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The Role of Language in Social Justice in Education

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My keynote presentation and a session at the Manitoba TEAL Conference, October 23, 2015. The keynote focused on setting up language as a tool for critical literacy, for accessing the power structures in school and society at large.

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The Role of Language in Social Justice in Education

  1. 1. The Role of Language in Education for Social JusticeDr. Ruslana Westerlund TEAL Manitoba Conference Keynote and Follow Up Session (Combined and revised for SlideShare) October 23, 2015 Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  2. 2. My Story Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  3. 3. The children watch expectantly as Ukrainian immigrant Joe Wacha and his wife work to seal the timber walls of their home, located four miles north of Vita, Manitoba, circa 1905. Source: Archives of Manitoba, W. J. Sisler Collection 118, N9631. Ukrainians in Winnipeg Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  4. 4. Ukrainians in Winnipeg, circa 2011 Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  5. 5. What Does Language Have to Do with Social Justice? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  6. 6. Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice One goal for today: Not answers or mastery of this content, but an exploration of a direction for viewing language in school.
  7. 7. Welcome! Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  8. 8. Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ukrainian Holodomor Exhibit
  9. 9. Example of “Grammatical Manipulation” • “Families were often broken apart when a family member was sold to another owner.” • Slave owners often broke slave families apart by selling a family member to another owner. From How Texas Teaches History, New York Times October 21, 2015. Language as a Tool for Critical Literacy Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  10. 10. Example of “Grammatical Manipulation” • Some slaves reported that their masters treated them kindly. To protect their investment, some slaveholders provided adequate food and clothing for their slaves. However, severe treatment was very common. Whippings, brandings, and even worse torture were all part of American slavery. Language as a Tool for Critical Literacy Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice From How Texas Teaches History, New York Times October 21, 2015.
  11. 11. Teachers weigh in… Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  12. 12. Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  13. 13. • “They were being deported to the barren regions of the Soviet Union.” - why is the perpetrator hidden? • “bunk” “sheer absurdity” • “death from starvation” v. “widespread mortality” Language as a Tool of Critical Literacy Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  14. 14. Grade 5 Social Studies Manitoba Curriculum Essentials Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  15. 15. From Apology to Reconciliation: Residential School Survivors Cluster 1: The Past (p. 22) Language as a Tool for Critical LiteracyDr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  16. 16. Problematize issue Identify bias Critique different views Pursue a new line of inquiry Offer alternative solution to the problem Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice Language as a Tool for Critical Literacy
  17. 17. Language as a Social Justice Tool Gives Students AGENCY to Take Critical Stance Toward Knowledge and Information Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  18. 18. … “language is a form of ‘‘praxis’’ (p. 646); it is meant for actual use. Therefore, what is of interest is not abstract linguistic competence—the ability to produce an infinite number of grammatical sentences in a Chomskyan sense—but rather linguistic capital, the amount of power one can claim in the social world on the basis of one’s linguistic ability and use. For Bourdieu, communication is not merely an exchange of information but ‘‘an act of power’’ (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992, p. 145). Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice Kanno, Y., & Kangas, S. N. (2014).
