Negotiating the real and the ideal : four elementary teachers and the influences on their literacy teaching


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Negotiating the real and the ideal : four elementary teachers and the influences on their literacy teaching
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Wegmann, Susan Jayne Goforth
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 2001.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 224-237).
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Statement of Responsibility:
by Susan Jayne Goforth Wegmann.

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Copyright 2001


Susan Jayne Goforth Wegmann


I would first like to thank my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is my

life. I am thankful for His presence and Comfort as He lives His life through

mine. It is because of Him that "I live and move and have my being."

I would also like to thank Dr. Jane Townsend, my advisor, who pushed me

to synthesize, asked the hard questions, and helped me become a better

teacher by modeling the magic that happens when we encourage students to

wonder. From my first breath as a doctoral student to my last efforts finishing my

dissertation, Dr. T saw fit to guide me with gentle reminders of our mutual love

for teaching and learning. I learned a great deal in her classes and even more in

her office, the scene of many discussions about children, learning, teaching, and

"the big picture." I am grateful for her sincerity, humor, and guidance.

I would also like to thank the other members of my committee. Dr. Ginger

Weade supported my first attempts as a researcher and kindly guided my

thinking with insightful questions. She mentored me when I was a fledgling

graduate student and often reminded me of that school is a cultural place, worthy

of our attention.

Dr. Barbara Pace has also been a guide, a friend, and a fellow teacher. I

appreciated her open-door policy during my beginning stages of course work.


She gave me the gift of time, when I am sure she was busy with her own

research efforts.

Dr. Robert Sherman helped me understand how my love of teaching could

be translated into an investigation of teaching practices. He encouraged me to

think deeply about teaching in order to understand it.

Dr. Ben Nelms also shared his valuable time with me, helping me

acclimate myself to the world of higher education. I appreciate his thoughtful

questions and genuine interest in my well-being.

I would also like to thank my dear family, without whom I would have

never have been successful: my husband, Steve, for encouraging my dreams

and being a servant-leader in our home; my children, Lauren and Chris, for

providing happy distractions and helping me focus on the truly important things in

life such as soccer, cheer leading, band, Veggie Tales, and peanut butter and

jelly sandwiches; my Mom and Dad, for always encouraging me and ever

listening to my struggles and victories; my three brothers and families for loving

me, teasing me, and reminding me I am their little sister; and finally, my church

family at First Baptist Belleview, for lifting me up in prayer and grounding me in

the knowledge that Christ is our all in all.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................................... ................... iii

ABSTRACT ................................................................................................. vii


1 INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND ........................................... 1

Statement of the Problem............................... ............................. 6
Purpose of the Study......................................................................... 6
Research Questions............................... ..................................... 7
Scope and Significance of the Study.............................................. 8

2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE............................................................. 10

O ve rview ........................................................................................... 10
Theories of Teaching........................................................................ 11
Classroom Enactments..................................................................... 28
Teachers' Perceptions of Influences on Literacy Events ............... 39
O ve rview ........................................................................................... 4 9

3 METHOD................................................................... ...................... 51

P ilot S tudy......................................................................................... 52
S etting.................................................................................... 54
Particip nts....................................................................................... 58
Data Cdllection............................................................................. 60
Data Analysis Procedures....................................... ................... 66
Definitions of Terms.............................................. ..................... 73

4 IDEAL CONCEPTIONS ............................................................. 77

Spectator and Participant Stances .......................................... .... 78
Introduction to the Teachers................................................ ............ 82
Summary of the Four Teachers.................................................. 88
Ideal Literacy Conceptions......................................................... 89


5 ENACTED LITERACY LESSONS............ .............. ............ 107

Spectator, Participant and Pretender Events.................................... 107
Overview of Teachers' Ideal and Enacted Conceptions................... 154

6 INFLUENCES ON THE LITERACY CURRICULUM.......................... 158

Standardized Tests.................................. ........................................ 160
Students' Interests ........................................................................... 167
Internal Influences............................................................................. 170
Sum m ary of Influences...................................................................... 172

7 CO NCLUSIO N ................................................................................. 175

Summary of the Results................................................................... 175
Stances and Events in the Classroom............................................. 177
Sources of Influence................. ................................. 182
Lim itations of the Results................................................................. 186
Implications for Educational Practice............................................... 188
Implications and Questions for Future Research.............................. 205


A QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWS.................................................. 215
B SAMPLE TRANSCRIPT................................................................... 217
C SAMPLE EXCERPT OF TEACHER INTERVIEW .......................... 219
D SAMPLE EXCERPT OF STUDENT INTERVIEW........................... 221
E SAMPLE EXCERPT OF FIELD NOTES .......................................... 223

R EFER ENC ES ...................................................................................... 224

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................... 238


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Susan Jayne Goforth Wegmann

August 2001

Chair: Jane S. Townsend
Major Department: School of Teaching and Learning

This study investigated teachers' personal notions of ideal literacy learning

opportunities, the actual literacy activities teachers implemented, and the

influences behind any differences between their ideal and enacted curricula.

The purpose of the study was to clarify concepts, to examine teachers'

underlying assumptions about literacy, to describe and analyze teachers' ideal

and real literacy curricula, and to analyze the enacted literacy curriculum.

The qualitative design of the study enabled a description of four

elementary teachers' ideal conceptions of literacy learning along with a

description of their enacted literacy lessons. The teachers were each

interviewed three times and were observed while enacting two complete literacy

learning cycles. Three students from each classroom were also interviewed.

The data sources included verbatim transcripts of teacher and student


interviews, transcripts of selected classroom interactions, curricular materials,

and student and teacher artifacts that were generated during classroom

observations. Close examination of oral classroom interactions showed

spectator, participant, and pretender events that occurred in each classroom, as

a result of the particular stance of teachers and students.

This study focused on curricula, roles of teachers and students, and

assessment. Results showed that the enacted curricula was shaped by

influences, such as the pressure to produce high standardized test scores, an

urging to use the lessons in the basal reading teachers' edition, and the

necessity to cover state-produced lists of standards. It includes important

implications for literacy teaching and teacher preparation programs such as the


* Teachers need to resist the pressure to rely heavily on the DRA for literacy
* Teachers need to support oral classroom interactions that call on varying
roles for teachers and students, such as those found in participant events.
* Teachers need to explore the sources of influences they feel and then
discern whether or not the sources are supporting literacy development as a
to-and-fro transaction, based on meaning-making.
* Teacher educators need to assign activities that call for active participation on
the part of preservice teachers so that they can engage in the kinds of
learning that they can one day implement.



Educators, parents, and administrators expect elementary-aged students

to attain a certain level of literacy. Most educational experts also agree that

literacy acquisition in elementary school is foundational. However, debates

revolve around definitions of literacy, methods of literacy instruction, and

assessment of literacy ability (Aaron, Chall, Durkin, Goodman, & Strickland,

1990; Bogdan & Eppert, 1996; Didsbury, 1994; Flippo, 1999a; Langer, 1984;

Resnick & Resnick, 1977; Street, 1984, 1999).

Some say literacy is the ability to read and write, to make sense of, and to

compose written language. Literacy attainment, though, may be more complex

because the processes of reading and writing overlap, yet differ (Calfee, 1998;

Morrow, Wilkinson, & Smith, 1994; Roen, 1992; Rosenblatt, 1978/1994; F.

Smith, 1988). Reading and writing are influenced by a stance or orientation

toward the text, that may change during reading or writing; prior experiences;

background knowledge; and present experiences and feelings. The relationship

between reading and writing is so strong that learning about one supports

learning about the other (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991) and integrating reading and

writing increases learning of both processes (Morrow et al., 1994).

Reading, writing, and speaking are complexly organized chains of

utterances, or meaningful units of communication (Bakhtin, 1986). The units are



never passive; they are always in answer to, and in anticipation of, a question

and they are always purposeful. Readers and writers ultimately select their own

purposes or choices for reading and writing, that determine their stance, the

position from which they approach a literacy event. Informed by background

knowledge and prior experiences, a person's stance affects the nature of the

literacy event by determining how a reader or writer organizes responses and

how s/he builds meanings. In school settings teachers may try to impose a

particular stance for reading or writing on their students, potentially increasing or

diminishing the quality of literacy lessons. A person's stance, which may change

during the course of the event, is part of the internal processes of reading and

writing and may be resistant to outside influence. Teachers may or may not be

successful when trying to impose a particular stance. But research provides

evidence that teachers influence students' interpretations of text by encouraging

a particular stance, that also influences the quality of literacy learning.

Different possible stances, individual background knowledge and

experiences, and students who switch stances make it likely that there are as

many different transactions (Rosenblatt, 1978/1994) with texts as there are

students in a classroom. These variables make literacy much more than reading

and writing: simply put, developing literate abilities is a complicated endeavor.

In an effort to embody the complexity of reading and writing, and for the

purposes of this study, literacy may be defined as the state of being able to

participate fully in a to-and-fro interplay between person and text that results in a

coherent understanding. This interplay between person and text may occur


when a person is reading, writing, listening, or speaking. Moreover, text can

signify the printed word or the oral (and/or possibly nonverbal) interactions of two

or more people. Being literate is being able to do the following, though not

necessarily in a linear manner: assume an appropriate stance toward a text;

understand, interpret, or live through the text; and/ or create a new text. As a

result, students in an elementary classroom may be doing many things

simultaneously, while participating in literacy learning. Consequently, studying

the enacted literacy curriculum (the activities and language used during reading

and writing lessons provided by teachers, undertaken by students, and able to

be observed by researchers) is a complicated endeavor.

To investigate the enacted literacy curriculum in classrooms, it is helpful to

view literacy opportunities through the lens of the purposeful, social nature of

literacy and language that Bakhtin (1986), Bruner (1986), and Vygotsky (1978)

characterized. Oral classroom interactions manifest the social nature of literacy

learning and may support or constrain literacy development. Interactions can be

analyzed according to the purposes of speech, in two broad categories of

participant and spectator stances. A participant stance is one in which teachers

and students actively try to complete actions, explore possibilities, or build

connections between their personal lives and texts. A spectator stance, on the

other hand, is one in which teachers and students focus on the text at hand as

outside observers. (See Chapters 3 and 4 for a further discussion and definition

of these two stances.)


Moreover, literacy learning events, which can include oral interactions and

transactions with printed texts, make up the enacted literacy curriculum.

Students' literacy abilities do not necessarily develop when teachers provide

literacy learning instruction, but teachers influence the quality of literacy events

by providing opportunities for students to construct and interact with texts and

new knowledge. As with any other learning event, students construct knowledge

based on their prior knowledge, emotional state, and personal linguistic-

experiential reservoir (Rosenblatt, 1988), among other factors. Because literacy

development is not assured when teachers provide opportunities, teachers may

struggle to help all students become literate.

I investigated this struggle, or maneuvering between what teachers

believe will help students learn best (their personal notions of ideal literacy

learning opportunities) and the actual literacy activities they implement (the

enacted curriculum). Unfortunately, researchers have documented a

tremendous difference among how teachers think students become literate; the

teaching methods they use; and what researchers, administrators, and peers

encourage them to do (Engel, 1990; Goodman, 1986).

In a recent pilot study, I found disjunctions between what five teachers

thought were ideal literacy lessons and their enacted curricula. For example, a

fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Price (all names are pseudonyms) reported that she

would like to "sit down with them and say, 'Okay, we're just going to enjoy the

day, and sit here, and I'm just going to work with you and I'm going to read,' and

we're going to work through things." This remark suggests that her ideal literacy


learning curriculum includes large amounts of time with students in order to help

them understand reading and writing activities. Her comment also implied that

the actual literacy curriculum in her classroom was different from her ideal

literacy curriculum. I verified this difference during a day-long observation in her

classroom. When I asked Ms. Watson, another fourth-grade teacher in the pilot

study, to describe an ideal classroom arrangement, we had the following


SW: How would your room look different if you could change it?

Ms. Watson: You probably wouldn't have a formal classroom setting.
You'd have to come up with some way to--like a stage
area. Let children be creative, and come up with their own plays,
so they could perform.

SW: Why would that be good?

Ms. Watson: Because it would include all their skills. I mean, they'd
have to be able to read, they'd have to be able to write, they could
use their creative writing for [the standardized writing test], they
could actually incorporate math into it... So you could just
incorporate it--integrate it throughout the curriculum.

Ms. Watson seemed to agree with the idea of integrated language arts

instruction that builds on close relationships among reading, writing, speaking,

and listening; and purposefully integrates literacy concepts into every subject

(Morrow et al., 1994). From this interchange, she seemed to agree with Bruner

(1986), Vygotsky (1978), and others who believe that learning should be focused

on the child and should be purposeful, so that children can make or construct

their own meaning. Ms. Watson's ideal conceptions of literacy integrated all of

the content areas, and offered students choices about what they would do. Yet,


when I observed her classroom practices she used a predetermined, skills-

oriented, basal reading program in which there was little student choice and no

integration of subject matter. Ms. Watson, whose ideals and enacted

conceptions were similar to those of the five other teachers in the pilot study,

seemed to conceptualize better ways to teach but did not put them into action.

Statement of the Problem

Many teachers believe they know the best ways of providing opportunities

for literacy development, yet often they do not enact them. The problem for this

study is that teachers' ideal literacy learning opportunities are typically

transformed before they are implemented; teachers may then enact less than

ideal literacy instruction. Unfortunately, two results of this problem are that

instructional opportunities may constrain students, rather than support their

attempts to develop literately, and hence, students may not learn what they need

to know in order to become literate adults.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was as follows:

* To clarify concepts (such as "literacy" and "participant stance").
* To examine teachers' underlying assumptions about literacy teaching and
learning (through examining their ideal and real literacy curricula).
* To describe and analyze reasons for the possible differences between their
ideal and real curricula.
* To identify practical applications of teachers' assumptions and theories in the
enacted literacy curriculum.

Hence, the focus is on four teachers' perceptions of various issues surrounding

literacy teaching and learning.


Although teachers' perspectives are central to understanding classroom

learning (Mulcahy-Ernt & Stewart, 1994), many research studies do not

emphasize teachers' perceptions of the move from ideal to real curricula (Street,

1999; Wharton-McDonald, Pressley, & Hampston, 1998). Instead, most studies

evaluate literacy learning by analyzing the enacted curriculum, students' learning

processes, or predetermined outcomes of learning. Teachers' perspectives

typically have been omitted from systematic analysis. Wharton-McDonald and

colleagues (1998) argue that we can learn from professionals in any field by

studying their "privileged understanding of what they do" (p. 103). For this

reason, I decided to study teachers' perceptions or "privileged understandings" of

literacy teaching and learning. In short, this study seeks to enlarge our

understanding of teachers' perceptions of ideal literacy learning, their enacted

literacy curriculum, and the influences that transform their ideal into their enacted


Research Questions

After reflecting on the research concerning literacy teaching and learning,

interviewing five elementary teachers about their ideal conceptions of literacy

instruction, and observing five teachers' enacted literacy curricula in a pilot study,

I wondered why there were noticeable differences between real and ideal literacy

curricula. I wondered about possible sources of influence that altered teachers'

ideal literacy curriculum before it was implemented. I also wondered about

elementary teachers' perceptions of the nature of literacy teaching and learning

and the sources of influence they had to deal with daily.


