AN EXPLORATION OF AUTHENTIC DISCUSSION IN THE BOOKTALKS OF A FIFTH-GRADE CLASS By XENIA HADJIOANNOU A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2003
Copyright 2003 by Xenia Hadjioannou
Dedicated to my parents.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The study of authentic discussions has been a long and fascinating journey. Numerous individuals and texts have inspired me and have helped me open my mind, broaden my perceptions and sharpen my observations. Here I thank just a few of the people who have aided me in this work in both direct and in indirect ways. I thank first the school, the faculty, and the studentsâ€™ parents who permitted me access to the class. I especially thank Ms. Enthis and her students for allowing me to observe and record their booktalks and for eagerly participating in the interviews I asked of them. They inspired me with their intelligent and witty interactions, and they taught me a lot about dynamic classroom communities whose members have the capacity to support and encourage each other towards cognitive, emotional and social development. In this work I attempted to capture something of the vibrancy, the language and the meaning making of this lively community. I also must thank my doctoral committee for their invaluable support through my doctoral studies, and especially during the process of conducting and writing up this study. In our numerous conversations, Dr. Fu offered ideas and options and helped me think critically about my assumptions. Dr. Pace challenged my thinking on issues of power and diversity and assisted me in exploring the complex issues of â€œtextâ€ and â€œintertextuality.â€ In addition, Dr. Webb always pushed me to see things through different lenses and, with our meetings, he helped me organize my thinking and reach new understandings. Above all, I must thank Dr. Jane Townsend, my committee chair, who iv
has been an ideal mentor, a wonderful co-wonderer and a dear friend. Her valuable guidance through the data collection, data analysis and write-up processes was critical to the completion of this study. I also need to thank my student-led doctoral group for their encouragement and their thoughtful advice, and a number of great friends including Nancy, Nicole, Eri and Michael. Finally, I am grateful to my parents, my brother and my sister-in-law for always being by me even though they are half a world away. Their presence in my life made this endeavor possible. v
TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv LIST OF TABLES...............................................................................................................x LIST OF FIGURES...........................................................................................................xi ABSTRACT......................................................................................................................xii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 Authentic Discussion....................................................................................................1 Statement of the Problem..............................................................................................4 Purpose of the Study.....................................................................................................6 Significance of the Study..............................................................................................7 2 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE..................................................................11 Functions of Language...............................................................................................12 Using Talk to Teach and Learn in the Language Arts Classroom..............................17 Student Inquiry....................................................................................................19 Reader Response.................................................................................................22 Instruction in the Social Constructivist Language Arts Class.............................26 Research on â€œTypicalâ€ Classroom Interactions..........................................................31 Classroom Discussions...............................................................................................35 Research on Classroom Discussions...................................................................35 What Research Reveals about the Value of Discussion......................................39 Issues of Power, Distance, and Rank in Classroom Interactions................................41 Qualitative Case Study Research................................................................................45 3 METHODOLOGY.....................................................................................................47 Introduction.................................................................................................................47 Setting and Participants..............................................................................................48 Selection of Setting and Participants...................................................................48 Description of Research Setting and Participants...............................................50 Pilot Study..................................................................................................................53 Data Collection and Analysis.....................................................................................55 vi
Classroom Observations......................................................................................56 Audiotaped and Videotaped Classroom Discussions..........................................59 Interviews with Focal Participants......................................................................62 Interview with the participating teacher.......................................................62 Interviews with focal students......................................................................63 Analysis of the interviews............................................................................65 Validity and Reliability of the Study..........................................................................66 Summary.....................................................................................................................68 4 NEGOTIATING MEANING IN A CLASSROOM COMMUNITY........................70 A Glimpse into the Classroom....................................................................................71 The Four Booktalk Sessions.......................................................................................75 Session One.........................................................................................................77 Session Two.........................................................................................................78 Session Three.......................................................................................................80 Session Four........................................................................................................82 The Four Sessions in Synopsis............................................................................85 Summary..............................................................................................................88 The Texture of Talk in the Four Booktalk Discussions..............................................89 Patterns of Discourse in the Four Sessions..........................................................89 Participant Moves................................................................................................96 Tries to initiate or refocus theme..................................................................99 Requests information/clarification/elaboration..........................................102 Provides information/clarification/elaboration..........................................103 Connects with written text..........................................................................105 Connects with experience/knowledge........................................................107 Reflects.......................................................................................................109 Expresses opinion.......................................................................................111 Is humorous................................................................................................113 Builds community......................................................................................115 Teacher-only moves...................................................................................117 Summary............................................................................................................124 Examining the Characteristics of Authentic Discussions.........................................124 Comparison of Teacher Move Percentages Between Authentic Discussion Episodes and Other Episodes.........................................................................127 Comparison of Student Move Percentages Between Authentic Discussion Episodes and Other Episodes.........................................................................133 The Purposes of Authentic Discussions............................................................137 Summary............................................................................................................140 5 PARTICIPATING IN AUTHENTIC DISCUSSIONS: A VIEW FROM THE INSIDE.....................................................................................................................142 Portraits of the Five Informants................................................................................145 Ms. Enthis..........................................................................................................145 Jay......................................................................................................................146 vii
Sapfo..................................................................................................................148 Mechanic...........................................................................................................151 Natalia................................................................................................................153 Summary............................................................................................................156 Examining Participantsâ€™ Perspectives.......................................................................157 Ms. Enthis..........................................................................................................164 Jay......................................................................................................................165 Sapfo..................................................................................................................167 Mechanic...........................................................................................................169 Natalia................................................................................................................171 An Overview of the Five Perspectives..............................................................174 Connecting with written text......................................................................179 Connecting with experience/knowledge....................................................180 Expressing opinion.....................................................................................180 Reflecting...................................................................................................181 Summary............................................................................................................181 6 CLASSROOM CONTEXT: A COMMUNITY AT WORK....................................183 Surround Context......................................................................................................186 Physical Environment........................................................................................186 Curricular Demands and Enacted Curriculum..................................................189 Weave Context..........................................................................................................191 Teacher Beliefs..................................................................................................191 Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about learning and the nature of knowledge...............192 Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about literary analysis/literature:.................................195 Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about teaching.............................................................197 Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about students as learners............................................202 Studentsâ€™ Beliefs about Discussions..................................................................204 Relationships Among Members........................................................................208 Ms. Enthis towards students.......................................................................209 Students towards Ms. Enthis......................................................................213 Among Students................................................................................................215 Humor and Playfulness......................................................................................219 Classroom Procedures.......................................................................................225 Explicit rules..............................................................................................225 Classroom management.............................................................................230 Norms of Class Participation....................................................................................234 Summary...................................................................................................................238 7 CONCLUSION: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM STUDYING AUTHENTIC DISCUSSIONS?.......................................................................................................240 Summary of Results..................................................................................................240 Limitations of Results...............................................................................................246 Implications for Educational Practice.......................................................................249 The Value of Authentic Discussions.................................................................249 viii
Increased comprehension of specific texts and enhanced quality of literary thinking.....................................................................................250 Increased pool of experiences and ideas....................................................252 Increased engagement and rarity of misbehavior.......................................253 Creating crossroads between the school, the peer and the home social spheres...................................................................................................255 Addressing issues of power and voice.......................................................257 Preparing students of participation in a democratic society.......................259 Internalizing the Speech Genre of Authentic Discussions................................260 Making Authentic Discussions Possible...........................................................263 Stance.........................................................................................................263 Linguistic behavior.....................................................................................265 Community.................................................................................................267 Implications for Future Research..............................................................................269 APPENDIX A CONSENT FORMS.................................................................................................273 Parent/Guardian Consent Form................................................................................273 Student Assent Script And Consent Form................................................................275 Teacher Consent Form..............................................................................................276 B FIELDNOTES SAMPLE.........................................................................................278 C SAMPLE OF CODED TRANSCRIPT....................................................................286 D INTER-RATER RELIABILITY CHECK................................................................290 LIST OF REFERENCES.................................................................................................304 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................314 ix
LIST OF TABLES Table page 3-1 Grassroot Elementary School: Statistics for the academic years 2000-01 and 2002-02*...................................................................................................................51 4-1 The four sessions......................................................................................................86 4-2 Number of turns by each student in the four sessions..............................................92 4-3 List of participant moves..........................................................................................99 4-4 Authentic Discussion episode presence in the four sessions..................................137 5-1 Abridged version of Participant Perspective Matrix for three authentic discussion episodes................................................................................................158 5-2 Focal studentsâ€™ perceptions of major issues in the authentic discussion episode â€œIs Artemis evil?â€...................................................................................................174 A-1 Sample fieldnotes from February 12 th ....................................................................279 C-1 Sample of coded transcript from session two.........................................................287 C-2 List of moves identified through discourse analysis..............................................288 x
LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1-1 Conceptual Framework of the study..........................................................................7 4-1 Comparison between teacher and student turns in the four discussions..................90 4-2 Comparison of number of transcript lines between teacher and students................91 4-3 Patterns of studentsâ€™ participatory acts in the four sessions.....................................93 4-4 What happens when a student attempts to make a contribution without having been invited..............................................................................................................95 4-5 Relationships between speech genres in the classroom.........................................126 4-6 Comparison of teacher move percentages between Authentic Discussion episodes and Other episodes..................................................................................129 4-7 Comparison of student move percentages between Authentic Discussion episodes and Other episodes..................................................................................130 4-8 Overarching purposes of the authentic discussion episodes in the four sessions...140 6-1 The classroom context as revealed through the data..............................................187 xi
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 AN EXPLORATION OF AUTHENTIC DISCUSSION IN THE BOOKTALKS OF A FIFTH-GRADE CLASS By Xenia Hadjioannou August 2003 Chair: Jane S. Townsend Major Department: School of Teaching and Learning The literature often suggests that classroom discussions where students have opportunities to express, consider and build on multiple ideas are beneficial for learning. However, studies of classroom discourse suggest that such interactions are rare in classrooms. This case study explored the speech genre of authentic discussions in the booktalks of a fifth-grade class where such discussions consistently developed. I observed the class under study for a period of five months, audioand video-recorded four booktalk sessions, and conducted a series of interviews with the classroom teacher and four focal students. Analysis of the classroom transcripts yielded nine overlapping moves common to the teacher and the students and four teacher-only moves. These findings indicated that the students had active and diverse participation and that the teacher performed a scaffolding role. A move comparison between authentic discussion episodes and more traditional episodes suggested that authentic discussions were characterized by moves xii
typically associated with abstract, complex thinking such as reflecting, expressing opinion, and connecting with experience and knowledge. An examination of the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues discussed in authentic discussions revealed a diversity of perspectives informed by the discussions themselves as well as by a wealth of experiences with literature and life. The student-participantsâ€™ responses bore striking similarities to their classâ€™ authentic discussions both in terms of stance and in modes of expression. The commonalities between the types of moves used in authentic discussions during booktalks and the kind of literary thinking revealed through the interviews suggest that the two might be related. The research also investigated the contextual features of the classroom community studied. The surround context involved a personalized and comfortable physical environment and a literature-based curriculum. The weave context indicated that the teacher held social constructivist beliefs, the students valued booktalks, there were amicable relationships among members, and classroom management was based on the rule of respect. The findings suggest that authentic discussions may be related to enhanced quality of literary thinking, increasing studentsâ€™ pool of experiences, improved student engagement, the creation of home-school connections, boosting student voice, and preparing students for democratic living. xiii
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Authentic Discussion A fifth-grade classroom, a group of students, a teacher and a book. It is almost guaranteed that there is going to be some talking. What is indeterminate, however, is who will be doing the talking, what the talking will be about, and what the purposes of that talking will be. In traditional classrooms teachers typically do most of the talking. They are most likely to be the ones to set the themes, to guide the discussion, to provide information, to suggest analytical or interpretive comments, to ask questions and to evaluate the quality and the â€œaccuracyâ€ of the comments put forth by the students. Nystrand (1997a) describes such instruction as â€œorderly but lifeless,â€ and goes on to claim that in other, more exceptional classrooms, â€œteachers engage their students in more probing and substantive interactions, and the talk is more like conversation or discussion than recitationâ€ (p.7). In these conversations, the patterns of interaction become more fluid, and teachers encourage students to take more active roles in the ensuing discussions, to initiate topics, to present divergent reactions, and to negotiate ideas in an effort to reach better understandings. This study focused specifically on these types of classroom interactions, which will be referred to as authentic discussions. Authentic classroom discussions come in direct contrast with what Bakhtin (1984) defined as pedagogic dialogue. According to Nystrand (1997a), pedagogic dialogue organizes and treats classroom discourse as a form of monologue where, as Bakhtin put it, â€œsomeone who knows and possesses the truth instructs someone who is ignorant of it 1
2 and in errorâ€ (81). Authentic discussions also differ from ritualistic interactive patterns where students participate in classroom discourse not because they really have something to state or ask, but just because they recognize that this is what their role as students demands (Lindfors, 1987). Through such participation, Mishler (1972) maintains, students â€œare demonstrating both that they are â€˜properlyâ€™ motivated and that they know the rules of this gameâ€ (p.273). Instead, authentic discussions can be defined as classroom interactions where conversants pursue authentically dialogic purposes: they invite the presentation of different ideas (Langer, 1995 & 1999; Rosenblatt, 1995; Townsend, 1991); they consider the multiple perspectives presented (Almasi, 1996; Applebee, 2002; Rosenblatt, 1995); they ask questions they do not have the answers to (Albritton, 1992; Kachur & Pendergast, 1997; Lindfors, 1999); and they deem othersâ€™ contribution as important to the construction of meaning (Bruner, 1986). Authentic discussions do not necessarily have a preordained conclusion (Albritton, 1992; Newkirk & McLure, 1992; Rosenblatt, 1995; Townsend, 1991) and they do not necessarily demand that a consensus is reached at the end (Applebee, 2002). Rather, the participants engage in verbal communication aspiring that the collective intelligence released during the communication and the negotiations that will occur will help them to progressively construct understandings that are more compelling than the understanding each participant had before the discussion (Bruner, 1986; Vygotsky, 1979). In general, the purpose of such interactions is not so much the transmission of truths from a knower to a not-knower, but a collaboration with others in order to co-construct meanings and reach better understandings.
3 Based on the above-presented descriptors of authentic discussion, I formulated a three-criterion operationalization of authentic classroom discussions, which focuses on substantial but observable characteristics, for the purposes of this research. More specifically, I defined authentic classroom discussions as interactions where participants (a) have opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas and perspectives, (b) where a wide array of participants present multiple ideas and perspectives, and (c) where the students' and teacher's contributions often build on ideas expressed by other participants in previous turns. The inspiration for this study originated at the meeting point between a personal frustration and an encounter with a fascinating view of language delineated by the work of Mikhael Bakhtin, Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner. The frustration stemmed from my own experiences as a student and as a teacher. As a student, I often found myself in educational situations where I did not ask questions I wanted answered and did not express wonderings I wished explored because I knew they were not welcome. As a teacher, I would, time and again, become aware of my students playing a teacher-pleasing game, where it was clear that their participation in classroom interactions was primarily motivated by a desire to successfully fulfill the social expectations of their student roles rather than by a personal interest in the issues at hand. During my early graduate studies, these semi-dormant frustrations were stirred by readings that portrayed the learner as an active constructor of meaning, made a case for the close relationship between language and cognition, and argued that verbal communication is a complex act that presupposes and recreates cultural norms and understandings (Bakhtin, 1986; Bruner, 1986 & 1990;
4 Vygotsky, 1978 & 1986). Based on these views, I became fascinated with the power of dialogue and with the potential of authentic discussion as an instructional tool. Statement of the Problem A substantial number of education theorists, researchers and practitioners agree that language is an essential component of student learning, especially when the students are allowed to express their ideas and negotiate meaning in discussion contexts (Almasi, 1996; Applebee, 2002; Bruner, 1986 & 1990; Gallas, 1994; Keene & Zimmermann, 1997; Langer, 1995; Lindfors, 1987 & 1999; Rosenblatt, 1995; Seifert, 1999; Silvers, 1999; Short & Burke, 1996; Short, Harste & Burke, 1996; Townsend, 1991; Vygotsky, 1978 & 1986). Authentic discussions provide a powerful milieu within which language can be used for facilitating studentsâ€™ development as learners. In this study, I examined authentic classroom discussions with the purpose of gaining insights into the texture of talk that characterizes their presence, the perspectives of individuals who participate in authentic discussions, and the contextual features of communities that foster them. Because of the prominence of whole class activities in classroom instruction, I selected to focus on whole class discussions. This decision was also supported by my interest in the role of the teacher as a participant in authentic classroom discussions, and in the possibilities of interactionally complex student participation during a type of classroom event that has traditionally been rigid and ritualized. In addition, I chose to focus on whole class rather than collaborative grouping events because, contrary to whole class interactions, researchers have documented that genuine discussions, powered by real dialogic purposes, are rather common in small group settings, especially when the teacher is not present (Dyson, 1993; Blair, 2000).
5 Additionally, I presumed that classroom booktalks were an appropriate focal point of attention in an exploration of authentic discussions because significant theory and research in the field advocate the use of literature discussions during reading (Almasi, 1996; Applebee, 2002; Keene & Zimmermann, 1997; Langer, 1995; Lewis, 2001; Rosenblatt, 1995). Such approaches stress the importance of personal response and personal expression, encourage the exploration of multiple universes of possibility (Bruner, 1986), and suggest the adoption of more democratic and diffused power structures within the classroom community (Dyson, 1993; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997; Rosenblatt, 1995; Young, 1990; Zeichner et al., 1998). Consequently, I felt that whole class interactional events within classroom booktalks could be fertile places for authentic discussion to be supported, nurtured, and exercised. However, relevant studies indicate that classroom interactions that can be identified as authentic discussions are rare in classrooms (Lindfors, 1999; Newkirk & McLure, 1992; Nystrand, 1997a; Short, Harste & Burke, 1996). The same studies state that teachers often dominate most classroom interactions, forcing students into passive roles that preclude making hypotheses, testing theories or drawing conclusions. Instead, they report, classroom interactions tend to be totalitarian (Holquist, 1990) and adhere to the recitation IRE â€œpedagogical contractâ€ identified by Mehan (1979) where student-teacher interactions follow the pattern of teacher Initiation, student Response, and teacher Evaluation. Given that I intended to study authentic classroom discussions in action, the challenge was to find a classroom where interactions that satisfied the three criteria of authentic classroom discussions presented earlier were relatively common. Once such a
6 classroom was found, I approached it with two major objectives in mind: to use this classroom as a setting for examining authentic classroom discussions in situ, and to draw on the findings from such an examination to make inferences about how other classrooms can benefit from the study of this community. Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study was to explore authentic discussion as it was realized in the booktalks of a fifth-grade classroom, in an effort to provide insight into its nature and identify its characteristics. Figure 1-1 diagrammatically represents the conceptual framework of the study. As seen in Figure 1-1, the speech genres of booktalks and authentic discussions are conceptualized as intersecting circles, signifying that the two can have coinciding interactional purposesan authentic discussion can be about books and a booktalk can involve dialogic purposes. At the same time, the areas beyond the intersecting region signify that authentic discussions do not necessarily have to be about books and booktalks can involve other interactional modalities beyond authentic discussions. In addition, Figure 1-1 denotes that understanding the speech genre of authentic discussions requires an awareness of the texture of talk characterizing authentic discussions, an understanding of the participantsâ€™ perspectives and an appreciation of the context of such interactions. Based on this conceptualization, this research focused within the framework organized by the following questions: 1. What was the texture of talk in the four recorded booktalk sessions and in their authentic discussion portions in particular? 2. What were the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues raised in authentic discussions? 3. What were the contextual features of this interactional community?
7 Figure 1-1. Conceptual Framework of the study. AUTHENTIC DI SCUSSI ON BOOKTALK Texture of Talk Participant Perspectives Significance of the Study Webb (1961) proposes three fundamentals that form the basis for good research problems: knowledge, dissatisfaction and generalizability. Even though Webb is primarily referring to experimental studies, his fundamentals seem to provide useful guidelines for designing significant studies. Webbâ€™s notion of knowledge asserts a need for researchers to have a thorough understanding of the theory and research in the general area of the issue to be studied. Such an understanding is invaluable as it can help to efficiently conceptualize the problem, provide researchers with the benefit of knowing â€œerrors of thought in the past,â€ (226), and, most importantly, help identify areas of the issue that have not yet been sufficiently examined.
