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Biliteracy achievement is a theme which is increasingly viewed as an important component of bilingualism (Schwinge, 2008). It is important to this discussion, not only because growing literacy skills in both of a bilingual’s languages is necessary in order for students to become highly proficient bilinguals, but also because of the concept of language skills transfer; the process in which the skills developed in one of the bilingual’s languages transfers to their other language(s), thus simplifying the second language learning process. For this study, the existence of language skills transfer and the extent to which it occurs in Māori-medium students (by Year 8), will have implications for decisions regarding the timing and the amount of English transition education that occurs in Māori-medium programmes. This is why it is an important concept to discuss here.

Many researchers have attempted to define biliteracy including, Dworin (2003), Fishman (1980), Reyes (2001), and Perez and Guzman (2002). The most cited of these definitions (see also; Baker, 2006; Dworin, 2003; Hornberger, 2003; Schwinge, 2008) is from Hornberger (1990, p. 213), who states that biliteracy is “any and all instances in which communication occurs in two or more languages in or around writing.” This relatively broad definition encompasses all levels of biliteracy and while it is helpful to the field, for this research its shortcoming is that it does not imply any basic level of attainment. As such, definitions such as those offered by Fishman (1980): “mastery of reading and writing in two languages,” or Niyekawa (Niyekawa, 1983; in Hornberger, 2003, p. xiii):

“an advanced state of bilingualism where the person can not only speak two languages fluently, but also read and write these two languages,” are more applicable to this study because they imply a high level of biliterate development – a phenomenon that this research wishes to explore.

In addition to Fishman and Niyekawa’s definitions, however, I would add that the level of biliteracy skills should reflect age-related attainment levels in language (reading and writing) development. This element is important in this study because it focuses on the Year 8 students’ readiness to transition to English-medium secondary school where many students graduate.

Until recently, research conducted in the field of biliteracy development has been limited in number and scope. Early research often focused on oral language development rather than literacy (Valdés, 1992), and those that looked into literacy, tended to focus on reading or writing in students’ second languages, rather than literacy development in both languages (Dworin, 2003). In recent years, however, research literature on the development of biliteracy in bilingual programmes has rapidly increased (see for example, Thomas & Collier, 2002; Hornberger, 2003; Schwinge, 2008). This builds on earlier significant studies by researchers such as Moll and Diaz (1985) and Edelsky (1986) into reading and writing development in Spanish programmes, and Hornberger’s (1988) study into Quechua schools in Peru. The important contribution these three studies have made, according to Schwinge (2008), has been to dispel the belief that learning in two languages will cause difficulties in learning to read and write. Since these studies, the research base has expanded considerably, providing strong evidence of the advantages of bilingual education in achieving the aim of producing bilingual and biliterate graduates (see for example, Thomas & Collier, 2002).

1.11.1 Continua of Biliteracy

With the broadening of research focusing on biliteracy development, an important contribution has also been made in framing this broad area. Hornberger has constructed the Continua of Biliteracy (see Hornberger, 1989, 2003; Hornberger & Skilton-Sylvester, 2000) which uses the notion of intersecting and nested continua (see Figures 4 and 5

below) to demonstrate the multiple and complex interrelationships that can occur between bilingualism and literacy (Hornberger & Skilton-Sylvester, 2000). There are four themes in this framework including contexts, development, media, and content. These four themes are further divided into subcategories, each on a line of continua. It is these areas through which biliteracy develops (see Figure 6 below).

Figure 4: Nested relationships among the continua of biliteracy (Hornberger, 2004, p. 65).

Figure 5: Intersecting relationships among the continua of biliteracy (Hornberger, 2004, p. 65)

Figure 6: The continua of biliteracy (Hornberger, 2004, p. 66).

The Continua of Biliteracy is useful because it provides a comprehensive conceptual framework and clarifying tool to analyse approaches to biliteracy and potential issues. As Baker (2003, p.88) states:

The Continua framework successfully outlines crucial parameters and processes, attempts to explain the biliteracy phenomena, helps integrate a diversity of findings, locates key parameters and interactions, helps predict outcomes and patterns of biliterate behaviour, and lucidly expresses the various conditions that allow the framework to be appropriate in a variety of contexts.

