Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom: Engaging Mexican-Origin Students

Author: Kimberly Adilia Helmer

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Multilingual Matters
Number of pages:
234mm x 156mm
Price: £25.00
Price: $40.00
Price: €35.00

Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom, a critical ethnography, describes the first year of a teacher-founded charter high school and presents a case-study of compulsory Spanish heritage language instruction with two Spanish-language teachers, one English dominant and the other Spanish dominant. The study follows the same cohort of Mexican-origin students to their humanities-English class, bringing into focus what works and what does not with this group of learners. Unlike many Spanish heritage language studies, the students in this book did not choose to take part in Spanish class and thus provide unusually raw feedback on their teachers and classes. The engagement and resistance of these students suggests pedagogical directions for engaging Spanish heritage language learners. The book will be of interest to scholars, administrators, students and teachers involved in the delivery and assessment of heritage language classes.

This book deftly demonstrates why teachers of heritage speakers must be culturally and linguistically sensitive, utilize students' strengths and community knowledge, and engage critically via relevant materials. Readers come away understanding how doing otherwise can lead to exacerbation of societal power imbalances and student non-participation. Important cautionaries for teacher professional development abound.

Kim Potowski, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA

In this compelling ethnographic portrait of the challenges of heritage language study, Helmer exposes the intricate interplay of identity, community and institutionality through the critical conceptual lens of resistance. Her artfully woven narrative not only sheds intimate light on the social and political situation of the nation's burgeoning young Latinx population but on the possibilities for educational reform in general.

Andrew Lynch, University of Miami, USA

This ethnography offers a detailed picture of a high school context in which the varied and complex content and language-learning challenges encountered by Mexican-origin, heritage learners are richly described. It is well written, detailed, and reflects the caring perspective of its author. I recommend it highly.

Guadalupe Valdés, Stanford University, USA

The author is a powerful storyteller, who will attract lay and specialized readers with her colorful anecdotes. She weaves personal and academic accounts vividly, and provides laughter, suspense, and climatic moments along the chapters.

LINGUIST List 31.3586

Through its well-balanced pattern of narrative, theory, broader contextualization, and analysis, the unique characteristics of this ethnography become generalizable to the circumstances of early and experienced HL teachers, teacher preparation professionals, and administrators [...] In sum, this is an important, well-written study which stakeholders at many levels may use to more fully understand heritage language learning and teaching.

Hispania 104, March 2021

Kimberly Adilia Helmer is a Teaching Professor in the Writing Program at the University of California Santa Cruz, USA. Her research interests include Latino/a student engagement in learning and the pedagogies that support that learning; multilingual writers and writing; and English for Academic Purposes.

Chapter 1. Beginnings and Endings

Chapter 2. From Cecilia Paulson to Downtown High School, Research Questions, Methodology and Theoretical Frameworks, (Fall 2004) 

Chapter 3. Hablais Como Pachucos

Chapter 4. It's Not Real; it's Just Spanish Class

Chapter 5. The Tao of Teaching 

Chapter 6. Place and Project-Based Spanish Heritage Language Teaching and Learning

Chapter 7. Then and Now 

Postgraduate, Research / Professional
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