8 As will be further discussed in chapter 2, professional knowledge about classroom discussions indicates that instruction that promotes the kind of classroom discourse that has been called substantive (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993), interactive (Nystrand, 1997a), and responsive-collaborative (Gutierrez, 1993) has been identified as instruction that promotes student learning (Applebee, 2002; Graves, 1983; Lindfors, 1999; Nystrand, 1997a; 1999; Rosenblatt, 1995). Therefore, theorists, researchers and practitioners have often recommended the study of classroom discussions, maintaining that understanding how they work can have important implications for instruction. According to Bakhtin (1986), language is a social tool that can only be studied in action. Therefore, it has often been argued that classroom language can be studied effectively only when it is examined while the members of classroom communities are using it (Cazden, 2001; Lindfors 1999). At the same time, Applebee (2002), Langer (1999 & 2001) and Keene and Zimmermann (1997) call for the study of effective classrooms. They assert that to better understand how effective instruction works and what elements of the studentsâ€™ classroom experiences promote learning, we must closely study exemplary classrooms. Previous research, however, has often used narrow definitions in efforts to identify the characteristics of truly interactive classroom discourse and to demonstrate its pedagogical effectiveness. Rather than studying the nature of classroom discussions in action within a qualitatively defined context, researchers like Zimmermann and Pike (1972) and Nystrand and Gamoran (1997) have frequently operationalized dialogic discourse into lists of criteria that, at the same time, include too much and exclude too much. When meta-analyzing incongruent results from the Nystrand and Gamoran study,
9 Kachur and Pendergast (1997) found that the form-focused criteria the original researchers used to identify dialogic instruction sometimes identified as dialogue-based classrooms that were not, while occasionally identifying as monologic instruction that was dialogic. Kachur and Pendergastâ€™s findings are consistent with Lindforsâ€™ (1999) and Short, Harste and Burkeâ€™s (1996) assertion that such lists oversimplify the concept of dialogue, and incorrectly identify conversations as dialogic, while, at the same time, they fail to recognize true instances of authenticity. Beyond oversimplifying research efforts, classroom discourse has been studied through qualitative studies like Cazden (1988), Heath (1983), Kachur and Pendergast (1997), Newkirk and McLure (1992), Mishler (1972), and Townsend (1991) that explored classroom interactions through detailed, holistic and context-sensitive explorations. These kinds of studies have often used classroom discussions as backgrounds for studying specific language acts such as wondering and inquiry. Even though those explorations provided valuable insight into various aspects of classroom discussions, there seems to be a definite need for studies that explore classroom discussion as a speech genre. Responding to the need for qualitative studies that explore discussions in effective classroom communities, this study sought to follow the tradition set by holistic and context-sensitive types of research mentioned above. Its goal was to provide insight into the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions and to help further untangle the interactional content of authentic discussions as well as the complex cognitive and social elements that frame them.
10 The second fundamental of a good research problem proposed by Webb (1961) is dissatisfaction . Even though Webb described dissatisfaction in terms of opposing established views within the discipline, I believe that dissatisfaction also applies to opposing prevalent practices. As will be further discussed in chapter 2, several researchers of classroom discourse like Cazden (2001), Mehan (1979), Newkirk and McLure (1992), and Nystrand and Gamoran (1997) report that the â€œunmarked patternâ€ or â€œdefault optionâ€ of classroom interactions seems to be the ritualistic IRE pattern. Given that this prevalent practice has been identified as a type of classroom discourse that is not particularly conducive to student learning, this study sought to explore an alternative to traditional classroom interactions by examining the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions. Finally, the last criterion asserted by Webb (1961) is generalizability . Naturally, the small number of participants dictated by the qualitative nature of this study does not permit claims of generalizability in the quantitative sense. Nonetheless, the researchâ€™s ungeneralizable nature does not signify lack of extensity. More specifically, this research aspires to respond to the need identified in Mosaic of Thought by Keene and Zimmermann (1997): In listening to conversation among educators and business people, Iâ€™ve become more and more convinced that in education, we donâ€™t benchmark enough. We find thousands of wonderful classrooms, pockets of excellence sprinkled around the country, but we rarely see those classrooms being studied and replicated. We rarely see the systematic spread of best practices. (53) The detailed and systematic examination of authentic discussions within a classroom community provided significant insights into the speech genre, which, as discussed in chapter 7, suggest several implications for educational practice.
CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE After all, our thought itself â€“philosophical, scientific, and artisticis born and shaped in the process of interaction and struggle with othersâ€™ thought, and this cannot but be reflected in the forms that verbally express our thought as well. (Bakhtin, 1986, 92) This project explores the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions by studying it in the context of the booktalks of a fifth-grade class. As my aim is to study a speech genre in situ, I begin by examining the theory related to language, its functions, and its relationship to learning. Through this examination, I situate the theoretical framework of this research study within the paradigm of social constructivism, and I use Bakhtinâ€™s theory of dialogism to conceptualize language and its functions. Because the specific focus of this research is on authentic discussions within a language arts class, I review literature that theorizes about the use of language in classrooms, and, more specifically, about the use of dialogic interactions within the sphere of language arts education. This review also discusses the concepts of student inquiry and individual response to literary text. Since this is a study of a classroom-based speech genre, I examine research that studied classroom interactions and, as my inquiry focuses on authentic discussions, I further concentrate my examination on research about â€œsubstantiveâ€ (Newman, 1990), â€œgenuineâ€ (Townsend, 1991), â€œdialogicâ€ (Nystrand, 1997a) classroom interactions and about their benefits to students. Finally, I discuss literature related to qualitative case study research, as this is the research method upon which the present study is based. 11
12 Functions of Language Studying the nature and function of a particular classroom-based speech genre like authentic classroom discussion demands a consideration of the nature of language and its function as a part of human experience, particularly in relation to learning. Saussurean approaches consider language a neutral medium that humans developed so that communication between individuals would become possible. Such a perspective looks at language as an instrument that enables the transmission of thoughts and ideas from one individual to another. However, cognitivist researchers and theorists of language have disputed this simplistic and value-free approach and have suggested that language is far more than a medium that enables communication. Such views are espoused by social constructivists like Mikhael Bakhtin, Lev Vygotsky, and Jerome Bruner, who propose that language is an instrument complex both in its structure and its functions, that is governed by an intricate web of social conventions and understandings, that enables the construction and the negotiation of culture, and that is closely related to cognition (Donaldson, 1979; Halliday, 1975; Holquist, 1990; Lindfors, 1987 &1999; Nystrand, 1997a; John-Steiner, 1997). As I discuss below, social constructivists argue that language is always social because any language act functions as a response to past or future acts, and because any utterance is by definition dialogic. Based on this view of social interaction as a linguistic process, the notion of intertextuality becomes significant as â€œa potential for making meaning located in language itselfâ€ (Bloome & Egan-Robertson, 199, 307). According to Bloome and Egan-Robertson, from a social semiotic perspective, intertextuality does not pertain only to juxtapositions between literary texts or even texts. Rather, they propose, intertextuality is a fundamental meaning-making process that operates on many levels
13 and in many ways including juxtaposition or mixing of content, registers, and genre types. From this perspective, â€œintertextuality describes one of the social (and cultural) processes involved in how people act and react to each otherâ€ (308). Bakhtin sets the background for the study of language as a social tool through his theory of dialogism. In dialogism, dialogue is perceived as a fundamentally â€œdifferential relationshipâ€ where different ideas are brought together (through speech or written text) to create meaning between conversants. In other words, in a dialogic relation â€œdifferences â€“ while still remaining differentserve as the building blocks of simultaneity,â€ and meaning, rather than being transferred from one conversant to the other, is viewed as a dynamic construction created between interlocutors as dialogue is played out (Holquist, 1990, 40). If the ideas the different participants have to offer are identical, then there is no reason for communication to occur. The notion of difference as the basis of dialogue epitomizes the concept of authentic classroom discussion, distinguishing it from classroom conversations where the interaction functions within what Goffman (1974) calls a frame of containment. In interfaces characterized by containment, the motivator for interaction is not difference nor the negotiation or exploration of that difference but the pursuit of concealed purposes. In the case of classroom interactions such concealed purposes frequently involve evaluating student knowledge and pleasing the teacher (Dyson, 1993; Lindfors, 1991; Mishler, 1972; Nystrand, 1997a). In contrast to these purposes, Bruner (1986 & 1990) proposes that dialogue is an essential function that allows individuals to satisfy a fundamental human need: the desire to share with others the objects of our attention. In Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Bruner (1986) suggests that in interacting with others, individuals not only express their
14 intentions but, at the same time, they become recipients and co-constructors of culture. More specifically, Bruner maintains that culture is a transacted entity and that, learning how to use language involves learning the culture of that linguistic community and learning to express meanings in accordance with that culture. Brunerâ€™s ideas regarding the relationship between language and culture provide a fascinating insight that ties in with Bakhtinâ€™s conception of the utterance being restrained by social rules for communication: that by learning a language, an individual is at the same time learning how the culture has organized experience, and how to express intentions in congruence with the culture. This means that through the acquisition of language, individuals also internalize the categories, the meanings, and the values of the culture expressed through that language. As a result, the individual acquires not only a means of expression, but also a way of thinking (Bruner, 1986; Lindfors, 1991). The connection between language and culture, as described by Bruner, is linked with a substantial body of research that examines issues of diversity in cultural ways with language. Such research projects (Ballenger, 1999; Boggs, 1972; Dyson, 1993 & 2003; Heath, 1982 & 1983; John, 1972) studied the school experience of non-mainstream students and made connections with the linguistic community from which they came. Their findings indicate that non-mainstream students face serious problems with their schooling when the school community assumes as universal the meanings and styles of communication characteristic of the mainstream culture. As Heath (1983) explicated in her seminal work Ways with Words, the styles of communication typically employed in classrooms belong to the culture of the â€œtownspeopleâ€ (white, middle-class America). This practice puts non-mainstream children at a disadvantage in school because (a) they
15 are unfamiliar with the desirable communication styles, and (b) the â€œways with wordsâ€ their culture has taught them are often deemed undesirable by the school culture. Brunerâ€™s conception of culture is supported by the fact that language is an arbitrary and conventional system. Because little about semantics and syntax is inherently logical, what enables linguistic communities to forgo the arbitrariness and the ambiguity of language and use it to communicate, is the fact that the members of each community have created and have come to share a set of conventional rules and understandings (Lindfors, 1987). These conventions govern what is said, how it is said, as well as what is not said because it is taken for granted (Goffman, 1974; Hymes, 1972). Consequently, each utterance uses socially agreed upon constituents to express personally intended and culturally accepted meanings by what is said and not said (Bakhtin, 1986). Given that the utterance is not a completely free act of choice (Bakhtin, 1986), the ability to successfully participate in the oral culture of a linguistic community largely depends on the ability to shape oneâ€™s verbal behavior in culturally appropriate ways. However, as Lindfors (1987) explains, this is a complex task, as different communicative situations demand the employment of different discourse styles. The communicative competence that allows individuals to adjust their discourse styles to different communicative contexts is related to the concept of speech genres proposed by Bakhtin. More specifically, Bakhtin (1986) suggests that every sphere where language is used is associated with â€œrelatively stable typesâ€ of utterances, which constitute a speech genre (p.60). Therefore, speech genres create expectations about what types of utterances are to be used while communicating within a specific social event (Lindfors, 1999). Authentic
16 classroom discussions are one such genre and one of the major purposes of this study is to identify the types of expectation associated with this genre (see chapter 4). The work of Bakhtin, Vygotsky, and Bruner regarding the function of language is inextricably related to their epistemological approach to meaning: that meaning is not an entity to be transmitted and assimilated, but a construction created interpersonally and intrapersonally through a dialogic process. As Bruner proposes, learning is a meaning-making process through which learners actively construct new ideas based on their past and present knowledge. Bakhtin suggests that the utterance, and thus meaning, exists between the conversants. Consequently, what is of interest is not neutral and impersonal language as it exists in dictionaries, but language in action. As Bakhtin (1981) aptly argues, the word â€œexists in other peopleâ€™s mouths, in other peopleâ€™s contexts, serving other peopleâ€™s intentionsâ€ (294). That is where we encounter it, have to make meaning of it, and use it to pursue our own intentions (Bakhtin 1981, Holquist, 1990). Beyond the view of language as a social instrument, Vygotsky, Bruner and Bakhtin agree that there is a very close connection between language and cognition. As Vygotsky (1978) phrased it, â€œthought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through themâ€ (p.218). Bakhtinâ€™s dialogism focuses on how dialogue shapes language and thought, relating how people make sense of the world with how they interact. Similarly, Vygotsky (1978; 1986) maintains that human learning, as it relates to higher psychological functioning, presupposes and is shaped by the use of language. He suggests that language is an important instrument in the individualâ€™s efforts to explore the world and posits that individuals use both expressed language and inner speech to do so (Vygotsky, 1978; Vygotsky, 1986; John-Steiner, 1997). The notion of using language to
17 explore the world is connected to the concept of inquiry, which will be further discussed in a subsequent section, because I believe that inquiry is a fundamental driving force of authentic discussions. In general, the work of Bakhtin, Vygotsky, Bruner and other social constructivists, has been crucial in establishing a new paradigm in the study of language, within which language is viewed as a tool fundamental both to the cognitive and social development of the individual, as well as to the existence and development of human culture. These perceptions inevitably bring classroom interactions to center stage in education, and especially in the field of language arts. As Cazden (1986) put it, â€œit is essential, therefore, to consider the classroom communication system as a problematic medium that cannot be ignored as transparent by anyone interested in teaching or learningâ€ (432). At the same time, based on the theorized relationship between language and learning, these theoretical approaches appear to suggest that there is significant pedagogic value in interactions that are dialogic in nature and that allow interactants to use difference as the basis of negotiating and constructing meaning. In other words, they appear to privilege discussions versus what Bakthin (1986) calls pedagogic dialogue. In the following section, I present literature that addresses the implications of social constructivist perceptions of language in the language arts classroom. Using Talk to Teach and Learn in the Language Arts Classroom As discussed in the preceding section, a social constructivist view perceives the individual as a constructor and negotiator of meaning, who is at the same time a participant and a re-creator of the culture within which s/he operates. This view has tremendous implications for education, as it discredits traditional perceptions that treat students as passive receptors of information and teachers as knowers whose duty is to
18 transmit knowledge to their students. Instead, the notion of the Zone of Proximal Development theorized by Vygotsky (1978 & 1987), Rogoffâ€™s (1990) view of children as apprentices in thinking, and the strategy of scaffolding proposed by Bruner (1986 & 1990) are central in instructional methods based on social constructivism. According to Vygotsky, at any given moment, an individual is at a point where there are certain tasks s/he can accomplish independently, and some other, somewhat more complex tasks s/he can accomplish with the support of a more knowledgeable other. The latter types of tasks are said to be located within the individualâ€™s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and, according to Vygotsky, that is exactly where the focus of the educational process should be. Inspired by the notion of the ZPD, Bruner proposed that the teacher should engage in scaffolding. During scaffolding, a teacher takes on Vygotskyâ€™s role of the â€œmore knowledgeable other,â€ models the task, and subsequently provides support that allows the learner to assume increasingly more control of the task being learned. Based on the notion of scaffolding, Rogoff developed the concept of guided participation, which involves a collaborative process between children and their caregivers, where background knowledge and present understandings are connected to foster new understandings, and where childrenâ€™s participation in activities is structured in ways that allow the assumption of increasingly skilled roles. A combination of these pedagogical recommendations with the previously presented discussion of social constructivist views on language, ascribes a central role to the use of language as a vital component of teaching and learning. Within the social constructivist paradigm the student is revealed as an active agent who uses language â€œto
19 connect with others, to understand his world, and to reveal himself within itâ€ (Lindfors, 1999, 14), and who plays a pivotal role in his/her cognitive and social development. These philosophical underpinnings have spawned approaches to teaching that strive to respect childrenâ€™s sense-making prowess and seek to use their natural yearning for understanding their world (Halliday, 1975; Lindfors, 1991; Smith, 1986). Based on the specific interests of this study, I will center the examination of these approaches on two different foci within the language arts classroom which, I believe, have the capacity to generate and support authentic discussions: student inquiry and reader response. I will then conclude this section with a presentation of instructional recommendations designed to support the development of studentsâ€™ literary thinking through discussions about text. Student Inquiry The recognition of students as active agents in their own learning has led many authors in the field of language arts and literacy, as well as in areas like science education and mathematics education, to consider the ways in which children use language to understand their world outside of school, and to try to connect these ways with school learning. A central idea in this examination has been inquiry, which can be defined as â€œa language act in which one attempts to elicit anotherâ€™s help in going beyond his own present understandingâ€ (Lindfors, 1999, 5). This definition encapsulates an abundance of crucial information regarding the nature of inquiry. First, it alludes to the intellectual since, through inquiry, the inquirer seeks to reach a higher level of understanding. Second, the definition reveals inquiry to be a socially oriented act. Inquirers turn to â€œanotherâ€ soliciting his/her cooperation to better understand the objects of their attention (Bruner, 1990). Finally, Lindforsâ€™ definition identifies inquiry as a language act. This means that the speaker is trying to â€œdo something with languageâ€; the individual is
20 actively creating a verbal message with a communicative intent, which, at the same time, seeks to bring the self in coexistence with the other, and reveal oneself and onesâ€™ intentions (Lindfors, 1987 & 1999; Rogoff, 1990). Even though inquiry is often equated with the use of interrogative forms, Lindfors (1999) points out that there are no distinct language forms, feelings expressed or types of content that are exclusively specific to inquiry acts. In general, it can be said that what makes inquiry distinguishable is stance. It is the kind of personal two-way turning that encompasses inquiryâ€™s threefold purpose: the social purpose of engaging anotherâ€™s assistance, the intellectual purpose of further increasing oneâ€™s understanding, and the personal purpose of expressing oneself. Recognizing the educational potential of inquiry as a powerful motivator and tool for learning, the challenge becomes to create a space for childrenâ€™s inquiry to flourish in school. In one such effort, Short, Harste and Burke (1996) collaborated with teachers to expand their definitions of literacy and create flexible curricula, open to the inquiries of students. As the authors themselves phrased it, â€œteaching is never about â€œgetting it right.â€ Itâ€™s about inquiry: using children as our curricular informants to continue to grow and learn as professionalsâ€ (4). Teaching, as it evolved in this project, adopted Yetta Goodmanâ€™s (1982) concept of â€œkidwatchingâ€ which requires that teachers learn to pay close attention to who their students are, what they know and what they are interested in, and use this knowledge to shape teaching practice according to studentsâ€™ needs. In this way, in Short, Harste and Burkesâ€™ project, curricular plans, and teaching practice were guided by a set of questions that sought to ascertain that: (i) engagement was built from the known and all voices were heard, (ii) students had adequate time to come up with
21 personally important inquiry questions, (iii) new perspectives were sought, (iv) differences were used as motivators for learning, (v) opportunities for sharing were provided, (vi) there was adequate support for the development of new inquiries, and (vii) structures for continuing conversations were in place (Short et al.,1996). Similarly, a number of exceptional practitioners (Gallas,1994 & 1995; Hammer 1995; Harvey, 1998; Mueller, 1997; Oâ€™Keefe, 1996; Paley, 1981 &1986; Pierce, 1999; Seifert, 1999; Whitin & Whitin, 1996) have reported their own efforts to support and facilitate student inquiry. These testimonies illustrate that effective nurturing of student inquiry demands an open-ended approach to knowledge, a genuine respect of and attention to the studentsâ€™ interests and the things that they really want to know about, as well as a creation of classroom structures that provide time and tools for studentsâ€™ inquiries to be pursued. Such structures included reflective reading and writing (Gallas, 1994; Paley 1981; Oâ€™ Keefe, 1996; Whitin & Whitin, 1996), explorers clubs or other supportive communities (Harvey, 1998; Pierce, 1999; Seifert, 1999), observing phenomena of interest (Gallas 1995; Harvey, 1998; Whitin & Whitin, 1996), inviting and sustaining wonderings and tentative thinking (Paley 1981; Whitin and Whitin, 1996; Hammer 1995; Mueller, 1997), sharing events (Gallas, 1994; Pierce, 1999; Whitin & Whitin, 1996) and active teacher reflection (Gallas, 1994; Oâ€™ Keefe, 1996; Paley 1981 & 1986; Pierce, 1999; Seifert, 1999). Inquiry-nurturing classrooms, as they were described in the aforementioned literature, appeared to be accepting and encouraging to exploratory talk, rough-draft talk, uncertainty, and tentativeness (Lindfors, 1990 &1999). The students and their teachers broke away from traditional, ritualistic patterns of classroom interactions and, at least on
22 some occasions, engaged in truly dialogic discourse where difference functioned as the basis of interaction. The participants actively recruited the collaboration of others to explore issues and acquire better understanding. It seems then that inquiry can be a valuable resource for authentic discussions, as it provides authentic reasons for dialogue to commence. Reader Response The 1940â€™s and 50â€™s gave rise to the tradition of New Criticism in literature, which, reacting to the historicism of the era, proposed close reading of literary text and argued against what new critics called the intentional fallacy, the affective fallacy and the heresy of paraphrase. More specifically, new critics argued that â€œmeaning exists in the words of the textâ€ and efforts to approach the text through its sociohistorical context, its authorâ€™s intentions or the effects it has on readers are unwise, as they â€œdraw attention away from the text itselfâ€ (Lynch, 2003). Carey-Webb (2001) reports that the evolution of new criticism into an â€œinstitutionalized traditionâ€ led to its reduction into a heavily structured, â€œsafe, mechanical method for teaching literatureâ€ (21). According to Carey-Webb, this form of new criticism became heavily influential in the teaching of English and it still, in many ways, defines American studentsâ€™ experiences in their English classes. Consequently, studentsâ€™ school experiences with literature are often governed by a form of intellectual tyranny. Especially in higher grades, students are required to read books that belong to the â€œnow much-abused traditional canonâ€ (Bloom, 2000, 29), and to talk about them in specific ways, noticing specific literary elements, and regurgitating predetermined â€œappropriateâ€ interpretations.
