Social engagement in peer culture by two Korean children newly enrolled in U.S. preschools
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This study explores two Korean children’s social engagement in peer culture at two U. S. preschools with no or few peers from the same cultural linguistic background. Drawing on theoretical frameworks that include cultural psychology, the Bakhtinian notion of dialogism, and Michel de Certeau’s ideas of “tactics of the weak,” I perceive social engagement as a cultural process of participation in the meaning making process and the Korean children as capable of communicating with others and taking control of their lives. Using ethnographic methods, data were derived from observations of the children; field notes; video-cued interviews with the children; interviews with their teachers and caregivers; and video- and audio-recordings over a research period of one academic year. This study describes how the Korean children developed various non-verbal strategies for communicating with their peers and creative tactics for gaining advantage by disrupting the social order that situated them as “the weak.” Findings highlight that the Korean children were not only being influenced by the culture in their classrooms but also contributed to the on-going construction of peer culture and class norms. The children in this study perceived clean-up time and some of their peers as having special characteristics for satisfying their needs and supporting their social engagement. The findings suggest that we need more studies of cultural linguistic minority children’s unique ways of social engagement in order to find better ways to support the children in taking active part in their classroom communities.