The following questions emerged to guide my investigation:

1. What are selected teachers' ideal conceptions of literacy and literacy learning?
2. How do teachers enact literacy lessons and how do their enactments relate to
their ideal conceptions of literacy teaching and learning?
3. What are teachers' perceptions of the forces that influence their enacted
literacy curriculum?

The first question allowed me to investigate teachers' personal ideal

conceptions of literacy learning. The second question compelled me to observe

literacy teaching in action and to compare teachers' personal conceptions of

literacy with their enacted literacy lessons. The third question focused on

teachers' perspectives of various influences on literacy instruction and how these

influences sculpted classroom interactions, instruction, and learning. This

question allowed me to explore possible reasons why differences existed

between teachers' ideal and real literacy lessons.

Scope and Significance of the Study

No universal ideal curriculum exists for any subject area. On the contrary,

each teacher described a unique personal vision of an ideal literacy curriculum

that was influenced by the teacher's personality, prior experiences, available

resources, and other such issues. Although a universal ideal curriculum does

not exist for literacy learning, I compared individual teachers' ideal literacy

curricula to their own enacted curriculum. By comparing and describing their real

and ideal literacy curricula, I encouraged these teachers to reflect on their ideal

literacy lessons in order to come closer to enacting them. This reflection is

significant for current educational practice because often teachers are not

encouraged to reflect on their own ideal conceptions; rather, they are


encouraged to use other people's ideal conceptions of reading and writing

curricula. In addition, oral interactions within the classroom may be interpreted

as supporting or constraining ideal enactments. To assume and encourage a

participant stance toward texts, in which language is used to build connections

and support inquiry (Lindfors, 1999), is to provide a platform for both teachers

and students to interact with texts in meaningful ways. This study is significant

because in it I reveal four teachers' personal perspectives about literacy teaching

and learning, the influences they experienced that transformed their ideal

conceptions, and the types of classroom interactions that may have supported or

constrained struggling students during literacy instruction.



Literacy experts do not agree on a single "ideal" theory of literacy

development (Resnick & Resnick, 1977). However, teachers create personal

conceptions of literacy instruction that are somewhat connected to their beliefs

about teaching (Clark & Peterson, 1986). The present study is a description and

analysis of selected elementary school teachers' literacy curricula, including their

idealized conceptions of reading and writing instruction, their enacted literacy

curriculum, and their perspectives on the forces that influence and alter their

enacted literacy curriculum. In order to survey the literature from the field that is

relevant to this study, I review the work of literacy experts from whom teachers

may find a basis for their ideal and enacted conceptions of literacy. I also review

the work of experts who have analyzed various sources of influence that

potentially shape literacy instruction in classrooms. Three areas provide a

foundation for this inquiry. One Theories of Teaching, explores current

pedagogical issues in literacy instruction. The second, Classroom Enactments,

shows that research on classroom discourse analysis can shed light on the

enacted curricula. The third, Teachers' Perceptions About Literacy, describes

the forces that may influence teachers' conceptions of ideal and real literacy



Theories of Teaching

Frequently, principals, researchers, and teachers praise one instructional

method as an ideal way to teach literacy. Numerous methodologies and

philosophies are touted each year as the way to teach (Chall & Jacobs, 1996;

Routman, 1994). But, apparently, no one method can successfully teach every

child in every circumstance. If teachers read current research about teaching

and learning, which of the many methods, if any, will they use?

One way to organize a discussion of the multitude of methods of literacy

instruction can be based on the stance, or orientation, of the individual teacher or

learner. James Britton (1993) described two stances that readers may assume

while reading: participant and spectator. I borrowed these terms to describe the

stances of students and teachers in light of various theories of teaching. (In

Chapter 4 I use these terms to describe the classroom interactions that occurred

during my observations.)

A spectator stance describes students and teachers who view text from

the outside, similar to a spectator at a sporting event. Teachers who design

lessons around a spectator stance often enact a teacher-centered curriculum

with limited opportunities for students to use language for various purposes.

During a spectator stance, teachers and students typically make use of Mehan's

(1979a) Initiate Reply Evaluate (IRE) pattern in class discussions. Within this

pattern, teachers typically initiate a topic (by asking a question), students

typically reply to the teachers' question, and the teacher evaluates the student's

response. In other words, a spectator stance limits both teachers' and students'


roles. For example, the role of the teacher within a spectator stance is ordinarily

to ask students questions about a text, to evaluate students' replies, and to

initiate new topics. Students' roles are limited to responding to teachers'

questions. Moreover, a spectator stance is not necessarily determined by the

topic of the lesson. For instance, a spectator stance may be assumed while

discussing a story plot if the discussion focuses on teacher-directed, discrete

questions; especially if students are not encouraged to inquire about their own


However, teachers and students could also assume a participant stance

while discussing the plot of the story. A participant stance is characterized by

learners using language for various purposes in order to "get things done"

(Britton, 1993, p. 101). If the teacher assumed and encouraged a participant

stance, a discussion of a story plot would look quite different from a spectator

stance. For example, in a participant stance, the teacher would allow various

topics to emerge during the class discussion, encourage students to express

their opinions, value multiple perspectives, and/or prompt students to express

their own personal inquiry and wondering (Townsend, 1991). In other words,

teachers who encourage a participant stance create opportunities for learners to

interact with texts in order to actively construct knowledge. Students who

assume a participant stance have varied, complementary roles. For example,

students may express their opinions about various topics, connect a new topic

with a personal experience, clarify their own ideas with the help of the teacher or

other students, and/or share their personal inquiries. Students and teachers who


assume participant stances in literacy lessons tend to use their language in

various ways and for various purposes, similar to an athlete at a sporting event

who is actively engaged in the event.

The stance that teachers encourage, whether participant or spectator, is

determined, in part, by the instructional methods the teacher chooses to use.

While it is beyond the scope of this study to review all teaching methodologies, I

have chosen two popular teaching approaches that exemplify each stance. The

spectator stance is represented by the Directed Reading Activity (DRA) and

Direct Instruction (DI). The participant stance is represented by integrated

language arts instruction and literature-based instruction. Next is a description of

each method, a discussion of pertinent research studies, and a look at how

experts rate the effectiveness of each.

Spectator Stance

The Directed Reading Activity (DRA) and Direct Instruction (DI) are

currently used in most elementary classrooms in the United States (Karolides,

1992; 1997). They both involve students assuming a spectator stance toward

reading and writing, yet the nature of instruction is distinct in each.

Directed reading activity

The instructional pattern found in most basal reading books is the most

common form of elementary school literacy instruction. According to most

studies, 75% to 90% of elementary teachers use the lessons within basals as

their major form of literacy instruction (Baumann & Heubach, 1996; Chall &

Squire, 1996; Hoffman et al., 1998). Lesson topics in most contemporary basals


contemporary basals include subjects that have been traditionally called reading

(lessons on reprinted stories covering various themes and genres); writing

(lessons on various genres and styles); and English grammar (lessons on verbs,

nouns, pronouns, and so forth).

Since the 1940s, basals have undergone a metamorphosis (Koskinen,

McCartney, & Hoffman, 1995). In the early 1940s, basals were written by

scientific behaviorists who sought to present words and letters systematically

through vocabulary-controlled stories. This method was characterized by Betts

(1946, reported in Tierney, Readence, & Dishner, 1990) as having five common

steps through which reading lessons progress:

* Readiness for reading. Teachers introduced students to new concepts or

vocabulary words.

* Guided silent reading. Teachers asked students to read through a portion of

the story.

* Word recognition skills and comprehension checks of silent reading.

Teachers discussed skills such as finding the main idea of a paragraph or

predicting what may happen during the next portion of text. Teachers also

informally assessed students' comprehension of the portion of the story

they read silently.

* Silent or oral re-reading for a new purpose. Students re-read the story, either

individually or aloud with the entire class.

* Differentiated follow-up activities. Teachers discussed reading skills,

especially ones that students had not yet mastered.


According to Tierney et al. (1990) the DRA framework is still the basis for most

basals in use today, though most contemporary basals have added writing and

English grammar components.

In general, researchers found that the basals did not supply teachers with

lessons that encouraged students to respond to literary text aesthetically, (or

savoring the reading experience while living through the event), nor did they

provide practice with complex written texts (Barr & Sadaw, 1989; Baumann,

Hooten, & White, 1999; Miller & Blumenfield, 1993). Instead, these researchers

found that basal reading books used an implicit method in which teachers would

point out patterns in vocabulary words or encourage students to focus on the

intent of a character, without directly providing answers. In one study, Miller and

Blumenfield (1993) analyzed two widely-used basal series in Grades 1 through 5.

They analyzed the main idea and cause/effect tasks that were suggested in the

two basal series. They found that the basals included supplemental materials,

manuals, and activity ideas, and did not offer suggestions for teaching how to

understand complex texts. They determined that the reading selections and the

practice opportunities in the basal reading books were not conducive to helping

students transfer reading skills to complex texts in other subjects. They also

concluded that teachers who were concerned with developing students'

comprehension of complex texts would have to considerably modify the

suggestions for instruction found in basal reading books.

Similarly, Karolides (1997) found that teachers who exclusively used the

questions found in basals typically overlooked aesthetic aspects of literacy


transactions. He maintained that textbook questions influenced teachers and

students to assume a predominately efferent stance (Rosenblatt, 1938/1983)

when reading, or reading to retain information for a later use. To guard against a

solely efferent stance toward literature, Probst (1992) suggested that teachers

modify the basal suggestions by broadening the range of students' written

responses to the stories in order to "enable them to realize their own potential for

understanding and shaping themselves and their worlds" (p. 126).

Baumann and Heubach (1996) explicitly studied teachers' modifications of

basal reading books. The researchers investigated Shannon's (1987) earlier

claim that basal reading books and materials "deskill," or limit teachers' decision-

making about, control of, and responsibility for their enacted literacy curricula.

Baumann and Heubach asked teachers to respond to 26 Likert and open-ended

questions concerning how teachers enacted the suggestions in their basal

reading books. In this self-report study, the authors concluded that the more

than 550 teachers who responded to the survey were not "deskilled" by basal

use. On the contrary, Baumann and Heubach described the teachers as

"discriminating consumers who view basal readers as just one instructional tool

available to them as they plan literacy lessons" (p. 522).

In sum, researchers have characterized the DRA found in basals as

encouraging a spectator stance that limits students' interactions with print, peers,

and teachers. Generally, experts advocate modifying DRA lesson plans to

include various responses to texts and to provide opportunities for analysis and

synthesis of ideas and concepts. Moreover, some researchers maintain that


basal reading books "de-skill" teachers, making teachers dependent on the DRA

for their enacted reading and writing curriculum. On the whole, experts

investigating the DRA approach contend that teachers need to become

"discriminating consumers" of basal reading book suggestions.

Direct instruction

A second method common in elementary classrooms that encourages a

spectator stance is Direct Instruction, or DI. Direct Instruction refers to "the

practice of deliberately demonstrating and bringing to learners' conscious

awareness those covert and invisible processes, understandings, knowledge,

and skills over which they need to get control if they are to become effective

readers" (Cambourne, 1999, p. 126). In the 1950s, teachers became more

directive and explicit in drilling students in part because "Johnny" could not read

(Flesch, 1955) due to the poor quality of basal textbooks. Later, Hirsch (1987)

also condemned the implicit instruction found in the DRA of basal reading books

and advocated teaching students directly from a predetermined list of skills.

Based on schema theories of memory and reading, he maintained that students

must be able to marshal a list of concepts from their background knowledge in

order to become literate Americans. Hirsch contended that "every citizen needs

to have immediately at hand a critical mass of specific information in order to

possess that skill of skills which is literacy" (Hirsch, 1987, p. 144). One method

that Flesch and later Hirsch suggested was the Direct Instruction of literacy skills.

In 1967, a 28-year longitudinal study began that ultimately proposed DI as

the most effective way to develop literacy skills (Berieter, 1981; Grossen, 1996).


Project Follow Through, part of President Johnson's War on Poverty, cost nearly

one billion dollars and involved over 20,000 students in kindergarten through

grade three. Its goal was to determine the best teaching methods with which to

"follow through" the Head Start pre-kindergarten program. Nine wide-ranging

teaching methods from DI to the Open Classroom Model were implemented in

139 communities all over the United States. Each school chose a particular

method to implement, and teachers received training in how to implement the

method. During the study, teachers also received ongoing support. All students

in the same school were taught using the same type of instructional method.

Teachers pre-tested students at the beginning of kindergarten and at the end of

their third-grade year to compare three aspects of teaching and learning: Basic

Skills, Cognitive Skills, and Affect. Based on the test results, the Direct

Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading, (DISTAR), was

reported to be the most effective method of instruction (Grossen, 1996). The

DISTAR method consisted of pre-programmed questions and verbal student

answers in small-group settings that helped to teach reading skills based on

phonics and the alphabetic system. According to Becker, Engelmann, and

Thomas (1975), students who received DISTAR instruction performed

significantly better on the tests Project Follow Through researchers designed.

Since 1965 and the beginning of Project Follow Through, DISTAR has

evolved into Direct Instruction (Engelmann, 1968), Explicit Instruction (Chall,

1999), and Intentional Teaching (Slavin, 2000), among other methods.


According to Slavin (2000) these approaches to teaching share the following

seven steps:

1. State learning objective and orient students to the lesson-the teacher
explicitly verbalizes the intent of the lesson.
2. Review prerequisites-the teacher attempts to access and build on students'
background knowledge, especially in vocabulary and comprehension lessons.
3. Present new material-teachers explicitly state academic concepts giving
examples and non-examples.
4. Conduct learning probes--teachers assess whether or not students grasp
the concepts in the lesson and quickly correct students' misunderstandings.
5. Provide independent practice--teachers provide ample time for individual
work (or "seat work"), without teachers' input.
6. Assess performance and provide feedback-teachers evaluate students'
understanding of the concepts formally (using quizzes, tests, etc.) and offer
explicit feedback
7. Provide distributed practice and review-teachers design practice to
accommodate individual students' weaknesses. Teachers also review at the
end of the lesson, in order to further evaluate students' understandings.

Direct Instruction is an approach to teaching in which goal-oriented

lessons are carefully structured by the teacher who encourages students to

attend only to the lesson at hand. At the heart of DI classroom discourse is a

spectator stance in which teachers mainly ask pre-determined questions about

specific topics. In addition, students typically answer teacher-generated

questions and are not encouraged to vary their stance. Yet, numerous studies

conclude that DI is the most effective way to teach reading and writing in

elementary schools (i.e., Becker et al., 1975; Engelmann, 1968; Foorman, 1995;

Foorman, Fletcher, Francis, & Schatschneider, 1998; Meyer, Gerstein, & Gutkin,

1983; O'Connor, Notari-Syverson, & Vadasy, 1998).

The pre-programmed questions and verbal student answers inherent in DI

exemplify the spectator stance. But, DI is not accepted without controversy (e.g.,


Taylor, 1998; Thelen, 1999). Like the DRA, DI provides limited possibilities for

students to explore topics of interest or express their own opinions, thereby

limiting students' potential for literacy growth. Teachers who assume and

encourage DI lessons mostly initiate topics of discussion and evaluate students'

answers, unlike teachers who assume and encourage a participant stance.