23 However, as Rosenblatt (1995) argues, â€œsound literacy insight and aesthetic judgment will never be taught by imposing from above notions of what works should ideally meanâ€ (33). Rejecting new critical approaches to literature, Rosenblatt and other theorists proposed the reader response approach through which the reader is assigned the central position in the process of interpreting literary texts. Suggesting that â€œa novel or a poem or play remains merely inkspots on paper until a reader transforms them into a set of meaningful symbolsâ€ (24), reader response theory views reading as a transactional relationship between reader and text. According to Rosenblatt, meaning, rather than being inherent in the text or the reader, is created in a transactional process between the reader and the text and, therefore, it is greatly affected by the â€œcapacities and experiences already present in the personality and mind of the readerâ€ (41). Criticizing school practices that emphasize efferent reading (reading for practical, information-gathering purposes) and disregard aesthetic reading (the affective, experiential aspect of reading) Rosenblatt (1982 & 1995) advises teachers to refrain from insisting on one analysis of a literary work, but instead to be open to multiple interpretations, and to encourage students to respond personally to texts. Similarly, Langer (1995) reproaches the unidimensional focus of school to logical, discursive approaches and calls for more attention to literary thinking through the exploration of â€œhorizons of possibilities, involving a melding of literature in life and life in literatureâ€ (29). This attitude reverberates with Brunerâ€™s (1986) philosophical position regarding not only the interpretation of literature, but also the comprehension of the human experience in general: It is far more important, for appreciating the human condition to understand the ways human beings construct their worlds (and their castles) than it is to establish
24 the ontological status of the products of these processes. For my central ontological conviction is that there is no â€œaboriginalâ€ reality against which one can compare a possible world in order to establish some form of correspondence between it and the real world.â€ (46) As Rosenblatt (1995) cautions, however, this approach by no means signifies an â€œanything goesâ€ attitude. Rather, she maintains, teachers must lead students towards further participation into what the text has to offer and help them to critically reevaluate their assumptions and preoccupations. In short, the message is that there is more than one reasonable interpretation, but some responses â€œare more defensible than othersâ€(75). According to Rosenblatt, acceptable interpretations consider â€œas many as possible of the verbal signs of the text,â€ and avoid â€œimply[ing] signs that are not present in itâ€ (109). Furthermore, Rosenblatt maintains that literature discussions can play a significant role in facilitating fuller and more adequate responses by students. The work of Rosenblatt and Langer on reader response is primarily concerned with secondary contexts. In Mosaic of Thought, a book that focuses on elementary education, Keene and Zimmermann (1997) use reader response theory as the basis for exploring the question of how young students become thoughtful, independent readers who show outstanding comprehension of what they read. Keene and Zimmermann base their analysis on the premise that an understanding of the characteristics of proficient readers can provide valuable implications for teaching. They report that proficient readers spontaneously generate questions before, during and after reading and they use the text as a resource for answering them. Through those questions, proficient readers seek to clarify meaning, to speculate about the written text and to contemplate the authorâ€™s intentions and perspectives. According to the two authors, the generation and pursuit of such questions serve in focusing the readersâ€™ attention and support another important
25 characteristic of effective readers: the metacognitive ability to monitor comprehension. As they phrase it: Proficient readers know what and when they are comprehending and when they are not comprehending; they can identify their purposes for reading and identify the demands placed on them by a particular text; they can identify when and why the meaning of the text is unclear to them, and can use a variety of strategies to solve comprehension problems or deepen their understanding of a text. (22) In addition, Keene and Zimmermann maintain that competent readers understand the importance of questions in life and they tend to value other peopleâ€™s questions as beneficial to their own thinking, inspiring new questions and ideas. Finally, the authors report, proficient readers understand their role as interpreters of text and realize that the text will not provide them with all the answers. In order to support students in becoming proficient readers, Keene and Zimmermann (1997) suggest the establishment of literature-rich classrooms where students participate in reader workshops. They advocate thorough instruction in the strategies proficient readers use, and they propose literature discussions in which students are encouraged to respond personally to the books they are reading, to ask questions, to create sensory images, to make connections to their knowledge and experience, and to synthesize ideas from various sources. The emphasis on personal responses to literature and the exploration of multiple interpretations advocated by reader response theory, appear to be pointing towards classrooms where authentic discussions are not only tolerated but also welcomed. As the transmission of the correct interpretation of a text is not at issue, then the purpose of the class becomes the communal exploration of universes of possibility through conversations that are fundamentally dialogic.
26 Instruction in the Social Constructivist Language Arts Class Social constructivist approaches tend to produce instructional methods that focus on processes rather than products and put language in central focus. The theoretical views presented in the previous sections of this review advocate opportunities for students to read ample literary works of high quality, to consider literary text both through efferent and aesthetic lenses and to participate in the construction of knowledge, and suggest that both the teacher and the students should hold power. Keene and Zimmermann (1997) and Rosenblatt (1995) stress the importance of students having substantial and meaningful experiences with quality literature the students can relate to. On this issue Rosenblatt notes, â€œit is not enough merely to think of what the student ought to read. Choices must reflect a sense of the possible links between the materials and the studentsâ€™ past experience and present level of emotional maturityâ€ (42). Rosenblatt addresses the issue of low quality literature and, while acknowledging its escape value for readers, she points out that over-reliance on it leaves the reader less able to deal with reality, as such works tend to present oversimplified views of problems and characters and thus portray a false image of life. Therefore, Rosenblatt suggests, while it might be useful to discuss some examples of poor fiction in class, it is necessary to supply more wholesome and challenging literature to students. In Essentials of Childrenâ€™s Literature, Tomlinson and Lynch-Brown (1996) review various literary genres and maintain that it is vital that students get exposed to a variety of genres, authors, forms and styles of literary works as well as works representing a variety of cultural backgrounds. At the same time, they stress the importance of the extensive presence of quality literature in classrooms. They suggest that teachers can select exceptional childrenâ€™s literature books by attending to the worthiness and freshness
27 characterizing the feelings and ideas they incorporate; by how rich, multi-layered and imaginative their writing is; and by how honestly they present the world through a childâ€™s perspective. In addition, the two authors propose that nationally recognized awards like the Newberry and the Caldecott, as well as resources like the Horn Book can provide worthwhile suggestions for exceptional books. At the same time, Tomlinson and Lynch caution against books that talk down to children or books that do not include appropriate experiences for the studentsâ€™ level of maturity. Similarly, DeKay (1996) presents a number of characteristics of high quality literature various theorists seem to agree on. Some of the most prominent characteristics she mentions are the use of â€œrich and multi-layered languageâ€ (14), the textâ€™s experiential power (ability to evoke rich experiences), and the textâ€™s pragmatic value (its ability to hold interest and be enjoyed by readers). According to Harwayne (1992), Harwayne et al. (1998), and Langer (1995) simply having quality books is not enough. As Langer put it, â€œUnfortunately, the move to develop literature-based instruction across the curriculum has sometimes focused more on appropriate materials than on ways to nurture studentsâ€™ explorations of horizons of possibilitiesâ€ (131). Quality books must find their way to students through the development and implementation of literature-based curricula as well as through making them accessible to students in independent reading contexts. However, it is also important for students to have classroom experiences that support and nurture their development as effective readers. A number of instructional strategies including book clubs, literature circles, read-alouds, idea circles, and classroom drama have been developed within the theoretical
28 framework created by reader response theory in particular and social constructivism in general. What seem to be common elements of all those strategies are: the importance ascribed to talk about text, the centrality such talk occupies in the instructional practices they involve, and the focus on efforts to facilitate and support student participation in those conversations. In a review of recent studies regarding high risk student populations that consistently demonstrated above-expectations reading achievement, Taylor and Pressley (2000) report that there seems to be a consensus across studies that student achievement is enhanced when actual reading of text is emphasized, when students are given the opportunity to discuss what they are reading, and when teachers emphasize higher order thinking (analysis and synthesis) as well as â€œdeep understanding rather than literal comprehension of textâ€ (5). In addition, the studies of effective teaching Taylor and Pressley reviewed appear to suggest that effective teachers explicitly teach comprehension and other skills as a response to current student needs (not because it is the next skill in the book) all the while showing a preference to coaching rather than telling, which was reportedly the strategy of choice of least accomplished teachers. Langer (1995, 1998 & 2001) suggests that envisionment building (â€œthe world of understanding a person has at any point in timeâ€ (Langer, 1995, 9)) should be at central focus when teaching language arts. She maintains that to nurture and support studentsâ€™ literary thinking, teachers must view students as lifelong envisionment builders who have the capacity to think competently. Along with this attitude, teachers need to be kid-watchers who listen carefully and attentively to their students, who treat questions as part of the literary experience, who understand class time as time for building understanding,
29 and who view multiple perspectives as enriching to interpretation. In addition, Langer argues that it is vital for teachers to move away from practices that view â€œthe acquisition of facts and skills, the replication and recitation of plot summaries, titles, and authorsâ€™ meaningsâ€ as the signs of successful students (Langer, 1995, 55). Instead, she proposes that â€œthe goal is to help students become involved in literary discussions that are real, that share the social features and patterns of thoughtfulness that are evidenced when â€˜realâ€™ people discuss literature in everyday life outside of traditional classroom contextsâ€ (40). In pursuing this goal, Langer (1999) suggests, teachers must provide two kinds of instructional support to their students as they are interacting with them: â€œsupport for â€˜ways to discusâ€™ and for â€˜ways to thinkâ€™â€ (20). Langer (1995 & 1999) bases her recommendations on Vygotskyâ€™s (1987) notion of the Zone of Proximal Development and Brunerâ€™s concept of scaffolding. These theoretical underpinnings also constitute the basis of Cairneyâ€™s (1996) work, who suggests that language arts teachers should base their instructional practice on the concepts of scaffolding and of apprenticeship (proposed by Rogoff, 1990) and must use shared readings, group and individual conferences, discussions about texts being read, mini-lessons addressing studentsâ€™ needs, sharing events and modeling of responses to text. According to Cairney, such teacher functions can raise studentsâ€™ interest in literacy and can support them as they are developing as readers and writers. Vogt (1996), who bases her work on the Vygotskian view that language use is essential in studentsâ€™ learning and cognitive development, maintains that in effective classrooms â€œwhere students are encouraged to talkâ€ responding to reading and writing through â€œmeaningful discussionsâ€ is a fundamental classroom element (181). Vogt
30 suggests the establishment of response-based classrooms where â€œstudents construct meaning from what they read through articulating their responses by writing or talkingâ€ (182). In addition, she goes on to assert that â€œthese responses, though individual and personal, are clarified, altered, strengthened, and enhanced when they are shared with others, and variety and approximation rather than correctness are the desired outcomesâ€ (183). Vogt acknowledges that in order for literature discussions to be successful, they need to be competently organized and monitored by teachers, and students need to have the necessary social skills (active listening, turn taking rules, disagreeing appropriately) that will enable effective participation. In addition, drawing from recent research studies conducted by CELA (Center on English Learning and Achievement) on effective schools, Applebee (2002) provides suggestions for approaches to curriculum and instruction that, when combined together, can provide a positive support for student achievement. The suggested approaches include â€œengaging students in higher-order talk and writing about the disciplines of Englishâ€ (30), â€œensuring the cohesiveness of curriculum and instructionâ€ (31), using diverse perspectives to deepen discussion and enhance learningâ€ (32), â€œaligning curriculum with assessmentâ€ (33), â€œscaffolding skills and strategies needed for new and difficult tasksâ€ (33), and â€œproviding special help to struggling readers and writersâ€ (34). Language is highlighted as a vital component of all approaches, and extensive talk about text is particularly central in the approaches of higher-order talk and of using diverse perspectives. As far as higher order talk is concerned, Applebee (2002) reports that, across CELA studies, effective classrooms tended to involve activities that challenged students to think critically about what they were reading, to draw and support
31 inferences, and to present and defend those views and inferences in classroom discussions. Applebee goes on to note a close connection between the approach of higher order talk and the approach of diverse perspectives. While recognizing that, in many classrooms, difference is feared as a disruptor of consensus, Applebee explains that difference is not only inevitable (even among the most homogeneous group) but also extremely valuable because in the presence of different perspectives, â€œstudents are more likely to learn to argue and defend their own points of view,â€ and â€œthey must learn to listen and understand, to muster arguments and evidence, and to accept that the difference that remains is a natural part of a democratic societyâ€ (32). Research on â€œTypicalâ€ Classroom Interactions The theorists, researchers and practitioners whose work I have reviewed so far agree that language is an essential component of student learning, and envision the communicational context of classrooms as a forum where the participants are expected to bring in their ideas and experiences, and to honestly engage in a common dialogic endeavor to deal with the issues at hand. In such an environment, knowledge is viewed as a social construction, the presentation of multiple perspectives is celebrated, and the power to affect the conversation is distributed among the participants (Bruner, 1986 and 1990; Cairney, 1996; Gallas, 1994 & 1999; Lindfors, 1990, 1991 & 1999; Langer, 1995 &1999; Rosenblatt, 1995; Seifert, 1999; Silvers, 1999; Short & Burke, 1996; Short, Harste & Burke, 1996; Vogt, 1996; Vygotsky, 1978 & 1986). However, many researchers report that this kind of authentic discussion is absent from a disturbingly large number of classrooms. Instead, they testify that, in general, students are forced to assume passive roles in inauthentic interactions, and are not
32 allowed to pursue their personal wonderings during class time (Hammer, 1995; Lindfors, 1999; Newkirk & McLure, 1992; Nystrand, 1997a; Short et al., 1996). Summarizing research on classroom interactions Lindfors (1987) writes: What does this research tell us about classroom talk? It will probably come as no surprise to you that it tells us that (1) teacherâ€™s talk dominates; (2) teachersâ€™ talk is high in known-answer questions, in evaluation, and in control; and (3) the most usual interations pattern is teacher initiates. student responds, and teacher evaluates studentâ€™s response (called the IRE pattern, Mehan 1979). (383) In the study mentioned by Lindfors, Mehan (1979) examined lesson structure in a primary classroom and identified a pattern common in traditional classrooms. Mehan found that in the â€œopening phase,â€ the event taking place is identified as a lesson, and in the â€œinstructional phaseâ€ that follows, academic information is exchanged. Finally, in the â€œclosing phaseâ€ the participants reformulate the lesson experience and prepare to move to another activity. Mehan, found that these â€œlargerâ€ events contain organized sequences of the traditional Initiation-Response-Evaluation contracts. Such contracts limit students to reactive rather than active and interactive roles, and render classroom discourse evaluative rather than truly dialogic. Concerned with the apparent existence of a norm against student questions, Dillon (1981) pursued the inquiry â€œwhy students do not ask questions when in fact they have questions to askâ€ (136). The preservice teachers who responded to Dillonâ€™s questionnaire indicated that students did not ask questions because (i) the inquiry was not adequately important or pressing, (ii) the teacher or the situation at hand disallowed questions and (iii) they were afraid of negative reactions from the teacher or their classmates. Interestingly, the responders reported that this fear was often related to previous negative experiences involving themselves or classmates. In a later study on student questions in twenty-seven classrooms, Dillon (1988) found that student questions were extremely rare,
33 and that, in contrast, teachers engaged in a question-posing barrage. Dillon questioned the pedagogic soundness of the overgenerous use of questions by the teachers and suggested that, through their constant questioning, teachers created a position of power for themselves in classroom discourse and forced students into passive roles. Similarly, Tharp and Gallimore (1988) report that most questions asked by teachers are closed-ended questions that seek a yes or no answer, and that teachers typically do not comment or elaborate on student utterances, unless the student has given an incorrect answer. Mishler (1972) describes an analogous situation in the verbal interactions between a first-grade teacher and her students. In those interactions, the teacher established herself as separate from the group, and retained tight control of the conversation. Her questions were posed in ways that indicated that she possessed the one correct answer and that classroom discourse was a convergent cognitive process, aimed at guessing those answers. Furthermore, in a two-year study of fifty-eight eighth-grade and fifty-four ninth-grade English classes, Nystrand and Gamoran (1997) found that â€œclassroom discourse was overwhelmingly monologicâ€ (33). The researchers reported that the teachers asked nearly all the questions and that few of those questions were authentic. In addition, they found that the prevalent verbal event was teacher lectures, whereas discussions lasted for about fifty seconds in ninth-grade and fifteen seconds in the eighth-grade. Such practices render classroom discourse monologic and strive to silence any voices that diverge from the predetermined script. That is problematic, because as Bakhtin (1984) points out, â€œin an environment of monologism the genuine interaction of consciousness is impossible, and thus genuine dialogue is impossible as well. In
34 essence, idealism knows only a single mode of cognitive interaction among consciousnesses: someone who knows and possesses the truth instructs someone who is ignorant of it and in errorâ€ (in Nystrand, 1997a, 24) Furthermore, Albritton (1992) suggests that the communication that typically occurs in classrooms is not honest or genuine. He writes: I hear my own fakery all the time. Questions sent out to catch students off guard, or to fish for answers I already knew. I see it in the exams I write, and in the daily plans I construct. And I have begun recognizing ways in which I tease my students into the â€œrightâ€ answers during class â€œdiscussions,â€ ways in which I profess beliefs disguised as facts disguised as rhetorical questions disguised as real questions. (p.91) The problem with such interactions is that the students internalize the socially constructed knowledge that the teacher has the answers, that the teacher has a goal to reach, and that this goal needs to be reached as soon as possible (Albritton, 1992; Kachur & Pendergast, 1997; Lindfors, 1999). Therefore, there is no reason for the students to hypothesize and argue for what they think might be a satisfactory resolution of the issue at hand. There is no reason for students to talk among themselves, to offer alternative solutions, or to build upon an idea presented by somebody else. Often, even in supposedly open-ended interactions, where the teacher is willing to accept more than one answer, there is a preferred answer and this preference is evident in the teacherâ€™s demeanor. When they identify the teacherâ€™s invitations as dishonest, many students are likely to refuse to indulge the teacher (Kachur & Pendergast, 1997). Under such circumstances, student input is not appreciated as being worthy of consideration or analysis. It is merely assessed in the spirit of a traditional content-oriented evaluation, which values only contributions that lead closer to what is accepted as the to-be-taught body of knowledge. In this way, instead of nurturing inquiry and studentsâ€™ original
35 thought, classrooms seem to be places where originality and genuine desire for learning are condemned as counterproductive, since they do not necessarily lead towards the intended content (Hammer, 1995; Kachur & Pendergast, 1997; Lindfors, 1999). What is even more disturbing is that teachers do not simply neglect fostering authentic discussion. Through the traditional classroom practices described above, schooling appears to stifle childrenâ€™s curiosity and their natural thirst for learning. Lindfors (1987) presents several sets of data that suggest that instead of learning, the main concern of students in school settings is â€œto do what you are â€˜supposed to doâ€™â€ (p.287). As Lindfors points out, the deep desire of children to understand the world around them gradually disappears from their classroom lives. As they move along through the grades, students learn that the classroom is not an appropriate environment for expressing their curiosity or for requesting assistance in making sense of things they find nebulous or intriguing. Classroom Discussions Research on Classroom Discussions Given that authentic discussions, as they were defined for the purposes of this research, appear to be rare in classrooms, it is interesting that discussions are often claimed to be present in practically every language arts classroom. Teachers plan for â€œdiscussionsâ€ on literary works, on writing and even on grammar and spelling, and they hold such events believing that they indeed are discussions. However, as Lindfors (1987), Albritton (1992), and Kachur and Pendergast (1997) point out, the concept of discussion has been grossly misused to denote interactional events that are, in fact, monologic. Often, the only criterion used to label a class event as a discussion is student participation, regardless of the purposes actually pursued by the participants.
