Transcript of the episode “Translanguaging: Inviting the whole child into the classroom”

[00:00:15] Amy H-L: I’m Amy Halpern-Laff. 

[00:00:16] Jon M: And I’m Jon Moscow. Welcome to Ethical Schools. Our guests today are Dr. Cecilia Espinosa, associate professor at Lehman College and Dr. Laura Ascenzi-Moreno, associate professor at Brooklyn College. They are co-authors of “Rooted in Strength: Using Translanguaging to Grow Multilingual Readers and Writers.” Welcome, Cecelia and Laura.

[00:00:38] Cecilia E: Thank you so much for having us, Jon and Amy. 

[00:00:41] Laura A-M: Yes, thank you so much. So great to be here. 

[00:00:45] Amy H-L: What is translanguaging? 

[00:00:49] Cecilia E: So translanguaging is the languaging practice that bilingual and multilingual people use as the norm. In existing communities, it is the way in which bilingual or multilingual people use language, communicate, use it for constructing meaning. It is really the norm in multi-lingual communities. Laura, do you want to add anything?

[00:01:13] Laura A-M: Yeah. I just want to build off what Cecelia said. Even though it has this very fancy term. It really is is describing the normal practices of bilingual people when they pull from all of their experiences. We like to talk about language as a verb so we say languaging. When people language in different environments, with different types of people throughout time, language emerges. And that language is not constrained by definitions of named language, it develops. And so we like to think of translanguaging as the expression of this emerging and developing language. And it’s always developing. 

[00:02:00] Amy H-L: And why did you write a book about translanguaging now? 

[00:02:05] Cecilia E: Laura and I have worked with schools and have been teachers for a long time. Now we’re teacher educators, but our careers started as teacher assistants. Then we became bilingual teachers. And our work has always been with bilingual students, but often the books that we read for professional development and books that we loved, for example, Donald Graves’s books. All those books maybe mentioned emergent bilingual children in the corner. And they call them at that time English Language Learners. So we wanted to create a text that would center emergent bilinguals in classrooms, as they’re learning, as they’re developing as readers and writers.

[00:02:51] Laura A-M: You know that we started, as Cecelia said, many years ago, and we were both involved in a very special, and I think important, project called CUNY NYSIEB, which stands for City University of New York/ New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals. And in that project, which was led by Ofelia García. Kate Menken, and Ricardo Ortega, we were associate investigators. And the project had really two main goals: to work with schools and districts to understand bilingualism as a resource; and really thinking about the linguistic ecology of schools. And we did a lot of deep and extended work with schools to develop these principles and develop capacity in the schools. And we noticed, over the years, that started in 2012, that a lot of teachers began to hear about translanguaging, but there were a lot of misconceptions. So people thinking that translanguaging is translating or translanguaging is code switching. 

And I think this book came out in the world because Cecilia and I thought that now is the time to present a clarification and a journey for teachers into understanding how translanguaging can not only be a concept or an idea that it’s interesting and cool, but actually can take root in your classroom and can be something that you understand on a day to day basis when you do read alongs or guided reading, shared reading, writing. And we thought that lots of teachers may have been interested in the idea, but didn’t really have kind of the stepping stones to understand what does this mean for me and my students? So I think that’s why we wrote the book and we wrote it this moment in time.

[00:04:51] Cecilia E: And I think that idea that while there were other texts, there wasn’t anything like this, where we really started from the beginning centering on multilingual students from a perspective of strength, where we centered everything in the book around what they bring to the classroom, all the wonderful languaging resources, their strengths, their funds of knowledge. So when they said to us I see a book in here, when we presented the share our translanguaging guide pedagogy for writing, and from then on, the idea of really creating this text, a text that teachers could use to talk with one another, to think about their classroom practices, as we provided ideas for them.