  19. 19. A language ideology is a model for how social or cultural differences are to be linguistically expressed. It codifies language norms and contains notions on which social functions a language variety should have. It further defines who is to have access to economic, social and cultural goods. Notions on language and on social belonging linked to language can … work as mechanisms of exclusion and social boundary markers. Niklas Bernsand Surzhyk and National Identity in Ukrainian Nationalist Language Ideology What Does Language Have to Do With Social Justice? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  20. 20. What Does Language Have to Do With Social Justice? In the absence of an explicit focus on language, children from certain… backgrounds continue to be privileged, and others to be disadvantaged in learning, assessment, and promotion, perpetuating the obvious inequalities that exist today. Mary Schleppegrell, The Language of Schooling Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  21. 21. What Does Language Have to Do With Social Justice? Language as linguistic capital Communication as an act of power (v. exchange of information) Language provides access to social, economic, and cultural goods Language can serve as mechanisms for exclusion or inclusion The absence of explicit focus on language of schooling leads to further societal inequalities Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  22. 22. Player v. Spectator Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  23. 23. Player v. Spectator: 200 games Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  24. 24. Does this Happen to our Students? “Understand” all the words but can’t meaningfully participate in learning Teachers not inquiring and building on what students already know Explanations above the students’ ZPD Language is taught as the end itself vs. the means to an end Disengage and fall behind? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  25. 25. Key Concepts • Teachers must draw out and work with the preexisting understandings that their students bring with them. • Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If these initial understandings are not recognized, engaged and valued, students can’t learn new concepts or perform at the surface level. (How People Learn, National Academy Press) All learning builds on prior knowledge, and cultural, linguistic and life experiences. Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  26. 26. MB K-12 Framework for EAL/LAL Programming Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  27. 27. Key Concepts • Language is a resource for meaning making • Language learning and cognitive engagement go hand in hand. • Knowing language is knowing particular ways in which language is used for particular purposes in particular contexts Knowing language means being able to participate in literacy practices. Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  28. 28. Key Concepts • Meaning is situated. • Meaning is negotiated. • Social interactions are key to learning and constructing new meanings. • New meanings are created daily. • Language is evolving, dynamic, and messy Words do not carry inherent, static meanings. Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  29. 29. What Do These Words Mean? Home Offense Guest Defense Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  30. 30. Words have situated meanings • Home Game • Go D! • Playing offense • Home is 6, Guest is 12 Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  31. 31. Your role: sports reporter Your job: report the game • Home Game • Wide Receiver • Quarterback • Playing defense • Incomplete pass • Fumble on the play • Flag on the play Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  32. 32. The Nature of Language Language is inseparable from all human action (Walqui, 2012). Words are not defined not by dictionaries; meaning is co- constructed by users in situated contexts (Bakhtin, 1981) Teachers and students need meta-awareness and meta- language to navigate language and in various contexts (Turkan et al, 2014) Language is usage-based and fosters agency (Walqui, 2012). Language is contingent on purposes and use and it spirals in power across time (Walqui, 2012) Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  33. 33. What language and registers do you use through your day? How does language change? What factors influence the language change? Language is Inseparable from All Human Action (Van Lier & Walqui) Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  34. 34. Language is Inseparable From All Human Action (Van Lier & Walqui) Dieting Selling Biking Social Media Basketball Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  35. 35. What language do your students use through their day? How does language change in purpose and complexity? What factors influence the language change? List Ways Your Students Use Language in Your Classes Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  36. 36. How Does Language Change in Schooling Contexts? Short Stories Poetry Information Reports Persuasive Speeches Science Lab Reports Mathematical Explanations Constructing Arguments from Evidence in Science Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  37. 37. Language Development Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice From Structural View of Language Development to
  38. 38. Language increases in uses through schooling From expressing needs and wants to presenting complex arguments From personal recounts to historical accounts From telling how you got an answer to “constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others” From information reports to interpretation of histories From reporting facts to critiquing perspectives Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  39. 39. How Do We Empower Students to Use Language as a Tool for Social Justice in Our Classrooms? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  40. 40. A Boy Who Ran with Blocks http://www.immersionfilm.com/Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  41. 41. A Boy Who Ran With Blocks… • Discuss what Moises already knew • Analyze language expected of him • Identify other ways Moises can show what he knows A boy ran three blocks in six minutes. If he continued to run at the same speed, how long would it take him to run the next twenty blocks? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  42. 42. The Role of Language in Social Justice Language is a tool for inclusion or exclusion Language gives students agency Language is a gateway to meaning making Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  43. 43. What is YOUR Role as a Teacher in “Language for Social Justice”? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  44. 