The impact of environmental factors on the production of english narratives by Spanish-English bilingual children
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The social and linguistic demographics of U.S. schools are constantly evolving. In recent years, the number of English learners (ELs) entering the U.S. educational system has increased substantially. Unfortunately, statistics have consistently shown that ELs are at risk for poor educational outcomes. Programs of language assistance, such as bilingual dual immersion programs, are designed to help ensure that ELs attain language proficiency in both English and their native languages, and meet the same academic content and achievement standards that are expected of all students nationwide. The goal of this dissertation is to document an in-depth investigation of narrative skills by Spanish-English bilingual speakers who are enrolled in bilingual immersion programs and in monolingual English instruction. This dissertation consists of three independent studies, which are built upon each other in that they all investigate a particular type of narrative skill. The specific focus includes ELs’ use of referring expressions, evaluative expressions, and relative clauses in oral narratives in English. The data are drawn from the frog story narratives in the Pearson Corpus (Pearson, 2002) from the Child Language Data Exchange System (MacWhinney, 2000). Environmental factors, such as instructional models, family socioeconomic status, and home language use, are considered when evaluating both the quantity and quality of language use in the English narratives produced by Spanish-English bilinguals. The findings did not provide supportive evidence that ELs in dual immersion program outperform their peers in the accuracy and richness of their narrative production. Instead, socioeconomic status was found to play a more important role in predicting individual differences in adequately managing references and using richer evaluative devices in oral narratives. Immersion learners from different grade levels have also showed a clear pattern of growth in syntactic complexity. The current investigations provide significant insights into the pragmatic-discourse function of bilingual speech in constructing coherent, engaging, and sophisticated messages in oral narratives that facilitate successful multilingual communications. This dissertation also contributes to the field by drawing implications of the immersion curriculum design to boost bilingual children’s narrative readiness and academic attainment, and capitalize on facilitating factors to maximize language and literacy outcomes of dual language learners.