[00:05:38] Laura A-M: I’d like to mention one last thing. We have a lot to say about that question. So we have wonderful colleagues that have come out of CUNY NYSIEB, and they’ve produced books as well that are just fantastic. Kate Seltzer, Ofelia Garcia, and Susana Johnson wrote “The Translanguaging Classroom” and our colegas Carla Espana and Luz Yadira Herrera wrote “En Comunidad.” And we found that this book really was a little bit different and maybe a sister companion book in that it really looks at the younger grades. Cynthia and I both began our teaching career in early childhood and the early childhood section of elementary, pre-K, kindergarten, first, and second. And a lot of the books on translanguaging are really kind of focused on texts and experiences that are reflective of older children, perhaps after third grade, fifth grade, high school. And while our book is really for the whole span of elementary school, we really saw that there was a gap in really looking at what the beginning of literacy looks like through a translanguaging lens. And in this case, we mean starting in kindergarten. Certainly there’s a future text that we want to write in which we’ll look at younger kids. 

[00:06:58] Jon M: That’s exciting. You’ve described translanguaging as transformative. Why. 

[00:07:06] Cecilia E: Laura, you want to start ?

[00:07:08] Laura A-M: I’m gonna rewind. Translanguaging, Amy, when you asked that question, one of the things I was thinking about was should I talk about translanguaging theory and pedagogy. And I didn’t, but now is the perfect time to do that. So we can think about translanguaging in many ways, but translanguaging theory, which is the theory that describes how students language. And a lot of people are exposed to the theory that there’s one linguistic repertoire and students bring in their semiotic and social resources when they’re making meaning of anything. And then there’s translanguaging pedagogy, which is how the teacher translates or develops or molds, shapes translanguaging theory to be classroom practice.

Translanguaging is transformative because it really is centered on the person. So when we’re centering a theory of language on the person, it’s in contrast to how language has typically or traditionally been thought of. For so many years, we’ve thought about language in the classroom as being something that we bring to students or that we teach students. And so we think about teaching vocabulary, teaching phrases, having children learn language and can often think about academic language, too. So we’re bringing language to students rather than accepting and acknowledging the language that they already have. And I think that is the critical piece where we’re changing teachers’ worldview to think about that the language practices that students have is already enough.

And it’s transformative because of that relationship. In progressive schools, we’re always playing and grappling with how to change the relationship between students and teachers. And I think that that is at the core of translanguaging as well, that we’re really thinking, you know, the teacher is not the person who embodies language and distinct language practices, but that there’s a negotiation, there’s a relationship between the language practices of the students and of the teacher. And there’s some negotiation. So we’re really kind of pushing the teacher-student relationship and also thinking about what is reading and what is writing if we put students’ language practices at the center. Because those student language practices are embodied and they embody certain racial, ethnic, and gender identities that need to be brought into the classroom. 

[00:09:52] Cecilia E: I think also it’s transformative because it shifts the perspective of the school, of the classroom teacher, of the child, and of the family from a perspective of deficit to a perspective of strength. So the teacher then asks what happens if I invite the whole child into the classroom. And by that, we mean that child with their entire linguistic repertoire to the classroom. And when that happens, then the family’s ways of knowing are also part of the classroom. 

As I mentioned before, translanguaging exists in communities, but often schools have rigid separations of how language is used. So translanguaging also opens up the walls between the school and the community. It’s transformative in many, many ways. It also creates opportunities for young children, for any person who is translanguaging, to really construct meaning at different levels than what they could say if they were just using their new language.

[00:10:54] Jon M: I think that my next question is perhaps implied in what you’ve just been saying, but you’ve said that normalizing multilanguage literacy development is an equity issue. Can you elaborate on that? 