1.11.2 The arguments for biliteracy development.

Managing the bilingual’s two languages in the classroom is a key issue that has not yet been resolved in the literature or in practice. Historically, the prominent view has been to maintain a rigid separation between the bilingual’s two languages in school (termed the

“monolingual principle” by Howatt (1984, cited in Cummins, 2008)) in the belief that by doing so, they would maintain a pure learning atmosphere where each language could grow independently, without interference. According to Cummins (2008), this phenomenon of maintaining language separation reflects the long-standing influence of the “direct method” language-teaching model, an influential model which grew out of a

fear that without it, teachers and students may cease to use the target language during instruction and jeopardise the target language learning. It is because of this perception, that there has been an uncritical acceptance of monolingual instructional assumptions by policy makers, practitioners and researchers (Cummins, 2008, p. 72). This perception extends to Aotearoa/New Zealand where Māori-medium schools keep te reo Māori and English completely separate.

Cummins questions the basis for the direct method model (as does Dworin, 2003), arguing for a change in thinking around the relationship between the languages and, in particular, for the further exploration of the skill of ‘cross linguistic transfer’ [hereafter referred to as language skills transfer].

1.11.3 Language skills transfer

Language skills transfer follows from the widely accepted notion of linguistic interdependence and the related view of how the brain accommodates a bilingual’s two or more languages (both discussed earlier in this chapter). Language skills transfer maintains that many of the skills that a bilingual accumulates when learning one language will transfer to their other language (Proctor et al., 2006). This means that when students begin to learn a second language, they do not need to relearn all of the features of this new language from the beginning, because some skills and strategies transfer automatically from their L1 to their L2.

There is ample evidence in the literature that substantiates the phenomenon of language skills transfer (see Baker, 2006; Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000; Cummins, 2000;

Hornberger, 1989; Krashen, 2002; Oller & Eilers, 2002; Ovando, Collier, & Combs, 2003). Cummins (2008) lists five types of skills that transfer across languages. These include: conceptual elements, metacognitive and metalinguistic strategies, pragmatic aspects of language use such as gestures, specific linguistic elements and phonological awareness. The extent of language skills transfer will also vary from individual to individual, and according to how similar the student’s two languages are. Similar languages will inevitably offer greater opportunities for transfer to occur (Schwinge, 2008).

Historically, there has been a strong level of support for delaying the development of the

learner’s second language (or first, depending on which language is the target language of instruction) until the L1 has developed to a high level. This assumption has been questioned by Dworin (2003), Cummins (2008) and Proctor, Carlo, August and Snow (2006). Dworin (2003, p. 179), like Guitierrez, Baquedano-Lopez, and Alvarez (2001), and Reyes, (2001), argues that it is a fallacy that the L1 must be developed to a native-like level of proficiency prior to learning L2. He states that developing biliteracy is a “bi-directional” process rather than one that involves solely transfer from the first language to the second. He argues for a form of simultaneous bilingual language learning to reflect this phenomenon. If what these authors state is correct, it opens the possibilities to providing a greater and more simultaneous learning role of the students’ two languages and allows student to use their pre-existing language knowledge to assist in the learning of their second language (Cummins, 2008).

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, Level 1 Māori-medium programmes maintain a rigid separation between te reo Māori and English. For much of the period since the 1980s when Māori-medium education first gained momentum, the English language has been perceived as an enemy of Māori-medium programmes as there has been a drive to revitalise te reo Māori. The three schools involved in this research project all include some form of English transition programme for between two and four years.9 However, when English instruction occurs, the two languages are separated by time, place and teacher (Jacobson, 1995), and prior to the introduction of English instruction all three schools maintain a 100 percent Māori immersion programme. As a consequence, none of the schools has encouraged their students’ to use their language skills reservoirs of one language to assist in learning the other.

To this point in the discussion the evidence that has been presented has supported the possibility of a closer relationship between the student’s two languages and an earlier introduction of the second language of instruction (English in this case). However, the possibility for drawing the languages closer together needs to be weighed with the evidence that emerges from Tagoilelagi-Leota, McNaughton, MacDonald and Farry’s (2005) research into biliteracy development in Samoan and Tongan students in Auckland

9 School One commences English instruction in Year 4, School Two commences in Year 6 and School Three commences at Year 7.

