Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kathy Escamilla

Second Advisor

Lucinda Soltero-González

Third Advisor

Alan Davis

Fourth Advisor

Susan Hopewell

Fifth Advisor

Esther L. Brown


The purpose of this study was the examination of emerging bilingual students' (EB) biliterate writing development at the word, sentence, and discourse levels within and across languages and across grade levels when attending a paired literacy program in grade levels 1-5. Current statistics indicate that the number of EB students attending the school systems in the United States is rapidly increasing. According to national statistics (NCELA, 2007), 79 percent of these students come from Spanish-speaking homes, and 76 percent are elementary-age children who were born in the United States. Nonetheless, the effective education of EB students who are learning English as an additional language continues to be a challenge, particularly in the subject of writing (NAEP, 2011). In addition, recent research syntheses have documented the need to investigate how EB students develop writing skills in two languages, and how the interaction of their two languages could inform biliteracy development.

Using a mixed-methods approach, paired writing samples in English and Spanish of 150 EB students were qualitatively and quantitatively examined for linguistic measures of: textual productivity, lexical diversity, syntactical complexity, cohesion and coherence (i.e., discourse level). Linguistic outcomes were compared within and across languages and across grade levels 1-5. Findings for textual productivity, lexical diversity, and syntactical complexity resulted in comparable measures across languages and across grade levels, suggesting that students attending a paired literacy program positively develop writing skills in a coordinated manner. At the discourse level, for linguistic measures of lexical and syntactical cohesion, findings indicated that students relied on same-word repetition, collocation, anaphoric personal reference, and the use of additive and causal conjunctions to unify their texts. For linguistic measures of coherence, findings indicated that students in grade levels 1-5 used topic sentences and additive and explicative logical relationships to organize their texts; in grade levels 2-5, students use of textual deviations increased; and students attending grade levels 3-5 relied on resultative, illustrative, transitional words and conversational markers to organize their texts. Implications for theory, educational policies, and biliteracy instruction are discussed.