Methods: This qualitative research adopted observation to explore the navigation skills used by predominantly Hispanic speaking students being taught by a monolingual English Teacher. This study conducted observation with a total of 25 students but focused on a small group of Hispanic students in a non-magnet public elementary school. The students were all from the same background and lived in low-income neighborhoods. The sample of students observed included three boys and two girls all in the fifth grade. Along with these students, their monolingual teacher was observed as well. Observations occurred over an eight-week period, for two to three hours, two days out of the week. The method used to collect data was strictly observation of the students and open conversations within the classroom. When tracking the observations, the use of a coding method was used to keep track of the student, the engagement, and the skills used to understand the directions of the activity or assignment.
Participants were recruited via permission from the school board that allowed me to observe the classroom and permission of the teacher. Because none of the students were interviewed directly, IRB approval was not required. The same group of students were observed for the entire period of time.
Findings: Data analysis revealed that student to student interactions among limited English proficiency students seemed to be a heavily relied upon and most used source of communication for students who had minimal to no English speaking or comprehension abilities. These students required some form of translation from other students so that they would understand classroom instruction and be engaged in classroom activities. For students who understood few English words, they attempted to piece together words that the instructor used when giving directions but still required aid from other students. When other students, English speaking or bilingual, were unable to help the monolingual Spanish speaking students, these students tended to be disengaged in classroom activities and would sit at their desk.
Conclusion and Implications: Findings highlight the importance having a bilingual teacher when classrooms are mixed with students who do not speak the dominant cultural language, or that translators need to be provided to students so that they are engaged in their education. By providing support to these children, they would become engaged in their classrooms and reduce the stigma’s that Hispanic children are unengaged in class or that they are less intelligent.