[00:11:06] Laura A-M: Yes, absolutely. For so long reading and writing has been equated with English proficiency, but we know that reading and writing go beyond language. For example, as a reader, I can read in Spanish and English and Italian. Italian is my weakest language. If I were to read and I have, short stories in Italian, I can understand them. But if someone were to ask me to have long conversations about them. I could do it in Spanish or in English, but my Italian is so emergent that I would not be able to sustain a deep conversation about the stories that I read and enjoyed and understood. So that’s just an example that reading really goes beyond language. And when we conceive of something like reading and writing, and these are foundational skills. I became a teacher because Friere said that teaching reading could revolutionize the world. Basically, if we see reading as reading in English or proficiency, then we are creating a very inequitable learning environment for multilingual students, because we are not acknowledging the full span and range of knowledge that students possess and can possess to understand and make meaning of texts. So we think it’s critical that in this world, we need to start including multilingualism and aspects of multilingualism throughout reading and writing, and for that matter, any content area. 

[00:12:48] Cecilia E: And when I think about the question of what limiting beliefs that we have if we’re only privileging monolingualism. We’re asking then only half of the child to come into the classroom. Maybe you are not providing access to the parents to support their children at home. If they can do it in a home language, it certainly provides many possibilities for providing equity for the child in terms of education, in terms of the qualities of conversations, but also bilingual people is what the world needs. The 21st century really needs people who can tap on their language and practices, I would say hour by hour or minute by minute. 

[00:13:30] Laura A-M: Lastly, I’d like to add, there are many different people in the classroom, and we’re talking about advocating for the emergent bilinguals or students who use two or more languages in their daily lives. But also, for students who are not multilingual, being in a multilingual environment can recast multilingual identities for them, which I think is really important.

This is a little different, but related. In my literacy class at Brooklyn College this year, we talked a lot throughout the semester about neurodiversity, and students recently said to me, oh, I only thought about diversity in terms of race and ethnicity and gender. I never thought about diversity in terms of neurodiversity, in the ways that people think differently. And we hope that having multilingual environments also expands how students, all students, think about diversity, that language identities are part of your core identity and that people use and experience language differently. And that involves a lot of layers throughout the year. 

[00:14:43] Cecilia E: That reminds me something that we discussed a lot in CUNY/ NYSIEB when we worked with Ofelia Garcia, and it was the issue of the importance of thinking about labels. So when we call somebody an English learner versus when we call somebody an emergent bilingual, which is a term filled with possibilities, and at the core of that, or the core of a label is certainly an issue about equity and how a child enters the school. 

[00:15:11] Laura A-M: The last thing I’m going to say is recently at a conference I found a term that I actually was okay with, which is designated ELLs. People often call emergent bilinguals, ELLs, English Language Learners, but the idea of designated English Language Learners means that you’re acknowledging that there is a test or proficiency exam used by a district to classify a group students, but you’re not calling them that yourself. You’re saying that that’s the way they were designated. And I thought that that was an interesting way of acknowledging the proficiency exams that school districts use as opposed to emergent bilinguals, which is a larger group of students. And the sad part about an English Language Learner is that it just focuses on what they don’t have yet.

[00:16:04] Amy H-L: When you use the term emergent, are you speaking about a process? I was a little confused because you, Laura, used the term emergent to describe your proficiency in Italian. And I don’t know if that means that you intend to go further or if emergent just means not fluent, lack of fluency, 

[00:16:28] Laura A-M: That’s such a great catch. I shouldn’t have used that term then. In our book, we, we kind of try to define that emergent is used in so many ways, because we have emergent readers, developing readers. Emergent bilingual, we’re really referring to emergence as developing, things that emerge from being bilingual. So it’s not only that they’re in the process, but they’re also, there’s a process of creation.

Emergent bilinguals, I think it was developed by Ofelia, Kleifgen and Falchi In, I think, 2008. It was really early on and they chose, I think, the word emergent to show that language is always developing, that there’s not an endpoint. And when I called myself emergent Italian, I guess I do imagine myself learning more and more. 

[00:17:21] Cecilia E: And then thinking also that we’re all emergent bilinguals in different ways. So, for example, if you asked me to read a magazine about cars in English, I am an emergent bilingual on that topic, right. But maybe not so much in thinking about working with first grade students in reading and writing. So we all have those spaces where language is still developing an emerging as Laura suggested.

