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English Language Learning Experience of ELLs in Informal Spaces Open Access

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Given the fast growing rates of English Language Learners (ELLs) in our school systems, it is crucial to investigate how to improve their English language learning both in and out-of-school. Language learning can occur in many environments, and it is not restricted to only the classroom (Van Steensel, 2006). This study explored how ELL students and their ELL parents experience English language learning in informal spaces. It also explored the different types of literacy practices and interactions that the ELL students and their ELL parents engaged in, and their understanding of how these literacy practices and interactions influence their English language learning. The study employed a multiple case study to investigate ELLs in grade 2-4 and their ELL parents. This study was rooted in constructivist epistemology (Crotty, 1998) and drew from Vygotsky’s (1978) Sociocultural Theory (SCT) as its theoretical framework. A purposeful sampling strategy was used to recruit three pairs of ELL student and his ELL parent. The sample was recruited from a local community college and a local non-profit language school. The data collection methods included three semi-structured interviews with each ELL student and his ELL parent(s), using Seidman’s (2006) three-interview series approach and Harper’s (2002) photo elicitation. The sites of data collection were the conference room within the participants’ apartment building, a local playground, and the participants’ home. The data were transcribed verbatim, analyzed, and coded to generate themes. Trustworthiness was accomplished through member checks, triangulation of data sources, and reflexivity before and during data collection and analysis. The findings demonstrated that the participants’ experiences in informal spaces with English were based on their socialization into their local community, teacher influence on extension activities, technology and media, and the challenges they faced in these informal spaces. The findings also highlighted how the participants believed their literacy practices and interactions affected their English language learning. The study concludes by presenting the thematic findings through the theoretical framework and the applicable literature to showcase the findings’ broader interpretations. The study also makes recommendations for practice, policy, and research to help further this line of inquiry.

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