Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-11-2019


This qualitative curricular case study investigated the implementation of a project called the Language Box in a seventh grade Humanities classroom in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I worked with the classroom teacher to design the Language Box project, which focused on the language use practices of the students and their families. We designed the project with the goal of addressing issues of home language loss, bilingualism, and English language acquisition. The students in the classroom were almost exclusively Hispanic, many came from low income families and some were undocumented. Each student acted as a researcher, investigating the language use practices in their homes and at school, and wrote a final project in which they analyzed how language use practices were changing across generations in their families. As a researcher, I had two goals. First, I was interested in the design and implementation of the Language Box curriculum. I sought to understand how the project could be transformative for bilingual adolescent students in New Mexico, as we hoped to raise consciousness about the effects of home language loss. Secondly, I wanted to understand how students perceived their opportunities to develop bilingualism within the context of their school experiences and family histories. I use culturally sustaining pedagogy (Paris, 2012) and sociocultural-historical theory (Rogoff, 2003), along with Norton’s (2013) concept of investment as theoretical guides to analyze the data. My analysis reveals that the project was indeed transformative for some students, who reported their desires to reverse home language loss, their increased appreciation for linguistic diversity, and the realization of the integral role that they were playing in developing bilingualism with and for their families, thereby improving their opportunities of success in the future. However, I also found that though bilingualism was highly valued among the families and within the school community, not all students had equal opportunity to develop bilingual language skills. There were significant social barriers, especially in the case of two students, who refrained from using Spanish with friends and family members. Analyzing students’ perspectives sheds light on the realities of bilingual language development for this group of young adolescents and can help researchers and teachers understand how to best nurture bilingualism in other classrooms.


Culturally sustaining pedagogy, bilingual language development, bilingual education, heritage language maintenance, sociocultural historical theory, investment

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Linguistics

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lois Meyer

Second Committee Member

Carlos Lopez Leiva

Third Committee Member

Kersti Tyson

Fourth Committee Member

Damian Vergara Wilson