Participant Stance

The participant stance is firmly grounded in a whole language philosophy

that emphasizes student participation and meaning-making. To whole language

advocates, literacy is the constructing, understanding, and communicating of

meaning. Teachers who adhere to this philosophy generally reject the notion of

reducing reading and writing to isolated subcomponents that should be taught in

succession, as DI and DRA proponents maintain. Rather, whole language

advocates suggest creating classroom environments in which the use and

meaning of language are emphasized.

Whole-Language does not support reading and writing curriculum that is
overly structured or constrained by attempts to sequence a hierarchy of
reading and writing experiences. The use of controlled vocabulary aimed
at giving students control of a predetermined set of words is seen as
being artificial, meaningless, and misdirected. Likewise, the isolation of
skills and the tendency to teach skills to mastery are seen as
inappropriate. (Tierney et al., 1990, p. 27)

In part, whole language stems from the works of John Dewey and the

ideas on which he based the Progressive movement. Dewey (1997) suggested

that "under existing conditions far too much of the stimulus and control proceeds

from the teacher, because of neglect of the idea of the school as a form of social

life" (Dewey, 1997, p. 19). His comments discredit the prevailing IRE patterns


within the spectator stance because most of the "stimulus and control" originates

from the teacher and school discourse is not seen as a "form of social life." He

goes on to say that "language is the device for communication" and not simply

the expression of thought (p. 21). Dewey advocated teachers listening for their

students' interests, using students' interests as catalysts for lessons, and building

on students' ideas and expressions, in other words assuming a participant


More recently, Goodman (1986) maintained that whole language

instruction is meaning-centered with a focus on students' language use.

Goodman and Goodman (1986) asserted the following principles for reading and

writing in a whole language classroom:

1. Readers construct meaning during reading. They use prior learning
and experience to make sense of the texts.
2. Readers predict, select, confirm, and self-correct as they seek to
make sense of print.
3. Writers include enough information and detail so what they write will
be comprehensible to their readers.
4. Three language systems interact in written language: the
graphophonic (sound and letter patterns), the syntactic (sentence
patterns), and the semantic (meanings). They can't be isolated for
instruction without creating non-language abstractions. All three
systems operate in a pragmatic context, the practical situation in
which the reading and writing is taking place.
5. Comprehension of meaning is always the goal of readers.
6. Expression of meaning is always what writers are trying to achieve.
7. Writers and readers are strongly limited by what they already know,
writers in composing, readers in comprehending. (p. 38-39)

The whole language philosophy is characterized by student-selected

learning, hence it advocates giving students choices about what they will read,

write, and learn (Atwell, 1991, 1987; Berthoff, 1981; Bruner, 1986; Calkins, 1983;


Townsend & Fu, 1998; Goodman, 1986; Graves, 1994; Moffett, 1983; F. Smith,


In the 1960s Goodman (1965) studied 100 first-, second-, and third-

graders by focusing on their reading mistakes, or miscues. Contrary to popular

notions at that time, he found that the better readers used context more heavily

then less able readers. The better readers he studied depended on the other

words within the text, the previous paragraphs, and picture clues to help

formulate their interpretation of print. These readers produced meaning-based

"mistakes." For example, if a picture of a duck was beside a paragraph about a

dog, better readers tended to say the word "duck" in place of the word "dog,"

apparently to make the picture fit with the story. Because of Goodman's

findings, researchers began to study how context affects learning and students'

desires to make sense of texts. This emphasis on meaning evolved over time

into what is known today as the whole language movement.

Whole language teachers and researchers are those who attend to whole,

meaningful texts instead of isolated discrete parts of texts. They also integrate

reading, writing, speaking, and listening into each aspect of literacy learning. In

addition, whole language teachers encourage and maintain a participant stance

toward texts. They use classroom discourse as a scaffold for learning by

sampling students' questions, opinions, and interests.

Several teaching methods have evolved from whole language ideas.

Because of the contextually bound and personally meaningful nature of whole

language, it is nearly impossible to list the progression of specific methods that


embrace the whole language philosophy, as I did during the description of DI and

the DRA. It is possible, however, to describe two approaches to learning that

incorporate whole language principles and a participant stance: integrated

language arts and literature-based instruction.

Integrated language arts instruction

One instructional method that exemplifies a participant stance is

integrated language arts instruction. Integrated language arts instruction is

characterized by student participation and meaning-making in literacy

transactions across the curriculum (Alvermann, 1994; Glazer, 1994; Mulcahy-

Ernt & Stewart, 1994; M. W. Smith, 1994). Integrated language arts instruction

builds on a close relationship among reading, writing, speaking, and listening by

purposefully integrating literacy activities into every subject of the school day

(Morrow et al., 1994; Pearson, 1994). Experts who propose integrated language

arts instruction maintain that learning should be meaning-oriented, child-

centered, functional, and purposeful for children since children construct the

meaning of texts (Becker & Riel, 1999; Bruner,1986; F. Smith, 1977; Wells,

1986). A primary goal of the integrated language arts approach is to develop

motivated students who read and write across the curriculum for academic

pursuits and for pleasure.

A recent study compared participant and spectator stances by

investigating integrated language arts instruction and DI. Sacks and

Mergendoller (1997) studied two classes of kindergartners who were at-risk of

dropping out of school at some later point in their lives. In one, an integrated


language arts classroom, the teacher encouraged students to assume a

participant stance and self-select the order and content of their own learning. In

the other classroom, the teacher encouraged students to assume a spectator

stance by implementing a DI methodology that focused on teacher-determined,

isolated skills and a limited oral discourse. The authors found that the

kindergartners in the integrated language arts classroom were more interested in

school and showed greater improvement on early reading achievement scores

than did the kindergartners in the DI classroom.

In contrast, O'Connor et al. (1998) argued that a spectator stance and DI

had a long-term positive effect on at-risk kindergartners. O'Connor et al.

observed kindergartners in a DI phonics-oriented classroom. The researchers

followed the same students in the next academic year to evaluate their retention

of phonics concepts. They found that students retained most of the prior

phonics knowledge the second year.

In the O'Connor et al. study, a spectator stance and DI were praised; in

the Sacks and Mergendoller study, a participant stance and integrated language

arts were praised. Although they both studied literacy development, subtly, yet

fundamentally, the two studies differed. The Sacks and Mergendoller study

relied on classroom observation plus an early reading inventory to measure

students' successes with literacy development. In contrast, O'Connor et al.

measured students' retention of skills by administering an objective test that

included only discreet phonics skills. The limited nature of the evaluations

O'Connor et al. administered may not describe the complete literacy picture for


these students. It may also indulge in a kind of circular reasoning: we train

students to exploit certain behaviors and when they do, we make assumptions

about their learning that are not warranted by the measures employed. What

comprised the long-term positive effect that O'Connor et al., found? Did discreet

phonics skills or actual literacy development characterize this effect? If literacy

development and being able to participate in a reading/writing transaction is the

target, then attention to meaning and student-selected learning, such as found in

an integrated language arts approach, may well be ideal (Sacks & Mergendoller,

1997). Not only are studies such as these two indicative of complex

disagreements in the research community, they also illustrate the confusion that

teachers face when deciding how and what to teach.

Literature-based instruction

Another approach in which teachers and students assume a participant

stance is literature-based instruction. In its purest form, "children read books,

explore language used for a purpose, and actively participate in the reading

process" (Goforth, 1998, p. 391) that uses "real" books. Using constructivist

principles, literature-based instruction emphasizes meaning and student choice.

Teachers who support literature-based instruction advocate giving students

opportunities to read and write in response to quality children's literature.

Literature-based instruction is also known as Literature Circles (Short, Harste, &

Burke, 1996), Book Clubs (Raphael & McMahon, 1994), and Literature

Discussion Groups (Routman, 1994). Furthermore, Authors' Circles (Villaume &

Brabham, 2001) is a writing program developed from literature-based instruction


in which students use a writing workshop approach (Calkins, 1994) to discuss

their own writing.

In studies focusing on the use of literature in elementary classrooms,

researchers reported increases in positive student attitudes toward reading

(Sacks & Mergandoller, 1997; Thames & Reeves, 1994), meaningful student

responses to literature (Hickman, 1981; Many & Wiseman, 1992), and effective

reading comprehension strategies (Baumann et al., 1999), among other

improvements. After surveying 396 students, Bottomley, Truscott, Marinak,

Henk, and Melnick (1999) found that those students who received predominately

literature-based instruction enjoyed literature more and perceived themselves as

more competent readers and writers than those students who received basal

instruction only. In other words, students who were encouraged to assume a

participant stance through literature-based instruction benefited more than those

who were instructed from the basal reader and who assumed a spectator stance.

Nevertheless, to say that all students who are part of a literature-based

classroom automatically assume a participant stance is an overstatement and an

oversimplification. Some researchers maintain that students' and teachers'

stances should be a mixture of participant and spectator. Price (1998) described

a first-grade teacher who incorporated DI into her literature-based reading

curriculum. Over the course of four years, Price observed this teacher explicitly

teaching "strategic lessons," or DI within a literature context (p. 21). In a holistic

context using children's literature as a base, this particular teacher attended to

the alphabetic code, which she defined as knowledge of letters, sounds,


patterned digraphs, and predictable letter combinations. Price reported that

students who were taught in this manner successfully switched stances and

benefited from the various methods in which they were taught. McNinch and

Gruber (1996), Morrow et al. (1994), and M. W. Smith (1994) agree that a

balanced approach combining DI and literature-based instruction is an effective

method for literacy teaching.

Researchers, such as Price, do not agree that there is a fixed chasm

between the DRA approach and an integrated approach to teaching. Flippo

(1999b), for example, argued that the so-called "reading wars" and contentions

among experts in reading and writing were not as divisive as they appeared in

the media. Flippo analyzed 11 experts' notions about literacy instruction, asking

them to create lists similar to Frank Smith's (1973) "Twelve easy ways to make

learning to read difficult." The 11 experts held three philosophical positions: four

from a more DI perspective (those who maintained that teachers should

encourage a spectator stance), three from a more whole language perspective

(those who maintained that teachers should encourage a participant stance),

and three from an integrated perspective. Flippo concluded that these eleven

experts agreed in principal on a majority of pedagogical aspects. "Practices that

experts believe 'would facilitate learning to read' focus on combining reading and

writing, as well as talking about and sharing books and making all language

instruction purposeful and meaningful to children" (p. 27). In short, Flippo's

conclusions imply that these experts would agree that a participant stance, in

which teachers and students remain open to various perspectives, embrace


differing opinions, and actively use language for diverse purposes, is beneficial

for literacy instruction.


If classroom teachers investigate contemporary theories of teaching and

learning, they will be faced with differing opinions about students' stances and

the most effective literacy curricula. Researchers who support a spectator

stance claim that students learn best when teachers follow a predetermined

sequence of discrete literacy skills. In contrast, researchers who support a

participant stance claim that literacy learning should focus on meaning-making

and student participation. Still others maintain that a balanced approach (or a

combination of stances) is the best way to address literacy teaching and


There is no universally agreed upon method to effectively teach for

literacy development. We can, however, observe the enacted literacy curriculum

for clues leading to what actually occurs during literacy lessons and how some

enacted methods are more effective than others. It is appropriate, then, to turn

to research on oral classroom interactions in order to determine what kinds of

literacy activities are enacted and how students and teachers use language as a

tool for learning.

Classroom Enactments

"To a great extent, the language used by teachers and students in

classrooms determines what is learned and how learning takes place" (Wilkinson

& Silliman, 2000, p. 338). Language is used for varying purposes, in varying


contexts, and with varying ease (Cook-Gumperz & Gumperz, 1982; Halliday,

1975; Wilkinson, 1982). Because of this variability, studying language in

classrooms can be a complicated endeavor. Teachers create a classroom

atmosphere and set a tone for classroom interactions (Aulls, 1998). To describe

student expression, nonverbal and written communication, and the rich contexts

of classroom interactions, some researchers have used the ethnographic

techniques of sociolinguistic research (i. e., Cazden. 1988; Heath, 1983; Mehan,

1979a). These researchers focused on similarities and differences in children's

ways of talking and making sense. Weade and Green (1989) maintained that:

To make such explorations possible, an ethnographer will often make
permanent records (e.g., audio-tapes, videotapes) to supplement field
notes. These records permit in-depth analysis of (1) how events are
accomplished and information communicated, (2) factors that support
and/or constrain participation, access, and learning, and (3) social and
cognitive norms and expectations for participation. In addition, the
ethnographer may use participant interviewing and document analysis to
obtain the fullest picture possible of daily life, its demands and routines,
and to triangulate data. From this data, the ethnographer develops "a"
(not "the") grammar of the event. (p. 21)

One way to look closely at a "grammar of the event" is through analyzing the

nature of oral classroom interactions.

Researchers have described classroom interactions for several decades.

In order to study language in use in the late 1960's, Flanders developed the

Classroom Interaction Analysis (CIA) coding system (1970). This was one of the

first instruments that targeted teacher/student interactions in classrooms. Each

utterance, or group of words spoken for a particular purpose, was coded during a

classroom observation to determine a particular function for speaking. At the


end of a given observation period, researchers tallied the results and, using the

tallies, could describe the most frequent use of language in that particular

lesson. While this offered a systematic way of analyzing oral language, critics

maintained that CIA coding limited possible categories of student expression,

ignored both nonverbal and written communication, and often disregarded rich

contextual cues (Gee, 1991; Mehan, Hertweck, Combs, & Flynn, 1982).

Bellack, Kliebard, Hyman, and Smith (1966) found that the most

predominate type of teacher/student interaction was characterized by teachers

asking factual questions, students answering questions, and teachers evaluating

students' answers. The "rules of the language game of teaching" (p. 237) that

Bellack et al. described involve

one person called a teacher and one or more persons called pupils. The
object of the game in the classrooms observed is to carry on a discourse
about a subject matter, and the ostensible payoff of the game is
measured in terms of the amount of learning displayed by the pupils after
a given period of play..... The person playing the role of teacher follows
one set of rules; a person playing the role of pupil follows a somewhat
different set of rules... In fact, the basic rule is that if one is to play the
game at all, he will consistently follow the rules specified for his role. (p.

Hoetker and Ahlbrand (1969) later clarified the "rules" and labeled the

most common form of student/teacher interaction "recitation," or teacher-

centered interaction. During recitation, students frequently answered their

teachers' questions but had few other reasons or opportunities for speaking.

Recitation is commonly found when teachers assume and encourage a spectator



Also in the 1960s researchers began to realize that young children were

capable of abstracting systems of rules that they could use to generate their own

language, a shift from the behaviorist claim that children simply memorized and

repeated words they had heard previously (Lindfors, 1991; Pinnell & Jaggar,

1991). Because of this shift away from a behavioristic study of early language

development, researchers began to observe children in natural settings, such as

classrooms, to better understand language-in-use in particular contexts. My

understanding of the participant stance has been informed by this research

because a participant stance frequently occurs when children are talking and

learning in a natural setting (Heath, 1983; Kutz, 1997; Wells, 1986). Interaction

among children or between children and teachers who assume a participant

stance is characterized by learners relying on a more knowledgeable other in

what Vygotsky (1978) called a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Talk in the

ZPD uses moves inherent in a participant stance because children may wonder,

connect new topics with personal experiences, express opinions, and/or clarify

their own opinions.

