13. Peer interaction while learning to read in a new language

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This chapter examines second language (L2) peer oral language interaction between two learners engaged in a partner reading activity. The data come from an English language arts class for newcomers in an all-immigrant high school in the U.S. Students arrive in this beginner-level, English language arts class with widely disparate experiences with formal schooling and print literacy, as well as with varied first languages and oral English language skills. The year-long class focuses on developmental English language and literacy skills, and the students and teacher absorb and accommodate newcomer students each month. The data presented in this chapter highlight the peer work between two asymmetrically-paired, female adolescent students: an Amharic newcomer with prior schooling in Ethiopia and beginning-level oral English skills, and a Somali speaker with stronger English language skills but very low print literacy and no formal schooling before arriving to the U.S. Through an analysis of their interactions in one paired reading session, we describe how these two students use their language and literacy skills to complete a reading task and in doing so, we consider the complexities of how asymmetrically paired students engage in everyday classroom tasks and the learning opportunities therein.


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