Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Educational Psychology

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Rebecca Rogers, PhD


Dorner, Lisa


Navarro, Virginia

Faulstich Orellana, Marjorie


Language immersion schools offer students from diverse backgrounds with an opportunity for language enrichment education. Yet few studies attend to students’ perspectives on writing and multilingualism in immersion schools. The purpose of this study was to explore how four students from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds were developing writing and multilingual competencies at their Spanish Immersion Elementary School (SIES). This research investigated children’s emerging theories of writing and how school policies afforded and constrained practice. Further, this study examined the developmental trajectory of one trilingual student’s writing over time. This qualitative inquiry drew from two research traditions: ethnographic case study and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Case studies of four multilingual youth were constructed from ethnographic data collected during their second and third grade years. Data included field notes, public documents, writing samples and interviews. Writing policy documents and transcriptions of interviews were analyzed using the tools of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (Rogers, 2011). Writing samples were analyzed using a holistic approach to rhetorical analysis (Spence, 2010) and linguistic strategy categorization (Soltero-Gonzalez, Escamilla & Hopewell). The participants developed conflicting notions about the meaning and practice of writing and multilingualism. Their discourse echoed competing ideas originating from the school’s language and curriculum policy and the broader academic accountability policy of the state and wider U.S. context. Furthermore, children from different linguistic backgrounds voiced varying orientations toward writing depending on the language and genre of writing under discussion. Finally, an in-depth analysis of Lilly’s (an Ahiskan-Turkish multilingual girl) writing over two years revealed that she repeatedly used cross-linguistic strategies as she developed writing competency in her respective languages. The overarching implication of this study is that writing instruction within culturally and linguistically diverse contexts such as SIES should include learning activities that address writing, language and identity as interrelated subjects of thought and dialogue. In addition, because language acquisition is a dynamic process, a holistic approach to writing instruction and assessment could better account for early multilingual writing development.

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