The official discourse, as has been communicated through the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 rhetoric and the concomitant focus on standards and assessment, says that minority children, especially English language learners (ELLs) must gain “standard” English language skills in an unreasonably short time frame, while achieving on par with native English speaking students in academic content areas.
Hawkins posit a view of language, learning, and teaching that sees meanings and understandings constructed not in individual heads, but as between humans engaged in specific situated social interactions. p15
p17 We need to explore and identify not only how our learners are coming to acquire new language skills, but what forms of languages are represented and available to them.
Norton (2000) defines identity as "how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future"
Situated identities only “work” if they are recognized and taken up in the interaction p19
[Hawkins] realized that academic instruction, no matter how well prepared, isn’t enough to ensure language learning and academic competence for all students. And [she] saw how social status affects participation, and how participation affords status and access to more language and interaction. [Hawkins] came to see the teachers’ role as managing the ecology, as opposed to designing instruction, with the notion of "ecology" spanning not only the classroom, but also the school day and all the activities therein. p21
What may differ for ELLs of all ages is the lack of access to the privileged linguistic codes; greater variance in understandings of what school, learning, and literacies mean and might look like; different patterns of communication, interactions, beliefs, and behaviors; and differing experiences with and exposures to the natural and lived world. p22
[A teacher's] job, rather than "teaching English," is to offer students access to the range of knowledge, abilities, and forms of language (discourses) that will enable them to lay claim to the social identities that afford them a participant status in the social communities of their choice, and to provide scaffolding (and a truly supportive environment) for the attainment of these. p23
Throughout this article, data on one focal learner, Shoua, was used as an exemplar of claims and theoretical constructs. Shoua’s home language was Hmong. She had been born in the same town in which she now lived, and had even attended preschool there. Shoua had no siblings close to her own age, nor did she interact with age-level peers outside of school. She also had little exposure to English outside of school. She scored extremely low upon kindergarten entrance on an assessment scale for English. She did, however, display some communicative skills. She learned some of the other children’s names fairly quickly, would physically position herself next to them in centers or group activities and find ways to interact with them using limited language, and could make simple requests and commands. She seemed self-assured and socially oriented. The data on Shoua helps to explicate how the framework presented below can provide understandings of how classrooms work to support and/or constrain language and academic development for ELLs.