Aprendiendo ciencias : the construction of a community of practice in a fourth grade bilingual classroom
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This was a qualitative case study focusing on one fourth-grade bilingual teacher and her students. Using theoretical and methodological tools from Communities of Practice and Sociocultural Learning research, I discuss how the teacher and her students co-constructed a community of practice during science. Additionally, this study provides first hand accounts of students' various oral, written, and visually represented stances related to complex issues in science, to describe how the teacher developed her students' linguistic and cultural resources through science. I used participant observation, video and audio recordings, and student classroom artifacts to document social interactions to understand what practices assisted in the co-construction of a community of practice in this particular fourth-grade bilingual classroom. Data analyses revealed that the teacher and her students engaged in practices that fostered the science identity of the bilingual fourth-graders. Further analyses revealed that through the integration of literacy practices with science, the students acquired ways to write, talk, and read, adopting scientific discourse. Important connections between home and school were present as a component of this community of practice. Finally, I found that the work of doing science within this particular classroom was accomplished by drawing upon linguistic resources in both English and Spanish. Engaging in the work of doing science bilingually became an essential characteristic of the co-construction of the community of practice. Implications for bilingual education and elementary science education include acknowledging the importance of utilizing all available linguistic resources to gain content-area knowledge and develop academic biliteracies. Implications for elementary teacher preparation call for training that focuses on the integration of content-area literacies, bilingualism, and home-school connections that value knowledge from home as a starting point for the study of science.