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Literacy and Numeracy in Play: Young Children's Representations of Their Multilingual Worlds


This study explores how young children use literacy and numeracy in play as they represent themselves in their multilingual worlds. Education policies continue to rely on constricted definitions of achievement and monolingual norms, narrowing the kinds of learning experiences available in schools, especially for children living in multilingual and/or low-socio-economic communities. Drawing from a variety of data sources, including field notes, video/audio recordings, photographs, ethnographic interviews, and children’s artifacts, this study examines children’s literacy and numeracy practices in a play-based after-school program. In addition, ethnographic interviews and participant observations were conducted in the children’s classroom and with family members in order to inform understandings of after-school interactions. Analysis of the data revealed how children drew from their translingual resources as they created representations in their play. This included (1) how children collaborated and negotiated decisions about representation, making choices about when and how to collaborate, and shifting and/or combing languages and modes of representation based on intent and awareness of audience; and, (2) how children used spatial understanding and translanguaging to represent themselves within their play and community, sometimes prompting discussions surrounding mathematical perspectives and audience. This dissertation concludes by discussing how these findings inform theory, hold implications for policy and practice, affect educators’ use of play as a tool for teaching and learning.

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