encounter more diversity within our classroom in the years to come. We must become educated in bilingual/bicultural practices to better understand customs and mannerisms. What we assume is defiance and lack of effort may be a sign of respect while learning.

Del Otro Lado by Susan Meyers

By Sandra Richwood and Yazmin Gonzalez

This semester in RLIT 6345 students worked in groups to read and discuss a professional book related to transnational or immigrant literacies. As part of their project, they wrote a post for this blog.

Del Otro Lado book coverMexico has never been known for feminism, or for women rights, but instead for something they so proudly believe in, “machismo” which entails the men have to provide for the family while the women stay at home, have kids and quit education all together. However women in Villachuato, Mexico do have access to education, starting with ‘primaria’ or primary, which the U.S. considers elementary (grades 1-6) and ‘secundaria’, which Mexico considers as middle school is up to 9th grade (grades 7-9) problem is, some women do not attend at all because they see no point to educating themselves, some although, attend to their education in Villachauto, but it’s never easy for many reasons: financial issues, mores of the community, family beliefs, and school climate.  It’s complex; Mexico’s history and curriculum have played a role.  Meyers interviewed six women on how literacy or formal literacy education played a role in their lives (Meyers, S, 2014).


Men and women have never been considered equal, especially in Mexico a place where the men take pride on being male, and the females have no other choice but to not believe in their worth. This demeanor is no stranger when it comes to education in general.  A man is inevitably going to work outside the home or have to migrate for work to the U.S. and the women are expected stay in the home alone and continue with their work (taking care of the children, cooking, washing, cleaning) and that’s only if they are married because if not their work will continue either to help their mother still being a “señorita” or being the talk to the town for being 18 and not married yet.

Esperanza was 100 years old, and lived through the Mexican Revolution that ended 1920.  Even though she never learned to read and write she had male neighbors do this for her, since being born a male got you the automatic right to attend school.  Through letters she gained a way to “choose” her suitors and later a husband, and now 30 years later, not much had changed (95).

Patricia’s mom suffers from depression, and Patricia has to leave school to help out at home.  She is has no choice in whom she marries, unlike men, who get to pick who they want, when they want.  However when Patricia learns, years later, that her grandparents had migrated to the U.S. and their children got an education, she saves up money and sends one of her youngest daughter to school for a better life.  She was unable to use the power of literacy but was able to this for least one of her daughters-even when her husband “shamed” his daughter because she was educated (96).

Elvira, a woman around Patricia’s age, mentions rumors about her grandfather murdering her grandmother, and that he left the family for another.  Her mom was orphaned, neglected and resented Elvira.  Elvira never had a chance for an education because her mother made it too difficult by not purchasing school supplies or a required uniform because she was the youngest, and in Mexico the youngest is expected to stay home and care for their parents. Elvira later marries and moves to the U.S. for economic reasons, yet returned to her hometown “Villachuato”, unlike must women there, Elvira chose to empower her children-sons and daughter (99-101) she did want her children to have the opportunity of an education, like Cynthia, who went to school and studied more for cosmetology.

These are real life testimonies from real women living in a small town in Michoacán Mexico, where life expectancy is 100. Literacy although offered, is mostly taken for granted, for lack of opportunities, lack of respect but mostly for lack of knowledge, like previously mentioned, not much has changed in over 30 years and at this rate it doesn’t seem like it’s going to.

Perspective on Biliteracy

by Cristina Canales, Patricia Robles, Norma Ramirez, Eliud Salinas

This semester in RLIT 6345 students worked in groups to read and discuss a professional book related to transnational or immigrant literacies. As part of their project, they wrote a post for this blog.

One question the book presents is as follows:  How do two languages in the primary yearsEarly Biliteracy Development impact a child’s language and literacy development in both languages?   There has always been a misconception that children will get confused when it comes to learning how to read and write in two languages. Yet through limited research, it has been discovered that by the age of three, children can differentiate between different languages (pg. 14).There is an overabundance of academic research on the literacy development of monolinguals. The same cannot be said for children learning a second language in academic settings. The book Early Biliteracy Development-Exploring Young Learners’ Use of Their Linguistic Resources “shares the perspective of in-service teachers, literacy educators, graduate students, and researches whose work involves bilingual learners, original research examining issues related to early biliteracy development across different languages” (pg.1 ).