[00:17:48] Jon M: How do you recommend the phonemic awareness and phonics be integrated into reading for emergent bilinguals? 

[00:17:56] Laura A-M: So this is a huge topic and it is, it has especially become even more important given that the new school chancellor in New York City announced mandated phonics program for all New York City children. I take an approach where I think about how is the monolingualism embedded in the phonics program going to support our emergent bilinguals in their development of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and all those early literacy skills. So obviously all beginning readers except those that are deaf, I think, need to develop beginning reading skills that are based on sounds,. But how does that process differ for emergent bilinguals? In many ways. If you think about an emergent bilingual who does not know very much English and you’re teaching them letter sounds in English, then you’re really coming against an equity issue because you’re not creating an appropriate environment for them to learn decoding. Emergent bilinguals, I believe, need phonics, phonemic awareness, in ways that are multi-sensory and multilingual. So for example, asking children about the letters that they know, I know Cecilia always talks now about nursery rhymes and starting from where they know, the knowledge that they know about texts. So I really think we need to think about this policy in a way that centers emergent bilinguals’ letter and sound knowledge rather than thinking about, okay, this is going to be like this thing that saves them. Because what we’re doing is creating a policy that will wipe out opportunities for emergent bilinguals to learn in their home languages.

[00:20:06] Cecilia E: And this idea that really good teachers have never abandoned phonics instruction, but they have always thought about how to teach it. So one of the ways certainly is through nursery rhymes because it provides the young reader access to rich meaning. And so we start with rich meaning, and then we go to the small parts of the language. And then we come back to the larger text, to the song, to the chant, so that the students understand why it is that they’re studying what they’re studying, right. Otherwise, what could end up happening is that we’re testing them in very small pieces of language without really asking the question. of what does it mean to support readers in this classroom, right? How am I supporting a child who loves dinosaurs to become a really strong reader through also those interests and passions that children have. And I think that throughout our book, we talk a lot about that, a lot about how complex reading is and how it isn’t really about [Inaudible]. There isn’t one way of doing it, but it is about, as we’re talking about languaging, paying attention to how children language, that we need to pay attention to the readers in our classroom, to think about how it is that we’re going to support them best. 

[00:21:27] Laura A-M: And I think this fits to a core idea within our book, which is that teachers are intellectuals. Teachers are creators of meaning. When you give teachers a phonics program, for example, and you ask them to implement it, you’re really robbing them of the opportunity for creativity and intellectual challenge, to understand how can I teach decoding skills, phonics, phonemic awareness, letter awareness, et cetera, to my specific group of students. And I think that’s what Cecelia and I advocate for. We do believe in the teaching of early literacy skills, of course, and I think, you know, the science of reading people agree with us. It should not be a major chunk of the day. It should be 15 to 20 minutes. It’s not a huge thing, but the way we do it with emergent bilinguals needs to honor the language practices that they already possess and that of their families.

[00:22:28] Cecilia E: And I think a reminder also that the children who do really well with isolated exercises in schools are the children who have been read a lot so that we need to make sure that we provide that in our classrooms a lot of access to a variety of texts and lots of very rich experiences so that they can develop their identity about what it means to be a reader and why readers read.

[00:22:53] Laura A-M: The last bit …There’s so much complexity in all the questions that you’re asking. Thank you so much. We also acknowledge that children have different needs. For example, my son needed more when he was little. He needed more reading instruction, direct, explicit reading instruction, than perhaps others because of a language related disability. So not everyone needs the same thing. But we emphasize that all emergent bilinguals need a multilingual approach. So some children may need 10, 15 minutes. Some children may need nothing. 

[00:23:31] Amy H-L: How can we use translanguaging to work with native English speaking students who speak so-called “non-standard English”? 