36 I believe that classroom interactional events that can be identified as discussions need to satisfy much more demanding criteria. As Almasi (1996) put it â€œdiscussion supposes cognitive engagement to the extend that the participants are actively involved in a dialogic conversation with one another rather than passively reciting answers to questions that may not be personally meaningfulâ€ (2). In other words, discussions need to be truly dialogic, in the sense suggested by Bakhtin: they must invite the presentation of multiple perspectives, thus creating a truly differential relation (Langer, 1995; Rosenblatt, 1995); they must ask â€œhonestâ€ questions with the purpose of receiving honest, informative answers (Albritton, 1992; Kachur & Pendergast, 1997; Lindfors, 1999); and they must value and use the contribution of others as a vital component to the construction of meaning (Bruner, 1986). Actually, one essential reason why the term authentic discussion was coined for the purposes of this study was my desire to differentiate the speech genre to be studied from the inauthentic, monologic classroom events that lack the aforementioned characteristics but are often called â€œdiscussions.â€ For the same reason, as mentioned in chapter 1, in this study, I established and used a functional, criterion-based definition of authentic discussions which terms authentic classroom discussions as interactions where: (a) the participants have opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas and perspectives, (b) a wide range of participants offer multiple ideas and perspectives, and (c) the teacher and students often use ideas offered by other participants to construct their own contributions. Beyond the misuse of the term discussion in everyday practice, researchers of classroom discussion have also made comparable errors, by adopting inadequate definitions of discussion for their research purposes. Especially when involved in large
37 scale research projects, researchers are hard pressed to operationalize their basic concepts into lists of observable behaviors. However, such operationalizations are often invalid instruments as they focus on the form rather than the functions of language (Halliday, 1975; Lindfors, 1999). In a study of more than one hundred middle and high-school classes, Nystrand and Gamoran (1997) focused on question-answer exchanges and questions were coded for authenticity. In a subsequent qualitative analysis of two classes that contradicted the studyâ€™s overall findings, Kachur and Pendergast (1997) discovered that the form-focused criteria used to determine authenticity failed to successfully describe the interactional culture of those two classrooms. More specifically, in an analysis of audio-recorded sessions from the two classrooms, Kachur and Pendergast found that the teacher of the seemingly â€œauthentic classâ€ talked about welcoming multiple right answers but, in practice, she interrupted students, evaluated their answers immediately, and in general looked for the right answers she had in mind. Her approach was definitely test-centered and she was apparently looking for recall. In short, she disguised her monologic intentions as authentic dialogue. The authors maintain that the students recognized that their teacherâ€™s questions were inauthentic, and they quickly lost patience with them, thus resorting to the off-task chatter observed. On the other hand, the metaanalysis of the discourse in the second class, which had originally been labeled as inauthentic, revealed that the class was actually characterized by authenticity. The teacher did not ask many questions, but Kachur and Pendergast claim that this class was distinguished by an air of mutual respect. The researchers concluded that this teacher was striving to make the students producers of
38 knowledge. He worked with a kind of scaffolding method, giving interpretational control to the students bit by bit. In addition, in his interactions with the students, the teacher did not evaluate their responses, but kept the conversation going by encouraging elaboration. Similarly, in a comparative case study of three first-grade classrooms, Mishler (1972) describes the discourse he observed in a classroom where the teacher encouraged exploratory talk, and through that, the development of truly dialogic discussions. In this classroom, the teacher made sure that the importance of language was underscored and alternate meanings of words were explored. Also, through her discourse style, she communicated to the students that the world is understood as â€œcomplex yet orderedâ€ (p.272), and that discussion is a divergent cognitive process. She not only preached but also practiced the dictum that various and alternative responses may be equally appropriate and correct. She indicated that she noticed, appreciated and valued student input by taking previous utterances into account and using them to move the conversation forward. As Mishler put it, this teacherâ€™s style is analogous to a tree â€œwith earlier answers branching into latter possibilitiesâ€ (282). In addition, the teacher invited and used personal experience for the building of classroom knowledge, she promoted tentativeness, and she shared authority over the interaction with her students, thus establishing herself as a member of the group. Finally, in a study of wondering in the class discussions of an eleventh grade English class, Townsend (1991 & 1993) found that the lively discussions she observed were characterized by (i) an inviting and open stance by the teacher, (ii) the adoption of active roles by the students, (iii) direct communication among students rather than
39 through the teacher, and (iv) tentativeness in the discourse styles of both the students and the teacher. What Research Reveals about the Value of Discussion As mentioned in chapter 1, a substantial number of theorists, researchers and practitioners appear to agree that the use of language in contexts that are consistent with the definition of authentic discussion is greatly beneficial to students (Applebee 2002; Bruner, 1986 & 1990; Gallas, 1994; Gambrell, 1996; Langer, 1995 & 1999; Lindfors, 1991 & 1999; Nystrand 1997; Rosenblatt, 1995; Seifert, 1999; Short and Burke, 1996; Short, Harste & Burke, 1996; Silvers, 1999). Research on classroom discussions documents a number of benefits for studentsâ€™ learning. Rosenblatt (1995), Langer (1995), Gambrell (1996) and Wells (2000) agree that discussions about literary text can greatly enhance student understanding of the text both on a surface and on a deep level. Gambrell reports that a number of studies on classroom discussions indicate that discussions tend to enhance â€œtext recall, aesthetic response to text and reading comprehensionâ€ (30). Also, Wells maintains that discussions provide opportunities for â€œdialogic knowledge building thereby enabling participants to increase their individual as well as their collective understanding of the topics investigatedâ€ (81). On a similar issue, Nystrand (1997a) reports that text comprehension appears to be boosted when students participate in classroom discussions where they are asked to tap into their background knowledge and experiences, and use their own interpretive frames to interpret literary text. In addition, Gambrell (1996) suggests that discussion increases abstract, complex thinking and problem solving ability. In support of her claim, Gambrell sites a 1986 study by Hudgins and Edelman, a 1995 study by Almasi and a 1995 study by Villaume and
40 Hopkins all of which suggest that participation in literature discussions had positive effects on studentsâ€™ critical thinking and their ability to make inferences and support them with relevant evidence. Similar conclusions were drawn by Applebee (2002) who, based on his work with CELA (Center of English Learning and Achievement), reported that there seems to be a positive relationship between literature discussions and the development of studentsâ€™ ability to analyze and synthesize ideas and think critically and abstractly. Almasi (1996) reports that classroom discussions can improve studentsâ€™ communication skills, as they provide opportunities for practicing how they can raise uncertainties, how they can express and defend their ideas, and how to seek and use othersâ€™ help in improving understanding. Gambrell (1996) also states that â€œstudies on discussion have documented increases in communication behaviors such as the occurrence of student-to-student interaction, recognition and acknowledgment of the previous speaker, requesting verification, and the ability to take on a position different from their ownâ€ (31). Gambrellâ€™s report is consistent with Townsendâ€™s (1991) findings in a discussion-oriented classroom where the students had active interactive roles that involved seven distinct moves, and they often talked directly to each other. In addition, Langer (1995) suggests that classroom discussions have a positive effect on interpersonal relations and in community building among class members when, through discussions, the personal histories and experiences of students gain legitimate entry in the official world of the classroom, and multiple perspectives are invited and considered by the community. She explains that such practices help class members get to know each other as individuals and allow students to look at issues through their
41 classmatesâ€™ perspectives. This, Langer maintains, can help build bridges among individuals and can assist in understanding each other. Slavin (1990) also concurs with these findings, reporting that classroom discussions appeared to promote friendships among class members that crossed ability, cultural and racial borders. Issues of Power, Distance, and Rank in Classroom Interactions The preceding discussion of research on discourse in â€œtypical classroomsâ€ and on authentic discussions alludes to the social knowledge students acquire about classroom interactions, as they participate in various classroom communities. Through repeated participation in classroom settings as well as in the larger community, students learn what kinds of interactional and other behaviors are accepted and expected in classrooms, and they also discover classroom patterns of power (Lewis, 2001). This knowledge is an integral part of the studentsâ€™ knowledge of the speech genres used in their classrooms, as it provides them with guidelines as to what they are allowed and not allowed to say. In his discussion of frames Goffman (1974) suggests that effective participation in discourse events requires individuals to be alert to the social conditions of interactions: the norms that apply in those particular interactional events within that particular community. Lindfors (1999) proposes that the successful realization of any type of interaction requires alertness to issues of power, distance and rank as well as the interactions of these three factors. Power refers to the relative status between the speaker and the other participants. Individuals with higher power status tend to have more control over interactions and have higher capacity in defining the interaction norms. According to Gubrium and Holstein (1997) securing the cooperation of an individual who is more powerful can be tricky, as it
42 demands that the inquirer breaches the matter in a polite and delicate manner that indicates that s/he recognizes and respects difference in status and in knowledge. In addition to power, a discourse participant also needs to attend to distance, that is how close s/he and the addressees are. According to Lindfors (1999), close social relationships among interactants can alleviate the imposition created by socially demanding interactions (e.g. inquiry) and can create interactional situations that not only tolerate but also welcome such impositions. Finally, interactants must consider the rank (heftiness) of imposition different types of utterances have in different interactional situations. As Lindfors mentions, inherently imposing language acts like inquiry can become more or less imposing depending on issues like the sensitivity of the topic it regards, the presence of others, and the persistence of the inquirer. In order to soften the imposition of socially demanding language acts and to increase the possibilities of obtaining othersâ€™ collaboration, Gallas (1999) and Lindfors (1999) suggest that individuals need to learn to employ positive and negative politeness. By positive politeness individuals can make use of language resources that foster affiliation such as complimenting the partner or using shared affectionate terms of address. On the other hand, in instances of negative politeness, individuals may try to cushion the imposition, apologize for the inconvenience, or make it easy for the addressee to refuse to participate. In general, the interactional terrain of traditional classrooms as described in a previous section does not appear to be very welcoming to socially imposing language acts initiated by students. According to Dyson (1993), in such communities social power
43 tends to be concentrated in the person of the teacher who presents him/herself as the knowledge holder, the arbiter of what is right and what is wrong, the controller of interactions, and the ultimate authority in setting the rules and in handling infractions. Such a totalitarian approach to authority creates an interactional context within which there is an immense power difference between teacher and students, with students having no officially recognized power. This difference, Dyson and Nystand (1997a) maintain, often leads to underground interactions where students attempt to become holders of social power by developing curricular side roads that subvert the official world of the classroom. At the same time, in traditional classroom contexts, the distance between teachers and students, as well as among students, also appears to be considerable enough to render socially demanding language acts forbiddingly imposing. As Dyson (1993), Heath (1983) and Lindfors (1987 & 1999) report, traditional classrooms disallow studentsâ€™ lives and experiences from entering the official world of the classroom. It is therefore reasonable to infer that, as familiarity among class members and especially with the teacher is not encouraged, there is little chance for reducing the social distance among participants. Finally, the limited types of student participatory acts appropriate in traditional classroom contexts render the rank of imposition of socially demanding language acts very hefty. As suggested by Heath (1983), Langer (1995) and Lindfors (1999), traditional classroom contexts appear to communicate to students that responding to teacher questions, trying to guess the â€œcorrectâ€ answer the teacher has in mind, and occasionally asking procedural questions are the only appropriate ways of participating in
44 classroom interactions. Therefore, any type of participatory act that does not fall within those categories is immensely imposing. On the other hand, classroom interactions that fit the definition of authentic discussions appear to have substantially more welcoming norms towards socially imposing language acts such as inquiry and wondering. In general, as Dyson (1993), Gallas (1999) and Applebee (2002) point out, in classroom contexts where discussions flourish, teachers appear to have relegated some of their authority to the students. In contrast to the centralized authority structure observed in traditional classrooms, in discussion-oriented classrooms teachers share some of their authority with their students by inviting students to talk about their lives and experiences, by considering studentsâ€™ opinions as worthwhile and by allowing students to make decisions that shape the activities and the interactions themselves. In this way, the relative difference of power among participants is lessened, the distance among individuals is minimized and the rank of imposition of socially demanding language acts is not as forbidding as it is in traditional classroom contexts. It has been widely argued (Ballenger, 1999; Delpit, 1995;Dyson, 1993; Fu, 1995; Heath, 1983) that beyond silencing students as a group, classroom settings that disallow students to create inroads between the school world and their home cultures are particularly uninviting for non-mainstream students. In general, because the school culture typically represents the white middle-class culture, schoolsâ€™ ways with words can be unfamiliar and intimidating for non-mainstream students. Classroom environments that implicitly or explicitly disrespect or dismiss the home cultures and the knowledge of non-mainstream students, and teachers that do not make linguistic and cultural codes
45 explicit can be very problematic for non-mainstream students. Sensing that they are rejected by the school culture and feeling unable to successfully participate in classroom rituals non-mainstream students are often forced to silence or develop antisocial identities that reject school values. At the same time, Gallas (1998), Sadker and Sadker (1994) and Sleeter (1996) suggest that traditional classroom contexts are also exceptionally silencing for girls. As Sadker and Sadker point out through numerous examples, the argumentative structure of classrooms and other gender-biased teacher behaviors stack the power structures of classroom communities in ways that push girls toward being quiet and docile, and toward avoiding subjects like mathematics and science that are traditionally male-dominated. Qualitative Case Study Research According to Yin (1984), case study is the preferred method when (i) the focus of a study is on broad meaning questions that explore the whens, hows and whys of a situation, (ii) when the researcher has little control or influence over the events studied, and (iii) when the focus is on a specific contemporary phenomenon which is impossible to isolate from its contextual environment. In this study, I examine the whole class interactional events of a fifth-grade classroom during booktalks, with the purpose of describing the texture of talk of authentic discussions, of considering participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues raised in authentic discussions, and of analyzing the contextual features of the interactional community. The exploratory nature of these inquiries requires an in-depth analysis of the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions. The need for an extensive examination of authentic discussion dictates the undertaking of a qualitative research study that examines a bounded system. As Bakhtin
46 (1986) explains, speech genres are types of expectation that correspond to a particular sphere where language is used. As such, they cannot be separated from the social context within which they occur (Dewey, 1931). Consequently, it is imperative that a speech genre, like authentic discussion, be examined as â€œlanguage in action;â€ that is, as it is realized within the social context of a specific language community. Merriam (1988) states that, â€œa qualitative case study is an intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single instance, phenomenon, or social unitâ€ (p.21). This case study attempts to intensively examine authentic discussions in the booktalks of a fifth-grade class. More specifically, I employ what Merriam identifies as an interpretive case study. As such, the research uses descriptive and interpretive methods that provide a rich, thick description (Geertz, 1983) of authentic discussions and develops conceptual categories regarding the texture of talk of authentic discussions, the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues raised in authentic discussions, and the contextual elements that frame presence of authentic discussions.
CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY Introduction Any examination of talk in schools confronts a massive paradox. On the one hand, talk is the medium of instruction; it is one major way we accomplish objectives, measure learning. On the other, it eludes control, slips into unexpected territory. Talk generates more talk. Stories beget stories, and before you know it, youâ€™re discussing mousetraps. (Newkirk & McLure, 1992, 4) This study sought to examine authentic discussion as it was realized in a classroom context. This examination was guided by three questions: (a) What was the texture of talk in the four recorded booktalk sessions and in their authentic discussion portions in particular? (b) What were the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues raised in authentic discussions? and, (c) What were the contextual features of this interactional community? According to Shulman (1981) the research method used by a research study is determined by the nature of the questions it asks. As mentioned in chapter 2, the questions posed by this study are exploratory and they seek to examine the speech genre of authentic discussion closely, exhaustively and from a variety of perspectives. Therefore, the appropriate research method for such an endeavor is one that has the capacity to study a specific, bounded instance in depth. That method is qualitative case study and the specific, bounded instance this particular case study examined were the authentic discussions that developed during the booktalks of a fifth-grade class. In this chapter, I describe the research setting and participants and explain the process though which they were selected. In addition, I briefly present the preliminary results of the pilot study I conducted. Also, I discuss the data sources, the techniques and 47
48 the strategies I used for data collection and data analysis, and I provide a rationale for the various methodological decisions made. Finally, I address the issue of validity and reliability. Setting and Participants Selection of Setting and Participants The aim of this study was to explore the speech genre of authentic discussions in one classroom. The success of the research largely depended on studying a classroom where the communicative environment fostered authentic discussions. The first step in making this research study a reality was finding a classroom where the class community engaged in authentic discussions, and where both the teacher and the students, along with the studentsâ€™ parents, the administration, and other â€œgate-keepersâ€ were willing to allow me access. In initiating this effort, I contacted a variety of individuals from the educational community of the county where I intended to conduct my research, and asked them for leads as to where I could find such a class. The typical pattern of such conversations included some good leads, along with disheartening statements that such classrooms are rare, especially in public schools where the increasing pressure of state mandated testing pushes teaching towards direct instruction and rigid communication patterns. These first contacts resulted in a list of teachers, administrators and schools where my sources felt that I was likely to find a classroom that met my criteria. Contrary to my hopes, most of these leads pointed towards private schools or early elementary public school grades. That was somewhat unfortunate, as I did not wish to study a private school classroom because I wanted to avoid the danger of my research being branded inapplicable to public education. At the same time, I did not wish to study children
49 younger than ten because young children may be less capable to provide metacognitively reflective interview data. This would be particularly problematic as participant interviews were an essential methodological component of my study. Consequently, leads to private schools and lower elementary classrooms were eliminated. In a subsequent phase of the process of selecting the setting and participants of my research, I visited one third-grade, two fourth-grade, and one fifth-grade classrooms and performed preliminary observations. After these observations, I decided that the fifth-grade classroom would be an excellent site for my research. This particular classroom was selected because it satisfied a number of criteria vital for my research design. First, Ms. Enthis 1 , the classroom teacher, had been identified as an exceptional teacher by many of her peers. Second, fifth graders were old enough to be able to reflect on their language and their classroom experiences and provide valuable interview data. Third, even though fifth graders participated in standardized testing, contrary to their fourth-grade counterparts, they did not have to contend with the extended Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in reading and writing. Finally and most importantly, during my preliminary observations of the class I was able to identify interactive whole class events that appeared to satisfy the three criteria of authentic discussions: (a) participants had opportunities to invite and consider multiple perspectives, (b) a wide array of participants presented multiple ideas and perspectives and (c) teacher and student contributions often built on previously presented ideas. In a conversation I had with Ms Enthis after the preliminary observation, she expressed her fascination with classroom discussions as an instructional tool, and talked 1 All names of persons and places are pseudonyms
50 about her constant efforts to create a classroom environment where children would be inspired to ask questions and say what they are thinking. In that discussion, I was careful not to reveal my research goals and instead simply stated that I was looking for a classroom where genuine discussions happened. She assured me that her classroom was definitely one such classroom and proceeded to say that she would be happy to participate in my research as long as it was understood that she would not be changing her instructional style to accommodate my research purposes. After deciding to use this particular fifth-grade classroom as the setting of my research, I had a further conversation with Ms. Enthis and set up a second visit to the class. During that visit, I was introduced as Ms. H. and I explained to the students that I was conducting a research project on classroom discussions for my dissertation and that I would be visiting their classroom for that purpose. I said that I would be sitting at the back of the classroom taking notes on my laptop and that I would occasionally ask some students to talk to me about class. Subsequently, I submitted the necessary applications for acquiring approval for my research and after the official authorizations came through, I obtained signed consent forms from all participants, as well as from the guardians of the minors participating in the study (See Appendix A for samples of the consent forms). Description of Research Setting and Participants The class community selected for this study was a fifth-grade class in Grassroot Elementary School. Grassroot was located in a quintessentially middle-class area in a north-central Florida city. Table 3-1 illustrates some descriptive statistical information regarding the make-up of the student population, and the schoolâ€™s performance on the stateâ€™s standardized tests during the academic years before and during data collection
51 (2000-01 and 2001-02). The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) results for reading are reported for fourth grade for 2000-01 and for fifth grade for 2001-02 because that was the grade level of the student participants during each academic year. Only the fourth-grade results for FCAT Writing were available, as that is a test taken only by fourth graders. Table 3-1. Grassroot Elementary School: Statistics for the academic years 2000-01 and 2002-02*. Aca-demic Year FCAT Reading FCAT Writing 4 th Grade Results Students on Free or Reduced Lunch Varying Exceptionalities School Grade Results for Fourth Grade 2000-1 Achievement Level (5 is highest) Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Student % at level 4 20 25 33 18 100% scoring 3 or higher 27.4% Disabilities and ESE 14% Gifted : 16.2% Limited Engl. Proficiency : 0.8% B Results for Fifth Grade 2001-2 Achievement Level (5 is highest) Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Student % at level 11 11 39 31 9 93% scoring 3 or higher 25.4% Disabilities and ESE 14.1% Gifted : 14.4% Limited Engl. Proficiency : 0.5% A * The data for this table were obtained from the website of the Florida Department of Education at http://www.firn.edu/doe/dps/menus/statistics.html As Table 3-1 indicates, Grassroot elementary was a high performing school with a primarily middle-class student body. In general, Grassroot elementary students achieved high scores on the FCAT, resulting to a grade of â€œBâ€ in 2000-01 and an â€œAâ€ grade in
52 2001-02. The particular age group the student participants belonged to had respectable scores with 76% of the students achieving a passing grade (3 or higher) in fourth grade and 79% in fifth-grade. The study participants were 24 fifth-grade students of Grassroot Elementary and their teacher. In general, (i) the class was diverse in terms of race (5 African American, 2 Hispanic, 1 Asian and 16 Caucasian) and sex (12 girls and 12 boys), (ii) the majority of the students came from middle-class background (30% were on free or reduced lunch), (iii) eight of the 26 students of the class had been identified as having some kind of special learning need. More specifically, two students participated in a pullout special education program and, as they were absent during booktalks, they were not considered study participants. In addition, one student attended speech lessons, and five students had been identified as gifted and participated in a pullout program for mathematics and science. The teacher, Ms. Enthis, an energetic Caucasian woman had received her master degree in education about a decade before and had worked as a fifth-grade teacher in Grassroot for a number of years. The year before data collection, Ms. Enthis had worked with the other fifth-grade teachers of Grassroot to create a literature-based language arts curriculum. The novels included in that curriculum were the basis of the booktalk discussions studied in this research. In general, this was a classroom where class members personalized their physical environment to be comfortable and to reflect its denizens, where reading was a frequent activity, and where talking about books was a staple in the classâ€™ daily routine. The lively conversations about books revealed a classroom where class members appeared to like
53 and care about each other, where humor abounded and, where individuals used language for a variety of purposes including the presentation and negotiation of ideas. A detailed description of the surround context of the classroom, the classroom membersâ€™ beliefs, and the relationships among classroom members is presented in chapter 6. Pilot Study Before commencing the data collection process for my dissertation research, I engaged in a three-week pilot study in the same classroom. During that preliminary study, I collected observational data with the purpose of better defining the focus of my dissertation research, fine-tuning my fieldnote-taking techniques, establishing myself as an unobtrusive and natural classroom â€œfeature,â€ and getting acquainted with the individual class members and the community they had formed. In addition I felt that becoming familiar with the students and the teacher would enable me to make informed decisions when choosing the studyâ€™s focal students (the issue of focal students will be further discussed in a subsequent section of this chapter). During the pilot study, I visited the classroom almost daily and engaged in observation throughout the morning. In this way I got a feel for the class as a community and watched member interactions during subjects other than language arts. While considering the data of the pilot study, I chose to focus my research within the language arts block, and later on I decided to concentrate even further and study the classroom booktalks. This decision was made because I realized that observing and analyzing interactions on a variety of subjects and academic tasks presented the danger of diluting my observations, thus violating Stakeâ€™s (1985) dictum that case studies need to exhaustively study a bounded system.