What greatly contributes to the success of a child’s development as an “emergent bilingual” as the book describes, is in the way the languages are developed, encouraged and supported at home. “Parents/caregivers of bilingual preschoolers play an important role in shaping their literacy and language development” (pg. 29).  Since family plays a huge role in the development of two languages, their academic learning must have the same learning opportunities and acceptance.  In order for the child to not only flourish academically, allowing them to use their “resources” to build onto their knowledge and make connection is what makes them successful.  The term “resources” in the book is referred to as, what the child brings from home in both language and culture, which that supports and impacts the English learning process (pg. 12).

A second question that the book asks is the following: Does exposure to language and literacy practices in two languages interfere with the learning process?  Just like the question above, people have believed that language should be the same as the language of instruction.  Studies have actually revealed that literacy practices in two languages actually increase cognitive benefits and metalinguistic awareness of bilingual students (pg. 17).  As students are trying to make sense of the material, the act of using both of their languages to construct meaning empowers their language repertoire; they are able to use and manipulate information in one language and apply it to the other language while meaning is unaffected by the language switch. Also, as students are presented with two different writing systems, the ability to distinguish between the two helps in developing literacy skills. Talking about similarities and differences between two languages enhances second language acquisition (pg. 50). Learning a second language can also help facilitate the first language.

To conclude, as educators we want students to make connections to what they already know and use it to build onto new knowledge. The diversity of our students nurtures multiple paths to biliteracy and it is important to recognize the bidirectional process of how language skills are acquired. It is also crucial that we begin to view bilingual students as biliterate and not two monolinguals in one, as to encourage the use of two languages.

Shared Reading–A Strong Reading Program: Part 2 of 4

This semester in READ 6309 students explored components of a strong reading program. As part of their work, they were asked to contribute to our blog.

By S. Garza

As I shared with you before, Janet Allen, in Yellow Brick Roads introduced us to read-alouds as the beginning of reading with students and now she brings us to shared reading which is the next component of a strong reading program.  Allen describes shared reading as a reading experience in which the teacher is reading and the students are following along in their own copy of the text.  She noted that shared reading could include times when the teacher may have a copy of the text on the “overhead transparencies or in Power Point presentations.” I quoted this because I wouldn’t have thought of them as being shared reading experiences before reading this book but I can see that they are.  I would have originally seen this as just a teaching time and not a shared reading.

The purpose of shared reading is for the students to listen to fluent reading. This is why Allen declares that it is important not to confuse shared reading with Round-Robin reading. In Round-Robin reading students take turns reading but it does not mean that the current reader is reading each part correctly or fluently and therefore the listener is not benefiting from the story as if it were a shared reading.  During a shared reading the students are able to focus their attention on listening instead of trying to figure out how to read the words so they can focus their attention more on making meaning, on creating visual images, and other comprehension strategies.

Allen brings up an idea that I think is good but will stir controversy. She allows some of her struggling students to listen to books on tape during independent reading time.  This would be considered shared reading because they are listening to a more capable reader. The problem that many could see in this would be that the student would not be getting the independent practice. I think that if the child is listening to a book that they could not read alone then they are still benefiting from it because they will be reading above their own level.  However, it probably would not be a good idea to always have the student listen to a recorded book on tape.  Allen found several companies that produce recorded books on tape and provides a list of them in the Appendixes A and D in her book.

 I like how Allen brings in the secondary students in this chapter as well.  She mentions that she feels that a teacher should read the first chapter of a book with the students even if the book is meant to be read independently.  The reading of the first chapter would allow the students to get a feel for the sound the characters’ names, location, the way the author describes feelings or actions.  The shared reading of the first chapter may make all the difference for some of the students.

Social Impact on Reading

This semester, students in READ 6308 explored various theories of how people learn and learn to read. As part of this assignment, they wrote a post for our blog. 

By Leal and Munoz

Does socioeconomic class determine our reading proficiency?  According to the Sociolinguistic Theory developed by Besil Bernstein in 1971, reading development and acquisition is affected by our society and the dialect we speak. 

