Translating Students' Stories Through Theater

Investigators: Rossella Santagata, Joseph Jenkins

Graduate Student Researchers: Andrea Cons, Paul Rama

It is well documented that Latino high school students face enormous challenges in learning the English language arts. Recent NAEP reports on U.S. twelfth graders' reading and writing (for the years 2004 and 2002, respectively) show substantial achievement gaps between Latinos and whites in both areas (IES, 2005; Persky, Daane, & Jin, 2003). This study tests a newly designed intervention aimed at motivating and facilitating study of the English language arts by California Latino high school students. The intervention involves writing, rehearsing, and performing a play. The play contrasts stories written by the students in their local youth languages with both (i) a narrator/scientist character who speaks in Standard Written English and (ii) a selection of relevant Shakespeare scenes performed in Elizabethan English. In short, the play focuses on acts of translation, between both languages and dialects.

This study addresses the following research questions:

  1. To what extent does the intervention:
    1. Improve Latino high-school students' desire and motivation for engaging in writing in English?
    2. Strengthen their perceptions of their own abilities as writers in English?
    3. Increase their comprehension of the importance of language skills for future success?
    4. Strengthen both their aspirations and expectations that they will attend college?
  2. To what extent does the intervention improve Latino high school students' meta-knowledge of language, including critical terms relating to grammar, syntax, composition, and diction?