US bilingual classrooms were originally created for students who had limited proficiency in English, but who came from homes where reading and writing formed an integral part of their lives. This article explores the challenge of having a growing number of indigenous Mexican students in US bilingual classrooms who do not come from literate backgrounds and whose oral expression is not associated with the academic registers of school. This article documents the role or mediation (or interactional scaffolding) taking place in conversations between a teacher and two indigenous Mexican-Mixteco students who were attending a New York City dual-language, bilingual kindergarten class (Spanish–English). This article sheds light on the complex process that mastering academic language requires and the vital role that teacher–student interactions play in the development and understanding of academic language. These interactions cannot be left to chance; they require thoughtful planning and have to be collectively constructed and practiced.
© 2010 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York