Amy, translanguaging certainly can be used within a named language. So for example, in one of the ways that we think about with translanguaging is first this idea that everybody’s languaging practices are the norm for the particular community. And that this idea of the standardization of language is something that has been socially constructed. But within English, for example, something that I would do in a classroom is to think about the different ways of saying elevator, for example. It’s possible that in particular regions of the United States, they say elevator in a different way. And in England, they may say it in a particular way. In New Zealand, they may say it in a particular way. So how do we help the children see that there is such richness within the diversity of language and in our texts, we have an example about, in Spanish now, but, but Spanish also has sort of similar connotations instead of the fiction that there is a standard language, but we use the word kite or papalote, or cometa to think about what are the different ways in which people refer to as, cometa in different countries. So there is chiringa. There, uh, there is all these different ways, like popalote. And actually as Laura and I were investigating more about languages, we learned that some of the– papalote, for example, comes from the Nahauati. So it isn’t even in Spanish. So language is really art, living and changing and shifting, and that we’re appropriating other people’s languaging practices as time happens and as encounters happen. So I think it helps children to see that the restriction is in diversity of language and it demystifies the idea of standard language.

[00:25:34] Laura A-M: I think, again building off Cecilia, that there is this idea that translanguaging, really one of the main goals is for it to help teachers understand how language is associated with power and how systems ascribe power differentially based on people’s language use and personhood, their identities. And so when we think about users of different types of Englishes, for example, in our book, we mention New York. You know, I grew up in New York in the seventies and eighties, and there’s lots of people who use English in a way that I hear and I’m like, wow, that really is like Queens. That’s really like Queens. I don’t know if I sound like that, since I’m from Queens, but I can tell where someone is from based on how they sound. And I also can even tell their age almost based on how they sound. And there’s Chicano English. There’s Black vernacular English. 

There’s tons of English, but the English that is revered is what people term call ” standardized English” that doesn’t sound like you’ve come from Queens in the 1980s, that doesn’t sound like you come from the Bronx. It sounds like you’re a newscaster. So I think translanguaging has enormous potential for students who speak different dialects of English because again, as we said earlier, it says all languaging is equal. So it’s really challenging this notion that there’s a deficit to be fixed, that students don’t know how to speak. They don’t know how to write. We have to teach them how to speak. It really kind of shifts this whole thing. Not only for students who are multilingual, but students who speak different dialects.

And obviously we don’t have to get into this, but this has been really highly developed by our colleagues, Nelson Flores and Jonathan Rosa in their theory of raciolinguistics. But we can do this in a number of ways in classrooms. For example, Jason Reynolds. His beautiful books have Black vernacular English that can be featured when we talk about how is English used in this book. Those types of discussions are important. And I’m just mentioning Jason Reynolds, but there’s a ton of authors that really feature [inaudible].

[00:28:14] Cecilia E: And I think, as Laura mentioned, even the question about how languages are valued is an important question to work with the children in the classroom, right. And to say, why do you think this is happening? What is happening here, on one side? And on the other side, as Laura said, within the children’s literature, to help the children see the value of using authentic language, and the way people speak and the richness that exists in that.

[00:28:49] Jon M: Translanguaging may involve children translating for the benefit of a fellow student. How do you work with a child who’s the only student in the class who speaks a particular language? 

