Theses Doctoral

(Re)storying Horizons: White Kindergarten Teachers’ Enactment Of The Language And Literacy Curriculum In A Predominantly-white Working-class North Carolina Mountain Community Public School

Rollins, Elizabeth Rose

The early childhood curriculum is too-often based on narrowed/ing conceptualizations of “literacy” and “language,” which negatively position nonacademic (read: nondominant) literacy and language practices and result in schools failing and further marginalizing working-class children and families across racial identifications. It is therefore pertinent to (re)conceptualize language and literacy by interrogating dominantly-positioned academic practices. Exploring early childhood teachers’ sense- making and enactment of the curriculum elucidates how nonacademic practices are (under)valued in and through the mandated curriculum. With this aim, through a critical ethnographic case study, I engaged in observations of classroom interactions and teacher team meetings, artifact collection, and interviews with four White female public kindergarten teachers in a predominantly-White working-class North Carolina mountain community. I found that the four teachers’ language ideologies had been constructed, understood, and developed from early childhood, through schooling experiences, and in teacher learning. These ideologies, while not always recognized, influenced how they were making sense of and enacting the curriculum. Their own childhood literacy experiences impacted approaches to teaching literacy; these White female teachers talked about what they had needed as students and how this influenced their approaches to teaching young children. Talk around students’ language and literacy practices illustrated a desire to prepare children for school and to support student success; although, this talk was underpinned with some deficit perspectives (pervasive in the mandated curriculum) concerning nonacademic language and literacy practices. The teachers were negotiating the mandated curriculum on a daily basis, as they strived to do what they deemed best for students, most of whom were being introduced to formal schooling in kindergarten. They were confident about what their students needed and sought greater trust in their own knowledge and capabilities as teachers, and they often discussed validating children’s language and literacy practices. Concurrently, teachers often talked about moving from or fixing children’s home practices, or modeling correct (academic) practices. Informed by the findings of this study, early childhood teachers can work to reconstruct definitions of language and literacy as we engage working-class children’s multiple, purposeful, and sophisticated ways of making and assigning meaning and of communicating (i.e., their literacy and language practices).

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Souto-Manning, Mariana V.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2020