Language use within a participant stance is supported by communicative

competence, or building an intuitive knowledge of appropriate interactions in

various contexts (Hymes, 1974; Lindfors, 1991). Communicative competence is

nurtured through real-world interactions for authentic purposes. Hymes

suggested that speakers need to have more than grammatical competence, or a

mechanical knowledge of how language works. He, along with more

contemporary researchers, proposed that proficient speakers need to know how


language is used by a speech community to accomplish their purposes for

speaking (Kutz, 1997; Pinnell & Jaggar, 1991). Proficient speakers display

communicative competence while making sense within their speech

communities. Most researchers agree that communicative competence is

learned unconsciously, implicitly, and in various contexts (Kutz, 1997; Lindfors,

1991; Strickland & Feeley, 1991). Hence, Pinnell and Jaggar (1991) maintain

that the purpose of instruction should be to

help students develop a repertoire of strategies (forms) for different
functions of language that would enable them to select a particular
strategy in a given context, to communicate using that strategy, to
evaluate the effectiveness of that strategy and modify it, if necessary, and
to do so while simultaneously engaged in social dialogue. (pp. 697-698)

Research on early language acquisition has shown that children learn how

language is used while they are using language for real purposes within social

situations (Cazden, 1988; Lindfors, 1991; Mehan, 1979a; Pinnell & Jaggar, 1991;

Snow, 1977), not while studying discrete, isolated parts of language. In other

words, children acquire language "over time, unconsciously, through participation

in meaningful interactions with the people around them" (Kutz, 1997, p. 226).

Researchers of communicative competence who encourage teachers to provide

an interactive classroom environment most often study language in naturalistic


Research on language use in natural settings suggests that any portion of

talk can serve many purposes (Aulls, 1998; Cazden, 1988; Halliday, 1975;

Mehan, 1979a; Townsend, 1991). For Halliday (1975), who studied the oral

language of his preschool child, language use was based on seven functions:


1. An instrumental function to satisfy basic needs.
2. A reaulatorv function to influence the behavior of others.
3. An interactional function to mediate relationships with others.
4. A personal function to express self.
5. A heuristic function to explore the environment.
6. An imaginative function to pretend and imagine other possibilities.
7. An informative function to inform others.

These functions are a starting point, but Halliday's list does not include all of the

potential moves that a proficient speaker might use during a participant stance.

For example, Halliday did not include students and teachers expressing curiosity

about a topic, a fairly common move in a participant stance. Strickland and

Feeley (1991) built on Halliday's list of functions and contended that students

need opportunities to use a full range of language functions in their learning

environments. They argued that "if schools are to foster children's language

development, children need opportunities to use their language resources and to

build on them. Yet studies suggest that the restrictive environment of the school

is not conducive to language development" (p. 290). In short, recitation is a

prominent pattern of oral discourse in today's schools, reflecting a restrictive

environment for student and teacher expression (Brown, 1991; Cazden, 1988;

Galda, 1990; Gallas et al., 1996).

Mehan (1979a) described three parts to the pattern of recitation: Initiate,

Reply, and Evaluate (IRE). He believed that the IRE pattern contained two

adjacency pairs, or utterances that include an obligation to respond, such as

when a phone rings and a person feels compelled to answer. Mehan considered

the Initiation and Reply as one adjacency pair. For example, a typical classroom

Initiation is a teacher question ("What is 3 + 3, Sam?") that motivates the


responder to ReDly ("six"). The second adjacency pair consists of the first pair

coupled with an Evaluative response ("Good."). Mehan explained that much

classroom discourse reflects an IRE pattern, with these two adjacency pairs. He

raised questions about teachers employing an IRE pattern, especially when they

have one specific reply in mind (Mehan, 1979b). He claimed that the students'

display of knowledge may be limited by the structure of the IRE pattern. This is

the same limitation by which a spectator stance is constrained. Teachers who

advocate a spectator stance typically use an IRE pattern while initiating topics

and evaluating students' answers. Likewise, students who assume a spectator

stance typically answer teacher-generated questions and do not use their

language for a broad range of purposes. In other words, Mehan would agree

with the claim that a spectator stance following an IRE pattern, constrains

students' opportunities for expressing a full range of language functions and

thereby limits potential learning possibilities.

Bloome, Puro, and Theoduro (1988) described the recitation pattern as

part of a larger context of classroom lessons, the procedural display. They

viewed lessons as "cultural events that are accomplished through the

cooperative display by teachers and students to each other of a set of

interactional procedures that can be counted (interpreted) as doing a lesson by

teachers, students, and members of the community" (p. 266). In their study of

"doing lessons" in a seventh-grade social studies class and an eighth-grade

literature class, Bloome et al. described procedural display similar to a spectator

stance because "getting through the lesson is taken as equivalent to substantive


engagement with academic content" (p. 287). According to Bloome et al.,

procedural display does not emphasize engagement with content, in part

because of the limited possibilities for speaking. As Brell (1990) concluded,

without engagement in the content, learning is potentially less meaningful and

less likely to be transferred to other contexts. The study completed by Bloome et

al. described negative effects of limiting the possibilities for engaging with texts

during a spectator stance in procedural display.

Brown (1991) reported that recitation, which includes a spectator stance,

is so pervasive in schools that teachers and students think of recitation as a

natural way to speak during classroom interactions. He described the frustration

of teachers who tried to facilitate genuine discussions using a participant stance

as an alternative to an IRE pattern. They did not realize that they were breaking

all of the "rules" of discourse that are so common to school (i.e., a spectator

stance and the IRE pattern within procedural displays). Instead of enabling

discussions, the teachers he studied apparently confused students who were

trying to follow the rules of the school language game by maintaining a spectator

stance with an IRE pattern. The teachers in Brown's study grew frustrated, chose

to stop trying to facilitate discussions, and returned to a spectator stance and

recitation. He maintained that language in most schools describes the process

of teaching something, rather than expressing or reflecting on something. In his

"literacy of thoughtfulness" (p. xiii) Brown concurred with Halliday (1975), Mehan

(1979a), and Bloome et al. (1988), and advocated encouraging a discourse that

included uncertainty, disagreement, important questions, ambiguity, and curiosity


(all of which emerge from a participant stance) in order to prompt students to

synthesize and evaluate various texts and to give students opportunities to use a

full range of functions for speaking about, and engaging with, texts.

For nearly a decade, Heath (1983) studied the discourse patterns of

elementary students, both at school and in three home language communities.

She found that in some cases students' home language was vastly different from

their school language. At school, recitation and a spectator stance was

predominate, while at home various other language patterns prevailed, including

a participant stance that did not include recitation. This difference caused a lack

of continuity between language use at home and school. In addition, the

difference created problems for students and teachers during classroom

interactions. Not only were the language "rules" of school (Bellack et al., 1966)

unclear to "non-mainstream" students, Heath found that not knowing the rules (in

other words, not being communicatively competent within the school community)

limited students' participation as active constructors of language. Heath

recommended that teachers investigate the language used in their students'

homes and understand that students may or may not clearly understand a

mainstream use of language. She, along with other researchers (see Delpit,

1988; Friere, 1993; Moll, 1990), suggested that students, especially those whose

first language is not the mainstream language, would benefit from explicit

teaching of the language rules of those in authority, so that students could

become active participants of society at large. In other words, these researchers

claim that the IRE interaction pattern in schools may hinder those students


whose home language is vastly different from the language of those in power

(Delpit, 1988).

However, not all researchers have focused on the limited classroom

discourses characterized by recitation. A small number of researchers have

described classrooms that reflect social-constructivist principles where teachers

and students engage meaningfully with texts and each other, assuming a

participant stance (e.g., Dillon, 1994; Donaldson,1978; Paley, 1997; Townsend,

1991). For example, Townsend (1991) investigated oral interactions during

several literary studies in a high school English classroom. She described how

one teacher supported genuine class discussions, or "a give and take of ideas

among all the participants, the presentation of multiple perspectives, and the

opening of possibilities with no requirement for closure" (Townsend, 1993, p. 5).

Townsend found that both teachers and students used language for a

wide range of purposes, including initiating topics for discussion, wondering

about a topic, inviting reflection, and expressing opinions. She described these

purposes by identifying 19 overlapping categories of language functions, which

revealed that their classroom interactions were characterized by a deep level of

engagement with the literary topic. "Although the teacher and students in this

study may be unusual, they clearly demonstrated active, sense-making

capacities at work in their interactions with one another" (Townsend, 1991, p.

116). Townsend found that a teacher can successfully enact literary lessons

without assuming a spectator stance or using a recitation pattern.



In sum, an analysis of classroom interactions, and the underlying concept

of communicative competence (Hymes, 1974), is vitally important when trying to

understand literacy instruction in classrooms (Alverman et al., 1990; Cazden,

1988; Gee, 1991). Research on classroom discourse has maintained that typical

interactions are characterized by a spectator stance and:

1. Follow a systematic set of rules (Bellack et al., 1966; Delpit, 1988; Heath,
1983) called the recitation (Brown, 1991; Hoetker & Ahlbrand, 1969).
2. Have a limited number of functions, or purposes for speaking (Halliday,
3. Are characterized by an IRE pattern (Mehan, 1979a, 1979b).
4. Fit into a cultural construct of a lesson, called a procedural display
(Bloome et al., 1988) which may or may not engage students in lessons.

Although the previous list describes most classroom interactions, there

are some notable exceptions (Dillon, 1994; Townsend, 1991) in which teachers

and students assume a participant stance by engaging in genuine discussions,

assuming a tentative stance, and displaying a variety of functions for speaking.

If, as the research in this section has shown, the recitation encourages a

spectator stance that limits the range of functions for speaking, and results in a

surface-only engagement with texts, why is recitation and a spectator stance the

most predominant style of classroom interaction? What forces act on teachers

to retain the recitation during classroom discussions? Because teachers provide

opportunities for classroom interactions, what are their perspectives on the

influences they experience? The next section describes both internal and

external influences on classroom enactments, curriculum, and literacy events.


Teachers' Perceptions of Influences on Literacy Events

Researchers have studied teacher planning extensively (see Borko,

Livingston, & Shavelson, 1990 for a review of teacher planning research) and

teachers' thought processes (see Clark & Peterson, 1986 for a review of

research on teachers' thinking). However, teachers' perceptions of literacy

events have received much less attention (Wharton-McDonald et al., 1998).

Even fewer studies have investigated teachers' perceptions of the sources of

influence on their literacy teaching. In order to describe teachers' perceptions of

these influences, I will describe the research that deals with internal and external

sources of influence that may persuade teachers to enact literacy events. When

planning and implementing literacy lessons, teachers may be influenced

internally by forces such as their own beliefs (stemming from their own

preparation as an educator, experiences as teachers and learners, etc.) and their

stances toward texts (whether participant or spectator). Teachers may be

influenced externally by other people (parents, administrators, peers, society,

committees, politicians, previous teachers) and materials (standards, tests,

teachers' editions). The curriculum is realized after the teacher mediates both

internal and external sources of influence. The teacher may make a decision

about lesson implementation based, at least in part, on these influences. The

next section will focus on several internal and external sources of influence

through which teachers must maneuver in order to enact literacy curricula.

Because I am interested in teachers' perceptions of various sources of

influence, I did not focus on research concerning possible differences between


teachers' professed beliefs (the beliefs they verbalized when interviewed) and

their attributed beliefs (those beliefs that observers ascribe as belonging to a

teacher, based on their behavior as they enact a lesson) (e. g., Schoenfeld,

1998). The research that follows relies on both professed beliefs and attributed

beliefs, as do most of my results in Chapter 4.

Internal Sources of Influence

Clark and Peterson (1986) described the complex work of a teacher as

one whose "daily task is to understand and interpret the rapid flow of social

events in a classroom" (p. 281). This interpretation necessarily involves

expertise in academic knowledge and beliefs, or "a view of an ideal or alternative

state that contrasts with reality and provides a means of summarizing goals and

paths" (Calderhead, 1996, p. 719). Calderhead reasoned that "because of the

complex and multidimensional nature of classroom life, knowledge alone would

be inadequate in making sense of classroom situations and prioritizing problems

to be tackled and actions to be undertaken" (p. 719). Things such as

pedagogical knowledge, previous experience, and state of mind may internally

influence teachers, but teachers' beliefs are a large part of the internal sources

of influence.

Teachers' beliefs

It is commonly assumed that teachers enact what they believe, though

experts do not agree on this issue. Teachers may enact lessons that are based

on their personal beliefs about teaching. For example, if a teacher assumes and

encourages a spectator stance while enacting a lesson on an isolated reading


skill, this probably reflects the teacher's belief that isolated skill practice is

beneficial to learners. (As a subsequent section will show, there is no simple

relationship between the enacted curricula and teachers' beliefs. In other words,

sometimes teachers are compelled to enact literacy lessons that do not reflect

their personal beliefs about teaching.)

Teachers' beliefs are apparent in the enacted curricula. Some studies

indicate that teachers implement literacy curricula that closely reflect their

personal beliefs about teaching (Allington, 1991; Clark & Peterson, 1986; Fang,

1996; Lehman, Freeman, & Allen, 1994; Thomas & Barksdale-Ladd, 1997).

From the field of reading research, when studying fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-

graders, Richardson, Anders, Tidwell, and Lloyd (1991) found that classroom

practice consistently reflected teachers' beliefs. They concluded that the

teachers who used a skills-based method of reading instruction personally

believed that isolated skills practice was important. On the other hand, teachers

who used literature-based instruction believed that reading and writing

development occurred most logically when using literature. These findings were

later supported by Lehman et al. (1994) who studied 19 K-2 teachers. Analyzing

the results of a survey to ascertain the teachers' beliefs about teaching and a

questionnaire to gather information about their enacted curricula, Lehman et al.

found that teachers implemented what they believed.

In another study that found a direct relationship between teachers' beliefs

and their enacted curricula, or the activities that teachers plan and students

undertake, Thomas and Barksdale-Ladd (1997) interviewed students and


teachers from two kindergarten classrooms about literacy. This study differs

from the others in that it sampled students' conceptions of literacy and compared

them to their teachers' beliefs about literacy. Thomas and Barksdale-Ladd found

that students' conceptions of literacy closely reflected their teachers' conceptions

of literacy. Thomas and Barksdale-Ladd concluded that students internalized

their teachers' beliefs about literacy learning by participating in the enacted

literacy curriculum. In other words, teachers' beliefs influenced how students

made sense of literacy activities by influencing the enacted curricula. These

findings concurred with Richardson et al. (1991) and Lehman et al. (1994) who

found that teachers' enacted curricula typically reflected their personal beliefs

about teaching and learning.

Teachers' beliefs may not be apparent in the enacted curricula. However,

other studies have suggested that teachers' beliefs are not always directly

enacted, nor are teachers' perceptions of classroom events always easy to

interpret. Some studies found a correlation between teachers' beliefs and their

enacted literacy curricula, yet most maintained that the enacted curricula is

swayed by an eclectic mixture of teachers' beliefs and external influences (Davis,

Konopak, & Readence, 1993; Duffy & Anderson, 1984). Ridley (1990) found that

when teachers make a change in either beliefs or practices, one may not reflect

the other for a period of time. Other researchers have found discrepancies

between what teachers say and what they enact. This discrepancy complicates

a simple connection between teachers' beliefs and their enacted curricula

(Alverman et al., 1990; Davis et al., 1993; Duffy & Anderson, 1994). Lenski,


Wham, and Griffey (1998) maintain that teaching and teachers' beliefs have

complicated roots in social interaction. "Since teaching practices are socially and

contextually mediated, teachers are deeply influenced by their prior experiences

as students, their professional education, and their personal beliefs about

effective teaching" (p. 218). Duffy and Anderson (1984) found that the

connection between teachers' beliefs and instruction is "governed by a complex

set of contextual factors" (p. 97) such as students' ability levels, instructional

stance of the teacher (which they described as content-centered and pupil-

centered), and "numerous constraints and pressures" (p. 103). So teachers'

beliefs can be, but are not necessarily, visible in their instructional plans and


Although beliefs do not have to be visible to be acted upon or to influence

thinking, those beliefs that are visible are more likely to influence action and

thought. One reason why teachers' personal beliefs may not be acted upon is

that teachers may not ever fully clarify what they believe, even to themselves.