54 The analysis of the pilot study observational data helped identify some basic surface patterns of the language arts block in general and of booktalks in particular. The language arts block in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom went on for two hours every morning. As those were typically the first two hours of the school day, they started with the pledge of allegiance and the daily school news, broadcasted through the internal TV network of Grassroot elementary. This was frequently followed by work with spelling and grammar, which often involved Caughtâ€™ Ya activities, games of spelling bingo and the weekly spelling test. After ten or fifteen minutes, the class often engaged in writing-related activities that varied across different days, based on the issue at hand. Usually, however, this portion of class included mini lessons (teacher presentations accompanied with student comments and connections) and opportunities for writing and sharing in a writerâ€™s workshop format. The remaining time was spent on reading and talking about the novel the class was working on at the time. As I further explain in chapter 4, the most obvious pattern of booktalks was a burst-and-pause rhythm created by an interchange between talking stretches and reading stretches. Booktalks typically started with Ms. Enthis asking the students to provide a quick summary of what had happened so far in the book the class was reading at the time. Then, Ms. Enthis and/or a succession of students read aloud from the book. Reading continued until a class member initiated a theme to be discussed. Even though most of the themes appeared to be teacher-initiated, I also observed a number of student initiations that led to extensive conversations. I noticed that many of the initiations were personal responses to the story accompanied by invitations for member responses, reflective statements, or questions. Such initiations usually functioned as invitations for class
55 members to offer their own responses to the story, to raise information seeking or wondering inquiries, to make inferences about â€œwhatâ€™s going on,â€ or to make predictions. When each interactive section came to an end, reading resumed until the next interruption. In general, the analysis of the pilot study data was encouraging, as it confirmed that authentic discussions were taking place quite frequently during the classâ€™ booktalks. A number of the discourse episodes observed fulfilled the criteria of authentic discussion, thus confirming that Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom was an appropriate setting for this study. Data Collection and Analysis A common element among the various qualitative methods is that the kinds of questions asked and answers sought disallow formulaic approaches to research. Each research situation is unique. Consequently, the qualitative researcher does not begin the research with a preconceived notion of an idea to be verified. Rather, the effort is to discover. Qualitative researchers are sensitive to the effects of their presence and/or actions, and they employ a recursive approach to research, engaging in data analysis as the collection of data progresses. This mode of operation is conceptualized by Oldfather and West (1994) in a metaphor of qualitative research as jazz. In the core of the analogy lies â€œknowledgeable improvisation,â€ based on which researchers/jazz players combine their knowledge and skills in novel ways in search for functional and effective solutions to problems. They constantly reflect upon, and judge the effects of their actions on the audience/subjects and readers and make informed decisions for subsequent actions. In this sense, the researchers themselves are qualitative researchâ€™s most important data collection instruments. They immerse in, and attune to the specific situation under study and render informed judgments upon every turning point of the research. That was
56 exactly the ideal I worked towards during the data collection and analysis processes of this research. Case studies investigate a problem in depth rather than in breadth, aiming to acquire a full and deep understanding of the problem. Stake (1978 and 1985), Yin (1984) and Merriam (1988) agree that the case study objective of exhaustively studying the bounded instance under study dictates the use of a variety of data collection tools. The assumption is that by examining the experience under study through the different vantage points afforded by each data collection instrument, more aspects of the experience are highlighted and a more complete and thorough understanding is achieved. For the purposes of this research I engaged in participant observation of the classroom during language arts, videoand audio-recorded four booktalk sessions, and interviewed the classroom teacher and four focal students. Classroom Observations Within the framework of participant observation, data collectors immerse themselves in the community they are studying, establish themselves as insiders, and unobtrusively observe the interactions among community members (Shimahara, 1989; Wax, 1983; Gubrium & Holstein, 1997). In general, participant observation can be viewed as a point on a continuum between the two endpoints of participation and observation. Full participants are individuals who have complete membership in a community, are recognized as members by the community, and participate in communal activities. Based on this status, full participants are privy to the rituals, the understandings and, in general, to the culture of the community. However, exactly because of the participantsâ€™ extreme closeness to the culture, their interpretations of it are inevitably excessively biased.
57 On the other hand, observers are individuals who are outsiders to the community and who in no way participate in communal activities. Their â€œdistanceâ€ from the community affords observers with a degree of objectivity but also hinders the process because the observer status can inhibit natural behavior from the participants and can disallow accurate comprehension of communal practices (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 1995; Thorne, 1983). Participant observation represents an effort to combine the benefits of the participant and observer positions in a way that minimizes their limitations. As mentioned above, participant observation exists on a continuum between participation and observation. Selecting a particular point upon that continuum should be a decision that considers the particular circumstances of the specific research project. The position I selected for this research was one that was closer to the observer end of the continuum. I made that decision because there were only two naturally occurring roles in the classroom community: teacher and student. I felt that it would be unwise to try to have a teacher role within the community because that would bestow me with a level of authority that could seriously affect student behavior in my presence. On the other hand, I felt that my size and age, combined with my continual note-taking would render me a very conspicuous student. Therefore, I decided to pursue the development of a social identity that mainly existed in the sidelines of action and occasionally joined classroom conversations. At the same time, knowing that my age was likely to cause students to attribute teacher authorities to me, I made conscious efforts to dispel any such misconceptions. I declared ignorance of procedures in the rare occasions when students came up to me asking
58 procedural questions, and I refrained from responding to student misbehavior. As data collection progressed I observed that students in general did not seem to adjust their behavior for my benefit. Instead, when they noticed me watching them, the typically flashed me a quick smile and continued with whatever they were doing. I need to note, however, that I did occasionally notice students terminating off-task behavior when they spotted me watching them. Beyond my occasional contributions to the class conversations, I had numerous unofficial interactions with both Ms. Enthis and the students. Those conversations, which were recorded in my fieldnotes, usually took place before class and at the end of class, as the students were lining up to go to specials. My unofficial conversations with Ms. Enthis involved small talk as well as talk about her plans for upcoming class sessions and commentaries on specific events that had happened in class. My unofficial conversations with students also involved small talk, conversations about Cyprus and Greece, my laptop computer (which I used for jotting down notes), as well as my note-taking practices. In general, I believe that I was able to negotiate a social position within the classroom community that allowed me to develop rapport with the class members, demystified my role as a researcher, and rendered me a relatively unobtrusive presence in the classroom. In fact, in their farewell letters to me at the end of data collection, a number of the participants noted that they got so used to having me sitting at the back of their classroom they felt something was missing when I was not there. Through conversations and my frequent classroom presence classroom members appeared to accept me as a kind of honorary member of the community, even giving me a nickname (laptop lady); a practice applied only to class members.
59 During the data collection phase of this research, I visited the participating classroom several times a week for a period of five months, thus establishing a significant presence in the classroom. During and after each observation session, I took fieldnotes regarding the verbal interactions and other events taking place in the classroom during the language arts block, focusing primarily on booktalks. While in the classroom, I sat at a desk towards the back of the room and used a laptop computer to jot down as many details as I could regarding the observed events. In the 48 hours following each observation I revisited those notes and used them to flesh out a thorough description of the class session. As data collection progressed, I followed Corsaroâ€™s (1981) suggestion and continuously examined and analyzed the incoming data, identifying consistent patterns, creating, testing and revising working hypotheses. To facilitate that process, I wrote my fieldnotes in a three-column template. In the first column I recorded the observational data as thoroughly and objectively as I could, in the second column I wrote down my reflections on the events and in the third column I entered descriptive codes. The codes were data-derived and they evolved through the analysis process from more specific descriptors to more general categories (see Appendix B). Audiotaped and Videotaped Classroom Discussions To better understand the texture of talk in booktalks and in authentic discussions in particular, I audioand videorecorded four different classroom sessions. The sessions were recorded during the last two months of observation and each recording took place approximately one week after the previous one. The particular sessions were typical booktalks of the class under study and were not selected based on a sampling approach or any other method of selection.
60 Being sensitive to the intrusiveness of recording equipment and to the influence their presence can have on participants, I used digital recording equipment (an audio-recorder and a video camera), which, apart from offering higher quality recordings, is much smaller and thus more discreet than cassette decks and VHS cameras. In addition, based on Townsendâ€™s (1991) suggestion, during the five-week period preceding the first official recording, and in between the recordings I frequently set up the recording equipment in the classroom and performed numerous dry runs. These dry runs were important as they served to familiarize the participants with the presence of recording equipment in their classroom and to limit acting-to-the-camera behaviors. In addition, they helped conceal the official recordings, as the participants did not know when the camera was recording and which of those recordings would actually be analyzed for my research. Finally, the dry runs were valuable in giving me the opportunity to experiment with various recording practices and to find ways to optimize the quality of the recordings. I used both the audioand video-recordings to transcribe the recorded classroom sessions in verbatim transcripts, which included information about paralinguistic and nonverbal features necessary for adequately representing the discourse. The transcripts were a total of 60 pages and I analyzed them using discourse analysis (Brown & Yule, 1983; Townsend, 1991). As part of this analysis I scrutinized the transcripts searching for patterns in the interactions. The analysis of the transcripts involved all recorded utterances with the exception of perfunctory contributions like laughter or unremarkable articulations like simply mentioning someoneâ€™s name to give them the floor during an otherwise fluid interaction. In general I looked for patterns on two different levels: the
61 surface level and the functional/purpose level (see Appendix C for a sample of a coded transcript) On the surface level, I examined a variety of discourse aspects of immediately perceptible characteristics of interactions including numbers of participantsâ€™ turns and numbers of transcript lines. In addition, I examined the various ways in which students attempted to secure speech turns in the recorded interactions, and considered the outcomes of those efforts. On the functional/purpose level, I examined the transcripts using two different units of analysis: (a) the utterance : a language act whose boundaries are determined by a change in speakers, and is characterized by expressiveness (it is not neutral) and a sense of finalization (completion) (Bakhtin, 1986), and (b) the episode : a group of consecutive utterances that appear to be related to the same subject. For this analysis, I first divided the transcripts into episodes and coded each episode based on the subject it was about and on the overarching purpose the participants appeared to be pursuing (Yule & Brown, 1983; Cazden, 1986). Subsequently, I scrutinized the transcripts focusing on each utterance and trying to discern the participantâ€™s moves: the purposes the speaker was pursuing with that particular contribution. Such an analysis is highly interpretive because the moves identified were my construals of the participantsâ€™ purposes (Townsend, 1991). Initial scrutinies of the transcripts produced an extensive list of codes, which I progressively refined through numerous revisions and further examinations of the transcripts. The final coding system comprised of 22 overlapping moves including moves like â€œteacher tries to initiate or refocus theme,â€ â€œstudent tries to express opinion,â€ and â€œstudent tries to build
62 community.â€ Nine of those moves were used to describe the studentsâ€™ talk and 13 to describe the talk of the teacher. After finalizing the coding system, I used descriptive statistics to measure the frequency of each move. In a subsequent phase of the analysis, I used the three criteria of authentic discussion I established in chapter 1 to reexamine the transcripts. The three criteria identify authentic classroom discussions as interactions where (a) the participants have opportunities to invite and consider multiple perspectives, (b) a wide array of participants present multiple ideas and perspectives and (c) contributions often build on ideas presented previously by other participants. Based on this examination I classified all the episodes into two categories: authentic discussion episodes and â€œotherâ€ episodes. I then compared the frequency of the different moves in the two types of episodes to discover patterns in the presence of each move. From this analysis, I identified types of moves like â€œteacher tries to invite students to present opinionâ€ and â€œstudent tries to reflectâ€ as typical to authentic discussions. Finally, I inspected the overarching purposes of authentic discussion episodes and identified commonalities among them. The results of the analysis of the four recorded sessions are presented in detail in chapter 4. Interviews with Focal Participants For the purposes of this study I conducted a series of interviews with the classroom teacher and with four focal students. Interview with the participating teacher During the course of the research, I conducted four interviews with the participating teacher. Each interview took place one to three days after every official recording, after an initial analysis of the recording. This initial analysis involved reviewing the session videotape the evening after the recording, transferring the recording
63 on a VHS tape, and noting the themes and timestamps of the sessionâ€™s episodes. Subsequently, I selected four to six episodes I found particularly interesting (mostly episodes that satisfied the authentic discussion criteria) and rerecorded them at the end of the VHS tape. Ms. Enthis and I met during her planning time in a small storage room next to the classroom, we sat around a small table, and talked. The room was small and fairly clattered but it was very practical, as it was in close proximity to the classroom, it allowed us undisturbed privacy and relative comfort, and it could hold the TV/VCR cart I used during the interviews. The interviews were guided by exploratory questions that sought to allow Ms. Enthis to give extended answers. In the course of the interview, I asked her to talk about class in general, her philosophies, beliefs and attitudes. I also asked her to discuss the teaching techniques she employed to enhance student learning and invited her to focus on discussion techniques. In addition to these more general questions, I encouraged Ms. Enthis to reflect on the recently recorded classroom session, and to talk about her goals and her purposes in the booktalk as well as her perspectives on specific episodes and the issues therein raised. In order to help the teacherâ€™s memories during this line of questioning, I used the TV/VCR cart I borrowed from the school for each interview to show Ms. Enthis the clips I had selected after the preliminary analysis of the recording (Townsend, 1991). Interviews with focal students To get fuller picture of the participantsâ€™ perspectives, I also conducted a series of four interviews with four focal students. The rationale behind the selection of the four students was to represent diverse interactional identities. During my early observations, I
64 tried to identify different interactional styles within the classroom. This effort produced four categories: energetic participants, individuals with average participation, silent students, and troublemakers. Subsequently, I considered the individuals that made up those categories; I discreetly cross-referenced my conclusions with Ms. Enthis over a number of unofficial conversations; and I selected one person from each category as a potential focal student. Beyond group membership, the selection was guided by considerations for balance in sex and racial representation. In addition, before presenting the class with my selection I created a substitute list for each category in case any of the selected individuals chose not to participate in the interviews. As the interviewing phase of the research was ready to commence, I took a few minutes of class time to remind students that I would need to interview some of them a few times and stated that I would really appreciate their help. To curtail the danger of affecting studentsâ€™ natural behavior, I chose to conceal the rationale behind my selections and instead said that the focal students were chosen at random. Before mentioning the names selected, I told the students that they should feel free to decline the selection at that point or at any future time, as I could easily select someone else. All four of the originally selected students (Jay, Sapfo, Mechanic, and Natalia) accepted the interview invitation. Similarly to Ms. Enthis, I interviewed each one of the focal students one to three days after each official recording. The student interviewees and I met at the small storage room next to their classroom and I used the TV/VCR cart to show them the selected clips from the preceding recording. The time of each interview was decided in collaboration
65 with Ms. Enthis who released the focal students to me one by one, mainly during break times or independent work periods. In general, the questions asked were open ended and mainly centered on two foci: the studentsâ€™ experience in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom and their perspectives on the recorded session. In the parts of the interviews that concentrated on the latter topic, I asked questions that mainly required the students to reflect on the issues raised in the particular discussion, to relay the purposes of their participation, and to talk about verbalized and unverbalized ideas. As with the teacher interviews, the selected video clips from the recorded session were used to help refresh the memory of the interviewees and to ground the interviews. Analysis of the interviews All of the interviews were recorded using a digital recorder and their transcription yielded 317 pages of transcripts. Because of the bi-focal purpose of the interviews the examination of the transcripts followed two analytical paths. On the first analytical path, I concentrated on the portions of the interviews that specifically addressed the recorded session talked about with the interviewees. As I explain in detail in chapter 5, the interview and booktalk transcript data were combined to create a matrix that attempted to capture the complexity of the classroom verbal interactions (see Table 5-1). In the matrix I recorded each discourse episode identified in the session transcripts and in the adjacent cells I documented any comments the focal participants made about that episode during their interviews. This analytical matrix was used to explore the research question â€œWhat were the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues raised in authentic discussions?â€ Through the second analytical path, I sought to synthesize data to construct detailed portraits of the five focal participants and to provide an insight into the context of the
66 classroom community. This analysis involved both the booktalk-specific portions of the interviews as well as the more general segments, which included the intervieweesâ€™ comments on questions regarding their classroom experience, their beliefs and their attitudes, as well as plenty of small talk. In this analysis, I scrutinized the interview transcripts and used descriptive codes to help organize the information therein provided. I developed the codes through a generative databased process involving repeated examinations of the interview transcripts. When the codes reached an adequate level of saturation, I used them as the basis for creating the focal participantsâ€™ portraits presented in chapter 5, and for identifying the contextual features of the interactional community discussed in chapter 6. Validity and Reliability of the Study For the purposes of this study, I used a variety of data collection instruments to study authentic discussions (classroom observations, audioand videorecordings of booktalk sessions, and interviews with focal participants). Merriam (1988) and Yin (1984) suggest that the use of multiple data sources can enhance the validity and reliability of a qualitative case study. By examining an experience through a number of different instruments, researchers have the chance to check the soundness of their findings by triangulating the outcomes suggested through one data source with the information provided by another. A simultaneous examination of data gathered through different venues can lead to the development of stronger analytical constructs, either by supporting interpretations emanating from each different data source, or by making available disconfirming evidence that lead to a change in the direction of the analysis. Therefore, each one of the three research questions guiding this study was simultaneously addressed by at least two sources of data. More specifically, the question regarding the
67 texture of talk was examined through the analysis of the booktalk sessions and of the interviews, whereas the questions regarding the participantsâ€™ perspectives and contexts combined all three sources of data. In addition, I used an inter-rater reliability check to check the trustworthiness of the move categories generated through the discourse analysis of the transcribed booktalk sessions. For this purpose, I recruited two doctoral students acquainted with discourse analysis to participate in the process, which was conducted via email. After finalizing my move categories and completing the discourse analysis of the four recorded sessions, I emailed my raters a document which included The three criteria I had established for authentic discussions. The list of student and teacher moves I had developed. Explanations and examples of each move. A sample of a transcript excerpt I had coded. I asked the raters to use this information to (a) to identify whether each one of the three episodes included in the document was an authentic discussion episode or an â€œotherâ€ episode and (b) to code three transcript excerpts. In the instructions I gave the raters, I asked them to code every utterance, and reminded them that the moves identified were overlapping, so utterances could receive more than one codes (see Appendix D for the document sent to the raters). When I received the coded documents, I checked the level of agreement in the coding produced by the two raters and myself. There was a 100% three-way agreement on the episode level, with both raters agreeing with me as to which episodes represented authentic discussions and which did not. On the utterance level, I examined the level of agreement between the raters and myself regarding the moves describing each utterance. In this examination, I computed
68 two different types of agreement percentages. The first type involved three-way agreement across all three individuals. To calculate this percentage, I considered each one of the move codes I had ascribed to each utterance. If the move had been used to describe that particular utterance by both raters, then that counted as a point of agreement. If at least one of the raters had not used that move, it counted as a point of disagreement. The level of three-way agreement found in this calculation was a satisfactory 71%. The second type of agreement percentage also involved the two raters and myself. In this calculation, however, a move I had used to describe an utterance was identified as a point of agreement when at least one of the raters had also used it to describe that particular utterance. The level of agreement for this calculation was 81%. Summary To explore the speech genre of authentic classroom discussion I conducted a qualitative case study of the booktalks of a fifth-grade classroom. The participants were members of a fift-grade class in a middle-class public elementary school that had consistently high scores in the state standardized test. I selected this particular class because initial observations indicated that whole class interactional events involved conversations which satisfied the criteria of authentic discussion I had established. Data collection involved: Observation of the classroom: I visited the classroom several times a week over a five-month period. During those visits, I observed the language arts block, and took fieldnotes. Recordings of four booktalk sessions: I audioand video-recorded four booktalk sessions, which I transcribed and analyzed through discourse analysis. Interviews with focal participants: I conducted a series of interviews with the teacher and four focal students. Each focal participant was interviewed four times and the interviews focused on the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues discussed in
69 the recorded sessions as well as on the participantsâ€™ classroom experiences and their beliefs. The validity of the study was enhanced through data triangulation and the reliability of the codes I developed was substantiated by satisfactory levels of agreement in an inter-rater reliability check.
CHAPTER 4 NEGOTIATING MEANING IN A CLASSROOM COMMUNITY The purpose of this research was to study the speech genre of authentic discussion as it was realized in a classroom setting. As established in chapter 1, authentic classroom discussions are classroom interactions where participants pursue authentically dialogic purposes. More specifically, for the purposes of this study, I defined authentic classroom discussions as interactions where participants have opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas and perspectives, where a wide array of participants present multiple ideas and perspectives, and where the students' and teacher's contributions often build on ideas expressed by other participants in previous turns. In pursuing the purpose of studying authentic classroom discussions in the booktalks of a fifth-grade class, the study focused on three major issues: the examination of the texture of talk in booktalks and in authentic discussions in particular, the investigation of participantsâ€™ perspectives or issues raised in selected authentic discussions, and the description of features of the context of this particular community. Therefore, the results section of this manuscript is presented in a three-chapter format, with each chapter addressing one of the research questions. The present chapter presents the research findings pertaining to the first research question: What was the texture of talk in the four recorded booktalk sessions and in their authentic discussion portions in particular? In pursuing this research inquiry, I used discourse analysis techniques to analyze four booktalk sessions I audioand videotaped during data collection. Using verbatim transcripts, I examined the texture of talk in the 70
71 four sessions, with a primary focus on the participantsâ€™ moves (purpose served by each utterance) (Sinclair and Coulthard, 1975) and I conducted a number of statistical analyses to discover patterns of talk during the booktalks. In addition, I identified authentic discussion episodes and compared them with episodes that I did not categorize as such. Before reporting the findings of the discourse analysis, I present and briefly discuss an authentic discussion episode during one booktalk to provide an introduction to the class under study. I then outline the four discussions analyzed, thus providing the reader with important contextualizing information that may help make the discourse analysis more meaningful. A Glimpse into the Classroom The following excerpt is the opening part (26 lines) of a lively authentic discussion episode that took place during the last of four audiotaped sessions. The class was working with Eoin Colferâ€™s (2001) fantasy novel, Artemis Fowl. The episode, which stretched for a total of 110 lines, entailed a spirited exchange of ideas and a dynamic co-building of meanings and understandings as the participants presented and supported their opinions of Artemisâ€™ character, and contrasted them with views expressed by other participants. The episode developed after reading a particularly compelling passage where Artemis blew up a whaler ship. As she finished reading, Ms. Enthis 1 walked to the board and without uttering a word, she wrote, â€œIs Artemis evil? Give support.â€ After allowing the students two minutes to think and write their ideas in their journal, Ms. Enthis posed the question again: 1. Ms. Enthis: What do you think? Is Artemis evil? 2. Many: Yes yes no. 1 All the names used are pseudonyms mostly selected by the participants themselves.
