Representing Family: Community Funds of Knowledge, Bilingualism, and Multimodality

Jul. 15, 2010

Source: Harvard Educational Review. Vol. 80, Iss. 2; pg. 221-241. (Summer 2010)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors use critical discourse analysis to examine educators' efforts to incorporate funds of knowledge from the communities and families of Punjabi Sikh students. This project took place in a classroom of nine- and ten-year-old ELLs on the west coast of Canada.

Methods: Critical Discourse Analysis

Using MP3 players, students first recorded and then translated their grandparents' stories of life in India into picture books to serve as cultural resources in their school community.

The authors collected nineteen stories of varying lengths; one story was eight pages and another forty-two pages in two chapters. The stories are multimodal texts, combining print and illustrations. The authors read the children's stories and defined four broad categories that described the stories:
* Representing childhood
* Sharing traumatic memories
* Naturalizing gendered relationships
* Telling rags-to-riches stories


This dual-language project, designed to draw on the funds of knowledge in a community, was successful on many levels. The children produced dual-language books in a resolutely monolingual school. Furthermore, the children provided representations of the usually invisible and seldom talked about issues at school such as historical events in India and religious conflict.
The project stimulated discussions among the children about why Punjabi was not taught in a school where 73 percent of the children came to school speaking the language and why there were not more dual-language resources in the school.
These results are important and challenge dominant schooling practices.

This project also emphasizes the ways in which the use of multimodal technologies opens up classroom space for bilingualism.

Updated: Nov. 23, 2010