This can produce confusing internal messages about important issues in

teaching. For example, Miller (1990) documented six educators' struggles to

become teacher-researchers and to clarify their own beliefs about teaching.

Over a period of three years, these teachers met weekly to discuss the research

they carried out individually. Only after consistently meeting for one year were

these teachers able to describe their personal beliefs about teaching. Often

teachers cannot easily "create the kind of space where dialogue can take place

and freedom can appear" (p. 1). These spaces are apparently necessary and


important for reflection and awareness of personal beliefs. So, one reason why

teachers may not enact curricula that is close to their personal beliefs about

teaching is that they may not take the time or have the resources available (such

as study groups or college classes) to fully clarify their beliefs.

In sum, teachers' personal beliefs about teaching impact their enacted

curricula, though the degree of the impact and the nature of the beliefs may be

difficult to assess. Researchers generally agree that teachers put curricula into

place that in some way agrees with their personal beliefs about teaching.

External Sources of Influence

Along with internal teachers' beliefs, external sources also may influence

teachers' enactments of literacy events. Among other things, external sources

may take the form of other people or materials on which teachers feel compelled

to base their literacy curriculum (Allington & Walmsley, 1996; Flippo, 1999a). No

investigation of external sources would be complete without a discussion of the

current political climate and the growing pressure on teachers to prepare

students for standardized tests. A thorough discussion of the politics that cause

external pressures on teaching is beyond the scope of this study. Nevertheless,

a political issue that influences the enacted curricula in elementary schools is the

widespread and increasing use of standards and subsequent standardized


In the mid 1990s, a national committee appointed by then-President Bill

Clinton devised a set of national standards called Goals 2000. The standards

listed benchmarks and behavioral objectives that all students needed to meet in


order to be promoted to the next school grade. After the Goals 2000 were

determined, each state was compelled to put curricula into place that would

teach students directly from the standards. One result of Goals 2000 was that

individual states distributed the national standards to local school districts and

insisted that all school districts had to implement the standards. Soon after,

most individual school districts presented teachers with lists of standards based

on the national benchmarks and behavioral objectives.

Some teachers, writers, and researchers were glad to have a specific plan

of action toward which teachers and students could move each year (Foorman et

al., 1998). Local districts hired people to write curriculum guides and teach

workshops geared toward implementing the national standards in local

classrooms. Local school districts around the nation spent several million dollars

training and informing teachers about ways to implement the standards.

However, other teachers, writers, and researchers warily approached

Goals 2000 standards and subsequent lists from state and local districts

(Allington & Walmsley, 1996; Ohanian, 1999). They worried about diverse

students who were outside of the mainstream, because teachers often used non-

traditional teaching methods to help them develop literacy abilities. Ohanian

(1999) claimed that teachers using non-traditional methods could not easily

teach traditional standards. For example, those teachers who use a Direct

Instruction approach would easily be able to translate the standards into the

classroom. Students have little input in the content of DI lessons, so teachers

can easily implement lessons that use standards as the content. Conversely,


those teachers who base instruction on students' input would have a difficult time

teaching through all of the standards in a given year. Similarly, Allington and

Walmsley (1996) argued that external sources of influence, such as standards or

mandated instructional methodologies, could not significantly improve classroom

instruction unless teachers were involved in relevant decision-making processes,

more than merely receiving the list of standards at the beginning of the year and

being expected to cover them.

Another external influence that most teachers feel is pressure to prepare

students for standardized tests, which typically are used to determine whether

students have learned the standards. Standardized testing often is referred to

as "high-stakes" because students' test results are highly publicized and can

mean less money for schools, loss of jobs, and/or lower prestige during

subsequent years. High-stakes standardized testing can greatly influence the

teaching of reading and writing in elementary schools. In a recent article,

Popham (1997) reported that principals considered standardized test results

more important than teachers' own perspectives when considering the retention

or placement of children. Popham reported that many districts place heavy

emphasis on standardized test scores in order to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

Because of such high-stakes testing, many teachers change their literacy

curricula in order to train students for taking the test (Harman, 2000). As a

result, higher test scores give the appearance that instructors are using effective

instructional methods when actually they may be using methods that "fit with our

views of industry rather than nurturing human potential" (Tierney, 1998, p. 389).


To describe the current testing climate and to help classroom teachers

deal with testing, several teacher/researchers have written books that support an

eclectic philosophy of teaching, or one that covers standards, yet attempts to

balance the classroom content with non-standard material (i.e., Calkins,

Montgomery, Santman, & Falk, 1999; Flippo, 1999b; Garcia, 1994). Calkins et

al. (1999) described the journey of one group of classroom teachers, principals,

and researchers who decided to "deal" with the standards and tests. They

described the testing pressure in one district.

The pressure to achieve high test scores often leads to curricular
mandates that intrude on the professionalism and decision-making
powers of teachers. In one large, urban school district, a district office
testing expert dissected the previous year's reading test and identified
ninety-eight discrete reading skills, including onomatopoeia, linking verbs,
and compound words. Every school in the district was flooded with
packets of ditto sheets on each of these ninety-eight skills. Every child of
testing age received a separate packet of ditto sheets on each and every
skill. The edict went out. Each child was to be taught, tested, and if
necessary retaught in each skill area. No one questioned why an expert
on testing (not on reading) had been given the power to design the
reading curriculum for thousands of classrooms. No one asked whether
what children truly needed was more drill on these decontextualized skills.
Instead, the edict was clear: Every day, every district teacher was to
teach one of the ninety-eight skills. The skill-of-the-day was to be
displayed on chart paper on the wall of every classroom. District office
staff members monitored this work with periodic surprise classroom spot
checks during which they selected one child in each room to read aloud
and define each skill on the chart. (p. 4)

After describing the often desperate attempts to raise standardized tests

scores, such as in the district described above,. Calkins et al. suggested that

teachers prepare students for taking the tests. Calkins et al. reasoned that if

students score well on the tests, their teachers will be in a much stronger

position to criticize the test. Calkins and her colleagues also contended that


teachers need to be part of any committee that makes testing decisions or

mandates curricular changes because of a test. Calkins et al. outlined critical

aspects of the tests that every teacher should address, while suggesting that

preparing students for the tests should entail "short, powerful bursts at just the

right times" rather than test preparation "leak[ing] out all over the curriculum,

spoiling everything" (p. 8). For test preparation, the authors suggested that

we need to teach children about this new and rather bizarre genre. We
need to teach them to read for new purposes, in a new context, with new
strategies. We need to draw on all that we know and believe about
teaching in general and teaching reading, so that our children will learn
the skills they need to do their best on standardized reading tests. (p. 70)

Although books such as the one by Calkins et al. have been written in

order to proffer an eclectic balanced approach to dealing with standardized

testing pressure, some deny that testing needs to be "dealt with" and embrace

the objective nature of standardized tests. For example, Bracey (2000) found

that because standardized tests "objectively" measured a predetermined set of

reading skills, teachers and principals considered them much more reliable than

performance-based measures, such as portfolios which are not objectively

assessed. He concluded that "it is not likely that we will reduce our reliance on

testing any time soon" (p. 50). Schmocker (2000) reasoned that schools and

districts use standardized tests because "they provide data and a results

orientation that are essential to improvement. In many cases, they promote not

poorer practice, but a common instructional focus and an abandonment of

ineffective practices" (p. 63).


One potential problem with relying heavily on standardized testing,

though, is the limited content of what the tests actually measure (Baresic &

Gilman, 2001; Brown, 1991; Bracey, 2000; Graves, 2000). Brown (1991)

described an exemplary school district in Toronto, Canada in which students did

not use standardized tests to measure teacher and student effectiveness.

Instead teachers focused on developing students' reasoning abilities and higher

order thinking skills. One Toronto administrator admitted having trouble

measuring reasoning abilities and critical thinking skills, yet he said that he would

rather struggle with measuring these aspects of literacy than settle for a

standardized test that would only measure isolated and limited reading and

writing skills. As Graves (2000) put it,

short-paragraph responses or filled-in bubbles on timed standardized
assessments may identify the quick thinkers-the students who are
prepared for the mental equivalent of the 50-yard sprint. But we need to
rethink how teachers can use time to bring life into the curriculum, engage
their students, and let students move inside their subjects to become the
informed learners so necessary in the 21st century. (p. 22)


The best methods to facilitate literacy acquisition are not easily surmised

from research. Therefore, it is no surprise that teachers' conceptions of ideal

literacy curricula are varied and may not be directly translated into practice.

Teachers navigate between idealized conceptions of literacy learning and the

forces that influence their enacted curricula. Internal notions of ideal literacy

curriculum may never be fully realized and acted upon. Added to this, external


pressures may influence teachers to enact preparatory testing practice or other

mandated curricula in place of their ideal literacy conceptions.

From this literature review, several themes emerged that are relevant to

the current study:

1. Taken as a whole, research on literacy teaching is not clear about the value
of one method over another.
2. Teachers' selection of curriculum will determine the stance assumed by the
teacher and students.
3. Most elementary teachers use basal reading books as the foundation of
their literacy curricula.
4. Basal reading books do not typically support interpretation of more complex
texts, nor do they provide many opportunities for aesthetic responses to
5. Direct Instruction and Directed Reading Activity both encourage teachers to
create literacy lessons based on a spectator stance.
6. Integrated language arts and literature-based instruction encourage
teachers to create literacy lessons using a participant stance.
7. Given the social nature of literacy learning, in order to understand the literacy
opportunities that teachers provide we must investigate classroom
8. Recitation, characterized by a spectator stance and students speaking only
for the purpose of answering teacher-generated questions, is prevalent in
contemporary elementary school classrooms.
9. Recitation, procedural display, and the IRE pattern limit the possibilities for
teachers' and students' expression.
10. Both internal and external sources influence how teachers enact their
literacy lessons.


This study uses a participant observation approach (Spradley, 1980) that

is naturalistic (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) and interpretive (Erickson, 1986). In order

to present a full and thorough knowledge of the ideal and real conceptions of

literacy of these particular teachers, I employed a case study approach of the

bounded system found in four elementary teachers' classrooms (Stake, 1985).

This case study is characterized by an attention to context, natural settings, a

holistic view of the phenomena, and social-cultural patterns of experience, as

Sherman and Webb (1997) suggest that all qualitative research needs to

include. Seven main data sources provide the foundation for the study: findings

from a pilot study; observational field notes; transcripts of classroom interactions;

artifacts of students' literacy learning (written documents that students completed

as a result of literacy learning opportunities I observed-graded and non-graded);

teachers' writings (lesson plans, anecdotal notes for assessment, and so forth);

interview transcripts (both teachers' and students' interviews); and textual

sources such as teachers' editions of text books, standardized testing practice

material, state and local curricular guides, and any other written material that

teachers referred to as having importance in the daily workings of the classroom.



Pilot Study

During the winter of 1999-2000, I conducted a pilot study in order to

develop a prototype for a dissertation study, refine an interview protocol, define a

sampling focus, and assess the usefulness of various data sources. To this end,

I discovered valuable information that was important for me to consider before

starting my dissertation study. Following is a brief description of the pilot study

and three findings that informed this dissertation study.

Description of the Pilot Study

I began the pilot study by consulting with principals, assistant principals,

and curriculum coordinators from three different elementary schools to ascertain

which third- through fifth-grade teachers in their schools were "interested in

literacy and were doing great things in literacy instruction." I asked each one of

the principals to nominate two "exemplary" literacy teachers. I chose not to

define what I meant by "exemplary" so that they would not nominate only those

teachers who fit my conceptions. The administrators introduced me to two

teachers in each school, six teachers in grades three through five, although one

teacher did not participate because of illness. In all, for the pilot study I observed

and interviewed two third-grade teachers, two fourth-grade teachers, and one

fifth-grade teacher.

After obtaining my university's human subjects review board approval and

appropriate county office documentation, I began observing and interviewing the

teachers. During the observations, I took field notes on a laptop computer while

describing literacy events (Anderson, Teale, & Estrada, 1980), or "any action


sequence, involving one or more persons, in which the production and/or

comprehension of print plays a role" (p. 59). I observed in each classroom for

one entire school day. During a 45 minute interview with each teacher, I

gathered information about teachers' definitions of literacy and their enacted

literacy curricula. I wanted to find a range of ways in which teachers approached

literacy instruction. My central question for this pilot study was, "How do

teachers define and teach literacy?"

Findings from the Pilot Study

Shortly after each observation and interview was completed, I edited the

field notes, transcribed the interviews, and began reading through the data,

looking for patterns within and among the interviews and observations. Four

relevant findings follow:

1. All five teachers reported that they think literacy instruction is an
important part of their job.
"Everything we teach comes back to literacy, because everything
comes back to words."
"We're in literacy all day long!"

"Literacy, to me, involves basically all subject areas. It's across the
curriculum, it's integrated ... It has to be integrated because you have
to read in math, you have to be able to write in math, and it's the same
with science and social studies."
2. The enacted literacy curriculum varied from teacher to teacher, even
though they all were nominated as "exemplary" and used similar instructional

Although three of the five teachers used the basal reading book as a
foundation for literacy instruction, they created different experiences by
adding to or subtracting from what the basal suggested:

One teacher encouraged the fourth-grade students to role play
the action from the story.


One teacher asked engaging questions about the story and a
lively discussion ensued among the third-grade students.

One teacher used the pre-written suggestions from the book to
review skills with her fourth-grade students.

The other two teachers used materials other than the basal reading
One teacher based literacy instruction on a theme centered
around the novel A Kid in King Arthur's Court.

One teacher created learning centers in which the third-grade
students read about science concepts while summarizing
information as a group. The students rotated through five learning
centers during my observation time.

3. Other teachers influenced the enacted curricula.

One teacher mentioned feeling overwhelmed by the suggestions that her
peers gave for literacy learning.

Another teacher mentioned that she felt the need to tell other teachers
how to enact literacy learning opportunities that were effective for her.

4. All four teachers described an ideal curricula that differed, sometimes greatly,
from the enacted curricula I observed.

These findings lead me to the following questions for the dissertation


1. What are selected teachers' ideal conceptions of literacy and literacy
2. How do teachers enact literacy lessons and how do their enactments
relate to their ideal conceptions of literacy teaching and learning?
3. What forces influence teachers' ideal and real literacy curriculum?


I chose to observe two different schools and four teachers in order to

sample a range of teachers' conceptions of literacy and various perspectives on

literacy learning. I observed four fourth-grade classrooms in two public


elementary schools in a rural county in the southeastern part of the United

States. I chose only four teachers to study because I wanted to thoroughly

investigate each participant and to spend sufficient time in each classroom to

learn about the teachers' enacted curriculum and their ideal conceptions of

literacy. I also wanted to record interactions in the classrooms to further

describe what actually happened in each classroom, something I could not have

done effectively had I observed in numerous classrooms.

