How do recent immigrant students learn to write in mainstream content area classrooms? This article considers this question in the under-investigated American Midwest contexts where schooling is being reframed by rapid changing demographics. Data for this paper come from an ethnographic case study of second language learning of a Vietnamese 9th grader in an urban school setting. Grounded in a sociocultural view of learning, the author examines (1) how the student negotiated the nature and purpose of writing among inconsistent expectations, objectives and responsibilities in mainstream, and (2) how she was lost in a lack of vision in literacy and the larger institutional environment which encouraged teachers to reward formalism over substance. The author concludes with recommendations for educators in secondary schools to explicitly link pedagogical objectives to language learners literacy needs and to embedded social values of schooling.

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