Bilingual Ways with Words: An Ethnographic Study of Language and Social Constructions in a Kindergarten Dual Language Classroom
Giselle Martinez Negrette

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

The education of linguistically diverse students has been a constant subject of debate in the US. However, recently, dual language immersion (DLI) programs have emerged in the country as effective ways to bring together language minority and language majority speakers in school settings with the goal of bilingualism and bi-literacy for all. Despite this progress, the proliferation of DLI programs has raised concerns regarding issues of inequity and dissimilar power dynamics in these spaces. Guided by two interrelated research questions, this inquiry explores first, how kindergarten emergent bilinguals in a DLI classroom perceive and respond to socially-constructed notions such as race/ethnicity, social class position, and bilingualism; and second, how kindergarten emergent bilinguals in DLI classrooms enact and negotiate the intersections of race/ethnicity, social class position, and language. Employing qualitative research methods—participant observations, semi-structured interviews, and video-recorded lessons—this ethnographic case study uses the intersectional lens of raciolinguistics (Alim, Rickford & Ball, 2016; Rosa & Flores, 2017), sociological theories of social class position (Bourdieu, 1984), and contemporary theorizations of multilingualism (May, 2014; Garcia & Wei, 2013) to examine the intricate cross-cutting dynamics at play in bilingual spaces. This research will contribute to understandings of social perceptions and relations in multilingual/multicultural/multiethnic spaces, enhancing possibilities for equitable and just design of policies, programs and practices in contemporary schools.
About Giselle Martinez Negrette
Giselle Martinez Negrette is a doctoral candidate in the department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds a B.A. in Modern Languages Teaching from Universidad del Atlántico (Colombia), and an M.A. in Education with a concentration in Bilingual Education & TESOL from New Mexico State University. Giselle has been a teacher for over 15 years in which she has lived and worked in several different countries including Colombia, England, China, Thailand, Mexico and the US. Her research interests are centered on issues of language, equity, and social justice, particularly, in relation to the schooling of linguistically and culturally diverse children in the United States. In her dissertation, she investigates how emergent bilinguals in dual language immersion (DLI) classrooms perceive, enact, and negotiate the tenuous intersections of race/ethnicity, social class position, and language in American school settings. Drawing on ethnographic methods, her research elucidates the intricate processes that young emergent bilinguals engage in as they use language to enact and negotiate their identities and interactions.

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