44. Language Expresses Meanings • Halliday (1978) defined academic register as “a set of meanings that is appropriate to a particular function of language, together with the words and structures which express these meanings. We can refer to a ‘mathematics register,’ in the sense of the meanings that belong to the language of mathematics (the mathematical use of natural language, that is, not mathematics itself), and that a language must express if it is being used for mathematical purposes” (p. 195). Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  45. 45. Grade 4 Science Practices Manitoba Curriculum Essentials Language Demands: • Make claims based on evidence • Communicate persuasively orally • Defend claims • Participate in scientific discussions • Communicate scientific knowledge in writing What language will students need to do this? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  46. 46. Focusing on Language in Use What is the essential learning do all students need to learn about? What can EAL students do independently in English? What can EAL students do with supports? What is the topic being studied? What is the purpose for language use? What register is required (formal or informal) in the task? What is the genre (e.g. report on an experiment)? What are the key structures that make up that genre (see next page)? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  47. 47. Integrating Content and Language Science Objectives Language Objectives Students will develop an understanding of what constitutes a scientific method. They will carry out independent investigations to prove or disprove common myths. They will develop understandings about the kinds and functions of variables and the need for replication in the context of developing a method; carrying out practical experiments; observing, recording, and interpreting results; and drawing conclusions. They will complete an experimental report detailing their investigations. Students will write an experimental report, using: • An appropriate organizational structure for that genre • Appropriate language structures (nominalizations and nominal groups, cause and effect structures, passive voice as appropriate). • Time connectives (first, second, following that…, the final step) • Correct technical vocabulary (controlled, dependent, independent, variable; replicate, replication). Gibbons, P. (2009) English Language Learners Academic Literacy and Thinking p. 160 Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  48. 48. Grade 4 Science Practices Manitoba Curriculum Overview Language Demands: • Ask questions • Participate in a scientific discussion • Clarify your thinking through language • Ask more relevant, focused, and sophisticated questions • Refine questions • Make predictions What language will students need to do this? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  49. 49. How Does the Teacher Support Students’ Language Development? https://www.teachingchannel.org/ Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  50. 50. Sentence Frames: a Running Start, not a Straight Jacket Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  51. 51. Teacher Guest Blog https://reclaimingthelanguage.wordpress.com Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  52. 52. Grade 6 Math Processes Manitoba Curriculum Essentials Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice Where is the Language?
  53. 53. Grade 5 Social Studies Manitoba Curriculum Essentials Where is the Language? Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  54. 54. Deeper Learning for ELs https://www.teachingchannel.org/ Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  55. 55. Deeper Learning with ELs • How does Deeper Learning happen with students who are new to English? • In what ways do students and teachers both leverage students’ native languages as an asset for learning? • How does project-based learning lead to deep and integrated learning of language and content? https://www.teachingchannel.org/ Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  56. 56. How Does This Teacher Support Literacy Development of EAL Students? https://www.teachingchannel.org/ Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  57. 57. • Join me in my mission of reclaiming the language for social justice on Facebook: Reclaiming the Language for Social Justice: https://www.facebook.com/Reclaiming-The-Language- For-Social-Justice-1520741064881929/ • Twitter: @ellbillofrights • Blog: https://reclaimingthelanguage.wordpress.com/ Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  58. 58. Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  59. 59. References • Bernsand, N. (n.d.). Surzhyk and National Identity in Ukrainian Nationalist Language Ideology. Forum. Berliner Osteuropa Info. • Christie, F., & Derewianka, B. (2008). School discourse: learning to write across the years of schooling. London, Continuum. • de Jong, E., & Harper, C. (2005). Preparing mainstream teachers for English language learners: Is being a good teacher good enough? Teacher Education Quarterly, 32(2), 101–124. • Donovan, M.S., Bransford, J. D., & Pellegrino, J. W. (Eds) (1999) How people learn: Bridging research and practice. National Academies Press • From Apology to Reconciliation. Residential School Survivors. A Guide for Grades 9 and 11 Social Studies Teachers in Manitoba http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/far/apology_reconcili ation.pdf Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  60. 60. References • Gibbons, P. (2009). English learners, academic literacy, and thinking: learning in the challenge zone. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann • Halliday, M. A. K. (1978). Language as social semiotic. London, UK: Edward Arnold. • How Texas Teaches History, New York Times October 21, 2015. • Kanno, Y., & Kangas, S. N. (2014). “I’m not going to be, like, for the AP”: English language learners’ limited access to advanced college-preparatory courses in high school. American Educational Research Journal, 51(5), 848-878.* Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice
  61. 61. References • Schleppegrell, M. J. (2004). The language of schooling: A functional linguistics perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. • Turkan, S., De Oliveira, L., Lee, O., & Phelps, G (2014) Proposing a Knowledge Base for Teaching Academic Content to English Language Learners: Disciplinary Linguistic Knowledge. Teacher College Record. • The New York Times Guilty of Holocaust Denial. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkMfbBmSno0 • van Lier, L., & Walqui (n.d.). Language and the Common Core Standards. Understanding Language Dr. Ruslana Westerlund. Reclaiming The Language for Social Justice

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