Supporting literacy development of EAL/D learners from low SES settings: Readers Theatre and the translanguaging space.

Year: 2021

Author: Dutton, Janet, Rushton, Kathy

Type of paper: Individual Paper

This paper reports qualitative, ethnographic research from ‘The Identity Text Project’ in one secondary and one primary school from south-western Sydney, NSW. It explores how ‘Readers Theatre’ and translanguaging can support literacy and wellbeing in low SES EAL/D classrooms. The participating schools have up to 65% of the school population from low socio-economic backgrounds (ACARA, n.d) with 97% speaking one or more languages other than English. Students in these settings can feel alienated when they are consistently reminded that their community, culture and use of language are not valued by the wider society (D’warte, 2014; Garcia, Johnson & Seltzer, 2017) and this can have a negative impact on engagement, literacy and wellbeing with ongoing consequences for post- schooling involvement in society more broadly. ‘The Identity Text Project’ utilises inclusive pedagogy that honours the languages and cultures of students and their agency in the learning process. The reported research explores how ‘Readers Theatre’ provides a creative, inclusive way for teachers to support multilingual speakers to employ a broader range of their individual linguistic resources as well as value the language knowledge of themselves and others. Framed by the socio-spatial frames of Lefebvre (1991) and Soja (1980), as well as Li Wei’s (2011) translanguaging space, the research challenges the hegemonic monolingual discourse of schools through promoting translanguaging (Blackledge & Creese, 2010; Williams, 1996) and 'Readers Theatre' as ‘thirdspace’ practices. By doing so, we ask teachers to embrace creativity – a dimension of education under threat in high stakes testing educational contexts (Berliner, 2011; Jefferson & Anderson, 2017) such as Australia. The research data includes anonymised teaching programs, student work artefacts and teacher professional dialogue with data analysed inductively, iteratively and recursively in a process of intensified reading. Key features were annotated and then coded using the lens of socio-spatial theory. Analysis reveals the ways students and teachers were re-positioned by the ‘thirdspace’ mediums of ‘Readers Theatre’ and translangauging and were able to address the ‘first’ and ‘secondspace’ practices in new ways. The English teachers developed a ‘transformative stance’ (Garcia & Kleyn, 2016) in that they came to see that employing resources and pedagogies that acknowledge diverse backgrounds and ways of communicating can value the community, culture and language of all students.