Fourth grade is the first time that students take a standardized writing test

in the southeastern state in which I observed. Because of this writing test,

fourth-grade teachers in this region often feel intense pressure to create reading

and writing instruction that will prepare students for the test. Often this pressure

causes teachers to modify their literacy curricula. In this particular district,

teachers' lessons at standardized testing time are relatively similar because they

are mandated to complete a workbook designed to prepare students for the test.

If I had observed these teachers immediately preceding the test I would have

been able to observe only a narrowly and externally conceived discourse and

enacted curriculum in each classroom. Traditionally, standardized testing takes

place in February or March. One result of the testing is that teachers provide

intense test preparation from October through January, or the second and third

nine-week periods. Teachers spend hours each week preparing students to

answer the particular type of questions on the standardized tests, using

professionally designed workbooks or worksheets. So the first and last nine

weeks of the school year were opportune times to observe teachers enacting


literacy opportunities in ways that made sense to them personally. I was told

during the pilot study that teachers and students look forward to the last nine

weeks in fourth grade because they can create engaging and meaningful literacy

lessons (possibly closer to their ideal literacy curricula) once the tests are over

and the pressure of testing is removed. Because test-taking has become such a

powerful influence on public discourse about schooling, I chose to observe

fourth-grade teachers because I suspected that they would have to deal with the

external testing influence even during the first and last nine weeks of the school

year. I also wanted to see how they would negotiate between their ideal notions

of literacy instruction and the real pressures that most teachers must, at some

point, face. I began observing and interviewing (both teachers and students)

during the last nine-week's period of the 1999-2000 school year, after the

standardized tests were completed. I also conducted further classroom

observations and teacher interviews during the first nine weeks of the 2000-2001

school year.

Rolling Hills Elementary (a pseudonym, as are all of the following

teachers', students', and schools' names) was in a rural setting with little racial

diversity (nearly all of its students were White) and relatively low parental

education levels. Of the 960 students during the 1999-2000 school year, 73%

participated in the free-lunch program. The kindergarten through second-grade

teachers in Rolling Hills were recently trained to implement a tightly controlled

reading program that targeted "at-risk" students in an effort to increase both the

students' reading levels and their standardized test scores. According to their


assistant principal, the reading program afforded teachers a systematic way to

teach all children in their preferred learning style (e.g., auditory, kinesthetic,

visual). The third- through fifth-grade teachers were free to design their own

reading curricula based on basal readers or class sets of novels as long as they

followed state curricular standards.

In contrast, Madison Elementary was an urban/suburban school with more

racial/ethnic diversity. The parents' educational levels varied widely. Some had

not graduated from high school; others had earned advanced graduate degrees.

Approximately 25% of the students were African American, 30% were Hispanic,

and the remaining 45% were White. During the 1999-2000 school year, 64% of

the 770 students in the school participated in the federally funded free lunch

program. The principal at Madison declared 1999-2000 to be the "Year of

Literacy," so administrators, teachers, and students actively focused on literacy

development. For example, the principal worked to increase standardized test

scores by conducting weekly "Principal's Club" meetings in which she met with

various students about writing for the standardized test. I was told numerous

times about a $64,000 gift the school received from the state during the 1999 -

2000 school year. The money was given to the school because the students in

fourth-grade scored higher than those from the previous year in two out of three

possible areas on the standardized test. In the same way as the Rolling Hills

Elementary teachers, Madison Elementary's fourth- and fifth-grade teachers had

some creative freedom to implement literacy curricula. In fact, the fourth-grade

teachers voted to buy a literature-based reading curriculum to replace the basal


reader for the 2000 2001 school year. The funding for this new program was

delayed by the county office, so the new reading program had not been

implemented until after I collected data in the fall of 2000 at Madison. Also in a

way similar to the teachers at Rolling Hills, the kindergarten through second-

grade teachers at Madison were trained recently to implement a skills-oriented,

strictly-controlled reading program. In the program, students were drilled in

phonics and isolated reading skills, including finding the main idea of a

paragraph, generating topic sentences, memorizing vocabulary words, and so

on. Most of the fourth-grade students I observed had not gone through a

program of this type when they were in the lower grades.


My overarching goal was to describe a range of ideal and enacted literacy

conceptions. To do so, although I had observed Ms. Price during a day-long

observation period in the aforementioned pilot study, I included her in the

dissertation study because she was one of only a few fourth-grade teachers in

the county who used literature, and not the basal reader exclusively, to provide

literacy learning opportunities for her students. I anticipated that Ms. Price's

interview answers would represent one end of a range of teachers' literacy

methods because she used various texts for teaching. I chose another teacher,

Ms. Martin, who was nominated as an exemplary teacher for the pilot study, but

was unable to take part in it, because of illness. I chose the other two

participants, Ms. Vaskey and Ms. Donaldson (who were considered "average"

teachers by their principal) based on their grade level and their willingness to


allow me to interview them and observe their literacy instruction. I expected

them to represent a more traditional approach to literacy learning in fourth-grade

classrooms because I noticed before the study that they most often used basal

reading books to teach reading and writing. I ended up with four teachers whom

I thought would represent a range of ideal and real literacy conceptions-two so-

called "exemplary" teachers and two so-called "average" teachers. After gaining

permission from my university's human subject board, I spoke with all four

teachers who agreed to allow me to observe and interview them. I obtained

signed consent forms from students' parents or guardians in two classes for

each teacher, that totaled 240 students in all. (Fifteen parents or guardians of

the 240 students did not allow me to interview their children.) I also met with and

obtained written permission from both principals and gained oral permission from

two county office supervisors.

Ms. Price

The principal at Rolling Hills Elementary School described Ms. Price, aged

50, as an exemplary literacy teacher. She was voted Teacher of the Year during

the 1999 2000 school year and ultimately chosen as one of the top five

teachers in the county. At the time of the study, Ms. Price had taught 13 years in

all, spending the last seven years at Rolling Hills Elementary School. Each year

20 to 25 parents requested that Ms. Price be their child's teacher.

Ms. Martin

The other so-called "exemplary" teacher in this study, Ms. Martin, also had

taught 13 years--the last 11 years at Madison Elementary School. She also had


been previously voted by her peers as Teacher of the Year for her school.

Typically five to ten parents requested that their children be in her class each

year. Ms. Martin was in her late 30s.

Ms. Vaskev

Ms. Vaskey, who was in her eighth year of teaching, had taught at Rolling

Hills Elementary her entire professional career. Nine years before the study

began, she was an intern in Ms. Martin's room while attending night school and

working as a full-time teacher's assistant. She was in her early 50s at the time of

the study.

Ms. Donaldson

The fourth teacher, Ms. Donaldson, was the youngest and least

experienced teacher in the study. At the time of the study she was in her mid-

twenties and had taught in fourth-grade at Rolling Hills Elementary for four years.

The principal at Rolling Hills hired her after an internship there with a second-

grade teacher.

Data Collection

I collected data by conducting a series of interviews with each of the four

teachers (three times each for 13 hours and 230 transcribed pages) and 12

students (three from each class for 6 hours and 108 pages of transcripts);

observing and taking field notes and transcribing selected classroom interactions

from the daily, 90-minute language arts block (for 50 days, 153 hours and 482

pages of transcripts); collecting student and teacher artifacts (26 pages of lesson

plans and 338 pages of student work papers); and reading the teacher's editions


of text books (500+ pages examined), curricular guides (40 pages), and

standardized testing materials (539 pages). I conducted three formal and

numerous informal interviews with each teacher. To answer the research

question, "How do these teachers enact their conceptions of literacy and literacy

learning?," I observed the four teachers enacting their literacy curriculum. I

observed two complete literacy learning "chunks," or series of reading and

writing lessons that were grouped together by common basal stories or pieces of

literature. Using the term "chunk" is a better way to refer to this phenomenon

than "lesson" or "story" because most meaningful literacy learning occurs over

time, not just during one or two lessons.

Classroom Observations

The term "chunk" captured my intent to observe a purposive sampling of

lessons that occurred over several days or weeks, what Stake (1985) called a

bounded instance. "Chunk" also describes a self-contained grouping of lessons

that appeared in some way to fit with one another. In each case, I asked the

teachers to define a chunk of learning and to determine how long I should

observe in their rooms to experience the whole chunk. I observed as many days

as necessary to complete two literacy learning chunks per teacher. For Ms.

Price, one of the two exemplary teachers, the first chunk lasted 8 days and the

second chunk lasted five days. For Ms. Miller, the first chunk lasted 12 days and

the second chunk lasted five days. For the other two teachers, both chunks

lasted five days. I spent a total of 50 mornings, over 153 hours, observing

literacy teaching and learning in the four fourth-grade classrooms.


Because I was trying to capture a sense of the typical literacy learning

opportunities in the classes I observed, it was important to me that my presence

in the room did not affect the usual class proceedings. All four teachers said that

the students seemed to act the same way whether or not I was in the room. The

teachers did admit that they spent more time in planning the language arts

activities for the week because I would be in the room, but as Ms. Donaldson

said, "The main thing is still the main thing. We are still teaching and the kids

are still being kids!" To check on this matter, on two occasions, with two different

teachers, I left the classrooms early. With the teachers' permission, in both

cases I left the tape recorder running and listened to the tapes the next day.

Both classes seemed to proceed in the same manner when I was not present in

the room as they did when I was present.

Teacher Interviews

Two to three days after the beginning of each observation chunk, I

conducted student and teacher interviews. I conducted 12 formal student

interviews (three students from each class during the spring term) and 12 formal

teacher interviews (three interviews for each teacher), along with numerous

informal teacher and student interviews. During the interviews, I decided to

create a conversational tone because I felt the participants would respond to my

questions more readily and honestly.

In the first teacher interview, my overarching goal was to discern each

teachers' ideal conceptions about reading and writing because there is no

universal "ideal" literacy curriculum. I wanted to answer the first research


question, "What are teachers' ideal conceptions of literacy and literacy learning?"

Questions I asked during the first interview are listed in Appendix A.

After the initial interview, for each teacher I generated a list of 15-20

critical points that seemed to me to describe their ideal literacy conceptions. In

the second formal interview my goal was to verify what I interpreted as each

teacher's ideal conceptions of teaching reading and writing. I conducted a

member check (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), asking each teacher to further clarify her

ideal curriculum, orally accepting, rejecting, or modifying the critical points. I

presented these critical issues to each teacher orally and in conversation form so

that I could change the order of issues as they made sense in the conversation.

For example, Ms. Price mentioned student choice of reading and writing

materials, low numbers of students in each class, and a whole language

philosophy as important aspects of her ideal reading and writing curriculum.

During the first half of the second interview, I presented each of these issues to

her, and she verified that they were indeed important aspects of her ideal

reading and writing curriculum. She also expanded and defined what she meant

by each concept.

During the last half of the second interview, my goal was to characterize

the teachers' perceptions of their enacted literacy curricula. I focused on the

research question, "How do these teachers enact their conceptions of literacy

and literacy learning?" This interview took place at the end of one school year so

I asked each teacher to describe a typical chunk of literacy lessons that year in


order to determine a context for the lessons I would subsequently observe. (See

Appendix A for the second interview questions.)

Over the summer, after observing one literacy learning chunk for each

teacher and analyzing their previous responses, I compared the teachers'

enacted curricula with their ideal curricula as revealed in the first two set of

teacher interviews. I noted any differences between the ideal curricula they

described in the first two interviews and the enacted curricula I observed in their

classrooms. During the third interview I asked the teachers about these

differences and to assess the influences of external forces as one way to answer

the research question, "What influences these teachers' ideal and enacted

literacy curriculum?" My goal during this interview was to ascertain the teachers'

perspectives about why there may be differences between their ideal and real

curriculum. I also wanted them to tell me about any internal or external forces

they felt while teaching. (See Appendix A for a list of the questions I posed

during the third teacher interview.)

Student Interviews

During the spring semester of 2000, I asked each teacher to divide the

students whose parents had agreed to let me interview them into three groups

based on the teachers' perceptions of high, middle, and low performers. Then

the teacher and I chose one student from each group to interview based on the

teachers' opinion of which students would talk freely about their experiences. I

interviewed three students from each class about their reading and writing

classes during the current school year especially focusing on the literacy chunks


I observed. I was curious about the literacy events they remembered and what

they chose to discuss. I expected them to disclose which literacy lessons were

salient to them. Talking with students about these salient opportunities enabled

me to envision past literacy events that were important to them. Also, asking

students to reflect on past literacy experiences revealed a context of literacy

learning within each classroom. I read an assent form and gained oral consent

from each student before we began. (See Appendix A for a complete list of

questions I asked each student.)

Then, for three of the classes, I conducted group interviews with the same

high, middle, and lower performing students that I had interviewed previously. I

did this because the students hesitated to talk when they met with me

individually. In fact, the first nine students mostly nodded or shook their heads

and spoke so softly that the microphone did not clearly pick up their answers. I

interviewed the students from each of the first three classes together in hopes

that they would speak freely in a group setting about their literacy learning for

that year. The students did talk more openly during the group interviews, in

which I asked the same basic questions as in the individual interviews. However,

because the three students from Ms. Martin's class were relatively talkative, I did

not conduct a group interview with them.

Other Sources of Data

Other sources of data included collections of student artifacts, or students'

written documents completed as a result of the literacy learning opportunities I

observed. These sources helped me more fully describe the enacted literacy


curriculum of the four teachers and served as descriptive evidence that the

participating teachers provided certain types of learning opportunities. In the

pilot study, when I interviewed five teachers about ideal literacy learning, all of

them mentioned teachers' editions, curricular guides, and/or standardized tests

as influencing their ideal literacy curricula. The pilot study teachers also

described the pressures they felt to design literacy lessons modeled after

teachers' editions, curricular guides, and test formats. For these reasons, I

closely analyzed any teachers' editions, curricular guides, and practice materials

for standardized tests that the teachers used both during my observations and

throughout the entire fourth-grade school year.

Data Analysis Procedures

In keeping with educational ethnographic research, I used the constant

comparative method of analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Hutchinson, 1988;

Spradley, 1980). To begin analysis I transcribed audio-tapes of the teacher and

student interviews and selected classroom interactions. As Mischler (1991)

noted, deciding how to represent the spoken word on paper, or transcription, is

often the first step in analysis. Each word of selected interaction was

transcribed. I included the speakers' names, the words they spoke, and the

nonverbal behavior I noted while in the classroom. I relied on transcripts of the

first two sets of teachers' interviews to describe their ideal curricula. I also used

transcripts of teachers' interviews to bring out potential sources of influence. In

order to verify the enacted curriculum that the teachers described in their


interviews I relied on transcripts of student interviews, samples of student

artifacts, teachers' editions, and my field notes.

Ideal Literacy Curricula

To ascertain each teacher's ideal conceptions of literacy teaching and

learning, I focused on the first two sets of teacher interviews. I "coded" the

transcriptions (Spradley, 1980), that is, looked for patterns, themes, and

relationships within and among the classrooms. Several main categories

emerged from this activity. I noticed that all four teachers mentioned their

curriculum, which included the printed texts they used as a foundation for their

literacy lessons; various teacher and student roles in the classroom; and issues

related to assessment. These three aspects formed the foundation of my

analysis of their ideal curriculum. (See Chapter 4 for the results of this analysis.)