72 3. Ms. Enthis: Tell me why you think that. Michira. 4. Michira: I think Artemis is enemies with Fairies but not with humans because he is nice to Butler and his mom and Juliet. 5. Ms. Enthis: Yeah, good support. Good support. He is an enemy of the Fairies, he is mean to the Fairies, I mean, he is horrible to them, but he is nice to, to his mom and he is nice to Butler and Juliet. So not to humans but he is an enemy of the Fairies. Ok! Leta? 6. Leta: I also wrote what Michira said that he is evil to the Fairies and he wants the gold and stuff, and he is not so with his mom and Butler and. 7. Ms. Enthis: Hm Ok (nodding). Craig, what do you think? 8. Craig: I think Artemis is evil now that I got to know his character better. He blows up ships, he tries to steal Fairy gold, he ke,9. U: [inaudible]. 10. Ms. Enthis: No, not now (low voice). Craig: he keeps Holly hostage and he is just mean. 11. Ms. Enthis: Craig, I really like your answer because in the beginning you were one of the people, one of the people who thought, â€œHe wasnâ€™t evil. He was just em this child prodigy and just doesnâ€™t have the maturity to control his actions.â€ Werenâ€™t you in the beginning thinking that? (Craig nods) But now Craig is thinking he is evil, because, and he gives specific examples of this blowing up the ship thing, right? And I mean,â€“ 12. Craig: So, Well, like what Michira said, if he is nice to humans, he just blew up a ship with some humans on. 13. Ms. Enthis: yeah Thatâ€™s true. Now, were there humans on this ship? 14. Craig: Yes. I thought15. Damon: No. (session four) Reading this conversation excerpt, one is very likely to guess that it was recorded during a classroom exchange. This clearly is a group of individuals talking about a book they are reading and one of them appears to have a distinctly more commanding role within the conversation. Based on these characteristics, it is not too difficult to recognize the conversants as a group of students and their teacher. In many ways, though, this conversation constitutes a departure from the kind of talk typically heard in classrooms, as it definitely is not an example of what Cazden (2001) calls a traditional lesson. Even though Ms. Enthis played the role of allocating speech turns to the participants, and spoke practically every other turn, much like a teacher in a traditional lesson would, the interactional result was distinctly different from the â€œthree-part sequence of teacher
73 Initiation, student Response, and teacher Evaluation (IRE), or teacher Feedback (IRF)â€ characterizing traditional classroom discourse (Cazden, 2001, 30). Rather than acting as the initiator and evaluator, Ms. Enthis functioned as a moderator who appeared to be mainly interested in advancing the discussion by inviting participants to express their opinions (turns 1,3, 7 and 13) and by reiterating and refocusing studentsâ€™ ideas (turns 5 and 11). Even though she still performed some evaluatory function, unlike traditional lessons, the evaluation did not refer to the correctness of the proposition offered but to the studentsâ€™ use of reasoning statements in support of the proposition. For this reason, Ms. Enthisâ€™ â€œGood supportâ€ and â€œI really like you answerâ€ statements (turns 5 and 11) can be interpreted as moves aiming to reinforce a way of thinking and to build community rather than as moves to assess the truth-value of the studentâ€™s utterance. In other words, Ms. Enthisâ€™ contributions appeared to function as a scaffold for helping students be effective participants in booktalk discussions. At the same time, the vigorous interactional presence of the students demands that the focus of discourse analysis does not remain solely on the teacher, as often is the case in the study of traditional classroom interactions. In the above quoted excerpt, the students did not have the limited, passive roles usually encountered in Initiation-Response-Evaluation patterns. According to Bakhtin (1981), any utterance is related to the utterances that precede or follow it. However, contrary to the IRE pattern, student contributions were not simply responses to teacher initiations, but instead actively built upon other membersâ€™ utterances, expressing agreement or disagreement, refining points, and presenting confirming or disconfirming evidence. In addition, another difference between this episode and the type of student utterances one is likely to encounter in an
74 IRE exchange was that the students appeared to be putting their ideas forward for dialogic purposes. Indeed, the overarching purpose of the episode seems to be the exploration of Artemisâ€™s character. The student participants reflected on the personality of Artemis (turns 4, 6 and 8), expressed their opinions about his character (turns 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 14 and 15) and connect with the written text by using textual information to support their ideas (turns 4, 6, 8 and 12). Also significant is the open-ended stance apparently held both by the teacher and the students. The teacher appeared equally accepting of Michiraâ€™s response, which claimed that Artemis was not altogether evil, as she was for Craigâ€™s response that argued the exact opposite position. On their part, the students seemed also to be earnestly invested in the exploratory culture of the discussion. Leta agreed with and added to Michiraâ€™s statement, whereas Craig, revising his original opinion, disagreed with the two girls and put forward evidence to support his new position, even interrupting Ms. Enthis to make sure that his point was sufficiently articulated. This discussion excerpt provides a brief but informative glimpse into the interactional life of the classroom community under study. The classroom community, engrossed in its diverse intellectual and social purposes, consistently departed from IRE patterns, which Cazden (2001) describes as the unmarked pattern or the default option of classroom discourse. Instead, the class members often engaged in interactional events of a distinctly different nature; events that fit the model of authentic discussion as it was delineated by the three criteria established in the first chapter of this manuscript: (a) the participants had opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas and perspectives, (b) a wide array of participants presented multiple ideas and perspectives, and (c) the students'
75 and teacher's contributions often built on ideas expressed by other participants in previous turns. The Four Booktalk Sessions The four booktalk sessions used for the discourse analysis were audiotaped during the last two months of data collection, at a time when participants appeared to be accustomed to the presence of a laptop computer, an audio recorder and a video camera in their classroom. The first two sessions revolved around E.L. Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler whereas the last two accompanied the reading of Eoin Colferâ€™s (2001) Artemis Fowl. In general, the four sessions analyzed were typical of the booktalk sessions I observed during my five-month presence in the classroom under study. Booktalks in Ms. Enthisâ€™ class usually took place in the mornings. The first order of business was invariably the recitation of the pledge of allegiance to the flag and the morning announcements broadcast through the school TV circuit. Those routines were typically followed by a period of ten or fifteen minutes used for different purposes during different days. That was the time for taking care of classroom business (classroom duties, upcoming events), for spelling instruction, for in-class tests, for the occasional worksheet and the accompanying mini lesson. After these activities were completed, it was time for booktalk. The class members took out the novel the class was reading at the time, made themselves comfortable in their seats or in the â€œcomfortable areaâ€ at the back of the room and the booktalk event officially commenced. Booktalk sessions were characterized by a burst and pause rhythm between whole group discussions and reading aloud. Part of the session would be spent with Ms. Enthis or another class member reading out loud from the book and the rest of the class
76 following along in their own copies. The reading was interrupted by spurts of discussion the frequency and length of which varied tremendously. Some reading periods stretched for a number of pages, whereas some were interrupted by a new burst of discussion only after a couple of sentences. At the same time, some conversations lasted only for a couple of exchanges, whereas some others went on for more than ten minutes. The purposes of those conversations were also diverse, ranging from recapitulating the story to making personal connections, and from answering find-it-in-the-book questions to exploring characters and their motives or examining author techniques. The discussion spurts were initiated in a number of ways; Ms. Enthis asked a question or made a comment, a student asked a question or made a comment, or the person who was reading (usually Ms. Enthis) paused at a poignant point in the text and, after a short silence, the students started talking about the narrated events. This was a regularly used tactic and, finding it particularly interesting, I wrote about it in my Fieldnote Reflections: A non-verbal clue becomes evident. At the points were Ms. Enthis expects students to make connections, do some deeper thinking, or respond, she pauses from reading, allowing pregnant pauses to occur. Sometimes she has an exaggerated puzzled look on her face or an excited grimace indicating that she just made an interesting connection. The students appear to be very attuned to this. The moment she pauses many take pensive postures furrowing their brow and looking contemplatively upwards, they turn to their neighbors and whisper urgently, they shout out fresh realizations, or raise their hands excitedly. (Fieldnotes) In general, the four taped sessions shared many similarities, as they were the products of a single interactional community operating within the same interactional modality: booktalks. At the same time, however, each one of the four sessions was the distinct product of the unique interactional conditions that created it. In each situation, a host of elements such as the actual written text being read, the instructional purposes of
77 the teacher, and the interactional purposes of the participants came together to create a unique blend and â€œreflect a range of dynamicsâ€ (Townsend, 1991, 70). Session One The first session took place at a time when the class was a day into reading From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1968). The two main characters, Claudia and James, who were eleven and nine years old respectively, had run away from home and were preparing to spend the night in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Following the general style of most booktalks within the classroom, the session consisted of twenty discourse episodes that were interspersed among ten stretches of reading aloud from the book. The teacherâ€™s primary objectives, as they became apparent in the bursts of discussion and in her follow-up interview, revolved around the exploration of the two main characters and the realism of the story. The session started with Ms. Enthis requesting a recapitulation of the story. Following this endeavor, a number of discourse episodes reflected on Claudiaâ€™s and Jamieâ€™s characters, with participants focused on identifying personality traits and providing characterizations, and supporting them with textual information. Also, two episodes addressed Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) technique of using parentheses to present the side comments supposedly made by Ms. Frankweiler, the narrator of the story. The booktalk session also incorporated a number of episodes where participants made connections with their experience: they compared the number of visitors at the Metropolitan with their hometownâ€™s population, they wondered whether the narrated story could happen in reality, they prodded Ellie to talk about her trip to New York, and they talked about their experiences with different museums. The â€œreality checkâ€ of the story was initiated by a question from Ms. Enthis, which I felt clearly insinuated that she
78 thought the story to be implausible. Interestingly, the students practically unilaterally asserted that the story would have been quite plausible at the time it was supposedly taking place, and focused on how modern technological advancements in security would make the story impossible as a present day scenario. Subsequently, the class encountered a two-page map of the Metropolitan in their book and, after Ms. Enthis pointed the map out, the participants engaged in a spontaneous effort to trace the story on the map, trying to identify the different areas the characters had visited. The discussion inspired by the map, which in some ways was providing a reality grounding to the story, circled back to the previous wondering of whether â€œthis could really happenâ€ and then evolved into a playful interaction where each participant used the map to identify where s/he would stay if s/he were to spend the night in the Metropolitan. Finally, after the last stretch of reading, the class engaged in another inquiry-based discussion, providing suggestions as to how the story characters should organize their night in the museum. Session Two The second recording took place six days after the previously presented session, at a time when the class was further along in the reading of From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1968). As with session one, the booktalk event started with Ms. Enthis inviting the students to recap the story and continued with chunks of discussion interspersed among stretches of reading. In general, this session was not as personal or reflective as the previous one. Rather, the academic impetus seemed to focus on surface-level reading comprehension and within-the-text connections. On a variety of occasions Ms. Enthis stopped her reading to ask questions that sought to ascertain that the class noticed and comprehended specific textual information. Most of these conversations
79 were short and to the point and reading resumed as soon as the purpose that initiated each one was satisfied. Within the same purpose, Ms. Enthis introduced a game/review activity. She took a cowboy hat from the class storage room and explained that the hat was full of cards that contained the names of items important to the story they were reading. One person would pick a card and would try to provide the class with as many book-related clues as possible to help them guess what the item might be. The students took to the game but, after three rounds, an interesting controversy erupted, which spun the discussion away from the original academic purpose and into a more socially oriented interaction wherein the students negotiated and demanded their rights. Craig, the third clue-giver had mentioned in his description of â€œdeck of cardsâ€ that Jamie (one of the book characters) used â€œitâ€ to cheat. However, as she admitted in her follow-up interview, Ms. Enthis had not noticed that the information had been mentioned, so she offered the students bonus marbles (a technique she rarely used and only in game situations) if they were to tell her â€œWhatâ€™s interesting about how Jamie plays cards?â€ Ermis repeated that Jamie cheated and Ms. Enthis added two marbles to the class jar. But then, a number of students pointed out that Craig had already provided that information. Smiling teasingly, Ms. Enthis thanked them and removed the marbles from the jar. The students did not accept this decision silently, nor did they grudgingly start squabbling about it. Instead, among smiles and humorous statements, a number of students took turns negotiating the marble situation with Ms. Enthis, making the case that they deserved the marbles for being honest. At the same time, it is important to note that session two directly related to the previously recorded session in an important way. The issue of the storyâ€™s realism, which
80 had taken up a considerable portion of the first session, was reexamined after a scene where the story characters used a display typewriter to type a letter. Ms. Enthis interrupted her reading and invited students to make connections between the event and similar options provided by modern office supply stores. In this way, the issue of the plausibility of the story talked about the week before was revisited and affirmed. In another key episode, Ms. Enthis connected the Egyptian mastaba (a kind of Egyptian tomb) described by the text to a room in the Florida Museum of Natural History. The students, identifying with the connection, went on to describe the room and point out its similarities with the mastaba. In the pages that followed, the story took an unexpected turn as the author started providing clues that revealed that Jamieâ€™s class was visiting the museum. At that point, Ms. Enthis paused from reading and a buzzing noise spread around the room as the students started putting the clues together and realized that Jamieâ€™s class was there. The students raised their hands excitedly, and some of them started whispering to their neighbors. Session Three The third official recording took place a week after the second. By that time, the class had finished working with From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1968) and they were preparing to start reading Eoin Colferâ€™s (2001) Artemis Fowl. Artemis Fowl is the first volume of a trilogy about the adventures of Artemis, a twelve-year-old child prodigy who, distraught by his fatherâ€™s presumed murder and his motherâ€™s mental illness, decides to rebuild his familyâ€™s financial empire by extorting vast volumes of gold from the elusive Fairy civilization, which, unbeknown to most humans, thrives underground. In pursuing his devious plans Artemis, who is
81 aided by his faithful Butler and his butlerâ€™s sister Juliet, comes up against captain Holly Short, a Fairy LEP-recon officer and her commanding officer, commander Root. The class session included the pursuit of purposes like the exploration of word meanings, ascertaining understanding, and the examination of the storyâ€™s realism; purposes which were common in many other booktalks. At the same time, however, this booktalk was in some ways unique as this was the first time the class was coming in contact with the book and, as a result, at least part of the session was dedicated to introductory kinds of conversations. The booktalk event started with Ms. Enthis distributing the new books and instructing the students to not open them but instead to try to make predictions regarding the book based on the information they could elicit from the cover. This invitation, led to numerous predictions from the students. Most of the students focused on the hieroglyphic-like symbols on the cover of the book. Kurt hypothesized that they were a message or a warning and Sapfo added that they might be a warning from the Fairy LEP officer mentioned on the cover. Tyrone theorized that they were part of a code to open something important, Melpomeni that they were bearing markings and on it went. This imaginary/predictive commencement of the booktalk, in many ways set the tone of the whole event, as the conversations that followed contained numerous comments that sought to extrapolate from newly acquired information and envisage how the story would evolve. Another recurring purpose within the third discussion was studentsâ€™ requests for clarification regarding core elements of the setting and the characters. The high frequency of such moves also appeared to be related to the fact that this was a new book for the
82 class. Questions like â€œWhat kind of creature is Artemis?â€ and â€œIs this past or future or present?â€ and the extensive episodes they initiated, suggest that the students were trying to construct an adequate mental image of the universe created by this new story. Also consistent with the communal effort to construct contextualizing frames for the story was the recurring initiation of episodes that sought to make intertextual connections between Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001) and Harry Potter. On two different occasions, the first initiated by a student and the second initiated by Ms. Enthis, the class members pointed out similarities and differences between the two literary works in terms of characters, fantasy elements, and writing styles. The episodes included statements like â€œItâ€™s kind of like Harry Potter to meâ€ and â€œCanâ€™t you just like imagine Artemis Fowl as Draco Malfoy?â€ which indicated that the class was trying to activate a known frame to help make sense of the new literary work at hand. Finally, it is important to note that this introductory/contextualizing episode was characterized by a remarkable spike in the number and the frequency of student-initiated themes. Whereas in the other three discussions the ratio of student-initiated and teacher-initiated themes ranged between one-to-four to one-to-two, in the third discussion the students initiated a total of thirteen themes; only one fewer than Ms. Enthis. Session Four In the same way as the other three recordings, session four was taped a week after the previous session. During session four the class was still working on Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001). The day before they had stopped reading at a particularly intriguing point in chapter 5. The Fairy recon officer, Holly Short, had been captured and was held hostage by Artemis, who demanded an exorbitant amount of gold as ransom. At a time when things looked pretty grim for Captain Short, the narrative presented her feeling an
83 object digging into her ankle, and the episode ended with Holly reflecting that if this was what she thought it was, it could be the beginning of a plan. The class ended with Ms. Enthis asking the students to write a prediction in their journals regarding what the object might be. Session four started with a reintroduction of the wondering the class had ended with the day before. A number of students mentioned various possibilities ranging from a chain to a needle, and from a tracking device to a leech. Most of the hypotheses were in some way related to textual information, but everybody was expressing concerns with the potential of their suggestions as bases of escape plans. Ms. Enthis, who had decided to read part of this book along with the students, had temporarily abandoned her practice of reading the chapters of the day ahead of time, knowing as much as her students. Like her students she was wondering what the object might be and, when she eventually said that she thought it might be a chain, she commented â€œbut I was thinking how could she use that as the beginnings of a plan?â€ (Session 4). The hypothesizing episode about the nature of the â€œmysteryâ€ object was interrupted by Alana who, confused by the fact that she had missed class the day before, demanded, â€œI need an updateâ€ (Session 4) and thus initiated a new episode which will be further discussed later on in the present chapter. After a few exchanges that aimed to figure out exactly where Alana had left off, Ms. Enthis tried to summarize the interceding events. However, Ms. Enthisâ€™ synopsis was cut short by Jay, who pointed out that her summary was missing some vital events. This interjection led to an interesting episode wherein the whole class participated in a version of what Dyson (1993) calls collaborative story making , which involves two or more individuals creating or retelling a story together.
84 In their efforts to efficiently inform Alana of the progression of the story, the class members interrupted each other to mention preceding events, completed each otherâ€™s utterances, and interjected names or phrases in other participantsâ€™ turns. What was particularly compelling about this episode was the fact that the interruptions and the interjections did not appear to function as disruptive events. Rather, they were treated as building blocks advancing the overarching purpose of the episode: to inform Alana. The interruptions took legitimate speech turns in the interaction, and the interjections were graciously incorporated in the speakersâ€™ turns. After a number of reading stretches and short conversation bursts, the session came to another lengthy episode, the opening part of which was presented earlier in the present chapter. The class had just read an intense scene where the Fairy Commander Root barely escaped the explosion of a whaler ship, which was orchestrated by Artemis Fowl as a demonstration of his abilities and his determination to get the Fairy gold. When the reading stopped, Ms. Enthis wrote on the board, â€œIs Artemis evil?â€ After taking a couple of minutes for the students to respond in their journals, a lively conversation begun. Artemisâ€™ character had been a recurring theme in the classâ€™s conversations about Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001). Eschewing the typical villains often encountered in childrenâ€™s literature, Artemis was a complicated character, and class members had diverse opinions regarding his morality, his humanity and the motives for his actions. During the discussion, several members offered their opinions about Artemis, making sure to offer textual evidence to support their propositions or to rebut the propositions of others. Some members indicated that Artemis was not purely evil, citing evidence like â€œhe is evil to the Fairies and he is not so with his mom and Butler,â€ â€œhe is young and doesnâ€™t know what
85 heâ€™s doing and that what he is doing will affect the futureâ€ and â€œhe is too young he just canâ€™t control it. I think it has something to do with his dad.â€ On the other hand, other members claimed that Artemis was truly evil, especially in light of his most recent actions: Hollyâ€™s kidnapping and the bombing of the whaler. In the remaining conversation bursts, the participants focused their attention to reading comprehension types of issues, with Ms. Enthis having a leading role in introducing themes and managing the discussion. First she raised a word exploration issue on the word â€œsiegeâ€ and then she tried to make sure that the students understood an explanation provided by the author. The students responded to both initiations by making spontaneous connections with their experience, first with Melpomeni pointing out that the word siege is a component of the phrase â€œthe Siege of Yorktownâ€ they had studied in Social Studies, and then with Tyrone explaining that the breath mist mentioned in Colferâ€™s explanation was something they had all experienced in cold winter days. The Four Sessions in Synopsis The four sessions were similar in many ways as they occurred within the same classroom community and as they were realizations of the same academic task; the activity of booktalk. They all followed the burst-and-pause rhythm created by the interchange between reading stretches and discussion spurts. During most of the discussion episodes, the literary text at hand remained at the center of the exchanges inspiring academic, social and personal conversations. Ms. Enthis, though in many ways leading the conversation, invited student participation and encouraged multiple perspectives and interpretations. On their part, the students actively participated in the interactions expressing diverse opinions, making connections, and initiating conversation themes.