(New Zealand). These authors found that while the L1 Tongan and Samoan-speaking children quickly developed English literacy skills when they entered English-medium primary schools, their L1 development suffered at home. The authors state:

Despite the huge gains made by children after one year of schooling in English, the alarming drop in L1 needs to be of great concern, not only to the Pasifika communities, but also for the schools and educational policy, in ensuring these language are sustained in an educatively productive manner. (Tagoilelagi-Leota et al., 2005, p. 477)

Tagoilelagi-Leota et al. warn that in attempting to achieve biliteracy aims, the bilingual children’s first language became threatened. The message from this research is for Māori-medium administrators to be careful not to jeopardise heritage language development for the sake of attempting to support English literacy skills development. While the context of the Tagoilelagi-Leota et al. research was quite different from the Māori-medium examples explored in this research (i.e., Māori-medium students go to school to learn their indigenous heritage language as an L2), it still signals the need for a cautious approach to developing biliteracy.

1.11.4 Teaching for biliteracy

An important consideration regarding teaching for biteracy is that the approach schools take needs to occur within a context that promotes social justice (García, 2009). One way of achieving this will be to teach students critical literacy.10 When students learn through a critical literacy lens, they come to understand the social realities of their own lives and of their communities. It includes learning about the power of dominance and the forms of racism in society (Cummins, 2000; Freire, 1970).

There are many suggestions in the literature regarding classroom practices for biliteracy.

Perez and Torez Guzman (2002), Cummins, Sayers, & Brown (2007), Cummins (2008), Gibbons (2002), Coelho (2000) and García (2009) are some of the researchers who offer useful ideas. One argument that emerges from the research, and which has relevance to the New Zealand context, is that methods of teaching reading and writing in monolingual

10 Cummins (2000, p. 248) calls this “transformative pedagogy.”

classrooms also appear to be relevant to bilingual classroom contexts aiming to teach biliteracy (García, Bartlett, & Kleifgen, 2007).

García (2009) discusses a number of approaches that will lead to biliteracy development, most of which have been implemented in New Zealand Māori-medium and English-medium schools for many years, and are implemented in the English transition classes of the three schools in this study (see Chapters Five, Six and Seven). These literacy approaches include:

• The use of both top-down and bottom-up approaches (Manzo & Manzo, 1993)

• Teaching about the cuing system, including the graphophonic, semantic, and syntactic knowledge (Ministry of Education, 1996, 2003, 2006)

• The use of reading approaches that emphasise meaning and the learning of reading strategies, including, reading to students, shared reading, and guided reading (Department of Education, 1985; Ministry of Education, 1996, 2003, 2006)

• Writing programmes that encourage frequent opportunities for students to express themselves through written language, and which explicitly teach writing skills.

Biliteracy focused writing programmes will include the use of demonstrations, joint construction of texts, independent writing, minilessons, conferencing, and the sharing of the students’ personal writing (Calkins, 1994; Cambourne, 1988;

Graves, 1983; Ministry of Education, 1992) Translanguaging

A pedagogical theme that has received attention, primarily by García (2009) and Baker (2003), is the concept of translanguaging (see also, García et al., 2007). According to Baker (2003), translanguaging is a concept first discussed by Williams (1994) when he conducted research in Welsh secondary schools. Williams defined translanguaging as a pedagogical practice which switches the language mode in bilingual classrooms (Baker, 2001). It is a process that is used naturally by bilinguals when negotiating the learning of a second language, but can also be employed as a teaching strategy where students are encouraged to switch from one language to the other to complete a task. Translanguaging

is more than just chopping and changing from one language to the other, according to Baker (2003, 2006). There is a deliberate, systematic, yet varied strategy of transferring the knowledge from one language to the other, without being merely an act of repeating the content in the other language (which would be a waste of time if language skills transfer exists). It is instead the deliberate planning of tasks that require the use of one language’s resources to assist in the development of the other language and vice versa.

Here, translanguaging would appear to build on Tucker and Lambert’s earlier notion of subcontrastive incipient linguistics, which highlights this process in relation to metalinguistic awareness. Identity texts

A final pedagogical theme to be discussed here from the literature, is the use of identity texts (Cummins, 2008; Cummins et al., 2007). These are positive statements (which can be written, spoken, visual, musical, dramatic or multimodal combinations) that students make about themselves. They can create them on any topic that is relevant to their lives, and can be integrated across curricula (Cummins, 2005).

According to Cummins (2008, p. 71), “Students invest their identities in the creation of these texts…. The identity text then holds up a mirror up to students in which their identities are reflected back in a positive light.” When the students complete their texts, they are then encouraged to share their identities with multiple audiences, and usually receive positive feedback. Two key features of this technique include, first, that the students’ cultures are central to the task and, second, the students are involved in purposeful translation from their L1 to their L2 and vice versa.