Bernstein found that children from working class families tend to have difficulty with reading.  This is because working parents tend to not read to their children, which hinders their vocabulary development.  They also tend to have more of an oral tradition which does not translate well into the classroom.  Students from the upper and middle classes tend to have parents who read to them and so they are more familiar with written text.  They are also inclined to pick up much more vocabulary than children from working class families. 

Bernstein believed that it was the teacher’s job to provide the language needed to acquire the necessary reading skills. Furthermore, he theorized that working class families speak to each other in restricted codes, which is the type of language people use within their close circle of family and friends.  This code is filled with information that is common knowledge only to the participants in that selected group; it is identified as an informal type of communication.  Upper and middle class families not only use restricted codes, but also elaborated codes.  Elaborated codes are much more detailed and formal.  It is the type of language one would use to explain something that is not familiar to all the parties involved.  No prior knowledge is necessary to understand or contribute in this group of conversation.

Mikheil Bakhtin studied the relationships between students and language interactions in the classrooms.  He argued that language evolves dynamically rather than being static.  It affects and is affected by the society which produces and uses the language, thus the creation of Ebonics by African Americans, and Spanglish by Hispanics.  Children using these dialects may have a lower reading proficiency because of the use of these unconventional forms of English which are not found in a more formal setting, such as a classroom.

More recently, James Paul Gee has introduced the idea of Discourses which are socially accepted ways of using language.  He believes that it integrates language along with reading and writing and the values and feelings of the society using them.  Recently he has been promoting the use of videogames and gaming sites to increase literacy development.

Sociolinguistics takes into account the language that we speak is affected by our culture to determine the way we develop as speakers and readers.  It is influenced by our social groups, peers, geographic location, and affects the vocabulary development.  This theory suggests individuals using limited vocabularies tend to be poor readers.  It does not take into account intelligence or student’s motivation to succeed.

Assessment Binder

This semester students in READ 6306 wrote a course-related post for our blog.

By Selia

An endeavor that I have undertaken this semester has been to create a way to authentically assess my students. The purpose of this assessment would be to analyze the data collected and use it to help develop a plan of intervention for the child.  I know that it seems like a daunting task but it is something that I need to do to ensure that my students reach their fullest potential.  The reason that I have chosen to incorporate the use of authentic assessment in my classroom is because I feel that the weekly tests that I give my students are not showing me a true picture of what my students have learned or what they need more help with.  I hope that through the use of different authentic assessment methods that I will be able to gain a better understanding of the strategies that my struggling students have and which ones they need help with.

I plan on taking anecdotal notes of my students, administering running records, and using miscue analysis forms to assess my students’ strengths and weaknesses.  All of this will be done by kidwatching.  This idea was taken from Gretchen Owoki and Yetta Goodman’s Kidwatching. 

To keep my data at hand and organized, I created a binder that I will call my “Pensieve.” I will use this binder to keep track of the data that I am collecting on my students.  This idea was taken from Gail Boushey and Joan Moser’s The CAFÉ Book.  The binder is separated into two parts. The first part will be the “teacher” section and the second will be the “student” section.  The teacher section will have blank calendars and checklists to plan what assessment is to be used on a given day and a way to track which students have already been assessed.   The student section will have divider for each student and all of the data collected on that student will be in that location.  This will make it easier when it comes time to analyze the data because I will not have to waste time looking for the notes that I took. Some of the data that will be in the student section of the “Pensieve” will be: anecdotal notes, a reading interview, and a reading checklist. I know and accept that my “Pensieve” will undoubtedly change throughout the school year. I think that this will be a positive change because I cannot expect to do the same thing over and over if I expect to get different results.

I have begun to implement some of the ideas that I have learned about in my classroom and I like the results that I am seeing.  I will not lie, it takes time and practice but it is definitely worth the extra effort. I am confident that if I take the time to implement the plan that I have created that I will be successful in helping my students more than I ever have before. I don’t expect to be successful on the first try but I do know that I will be successful.

Both of the books that I used for ideas are invaluable tools for using authentic assessment in the classroom.