86 As illustrated in Table 4-1, beyond their similarities, the four sessions were distinctive as they represented the unique combination of the conditions that created them. The first session was introductory, as the class had only spent one other day with From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1968). Therefore, the class was focused on contextualizing-type issues that would help them better understand the characters and their actions. Interestingly, towards the end of the booktalk session, the seriousness of the academic impetus driving the discussions was moderated by a more personal and playful discussion wherein the participants tried to put themselves in the circumstances of the main characters and imagine where they would spend the night if they were to stay at the Metropolitan. Table 4-1. The four sessions No. Phase Major Overarching Purposes Discourse Mode 1 Introductory Exploring character Examining realism Connecting with experience Academic/Interpretive Academic/Interpretive Personal/Playful 2 In Process Ascertaining text comprehension Making within-the-text connections Negotiating rights Connecting with experience Academic/Interpretive Academic/Deductive Social/Negotiate-ive Personal/Associative 3 Introductory Predicting Making intertextual connections Requesting and providing clarification Academic/Hypothetical Academic/Associative Academic/Interpretive 4 In Process Predicting/hypothesizing Recapitulating Exploring character Academic/Hypothetical Academic/Collaborative Academic/Exploratory Like the first session, session three was also introductory, as it was taped during the first day the class was working with Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001). Similar to session one, session three appeared to be the expression of a focused effort on behalf of the participants to familiarize themselves with the universe created by the story they were reading. However, the ways the participants went about pursuing this purpose in session three were in many ways different than the approach employed during session one.
87 Whereas in session one the conversation remained academic and close to the book, only briefly venturing into more personal, playful exchanges, most of session three involved departures from the book. Maybe because this was the participantsâ€™ very first encounter with the book, a large portion of the booktalk session was characterized by discourse episodes that did use the book at hand as their basis but, rather than focusing on more tangible, interpretive purposes, they departed from the textual information to hypothesize about the plot, and to make connections with other literary texts. Interestingly, after spending the first portion of the booktalk with â€œoutboundâ€ conversations, the third session concluded with conversations that centered back on the book. As the classâ€™ reading progressed beyond the prologue and well into chapter 1, the conversation started sounding more like the first introductory session, session one. The focus of the interactions turned inward towards the text, and the discourse became more interpretive, as the participants appeared to be trying to make sense of the information progressively released by the narrative, and to comfortably situate them into the mental frames they had created about the story. Whereas sessions one and three were introductory, sessions two and four were identified as â€œin process,â€ as they occurred at points in time when the class was well into reading the book they were working on at the time. Session two started in an interpretive mode, with the participants engaging in reading comprehension types of conversation. With the introduction of the clue-game by Ms. Enthis, the interaction became deductive, as the primary purpose was to combine the clues provided in order to deduce which item they were referring to. The marble controversy created within the clue-game about how many marbles would be allotted to the studentsâ€™ reward jar led to a social/negotiate-ive
88 discussion wherein the students negotiated their deservedness of rewards. The negotiations led the interaction beyond the scope of booktalk but, as soon as the negotiating episode concluded, the class turned to a personal/associative discussion; the participants made connections between the museum described in the book and another museum they had visited as a class. The fourth session was also identified as â€œin process,â€ but in many ways the mode and the tone of the class was different from session two. Even though all of the other sessions analyzed also exuded an air of open-endedness, session four appeared to be even more tentative and exploratory. The session started with a hypothesizing discussion and it ended with an exploratory discussion of Artemisâ€™ character. The character discussion was dramatically different from the one encountered in the first session. Whereas in session one the participants were pointing out personality traits of characters they did not know very well, the discussion on Artemis had a much more robust information basis. The class had already spent a week with the book and the participants were using this knowledge to explore a complex character. Finally, the middle portion of the session was characterized by collaborative story telling, as a number of participants worked together to recapitulate the story for the benefit of a classmate. Summary The four classroom sessions offer a window into the booktalk events of the classroom under study. The conversations that took place during the sessions shared common characteristics but also had differences that reflected the unique interactional situation of each session. In general, the four booktalks revealed a classroom where a variety of purposes were pursued through a variety of discourse modes and where open-endedness reigned. Multiple perspectives were invited and presented, and the focus,
89 though primarily academic, did not exclude other facets of the participantsâ€™ personal and classroom lives from finding their way into the booktalks. This appeared to create a fertile ground for authentic discussions. The Texture of Talk in the Four Booktalk Discussions The first question guiding this research was â€œ What was the texture of talk of authentic discussions in the four sessions? In trying to address this question, it seemed vital and necessary to first examine the texture of talk in the entirety of the four sessions. For this purpose I first analyzed some of the more readily observable patterns of discourse in the four sessions like number of speech turns and length of utterance. Subsequently, I used discourse analysis techniques to examine various discourse characteristics across all episodes, primarily focusing on participant moves (the participantsâ€™ purposes in each one of their utterances). At a succeeding step, I used the three criteria of authentic discussions established in Chapter 1 (inviting multiple perspectives, presenting multiple perspectives, and building on each othersâ€™ ideas) to identify authentic discussion episodes within the sessions. Finally, I used the discourse analysis findings to compare the authentic discussion episodes with the remaining episodes. Patterns of Discourse in the Four Sessions One of the most apparent patterns in the discourse characterizing the four sessions analyzed was the burst-and-pause rhythm created by the interchange between stretches of reading and spurts of conversation. In examining the conversations within the four sessions, it also quickly became apparent that the students exhibited active participation throughout the booktalks. As can be seen in Figure 4-1, in all four sessions, the students had a higher number of utterances than the teacher. In fact, the ratio between teacher and
90 student utterances in all four session was four to six, thus indicating that there were a number of occasions when students talked directly after other student utterances without the teacher mediating in every situation. In addition, the consistency of the ratio indicates a fairly stable pattern of interaction. However, as Figure 4-2 demonstrates, a comparison of the lines of teacher speech and the lines of student speech indicates that the teacher talked slightly more than the students. The discrepancy between the proportions of utterances and the proportions of lines is largely due to the fact that, on occasion, the teacher had longer utterances than students. Even though, much like the students, most of the teacherâ€™s utterances span one to three lines, some of her more instructive type of turns (providing directions for activities, giving detailed explanations) went on for more than eight lines, thus affecting the line number proportions. S#1S#2S#3S#4 Teacher 118888885 Students 174113122116S#1S#2S#3S#4 020406080100120140160180 Teacher Figure 4-1. Comparison between teacher and student turns in the four discussions
91 S#1S#2S#3S#4 Students Teacher 020406080100120140160180200 186124141151 Teacher192180173191S#1S#2S#3S#4 Students Figure 4-2. Comparison of number of transcript lines between teacher and students. As the utterance and line count data indicate, along with the teacher, the students had a quite active presence in the interactional terrain of booktalks. Table 4-2 shows the number of turns taken by each student during the four sessions. As is the case in practically every classroom, some of the students in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom were much more vocal than others. Along with students like Jay, Melpomeni and Sapfo who were lively participants in every classroom conversation, there are moderate participants like Ellie, Damon and Natalia as well as quiet students like Simbanina, Rashell and Laurie. At this point, however, it needs to be mentioned that the number of turns as indicated in table 4-2 might be somewhat misleading, as it does not account for the unidentified speech turns or for the turns where a number of students were talking at the same time. In all likelihood some of the unidentified turns belonged to the more quiet students. Also, my observations of the class as well as the review of the videotapes indicated that, even the students who were otherwise silent, often participated in choral responses as well as in situations where more than one participant were talking at the same time.
92 Table 4-2. Number of turns by each student in the four sessions. Name Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4 Total Sapfo 10 2 8 10 30 Natalia 1 2 3 2 8 Juno 3 0 1 0 4 Ellie 11 4 1 0 16 Leta 0 0 4 2 6 Simbanina 0 0 0 0 0 Rashell 0 0 0 0 0 Shanaynay 0 1 0 0 1 Melpomeni 14 7 8 8 37 Alana 4 1 6 8 19 Michira 0 1 0 1 2 Laurie 0 0 0 0 0 Jay 10 10 5 15 40 Mechanic 10 0 4 4 18 Yugi 4 2 4 0 10 Ermis 6 5 16 0 27 Craig 5 3 9 10 27 Constantine 0 3 4 0 7 Kent 7 1 12 2 22 Woza 0 5 0 0 5 Chow-Young 2 0 0 0 2 Damon 3 5 0 2 10 Anakin 10 2 4 2 18 Tyrone 4 10 4 13 31 An examination of the four sessions indicated that students secured speech turns in booktalks in a variety of ways. As illustrated in Figure 4-3, with the exception of session four where the case of a student talking without invitation was slightly more prevalent, the most common way of securing the floor was through teacher invitation. In other words, Ms. Enthis, up to a degree, played the role of the moderator, bestowing the right to the floor to specific students. However, teacher invitation was hardly the only way for a student to enter the conversation as it accounted only for 41% of studentsâ€™ participatory acts. The remaining 59% was divided among a single student talking without teacher invitation, choral responses, several students talking at the same time, giggles or other exclamations and student controlled invitations.
93 0102030405060708090 Session 180421426120 Session 241291271212 534761042 Session 4434841362Student talks after Teacher invitationStudent talks without invitationChoral ResponseSeveral TalkGiggles or other exclamationsStudent talks after Student invitation Session 3 Figure 4-3. Patterns of studentsâ€™ participatory acts in the four sessions 2 . Even though choral responses and giggles and other exclamations were not counted as utterances and were thus not considered during discourse analysis, they are important to note as they are signs of student engagement in the booktalks and of the friendly, lighthearted atmosphere that permeated classroom interactions. Similarly, the relevance of the studentsâ€™ comments, in conjunction with the well managed feel of the class, often rendered the occasion of several students talking at the same time an act of excitement rather than of misbehavior. Finally, the most noteworthy element of Figure 4-3 is probably the frequency of contributions where individual students attempted to take the floor without having been specifically invited by the teacher or another discussion leader. Contrary to what one would expect in a traditional classroom as described by Mehan (1979) and Dyson (1994), the instances of talking without invitation ranged between being half as many as the 2 The data table indicates the number of occurrences for each type of attempt to enter the conversation.
94 teacher invited contributions in session one to being slightly more than the teacher invited contributions in session four (which interestingly enough was the most exploratory session). In general, student attempts to enter the conversation without having been specifically invited were not greeted with overt reproof, as they typically are in classrooms. Rather, as can be seen in Figure 4-4 in most occasions the attempted contributions were either recognized as contributions to the whole class interaction or they were simply recognized by the initial speaker who used the unsolicited contribution to inform his/her own utterance. The latter type of recognition is illustrated in the following excerpt from session four. The excerpt is from an episode where the class was collaboratively retelling part of Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001) for the benefit of a classmate who had missed class the day before. 1. Ms. Enthis: Well, it was like a button video camera inside of it and they, they talk about this ship, this freighter â€“ 2. Anakin: carrier Ms. Enthis: -or carrier or something 3. Unknown: Japanese whaler Ms. Enthis: Japanese whaler thatâ€™s going out and so we think that heâ€™s gonna Weâ€™re predicting that theyâ€™re going to put the locator on there as like a diversion. Oh, they do! Right? In the excerpt above, Ms. Enthis held the primary speech turn (turn 1) recounting the story for Alana. However, within her turn two other utterances (turns 2 and 3) were interjected. The two interjecting turn takers had not been invited by anyone, but yet they chose to take action when they thought they had something valuable to contribute to the storytelling. Ms. Enthis, as the initial speaker, recognized the interjections by incorporating them in her own utterance.
95 Session 1Session 2Session 3Session 4 05101520253035 22317 1412 Session 335111 Session 428911Turn recognized as a contribution to the discussionTurn recognized by the initial speaker Turn is not Recognized Session 1 Session 2 Figure 4-4. What happens when a student attempts to make a contribution without having been invited. In general, the high percentage of student attempts to enter the booktalks without having been invited by the teacher or another discussion leader, and the high proportion of those attempts that were in some way recognized as legitimate contributions to the conversations seems to indicate that students had high levels of investment and ownership of the classroom interactions. As will be further discussed in chapter 6, the class departed from traditional turn-taking practices, allowing booktalks to approximate more adult-like ways of talking about books, with students talking to the whole class rather than to and through the teacher.
96 Participant Moves The previously presented analysis of the four taped discussions begins to shed some light into the texture of talk in the four sessions (a) by presenting an overview of the major discourse episodes and the interaction modes that appeared to define them, and (b) by highlighting some major patterns of discourse. Beyond these first levels of analysis, I scrutinized the transcripts of the four sessions in an effort to categorize the moves performed (purposes pursued) by the participantsâ€™ through their verbal participation in booktalks. Bakhtin (1986) states that individuals experience language in action. Based on the same premise, Halliday (1973) argues that verbal communication is characterized by purposive sequences, and maintains that linguistic form and function are experienced simultaneously as an inseparable whole. As Lindfors (1991) puts it, â€œour verbal utterance and written symbols are forms (linguistically acceptable expressions of semantic content) expressing diverse communication functions (what we accomplish in interactions through the use of language forms)â€ (324). According to Brown and Yule (1983) the analysis of linguistic forms is important and has been extensively represented in grammatical studies. However, they maintain, â€œthe analysis of discourse is, necessarily, the analysis of language in use. While some linguists may concentrate on determining the formal properties of a language, the discourse analyst is committed to an investigation of what language is used forâ€ (1). Based on these ideas, when studying the use of language in a community, it becomes important to examine the functions of language; the interactional purposes that appear to guide verbal participation.
97 In exploring the texture of talk in the classroom under study, I analyzed the verbatim transcripts of the four audio and video-taped sessions, seeking to identify what Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) termed as â€œmovesâ€: the participantsâ€™ purposes in each one of their utterances. In other words, I interpreted participantsâ€™ utterances as purposeful language acts (Lindfors, 1999) and categorized them based on the interactional purposes their utter-ers appeared to be pursuing. In coding the transcripts I used the utterance or conversational turn as the unit of analysis for identifying the participantsâ€™ moves. Every verbal contribution was considered and categorized except for perfunctory contributions like laughter or unremarkable articulations like giving the floor to someone. The boundaries of an utterance were typically determined by â€œa change of speaking subjectsâ€ (Lindfors, 1999, 37), except in the case of overlapping speech or minimal interruptions. In those occasions the interjection counted as one utterance, and the interrupted contribution was spliced and treated as a single utterance. Often, utterances were coded as serving more than one purpose, thus rendering my coding system a system of overlapping categories (Townsend, 1991). This is consistent with Brown and Yuleâ€™s (1983) proclamation that â€œit would be very unlikely that, on any occasion, a natural language utterance would be used to fulfill only one functionâ€ (1). A substantial body of research in classroom discourse tends to describe the principal functions of language in classrooms through a limited number of categories. So, for example, Mehanâ€™s (1979) seminal study of pedagogical contracts described classroom discourse in traditional classrooms through the triadic sequence of Initiation-Response-Evaluation. Similarly, Wells, 1993, (discussed in Cazden, 2001), built on Mehanâ€™s
98 analysis and proposed an analogous triadic sequence with the final category of Evaluation being replaced by Feedback. At the same time, an equally extensive corpus of research in classroom discourse focuses on examining the function of specific forms within classroom interactions. Within that tradition Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) examined the function of interrogatives, and Shultz and Florio (1979) studied the function of nonverbal cues. In this analysis, I followed the example of Townsend (1991 and 1993) and Virtaren and Maricic (2000), whose examination of extensive oral, and computer/based discussions respectively yielded complex categorization systems. Townsend generated a system with a total of nineteen categories, whereas Virtaren and Maricicâ€™s analysis produced a sixteen-category system. Through repeated scrutiny of the transcripts, I constructed a list of twenty-two moves: thirteen describing the teacherâ€™s verbal contributions and nine describing the studentsâ€™ talk (Table 4-3). As explicated in chapter 3 of the present manuscript, the twenty-two moves were data-derived and were developed through a process of repeated refinement. The reliability of the categories was substantiated by satisfactory levels of inter-rater agreement in an inter-rater reliability check.
99 Table 4-3. List of participant moves Teacher Moves: Teacher tries to Number of Instances % Among Total Teacher Utterances* Student Moves: Student tries to Number of Instances % Among Total Student Utterances** 1. Initiate or refocus theme 42 11% 1. Initiate or refocus theme 23 4% 2. Request information/ clarification/ elaboration 120 32% 2. Request information/ clarification/ elaboration 25 5% 3. Provide information/ clarification/ elaboration 71 19% 3. Provide information/ clarification/ elaboration 181 34% 4. Connect with written text 91 24% 4. Connect with written text 134 25% 5. Connect with experience/ knowledge 61 16% 5. Connect with experience/ knowledge 49 9% 6. Reflect 40 11% 6. Reflect 69 13% 7. Express opinion 25 7% 7. Express opinion 147 28% 8. Be humorous 35 9% 8. Be humorous 38 7% 9. Build community 62 16% 9. Build community 46 9% 10. Address procedures 66 17% 11. Encourage students to express opinion 75 20% 12. Ascertain understanding 19 5% 13. Reiterate/ refocus student idea 110 29% * The percentage refers to the frequency of each move among a total of 379 teacher utterances in the four sessions analyzed. ** The percentage refers to the frequency of each move among a total of 527 student utterances in the four sessions analyzed. Tries to initiate or refocus theme The move of trying to initiate or refocus theme was one of the nine common moves among teacher and students. Utterances were coded as the initiating/refocusing move when they appeared to express an attempt to shift the subject of the conversation, regardless of whether they resulted in a successful switch or not. Attempting the
100 initiation/refocusing of the theme of a conversation indicates that the utter-er probably believes that s/he has a legitimate capacity to influence the conversation in substantial ways. As it was aptly demonstrated by Mehan (1979), traditionally, in classroom settings that is an authority enjoyed only by teachers. However, in the classroom under study both the teacher and the students attempted to initiate and refocus the theme of conversations. The move was manifested in 11% of the teacher utterances and 4% of the student utterances. The following excerpt from session three illustrates the use of this move (expressions of the move are in boldface text): 1. Craig: This is kind of like e (louder) Itâ€™s kind of like Harry Potter to me. 2. Ms. Enthis: Well Why do you say that? 3. Craig: Because it, it just like itâ€™s kind of magical and 4. Constantine: It has fairies. 5. Ms. Enthis: It does look magical like Harry Potter. I mean, elves and fairies and6. Many: and a brilliant 7. Ms. Enthis: and a brilliant child. 8. U: Leprechauns. 9. Ms. Enthis: Leprechauns (nodding in agreement) 10. Sapfo: I know. 11. Ms. Enthis: But, Iâ€™ll tell you what, it is more disgusting. 12. Many: Cool (mainly boysâ€™ voices) 13. Melpomeni: Yes! (in agreement with Ms. Enthis) 14. Ms. Enthis: And more violent 15. Many: Cool! 16. Ms. Enthis: Ellie? 17. Ellie: Is this past or future or present? 18. Ms. Enthis: Oh! Is it past, future, or present? 19. Sapfo: Future! 20. Many: Yeah Future21. Ms. Enthis: Good question. It says in the prologue â€œthe story began several years agoâ€ (Session 3, 7) In the excerpt above I identified two different instances of the move of initiating or refocusing theme, both of which were produced by students. The first one came from Craig, right when a conversation on the meaning of the phrase â€œchild prodigyâ€ came to its conclusion. Having just been introduced to Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001) Craig made a
101 spontaneous connection between Harry Potter and the new book the class was working on. His connection was picked up by Ms. Enthis and other participants who agreed with Craig and, through collaboratively constructed statements, explicated features of this connection. The conversation comparing the two books came to an end when Ellie put forward an information seeking inquiry: â€œIs this past, future or present?â€ What is particularly interesting about this inquiry is that, even though it was expressed as a question that sought a definite answer, it was connected to a more complex plain of comprehension: apparently, Ellie was trying to construct a mental vision of the bookâ€™s universe and based on what she had in place at that particular point, the temporal dimension was problematic. As the two examples of student-initiated themes demonstrate, the students of the classroom under study appeared to have a sense of ownership over classroom interactions. Craig presented his connection with Harry Potter when he found a window into the interaction, and Ellie posed her inquiry seeking the classâ€™ help in making sense of the temporal dimension of the book. The teacher also tried to initiate or refocus the theme of conversations. As she stated in her interviews, many of the themes she brought to the forefront were issues she had decided on during her planning. However, she explained, a considerable number of themes were initiated based on ideas that came to her during teaching as well as based on where she perceived studentsâ€™ interest to lie. Some examples of Ms. Enthisâ€™ initiations include: â€œWhatâ€™s that one characteristic about Claudia thatâ€™s kind of emerging right now?â€ (session 1), â€œRaise your hand if youâ€™ve ever been to the Florida museum of Natural History. I have a connection to this Egyptian Mastaba that connects to the Florida
102 museum of Natural Historyâ€ (session 2) and â€œWhat does he put what does was digging into Hollyâ€™s ankle?â€ (session 4) Requests information/clarification/elaboration This is another one of the moves common in the utterances of both the teacher and the students and it accounted for 32% of the teacherâ€™s moves and for 5% of the studentsâ€™ moves. Similarly to the â€œtries to initiate or refocus pointâ€ move this is also a move that indicates a level of confidence in oneâ€™s authority to shape the conversation. By virtue of expressing a request, this move is an act of imposition (Lindfors, 1999), as it tries to control the behavior of other participants according to the desires of the individual making the request. When a verbal request is uttered, then the other participants have basically two options: they are either to try to accommodate the request and provide the information, clarification, or elaboration sought, or to ignore or dismiss the request, thus endangering the interaction. In the classroom under study, such requests were invariably honored in the immediately following utterances. The move of requesting information, clarification or elaboration was used for instances when a participant asked for information related to a particular issue and when a participant asked another to clarify or expand on a previously expressed utterance. Within this move I also included Ms. Enthisâ€™ find-it-in-the-book questions as well as her invitations to students to provide information that had been discussed in class on a different occasion. The following excerpt from session two involves three examples of Ms. Enthis using the move of requesting information, clarification, elaboration (instances of the move are in boldfaced font): 1. Jay: They are caught! Itâ€™s their school!
