Making Room for Identity in Second-Language Writing

The Promise and Possibilities of Dual Language Identity Texts


  • Sarah L. Cohen Illinois State University



identity texts, Second language writing, cultural and linguistic diversity, multiliteracies, critical literacy, case study


The case studies in this article represent the work of two elementary teachers who integrated their students’ identities into the literacy curriculum. Drawing on Cummins’ (2001) concept of identity investment, academic engagement, and multiliteracies theory, I discuss and analyze samples of students’ dual language writing and document the teaching practices that made these identity texts possible. Interview data from student participants and examples of their work illustrate the ways in which students re-imagine their identities by engaging with writing in both languages. The work of these students demonstrates the power that writing can have as a medium for students to express their identities. This study further shows that teaching writing through the use of personal narratives and cultural stories affords students opportunities to build their own cultural capital in relation to the expectations of academic writing.

Author Biography

Sarah L. Cohen, Illinois State University

Sarah Cohen is the PDS site coordinator for the Illinois State University Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline™ that works with elementary education majors wanting to teach in an urban setting. She received her Ph.D. in Second Language Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto in 2008 after teaching for 12 years in elementary bilingual and multilingual classrooms for the Chicago Public Schools and for a year at a bilingual school in Mexico. Her research interests focus on teacher and student identities, biliteracy and multiliteracies pedagogy, and school-community partnerships.


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How to Cite

Cohen, S. L. (2011). Making Room for Identity in Second-Language Writing: The Promise and Possibilities of Dual Language Identity Texts. Writing and Pedagogy, 3(2), 217–239.



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