[00:29:03] Laura A-M: I can answer that. Many years ago now, my colleague Sarah Vogel and I did a project in Chinatown, and I’ll tell a little story about it. We were working in a wonderful school. It was incredible. The principal was incredible. The teachers were so innovative. But we ran into a problem, which was one of the social studies teachers said, “I didn’t know what to do with this student. There must be something wrong with him.” He had just come from China. And he was just stumped and he thought there was something wrong with this child. And we said, well, let us work with him and figure it out. I have a graduate student who is Chinese speaker, so I brought him in and we interviewed the child and we found out a number of things from him. He had been living with a grandmother in China while his parents were in the US. He had spent a long time away from them. He was brought to the US and to his parents after a long separation. And so he was confused and startled, as anyone would be. So one of the things we did was used machine translation. We used Google translate in a number of ways. We gave him tasks that were related to the task that his social studies and English teacher were doing. For example, they were reading a novel by Sherman Alexie. We went to the library in the neighborhood in Chinatown. And we found that book and we brought it to the classroom so he could read in Chinese while the rest of the class was reading English. Then this teacher would give prompts. He would write his responses in Chinese. And he discovered a number of things through Google translate. He discovered that his translation was not as good if he plugged in the whole chunk of Chinese and it spit out a translation in English. He realized that if you put in small chunks of Chinese that the English is more understandable. And so he was gaining a lot of skills metacognitively, thinking about machine translation. So looking at the output and reading it and kind of fixing it based on what he knew of English. And by the end of the year, the teacher was like, wow, I thought there was something wrong with this kid. And he is absolutely brilliant.

So sometimes we don’t know how to deal with students who may speak one language and we don’t know that language. I think we’re living in an incredible time of opportunity where tools like Google translate are not going to save the day, but they play an enormous role within our ability to work with children.

[00:31:49] Cecilia E: And I would add, for example, all the work that the teacher can do with the parents, by inviting the parents into the classroom, to share a song, to learn a game, to share food, and then via also audio taping the story for the child to listen to in the classroom. Because the child, if the child is very young, the child is going to be in this English environment, which is exhausting, to be in the whole day in another lens, hearing another language. So a little space for the child to hear the voice of the parent, but maybe for a story. And now with technology, we can certainly do that. I think that when the teacher invites the parent into the classroom, he positions the teacher as a learner, as interested in the funds of knowledge that the family brings.

And then something else that could be done is also see if in the school or in the district or in the community if there is a family that can provide support, right. So maybe the family that just came into the school is not too bilingual yet, but maybe there’s another bilingual family who speaks Albanian, who can support the child. So in that sense, to be very creative and resourceful and to create an environment in the classroom of curiosity toward the languaging practices of the family. 

[00:33:10] Jon M: So a final question. You discuss assessment in your book. How do you distinguish between data-driven and student-driven assessment? 

[00:33:22] Laura A-M: So the question is about data assessment versus student driven assessment. In our book, we really focus on formative student driven assessment because we believe that teachers have enormous agency when they think about assessment as a curricular space, as a place where they can exert agency and their knowledge about students. The object of assessment is really to understand the child and to understand, as I often say, the full span of their knowledge. And so your term, data-driven assessments, I would say are assessments that are mandated by schools or school systems, that really is about monitoring and progress. So when we monitor children, that’s a completely different object. My personal belief is that those large-scale assessments and sometimes their formative assessments too, are not meant to really drive instruction. They’re really kind of a routine meant to show kind of a pulse on a class or a school building or district. We shouldn’t use that data to really look at children. You know, I’m someone who believes that we do need different types of assessments, but we can look, you can use that assessment to understand the school, for example, or understand a classroom. 

But again, one of the big points in our book is that unless the assessments, just like phonics, have a multi-lingual component, then we’re inserting so much measurement error that those assessments are not really valid. So for example, the work on reading assessments, if we don’t ask comprehension questions in more than one language, we’re only seeing a fraction of what the child does. We’re not inviting the whole child to participate in a reading assessment to understand the full span of what they can do in reading.

And so if we don’t have multi-lingual assessments, we may get a reading level. We may have some data, but there’s so much error in that, that they’re not an accurate picture of what students can do. And so much of the large scale assessments are like that because language is confounded with content mastery.