I also organized my description of each teachers' enacted curriculum around

these same three categories.

Enacted Literacy Curricula

To understand each teachers' enacted curriculum I relied on field notes,

audio-taped and transcribed selections from literacy lessons, and student

interviews. During my observations I focused on what the students generally

were doing in relation to the text and the literacy assignment because at any

point in a literacy chunk, students could be doing quite different things, activities

which give clues to learners' orientation to a text. I analyzed classroom

interactions in order to more fully describe the enacted curricula in relation to

teachers' and students' moves, or purposes for speaking.


Seeking disconfirming evidence (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), I also noticed

atypical students' responses, or those interactions, expressions, or movements

that were different from the norm for that particular class. In addition, I analyzed

any student artifacts that were created during my observation times in order to

understand what students were being asked to do during the enacted curriculum.

I also read any teachers' editions or professional materials from which teachers

created their lesson plans. The combination of oral discourse analysis, field

notes, students' responses to reading and writing, students' artifacts, and

teachers' editions and materials revealed complex, changing, and purposeful

learning chunks.

Selected Interactions

Numerous opportunities for literacy learning potentially occur throughout

the entire school day; however, it was beyond the scope of this study to observe

and analyze all literacy learning opportunities. In order to focus data collection, I

transcribed and analyzed only selected classroom interactions that related to

reading or writing transactions.

Borrowing from studies of classroom discourse (Bellack et al., 1966), I

proceeded to analyze the participants' "moves," or what participants were doing

with their language in these selected classroom interactions. I did not analyze

each word spoken in the classrooms. Rather, I chose the interactions if they

revolved around a literary text, whether the text was oral or printed. For

example, if the beginning point of a classroom activity was reading, I explored

how teachers encouraged students to assume stances toward texts, transact


with texts, and respond in some manner. Similarly, if the beginning point was

writing, I described the writers as they were assuming stances, writing or talking

about concepts, and receiving some sort of feedback about their writing if the

teacher had designed feedback. I approximated the stance of readers and

writers using their behaviors and words as clues. The internal nature of reading

and writing made ascertaining the exact stance of readers and writers a difficult

task. Nevertheless, I described the prevalent reading and writing transactions

and the approximate stances of participants that took place during my

observations by coding participants' moves during their oral discourse. In this

way, I focused on teachers' directions, students' verbal/nonverbal expressions,

students' responses to texts, students' artifacts, and any other sources of

information that characterized reading or writing transactions.

Similar to what Mehan (1979a) and Cazden (1988) report, I found the

Initiate Reply Evaluate (or IRE) pattern prevalent in all four classrooms. I did not

simply code each IRE pattern I saw, however. Instead, I coded students' and

teachers' moves by finding patterns in utterances and labeling them, such as

"tries to initiate a topic for discussion" and "tries to invite reflection" (Townsend,

1993). I then grouped the moves into three broad categories that I labeled

spectator, participant, and pretender events (Townsend, personal

communication, 2001).

During a spectator event teachers and students used language as outside

observers of the text, whether written or oral. There were limited opportunities

for students to speak in spectator events and teachers directed each aspect of


the event. On the other hand, during a participant event, teachers and students

used language actively, in order to do something such as complete an action,

speculate about a proposition, or inquire about personally relevant information.

There were many opportunities for students and teachers to communicate

various moves in the participant event. In a curious mixture of spectator and

participant stances, I also discovered a pretender event in which teachers

apparently framed a spectator event but "pretended" they were enacting a

participant event. On the surface, a pretender event looked like a participant

event, but taking a holistic view of the event revealed the teachers' spectator

stance and the limited role that students could play in such events.

I was able to describe particular episodes and characterize what both

teachers and students were doing during literacy lessons. The moves that

originated from the interaction transcripts became further evidence of the

enacted literacy curriculum. (See Chapter 4, Results, for more details.)

I categorized spectator, participant, and pretender events in oral

classroom interactions in order to describe the enacted literacy curriculum. I

discovered that there were relatively few purposes for speaking within spectator

events. Instead of simply verifying the commonplace IRE pattern, with its limited

set of moves and purposes for speaking, I focused my analysis on the participant

events. (To do so, I had to assume intention. I did not, however, ascertain

whether or not the participants' purposes were achieved, nor did I gauge the

effect of the turns of speaking on other participants.) Chapter 4 will describe the

various moves as one way to characterize an enacted literacy curriculum.


Sources of Influence on the Literacy Curricula

While reading through the first two teachers' interviews, I noted nine

possible sources of influence on their reading and writing curricula. This list

included county and state standards, standardized testing, student interests,

personal beliefs about teaching, the teachers' sense of what needs to be done,

other people, teachers' editions, professional materials, and forces over which

teachers have no control. As a "member check" (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 314)

during the last interview I asked the teachers to place the nine sources in order,

according to the ones they felt the most influenced by, and to verify that these

sources shaped their literacy instruction. I also asked them to verify that there

were no other potential influences.

To more fully describe the nine sources of influence, I noted any

discrepancies between the teachers' ideal and enacted conceptions of literacy

learning. When I asked the teachers about any differences, they typically

responded by describing a source of influence more fully. In this way, the

teachers themselves gave detailed descriptions of the various sources of



To summarize, I analyzed classroom observations, teacher and student

interviews, teacher and student artifacts, materials that teachers read, and

selected classroom interactions in order to describe the four teachers' real and

ideal literacy curricula and the sources of influence on their literacy curricula. To

understand their ideal curricula, I used the first and second set of teacher


interviews. To describe their enacted curricula, I analyzed the selected

classroom interactions, observation field notes, students' interviews, and the third

set of teacher interviews. To interpret various sources of influence on their

curricula, I focused on the three sets of teacher interviews and any discrepancies

I noticed between their ideal and enacted curricula.

Appropriateness of the Method

Participant observation (Spradley, 1980) and analyzing participants'

moves during classroom interactions were appropriate for this study because

they aided my understanding of the complex data I collected in several ways.

First, participant observation permitted me to investigate each teacher's

interviews in light of the enactments I observed. My observations enabled me to

individually and simultaneously analyze all four teachers' ideal and enacted

curricula. In other words, being a participant observer helped me to understand

each part of the data by understanding the other parts. Analyzing participants'

moves served to clarify the prevailing patterns of classroom discourse. Through

this analysis I was able to interpret and categorize 247 classroom events and

identify supports or constraints to literacy instruction. Most importantly, using

these methods enabled me to study teachers' perceptions and classroom

enactments inductively without generating hypotheses a priori or predetermining

relevant variables. The ideal and enacted curricula varied among the teachers,

but I was able to integrate the data into a cohesive description of each teacher

and to describe similar patterns among the teachers.


Definitions of Terms

The following terms will be used in this study:

An aesthetic stance is a readiness to respond to a printed literary text

characterized by what the reader is living through, guided by the text, during the

reading event. For example, an aesthetic stance is assumed by a reader who

savors the words of a poem with his attention on the present event of reading the

poem, not on remembering portions of the poem for a test at a later time.

Curricular pressures are those external pressures that influence the

teachers' enacted curricula and the skills and concepts teachers must cover

during the course of a school year. Some examples are county-level curricular

guides, teachers' editions, and state or local standards.

Direct Instruction, or DI, is an approach to teaching in which goal-oriented

lessons are carefully structured by the teacher and follow these seven steps:

* State learning objectives and orient students to lesson.
* Review prerequisites.
* Present new material.
* Conduct learning probes.
* Provide independent practice.
* Assess performance and provide feedback.
* Provide distributed practice and review.

Students and teachers typically assume a spectator stance while participating in

a DI lesson.

An efferent stance is a readiness to respond to printed text characterized

by focusing on remembering concepts, ideas, and actions after the text has been


read. For example, reading a medicine bottle in order to learn how to take the

medicine correctly requires an efferent stance.

The enacted curricula is part of the actual, or real, curricula provided by

teachers, undertaken by students, and able to be observed by researchers.

High-stakes testing pressures are external pressures that teachers may

experience that are related to standardized test preparation or other measures

by which teachers or schools are rewarded or punished according to student


Ideal refers to a phenomena that is completely satisfactory or highly


An Integrated language arts curriculum occurs when a teacher blends as

many subjects as possible into a cohesive, meaningful whole. The topic for

integration typically emerges from a literary piece or basal reading story.

A linguistic-experiential reservoir (Rosenblatt, 1988) is a collection of past

experiences, past emotional states, prior readings of texts, previous experiences

with readings, present states, present preoccupations, and so on. Linguistic-

experiential reservoirs shape current reading.

Literacy is the state of being able to participate fully in a to-and-fro

interplay between a person and text that results in a coherent understanding.

Recursive in nature, being literate is being able to assume an appropriate stance

toward a text, to interpret the text or lived-through experience of a text, and/ or to

create a new text.


A literacy learning opportunity is a classroom event that affords students

an occasion for literacy development and may or may not result in students'

actual literacy learning.

A literacy learning chunk is a series of literacy lessons that are grouped

together by a common piece of literature or basal reading story. The length of

the chunk varies from class to class. Some teachers create chunks that last one

week or less, while others create chunks lasting several weeks.

Literature-based Instruction occurs when teachers base reading lessons

on a piece of literature instead of a basal reading story.

A participant stance is characterized by people using language to

complete an action, to explore possibilities, or to inquire about personally

relevant information. Numerous moves are possible in a participant stance, such

as "expressing an opinion," "wondering," "connecting a personal experience with

a topic," or "encouraging elaboration of a topic."

A spectator stance is characterized by people using language to answer

explicit questions or to discuss the literal plot of a text. There are limited

possibilities for speaking, including moves such as "asking a predetermined

question," "showing knowledge" or "evaluating responses."

A stance is a readiness to respond in a certain way.

A text may be the printed word(s), or the oral and/or nonverbal interaction

between or among two or more people.

A literacy transaction takes place between a person and a text, whether

the text is written, oral, or nonverbal. "Transaction designates an ongoing


process in which the elements or factors are, one might say, aspects of a total

situation, each conditioned by and conditioning the other" (Rosenblatt, 1978, p.

17). In a recursive fashion, a transaction occurs when a reader assumes a

stance, interprets a text, and responds to the text either during or after reading,

writing, or talking.


The purpose of this study was to explore 4 fourth-grade teachers'

perspectives on teaching literacy by relating their ideal conceptions of literacy

learning to their enacted curriculum. Using teacher and student interviews,

classroom observations, and verbatim transcripts of selected classroom

interactions, I analyzed each teachers' ideal and real literacy learning

opportunities and characterized the influences they felt on their literacy curricula.

This chapter presents the results of the first two interviews of each teacher and

focuses on the first research question "What are four selected teachers' ideal

conceptions of literacy and literacy learning?" Its purpose is to describe the ideal

literacy conceptions of each teacher and provide a basis for understanding the

differences between their ideal and real literacy curricula.

Although a rich, thick description of each teacher is my intent, a complete

analysis of all areas of literacy implementation was beyond the scope of this

study. For example, I did not gather data on teacher planning or on any

inservice instruction that took place during the study. I did, however, analyze

each teacher's ideal and enacted literacy curricula by using three aspects of

literacy learning: curriculum, roles of the teacher and the student, and

assessment. These three categories were developed during a preliminary

analysis of the teachers' responses after the first round of interviews and



observations because they stood out as important aspects of literacy learning for

the four participants. During the last round of observations and the third set of

teacher interviews, I conducted a "member check" (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, pp.

314-315) to confirm and correct various categories and influences that emerged

from the first phase of analysis. I explicitly asked the teachers about each

category in order to understand the teachers' perspectives more clearly.

Spectator and Participant Stances

In order to describe the enacted curricula I have employed two concepts

that need to be explained at the outset. As I have described it, literacy is a to-

and-fro interplay between person and text. This interplay between a reader,

speaker, or writer and a text shapes the literary interpretation (Rosenblatt, 1994).

In a reading or writing transaction, a person's stance, or readiness to respond in

a certain way will also shape the experience. In other words, a learner's stance

toward a text will determine the nature of an engagement, or the degree to which

the learner's interest is sustained. As Langer (1995) and others have suggested,

a higher level of engagement with a literary text deepens the understanding of

the text. For this study, I describe the nature of students' engagement with texts

(literary, verbal, or nonverbal) by describing the nature of the interactions

surrounding selected literacy lessons. How individual teachers approach

literature (their stance toward literature) plays a large role in determining how

students will respond to texts (Galda, 1990; Hickman, 1981; Rosenblatt, 1994).

My definition of text (which includes, but is not limited to, oral and nonverbal


transactions of two or more people) supports experts' findings on stance in the


I have employed the terms "participant" and "spectator" to characterize

classroom interactions, although these stances were originally characterized by

Britton (1993) to describe responses to reading and talking. As I use it in this

study, a spectator stance is characterized by a person interacting with a text as

an outside observer, similar to a spectator at a sporting event. I use the term

"participant" for times when students used language when they felt the need" to

act and decide (Britton, 1993, p. 105) and in order "to get things done" (Britton,

1993, p. 101). Within the "enacted" section, I will further describe both stances

as ways of understanding the nature of students' engagement with texts.

The second concept that needs clarification is my use of the term "event."

In the enacted section I have grouped together the classroom interactions that

had a logical beginning and ending as one way to understand a "grammar"

(Weade & Greene, 1989) of the lesson. I characterized an event as a series of

utterances by two or more speakers that ended when the subject matter

changed or the class made a transition to another content area. The events that

I identified are based on teachers' and students' stances while speaking, as I

could construe them. For my purposes in this chapter, I have used the two

terms, participant and spectator, as labels for the events that occurred during the

observed lessons.

During a "spectator event," teachers and students assumed a spectator

stance and used their language accordingly. The interaction pattern of a typical


spectator event was Mehan's (1979a) Initiate Reply Evaluate (IRE) interaction

pattern in which the teacher initiated a question, a student responded, and the

teacher evaluated the student's response. For example, in the following excerpt

from a spectator event Ms. Vaskey asked students to make general statements

about a list of words she wrote on the board from a novel they were about to

read orally:

[Note: In this and all transcripts that follow, "XXX" signifies
unidentifiable speech and ".. ." signifies words omitted for clarity. All
names are pseudonyms.]

[The teacher has drawn the students' attention to five words on the
board: 1. bewilderment, 2. miracle, 3. wondrous, 4. miraculous,
5. wonders.]

1. Ms. Vaskey: Pick out two and tell me how they are alike. Tawny.

2. Tawny: Two and four are spelled the same

[Ms. Vaskey writes "2 and 4 are spelled the same" on the board.]

3. Ms. Vaskey: What is the same about two and four that is spelled the
same? Lauren?

4. Lauren: Ummm. "m-i-r-a-c" is the same.

5. Ms. Vaskey: OK. Anything else that you see, either one of them?
[nods to David]

6. David: They talk about miracles.

7. Ms. Vaskey: [to David] Which ones talk about miracles? What

8. David: Two and four.

9. Ms. Vaskey: Two and four? OK. [writes "2 & 4 talk about miracles" on


This excerpt includes typical characteristics of a spectator event: an IRE

interaction pattern and students and teacher reflecting on language or being

"free to contemplate without the pressure of immediate action" (Galda, 1990). In

turns 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, Ms. Vaskey asked a question and called on a student. In

turns 2, 4, 6, and 8, the students answered her questions.