[00:35:46] Cecilia E: And then I would add that also, if we think of the teacher as professional and not as technician, then the teacher needs to know the children, the teacher needs to know the materials. Knowing the children is very complex. One has to know what interests the child to know the reading or the writing process, to know how to support the child at the right moment in there. So we may be able to engage in data-driven assessments that are about small parts, but we really think that reading and writing is very complex and that perhaps there are aspects of reading and writing that are immeasurable in terms of a data-driven assessment. For example, what does it mean to have a strong identity as a reader and a writer? What does it mean to be a child who can talk about character development, who can talk about genre, who can talk about particular topics, who can really analyze a text critically, even a visual, to think about what it is that the author is trying to say. And sometimes some of those assessments look for the surface level, understanding not those deep understandings of what it means to really engage.

We really think at the core of this work is also being a citizen, being part of a democracy. So in that sense, reading and writing, that’s ethical work.

[00:37:12] Laura A-M: Yeah. Cecelia said some things that reminded me. So in our chapter on writing assessment, you know, writing assessment is less, what should I say, it’s less packaged. It’s still political, but it’s less packaged in reading assessments. So reading assessment, you get a kid and you do the reading assessment. Writing assessments, there are lots of rubrics out there, but there isn’t like, you need to do this package and you need to do it three times a year. Maybe some schools do that, but most schools really are focusing on reading assessment.

We took it as an opportunity to really imagine what we would want in a writing assessment. And there are two things that I think sing out in this chapter. One is conferencing and dialogue and relationships. So number one, getting to know the writer along multiple dimensions. And the second thing is longitudinal understanding of the child. So having these conversations and looking at the child from different angles over a length of time. And I think we were both very influenced by Pat Carini’s descriptive review of the child and the child’s work. And so those two things, and this is where you see our book is layered with our histories because of the schools that we started working with, the people that we met, and the people who influenced us, who maybe are not a hundred percent focused on the multilingual population, but we then have lived it out and thought, how do these principles, like descriptive review, play out within the multilingual population? What does it mean for us as multilingual educators?

So I think that that chapter on writing assessment speaks to this whole thing of student-driven data in that the data that we’re collecting is qualitative. It’s conversational. It’s relational and it expands over time. 

[00:39:15] Cecilia E: Yeah. It really treats the teacher as a professional. Something that I always say to my students is if I’m going to the doctor, I wouldn’t want the doctor to put the data in a computer and say, you got to take this. I would want the doctor to ask me a lot more complex questions on any ailment that I’m having. So how important it is for the teacher, who’s working with somebody, even more important as a child to think very thoughtfully about that. And when we do the script, the reviews of children’s work, as Laura was describing, we asked the teachers to sit with a piece of work that a child has created. That is open-ended. And we just say, what do you notice? And then we go from the literal to noticing patterns and then inputting aspects of who the person who created the piece appear. So we notice, for example, how the person might be approaching the drawing or the writing. We noticed that this person may be a reader of poetry by how the child has sweetened the text. We noticed that maybe the child is using languaging practices from home. So we have an example in one of our presentations where a child from Colombia uses a particular way of using language in that part of Colombia. And so with that idea, we teachers sometimes want to correct, for example, right away, something that is misspelled or that needs a period. And instead, we’re asking them to step back, to describe and to notice, and then to think very thoughtfully about what would be the next steps for the child. 

[00:40:57] Amy H-L: Thank you. Dr. Cecilia Espinosa of Lehman College and Dr. Laura Ascenzi-Moreno of Brooklyn College. Thank you very much. 

Thank you, Jon and Amy. It’s such a pleasure to be here. 

[00:41:07] Cecilia E: Thank you so much. 

[00:41:08] Amy H-L: And thank you listeners. If you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with friends and colleagues. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and give us a rating or review. This helps others to find the show. Check out our website,, for more episodes and articles, and to subscribe to our monthly emails We post annotated transcripts of our interviews to make them easy to use in workshops or classes. We work with consultants to offer customized SEL programs, with a focus on ethics, for schools and youth programs in the New York City and San Francisco Bay areas. Contact us at We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @ethicalschools. Our editor and social media manager is Amanda Denti. Until next week.

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