On the other hand, during a "participant event" students and teachers

used language as participants in order to do something, such as complete an

action, explore a possibility, or seek out personally relevant information. For

example, in an interaction about the story James and the Giant Peach, in which

a young boy must contend with wicked aunts, Ms. Price's students shared

personal reflections from their journals:

1. Chris: If I were James I would have run away to the closest house
and ask for them to help or if I could stay with them.

2. Ms. Price: So you would have gone to somebody else's house for
help. How many of you either chose to tell somebody or ask for

[Ten students raise their hands.]

3. Ms. Price: ... Ronnie?

4. Ronnie: If I were James, I would wait until they were asleep, and I
would climb out the window and go to the neighbors then and tell
the police.

5. Ms. Price: Okay, so you wouldn't call the police, you'd go! [laughs]
Good idea.

The students in this excerpt did not comment on the text as outsiders, as

they would have done in a spectator event. Rather, in turns 1 and 4 they

assumed the role of the main character and suggested possibilities for action, as


if they were participating in the story line. In turn 2, Ms. Price asked a question

that had multiple possibilities for answers. Students gave their opinions, first as

a group (turn 3), then individually (turn 5 and after). The students and teacher in

this excerpt actively used oral language to understand the text, to invite multiple

perspectives into the conversation, and to express their own opinions.

Introduction to the Teachers

The four teachers shared similar characteristics. They all had spent their

entire careers teaching in elementary schools in the southeast portion of the

United States. All four were females, and three of the four taught in the same

school. Although they shared certain qualities, each teacher was distinct.

Ms. Martin

At the time of the study, Ms. Martin had taught in the same elementary

school in grades two, three, and four in a small town of approximately 12,000

people, where she had been born and raised. She graduated from a nearby

state university and returned home to teach. She was 38 years old and had

been teaching at the suburban Madison Elementary School for 14 years, the last

two years in fourth-grade. Her principal nominated her as one of two

"exemplary" literacy teachers in the school. She was isolated from the other

three teachers in the study who taught at another nearby elementary school.

Her soft-spoken, happy demeanor created a quiet, pleasant atmosphere in her

classroom. According to the principal, 60-70% of Ms. Martin's students each

year were placed in her room because of parent requests. Ms. Martin

maintained a good reputation among students' parents and guardians, as


evidenced by the high number of parent requests and frequent parent volunteers

in her room. She regularly attended her students' extracurricular activities, such

as soccer games, cheer-leading competitions, and musical performances. She

said she did this because she enjoyed being part of her students' personal lives.

Ms. Martin saw literacy as being able to read and write. She described

her definition of literacy in the first interview:

Um, literacy, I think of the ability to read well and comprehend what you're
reading. And also be able to write, you know, respond to a reading.
Mostly when I do think of literacy, that's what I think of, reading.

This teacher also associated literacy ability with the likelihood of students'

successes in school. "I've seen what it takes to fit in, and be successful is to be

able to read, and I just associate that with being literate and having literacy." In

interview three, Ms. Martin repeated that success in high school depends on

literacy abilities developed in elementary school. She added that there was a

window of time in elementary school in which teachers could help students learn

to read and write, but in upper grades "they may not ever get a teacher that's

going to help them to catch up." Ms. Martin's definition of literacy, then, included

being able to read and write so that students could progress successfully through

school. When I asked her to explain the purposes of literacy in her classroom,

she said, "to gain the knowledge of whatever we are doing."

Ms. Price

The second teacher, Ms. Price, was in her late 40s and had been in her

present position for four years. She earned a bachelor's degree from a large

state university and before coming to her present position had taught in grades


two and five. The principal at Rolling Hills Elementary nominated her as one of

two "exemplary" teachers in the school. At the time of the study, she had taught

for 12 years in this rural school. Ms. Price had taken extra inservice training in

second-language acquisition principles. Consequently, the administration

typically placed English as a Second Language (ESOL) students in Ms. Price's

room. According to an office assistant, the principal placed all of the other

students in her room because of parents' requests. Ms. Price's colleagues

selected her to represent the school in the 1999-2000 Teacher of the Year

contest, and she finished among the top five teachers in the county. Her

talkative classroom had a lively, jovial atmosphere that stemmed from her

energetic personality.

Ms. Price described eight interrelated ideas about literacy:

Well, I guess most people think of literacy as being able to read at some
level. But I think it goes a lot farther than that. I think literacy is
being able to read, then that automatically leads to all those things that go
with it. The grammar so you'll understand what you're reading, vocabulary
and the different comprehension skills. And it leads to spelling. It leads
right away to writing, because if there was nothing written, there would be
nothing to read.

So it goes to all of those, but it goes beyond that. It goes into some
creativity, particularly when you get into writing. Also when you're reading,
to be creative in your thinking. It goes to problem solving and logic,
because to understand what an author is saying is sometimes like a
puzzle, and you have to try to figure out what they mean and where
they're going and why they're doing it.

So, I think it's a much broader and more encompassing subject
than simply "Do they know enough phonics to be able to call words?"
Which is, I think, what a lot of people would say literacy is.


Ms. Price's personal definition of literacy built upon a base of reading and

writing, but extended and refined a "reading and writing" explanation. She

based the first six aspects of her literacy definition on skills that may be easily

evaluated on a standardized test. However, the last two aspects of her definition

broadened to include creativity and problem solving, two higher-order thinking

skills (Bloome, 1975) that are often hard to assess. Clearly, Ms. Price

understood literacy as a complex phenomenon. She also acknowledged that

other educators might define literacy as simply "Do they know enough phonics to

be able to call words?" She admitted that they might argue with her broad

definition of literacy.

According to Ms. Price, the purpose of literacy instruction in fourth-grade

was to learn and grow as a person. She revealed that, to her, literacy learning

"opens the door for everything." She also reported that she was convinced that

her teaching performance could greatly affect her students' future lives.

Ms. Vaskev

At the time of the study, Ms. Vaskey, one of the teachers nominated as

"average" by her principal, had been teaching for seven years. She graduated

from a small, private college in the southeast and felt prepared for her first

teaching position only because she worked as a teacher's assistant for eight

years before graduating from college. "I had the experience of having teachers

around me that I could observe and work with.... [So] working and subbing and

doing a lot of things" prepared Ms. Vaskey for her teaching career. She also

credited Ms. Martin, one of the so-called "exemplary" teachers in the study who


taught at a nearby school, for helping her learn about teaching, because she

served as an intern in Ms. Martin's classroom before graduating from college.

Ms. Vaskey's quiet classroom at the rural Rolling Hills Elementary seemed to be

run with military-like precision. From my field notes on the third day of my

observations is my notation about the atmosphere in her room:

It's almost eerie how quiet the students work in this room. At first, I
wondered if my presence here was the cause of the stillness. Now that
I've been in the room three days, I think that Ms. Vaskey has "trained" the
students to be so quiet.

Even so, the class erupted in laughter at times, as a result of Ms. Vaskey's rare

but humorous wit.

Ms. Vaskey's definition of literacy was based on comprehending printed

text. She said, "literacy is reading and understanding what you read." She went

on to say that if students do not love reading, "you have to have someone to get

you interested in the love of reading. Just reading itself and delving into the

characters and why they are the way they are."

Ms. Vaskey's purpose for reading and writing in her fourth-grade

classroom closely related to real-world tasks that students may have to

accomplish outside of the classroom.

I relate writing to business; I relate writing to home. I think it's important
that they understand a story and be able to write about the characters,
write about the setting, and the actions, and comparing and contrasting
the different stories of a particular unit--seeing how the characters react..
.. I tell them that expository writing would be convincing your parents that
you want that Nintendo game.


Ms. Donaldson

The fourth teacher in this study, Ms. Donaldson, had taught only three

years at the time of the study. She both interned and accepted her first teaching

position at rural Rolling Hills Elementary School. Her principal nominated her as

an "average" literacy teacher. She admitted that managing students' behavior

was the most challenging part of learning to teach, because "you have to learn

when you get in here what works for you." The atmosphere in her room clearly

showed her attention to classroom management. Her students were compliant,

and on the rare occasions that they did not follow the class rules, Ms. Donaldson

quickly reprimanded them.

Ms. Donaldson said that literacy was

everything all combined. The reading, writing, and language all combined,
because you're going to have to have language skills to write; you're going
to have to have the writing skills to be able to read. The writing--the
reading skills to be able to write. So, I think it has to be everything all
combined together.

In her integrated definition of literacy, Ms. Donaldson implied that reading

and writing are interconnected and inform or support one another. She went on

to say that "the kids that are low readers are low writers," elaborating her

conceptions of the link between reading and writing even further.

According to Ms. Donaldson, the purpose of literacy instruction in fourth-

grade classrooms was to develop students' writing abilities for the future.

"They're going to have to succeed in life. They're going to have to write when

they go for a job interview, or to get into college they're going to have to be able

to write." She also said that reading is important because "there's no place you


can get by without reading." She described the importance of practice and said

"That's the deep down purpose-to get better at it so you can succeed."

Summary of the Four Teachers

In sum, all four teachers connected literacy with future successes or

failures. Although they basically agreed on the purposes for literacy instruction,

all four had slightly different definitions of literacy. (See Table 4-1) Ms. Martin

Table 4-1: A Comparison of Four Teachers' Definitions and Purposes
of Literacy
Teacher Definition of Literacy Purpose of Literacy
Ms. Martin being able to read, to gain knowledge of
comprehend, and respond concepts in school
to a reading
being able to write

Ms. Price being able to read, know to learn and grow as a
about grammar, person
comprehend what is read,
spell words correctly, write,
use creativity, solve
problems, and use logic

Ms. Vaskey being able to read and to succeed outside of school
understand what is read

Ms. Donaldson being able to read, write, to develop students' writing
and use language skills abilities for the future

defined literacy as being able to read and write, while Ms. Donaldson described

the interconnected nature of reading and writing. Ms. Vaskey focused on

reading and comprehending written text, while Ms. Price described literacy as a

set of eight complex ideas--being able to read, understanding or knowing

grammar, developing vocabulary, using comprehension skills, spelling words

correctly, writing clearly, showing creativity, thinking creatively, and using


appropriate problem solving and logic abilities. Ms. Donaldson and Ms. Price

both characterized literacy as integrating several abilities into a coherent grasp of

text. On the other hand, Ms. Martin and Ms. Vaskey simplified the definition of

literacy and based it on reading. While all four teachers gave somewhat distinct

definitions of literacy, three of the teachers-Ms. Martin, Ms. Vaskey, and Ms.

Donaldson--had similar individual ideal conceptions of literacy. Ms. Price's ideals

differed from the rest.

Ideal Literacy Conceptions

To answer the question, "What are four selected teachers' ideal

conceptions of literacy and literacy learning," I relied on the responses from the

first two sets of teacher interviews. During the first round of interviews, I asked

each teacher to describe her ideal conceptions of literacy learning. In the

second interview my goal was to verify their ideal conceptions from a list of

critical issues I derived from the first set of interviews.

After repeated, close scrutiny of the transcripts from these interviews,

three aspects of literacy learning emerged that all four teachers addressed and

that seemed central to their views: curriculum, the roles of teachers and students

in the classroom, and assessment. This section will address these aspects of

the four teachers' ideal conceptions of literacy.

Ideal Curriculum

All four teachers agreed that "real" literature should be used in elementary

classrooms. What they did not agree on was the role that literature should play


in the ideal literacy curriculum and the organization of an ideal literacy


For example, Ms. Martin, a so-called "exemplary" teacher who was the

only teacher in the study at Madison Elementary, aligned herself with an

integrated, literature-based curriculum when she said, "instead of the basal

reader where they're reading short, little, partial, part of the story, the pieces of

stories, they actually feel accomplishment by reading a book." She went on to

say that

I think the children get an idea that they don't like to read because of what
we give them in the basal. And if they get the joy of learning from being
able to read a book that maybe they're interested in ... they're going to
want to read more, which is half the battle.

Further, she said that teachers should organize class time so that they could

meet with students individually and in groups according to their abilities. She

said that this organization could help lower-performing students raise their

reading levels.

Ms. Price, the other so-called "exemplary" teacher, also stated that

literature was the foundation for her ideal reading and writing curriculum.

However, she described literature-based instruction in which

everything comes back to one.... You are actually working on one
theme, but actually you are moving in a lot of--there's a lot of little circles
going around it, but they all come back to the one theme. So, you have
your main idea and all your little details sticking out from it.

Like Ms. Martin, Ms. Price also based her ideal literacy curriculum on

students' interests, saying, "if they are not interested in it, it doesn't make any

difference how well suited it is to their level. If they are not interested and it


doesn't attract them, then they are not going to read it." Instead of skill groups,

as Ms. Martin suggested, Ms. Price said that ideally "you would divide your class

into interest groups and choose books and let them each go in their own

direction." She said that during a class reading in an ideal literacy lesson, they

might "just stop and talk about something or notice something." She said that

"little things that hit you probably have more to do with literacy" than lessons on

isolated literacy skills. The two so-called "exemplary" teachers, Ms. Martin and

Ms. Price, both described a central role for literature in their ideal literacy

curriculum. However, Ms. Martin emphasized using skill groups to raise

students' reading levels, and Ms. Price emphasized grouping students according

to their interests.

In contrast, Ms. Vaskey and Ms. Donaldson, the two so-called "average"

teachers in the study, said that they would make use of the basal reading book

as the primary source of literacy instruction, using literature as enrichment.

Initially, Ms. Vaskey said that she would "get away from the textbook and really

get into more of the novels." Yet, when I asked her to describe an ideal literacy

lesson, she said that she would use the basal reading book because it is

supposedly easier because the teacher's book has the things that map
out everything. It has the comprehension questions, it has the skills that
go with the book, instead of me having to generate them.

Within her ideal literacy curriculum, Ms. Vaskey said that small class sizes

(no more than 25 students) would enable teachers to spend time with each

student individually in order to help them if they are "struggling with a different



Similarly, Ms. Donaldson, the least experienced teacher, said that she

would "build on those skills these kids don't have... and get them really solid

and then move on. And I think that you have to have that foundation of the

nouns and verbs before you can do anything else." Her ideal classroom setup

would include learning centers in which students could practice literacy skills.

She also said that an ideal classroom organization would pair higher-performing

students with lower-performing students. "That way, if the lower kids can't find

the answer they have someone there to go to and say, 'Where is this answer at?'

Help me find it."

Summary of ideal curriculum

The two so-called "average" teachers said that the basal reading book

curriculum was ideal for literacy instruction, while the other two teachers

maintained that a literature-based curriculum was an ideal foundation. They also

differed on the organization of an ideal literacy classroom. Ms. Martin, Ms.

Vaskey, and Ms. Donaldson believed that ability-grouping was best for literacy

development, but Ms. Price considered interest-grouping ideal.

Ideal Teacher and Student Roles

Ms. Martin and Ms. Price, the two so-called "exemplary" teachers, both

said that the ideal role of a literacy teacher was to integrate as many subjects as

possible in order to build on students' interests. Ms. Martin said the best efforts

of a literacy teacher are spent

taking a novel and letting your child read from the novel, tying everything
into that, um, that subject. And just working from there. Whatever it may
be. Whether it be math or social studies or health or science, go from that