103 2. Ms. Enthis: How can you tell? 3. Jay: Because itâ€™s saying, â€œsame school bus, same familiar namesâ€. 4. Ms. Enthis: familiar names? 5. Jay: Bruce. 6. Ms. Enthis: Isnâ€™t Bruce the one he 7. U: played cards with Ms. Enthis: -played cards with. Ermis? 8. Ermis: I wonder if he [is going to want to go with them]. (session 2) As Jay exclaimed the within-the-text connection he had just made, Ms. Enthis invited him to clarify his statement, asking â€œhow can you tell?â€ (line 2) and then, as he is providing his clarification in line three, she probed him a bit further by questioningly repeating his last phrase â€œfamiliar names?â€ (line 4). Finally, in line six, Ms. Enthis expresses another invitation for clarification by starting to ask who Bruce was in the story. At the same time, unlike traditional classrooms where student requesting moves are primarily expressed through procedural questions (Nystrand, 1997a), the students in this classroom asked for various types of information, clarification or elaboration. For example, as Yugi was explaining the mummification practices of the ancient Egyptians in session one, Kent very seriously asked, â€œHow did they pull their brains out?â€ thus urging Yugi to elaborate on the procedure he was describing. Similarly, in session three Tyrone interrupted Ms. Enthisâ€™ reading as he found himself confused about Artemis Fowl. Pursuing the clarification he needed he asked, â€œWhat kind of creature is [Artemis]?â€ Provides information/clarification/elaboration The act of trying to provide information, clarification or elaboration was another one of the moves that were common to both the teacher and the students. An utterance received this code when its utter-er appeared to be trying to introduce new information to the conversation or when s/he was trying to provide further clarification or elaboration on
104 an issue that the class was in the process of discussing. Even though that was not always the case, the move often functioned as a response to the previously discussed move of requesting information, clarification, elaboration. The move was identified in 19% of the teacherâ€™s utterances and for 34% of the studentsâ€™ utterances. In the following excerpt from session four, Alana, who had missed class the day before, raised her hand demanding an update. The instances of the move of providing information, clarification or elaboration are in boldfaced font. 1. Alana : I need an update. 2. Ms. Enthis: You need an update. Alana needs an update. Um WhereWhere did you leave off? Where in your journal are we? (Alana shrugs her shoulders and she and Tyrone, who is sitting next to her, look through her journal together trying to figure it out. They exchange a couple of quiet utterances) 3. Alana: We had started chapter 5. 4. Ms. Enthis: We had started chapter 5 but we hadnâ€™t written anything? 5. Tyrone: She has written the sunglasses thing. 6. Ms. Enthis: Oh you had written the prediction about the sunglasses? 7. Alana: (nods yes) 8. Ms. Enthis: What did you write about your prediction? 9. Alana: Em 10. Ms. Enthis: What did you think the sunglasses were for? 11. Alana: That they wouldnâ€™t get mesmerized. 12. Ms. Enthis: Aha. Because of the mesmer. Exactly. And thatâ€™s what we found out, and thatâ€™s what we found out later in chapter 5. The reflective coating of the sunglasses prevents the humans from becoming mes, mesmerized. So, I think what you missed is that the scene switches back to Recon and Root and he reactivates himself and he goes on to the surface and oh no! Did you see this did you see Were you here for the part when Foaly is showing him the video of what happened? (session 4) In this excerpt Alana and Tyrone were providing Ms. Enthis with information and clarification regarding Alanaâ€™s status. Alana needed an update, and the class needed a sense of where Alana had left off in order to be able to provide her with an adequate summary of the interceding events. As a result, Ms. Enthis asked a series of questions that requested information, elaboration and clarification on Alanaâ€™s status (turns 2, 4, 6,
105 8, and 10), trying to pinpoint the spot where Alana had left off. On their behalf, Alana and Tyrone, who took the initiative to assist with the process, provided the information Ms. Enthis asked for (turns 3, 5, and 11). When Ms. Enthis felt that she had an adequate perception of Alanaâ€™s situation, she started providing her with storyline information in utterance twelve. Interestingly, as she was narrating the mediating events, Ms. Enthis realized that she might not have had such an accurate perception regarding Alanaâ€™s status after all. Consequently, she interrupted her information giving to request further clarification. It was also interesting that the episode continued with a number of students getting involved in the updating task, providing information, clarification and elaboration trying to assist Alana come up to speed. Connects with written text The move of trying to connect with written text was one of great prevalence and importance in the booktalks of the class under study as it accounted for 24% of the teacherâ€™s utterances and 25% of the studentsâ€™ utterances. The move included three major subcategories. The first subcategory involved participantsâ€™ efforts to make within-the-text connections. In other words, the participants were synthesizing information presented in various points through the literary work at hand and used deductive logic to make predictions or reach understandings regarding issues like the motives of characters and the relationships between different plot elements. So for example, in session one, when the name of Mr. Saxonberg was mentioned in From the mixed-up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1968), Kent exclaimed, â€œSaxonberg is her um l her lawyer!â€ This statement indicated that Kent made the connection that the Saxonberg, who at that point was mentioned as a benefactor of the Metropolitan museum, was probably the same as the lawyer Saxonberg to whom the letter that introduced the story was addressed.
106 In addition, the move of trying to connect with written text also included participantsâ€™ efforts to make intertextual connections. On various occasions, both the students and Ms. Enthis made statements that related the book they were reading at the time with other literary works they had read independently or as a class. Some of the student-made connections were explicitly solicited by Ms. Enthis, whereas others were spontaneous statements expressing similarities in plot, writing style or characters. Within this subcategory fit the following two examples from session three. First, Ermisâ€™ unsolicited statement â€œCanâ€™t you just like imagine Artemis Fowl as Draco Malfoy?â€ as well as the following exchange between Ms. Enthis and Melpomeni: Ms. Enthis: Did you like [Artemis Fowl] more than Harry Potter, Melpomeni? Melpomeni: Er Yes and no Yes because of like the species that they are using and the technology, and no because like in Harry Potter people can like people can have, like, fly on brooms and stuff and they can like make [magic tricks]. Finally, a turn was coded as the move of trying to connect with written text when a participant used textual information to support an analytical comment s/he was putting forward. The following excerpt from session four is a selection from an extensive conversation wherein the class was trying to predict what might be the object that was digging into the heel of Holly Short, the Elf captain held hostage by Artemis Fowl. The instances of the â€œconnects with written textâ€ move are in bold-faced font: 1. Sapfo: I thought, since Artemis is always giving people like shots and threatening with them and stuff, well I thought that maybe it was some kind of shot or a needle that he had, he had gotten an injection. Ms. Enthis:Mechanic. 2. Mechanic: I think it was the dart that Butler shot. Ms. Enthis:Melpomeni. 3. Melpomeni: I I think that it, it is some kind of locator4. Craig: something hard Melpomeni: so that they could track her 5. Unknown: Itâ€™s not a dart!
107 Even though the impetus of this conversation was obviously open-ended, it is apparent that the participants were not simply offering random propositions. Rather, their predictions appear to be informed by their knowledge of the story they were reading. Consequently, based on the fact that Artemis had used drugs in injection form in previous parts of the story, Sapfo thought that the object in question might have been a needle from such a shot (turn 1). Similarly, Mechanic referred back to Hollyâ€™s capture scene and suggested that the object might have been the dart that Butler shot to immobilize Holly (turn 2). Finally, even though Melpomeniâ€™s prediction (turn 3) did not contain an explicit connection with the text and was consequently not coded as expressing a â€œconnecting with written textâ€ move, I suspect that it was probably informed by the information that the Fairy Recon Force utilized a locator system. The practice of supporting oneâ€™s claims, suggestions and opinions with textual evidence was one that was highly encouraged by Ms. Enthis, who both modeled the procedure with statements like â€œIt says in the prologueâ€ (session 3) and â€œ[Artemis] was saying that of his mom diesâ€ (session 4) and praised students when they used it. Connects with experience/knowledge The move of connecting with experience/knowledge was used by both the teacher and the students, and it referred to participantsâ€™ efforts to import elements of relevant experience and knowledge they had gained either through their common class life or through their personal experiences outside of school. Much like the previously discussed move of connecting with written text, this was also a type of contribution that appeared to be highly valued by Ms. Enthis who both demonstrated the move and encouraged students to use it. The move was found in 16% of the teacherâ€™s utterances and 9% of the studentsâ€™ utterances. The following excerpt from session two took place right after the
108 class read a passage from From the mixed-up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1968) mentioning an Egyptian tomb called mastaba. The examples of the â€œconnects with experience/knowledgeâ€ move are in bold-faced font: 1. Ms. Enthis: Raise your hand if youâ€™ve ever been to the Florida Museum of Natural History. I have a connection to this Egyptian mastaba that connects to the Florida museum of Natural History. When they describe it as a place where you can spend a lot of time in, reading all the little things on the wall or a place where you can just walk through and feel like youâ€™ve changed climates. Does anybody know what I am talking about? [I made a] connection. Tyrone, what do you think? 2. Tyrone: That cave where itâ€™s got all the animals and stuff and theyâ€™ve got that guy climbing up on a rope thing 3. Many: aha, yeah Tyrone: somewhere there. In the excerpt above, Ms. Enthis initiated the connecting episode by asking students to activate their background knowledge of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Subsequently, she started presenting the connection she made between the Egyptian mastaba discussed in their book and their hometown museum. Without explicitly saying what the specific association was, she invited the students to participate in the connecting event and Tyrone picked up the connection and began exemplifying the connection by talking about a cave in the Florida Museum of Natural history (turn 2). Beyond instances of connecting with experience and knowledge gained beyond official school experiences, this move also included instances where a participant imported to the interaction bits of knowledge from subject matter discussed in class. An example of such an attempt includes Melpomeniâ€™s exclamation â€œLike the Siege of Yorktown!â€ (session 4) when the class was talking about the meaning of the word â€œsiege.â€ The move of trying to connect with experience/knowledge is intimately related to the move of trying â€œto connect subject matter with personal experienceâ€ identified by
109 Townsend (1991) and to the strategy of connecting with the world discussed by Keene and Zimmermann (1997). According to Dyson (1993), the feeling that the culture and the experiences they bring with them from home have a legitimate place within the classroom walls is a fundamental prerequisite for students to carve comfortable social spaces for themselves in the multiples social worlds of the classroom. In addition, making connections between already established schemata and new experiences is important in building interconnected, durable understandings (Lindfors, 1987). Finally, as Langer (1995) points out, making personal connections with the experiences of literary characters creates the critical ability of â€œsubjective experiencesâ€ which can â€œadd sensitivity as well as complexityâ€ to understandings (p.7). Reflects Both the teacher and the students of the class under study tried to reflect on ideas in the four sessions analyzed, with the move accounting for 11% of the teacherâ€™s utterances and for 13% of the studentsâ€™ utterances. During the move of reflecting, participants expressed tentative musings about the issue at hand. In other words, such moves were expressed by utterances wherein a participant presented an unsettled or exploratory idea in a way that did not attempt to close down the conversation, but rather sought to present yet another aspect of a complex issue while at the same time leaving the terrain open for other ideas. The move of reflection was characterized by a sense of duality as on the one hand the speaker ruminated on an issue and presented his/her thoughts, but at the same time the presentation itself contained an implicit invitation, â€œThis is what I came up with. What did you think?â€
110 The move is illustrated in the following excerpt from session four. The four utterances quoted here are from the middle part of an extensive discussion about the character of Artemis, one of the protagonists in Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001). 1. Jay: I still donâ€™t think Artemis is evil because he is too young to know everything in his mind that he does, like that he knows all that technology. I do not think he, he just canâ€™t control it. I think it has something to do with his dad. If he finds his dad, his mom will get well and 2. Unknown: Heâ€™s too smart! 3. Ms. Enthis: Sapfo. 4. Sapfo: It might, but I think that Artemis is sort of evil. Not pure evil, but sort of evil because he is willing to try to kill a Fairy or I think he is, because he is willing to kill two Fairies because he might have killed commander Root and he, I think he is sort of threatening to kill, hinting that he is going to kill just for gold and he doesnâ€™t really care about the environment, because I think, isnâ€™t like lead like flammable? The move of reflecting can be seen in the first turn where Jay was expressing his disagreement with some previous speakers who had proposed that Artemis was truly evil. Without actively dismissing those opinions, Jay went on to explain his position, suggesting that Artemis is too young to responsibly deal with his vast technological knowledge and added that the extenuating circumstances of his dadâ€™s disappearance might explain his belligerent behavior. Through his utterance, Jay presented and explicated his position. At the same time, though, he expressed tentativeness with the frequent use of the phrase â€œI thinkâ€ and by allowing his voice to taper off at the end of his turn, which in a way implies an invitation for further input. In the fourth turn, Sapfo continued the act of reflecting about Artemisâ€™ character. She validated the previously expressed suggestions by her initial phrase â€œit mightâ€ and went on to present her own take on the matter, maintaining that Artemis is â€œsort of evil,â€ and providing textual evidence to support her opinion. Much like Jay, Sapfoâ€™s utterance was also characterized by rough-thought speech and tentativeness. The repetition of
111 phrases, the imperfect syntax and of course the interrogative at the end, indicate that what Sapfo was presenting was not a final, all thought-out idea, but rather a thought-in-progress. At the same time, her use of tentative phrases like â€œit mightâ€ and â€œI thinkâ€ and the questioning conclusion soften her statement and invite further exploration. Expresses opinion The move of expressing opinion was another move common to both teacher and students. Within this move participants presented their views, made predictions or guesses, agreed with other ideas expressed, and articulated counterpoints. â€œExpressing opinionâ€ was a primarily student move as it was used for 28% of all student utterances and for 7% of all teacher utterances in the four sessions analyzed. The high frequency of the move for students becomes particularly important, as the expression of opinions is a crucial prerequisite for the presentation of multiple perspectives, one of the authentic discussion indicators established in Chapter 1. The following speech turns are examples of the move: As the class was talking about an episode from Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler where the two main characters where commenting on the peculiar climate an Egyptia tomb appeared to have Yugi commented, â€œI think they meant climate by the temperature because itâ€™s probably really hot in thereâ€ (session two). Holly, a character from Colferâ€™s (2001) Artemis Fowl, had just realized that there was something touching her ankle and thought, â€œif this is what I think it is, it could be the beginning of a plan. The class spent considerable time speculating on what this might be. At the conclusion of a relevant conversation Ms. Enthis remarked, â€œI think thatâ€™s pretty much it. I thought that it was some kind of a chain around her ankle, I thought that it was some kind of something holding her, but I was thinking how could she use that as the beginnings of a plan?â€ (session four). During an exchange regarding the plausibility of Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler Sapfo said, â€œWell, today, em New York has gotten quite a bit more dangerous and two kids could not just walk around town. I mean, they would be unnoticed, but it would be pretty dangerous and it would be much harder, people might knowâ€ (session one).
112 As a word exploration episode on the word â€œsiegeâ€ was drawing to an end Alana suggested: â€œProdigy should be a bonus word.â€ (session three) In the first two examples, Yugi and Ms. Enthis prefaced the expression of their opinions with the phrase â€œI think,â€ thus explicitly framing their utterances as expressions of opinion. Such a framing, which was very common in opinion-expressing utterances, denotes the tentative, exploratory intention of the speaker and opens up the door for the expression of other opinions on the same subject. Ms. Enthis even went as far as to point out the weaknesses of her opinion and to turn the ending part of her utterance into a question. In this way the invitation for other opinions was clearly conveyed. The utterances by Sapfo and Alana, even though they did not have the explicit indicators of tentativeness the first two examples demonstrated, are still fairly easy to identify as utterances expressing opinion. Sapfoâ€™s contribution comes from an episode where the class was discussing the plausibility of Konigsburg â€™s (1968) story of two children who ran away and stayed at the Metropolitan museum in New York. As part of a speculative discussion where participants were wondering about possibilities and were weighing those possibilities based on their knowledge of the New York of the sixties and the New York of today, Sapfoâ€™s statement is one of the opinions offered regarding the storyâ€™s realism. On the other hand, Alanaâ€™s statement is a slightly different breed of opinion, as it did not simply intend to provide a different perspective in an already running interaction. Rather, Alanaâ€™s utterance came as an episode concerning the meaning of the word â€œprodigyâ€ was coming to a conclusion, with the purpose of initiating an action; getting the word on the bonus-list, the classâ€™ self developed vocabulary and spelling list.
113 According to Kachur and Pendergast (1997) the presence of opinions in the classroom is an important element of truly dialogic interactions. At the same time, Langer (1995) states that putting forth the effort to construct and create opinions informed by the text, by experiences and by the other participants is fundamental in the development of literate thinkers. Is humorous Both the teacher and the students used the move of trying to be humorous. Utterances were coded as such when a participant appeared to be trying to make a witty comment that sought to elicit jovial responses from the rest of the participants. Often such comments related to the literary work at hand or to a comic connection between the subject of conversation and the preferences or the experiences of a class member. The move accounted for 9% of the teacherâ€™s total number of utterances and for 7% of the studentsâ€™ utterances. As Townsend (1991) pointed out in the analysis of a similar move, even though the move was not one of the most frequently used moves, its presence in the classroom both helped establish and was indicative of a friendly, comfortable atmosphere, and contributed to â€œan overall openness of attitude during the discussionsâ€ (95). In addition, the high frequency of jokes and especially the ones referring to particular class members seemed to be indicative of the level of familiarity and trust characteristic of the class. 1. Melpomeni: Iâ€™d go to Medieval Art. 2. Ms. Enthis: Medieval Art? 3. Sapfo: Medieval Art 4. Ms. Enthis: Oh, sure, because you wanted to know about torture! 5. Melpomeni: (short laugh) Yeah! (many voices mixed with giggles) (session 1) 1. Ms. Enthis: Itâ€™s a good place to hang out, right? So they are just waiting in this Egyptian tomb. Oh, raise your hand if you think if you. There is something interesting about this group. Raise your hand if think you know (Ermis, who has
114 read the book before smiles widely and excitedly raises his hand). Oh, Ermis, put your hand down, you read-aheader! 2. Ermis: (with an exaggerated innocent tone) Iâ€™ve read the book before! (laughter)(session 2) 1. Ms. Enthis: They go to the, they go to the water and Butlerâ€“ 2. Tyrone: Butler kicks butt! (muffled laughter) 3. Ms. Enthis: -Butler, Buttler (short pause) kicks (shooting Tyrone a semi-amused, semi-reprimanding look) like six guys around (Tyrone giggles) and creates this diversion, while Artemis, we think, sneaks on this boat and places the locator there. (session 4) The first excerpt is from a playful conversation where different class members were using the Metropolitanâ€™s floor plan found in their book to talk about their room of preference if they were to spend the night in the museum, like Claudia and Jamie, their bookâ€™s protagonists. Melpomeni, stated that she would stay in the Medieval art room and Ms. Enthis, remembering that in a social studies lesson Melpomeni had shown interest in medieval torture devices, retorted teasingly â€œOh sure, because you wanted to know about torure!â€ With this humorous comment, Ms. Enthis not only lightened the atmosphere of the conversation, but she also showed Melpomeni that she valued her presence in the class enough to remember a quick comment she had made in class a number of days before. Similarly, in the second excerpt Ms. Enthis uses her knowledge of the fact that Ermis had already read the book to lighten the atmosphere, to show that she remembered and to also gently remind Ermis that he should refrain from spoiling the suspense for his classmates. In both cases, Melpomeni and Ermis responded with humor, indicating that they enjoyed the joke. In the third example, the humorous repartee was initiated by a student, something not at all uncommon in the interactions of this class. The comment was made during a particularly collaborative episode where class members were building off each other, trying to provide a comprehensive update to Alana who had missed class the day before.
115 In the case of this comment, Tyrone interjected in one of Ms. Enthisâ€™ narrative stretches to make a humorous remark. Even though Tyroneâ€™s joke was somewhat brassier than the typical language allowed in the class, it was still accepted by Ms. Enthis who incorporated a cleaned up version of the comment in her utterance. Ms. Enthisâ€™ response is indicative of both a welcoming climate for student-initiated humor and of the existence of boundaries in the types of jokes considered appropriate. In general the presence of humor in the classroom signifies a secure and friendly environment where participants can momentarily engage in limit-bound, playful activities, to use Goffmanâ€™s (1974) terms, that ease the intellectual strain and affirm and build community ties. The subject of humor and its function within the classroom context are further examined in chapter 6. Builds community The move of trying to build community is the last of the nine moves that were common to both teacher and students. This move is closely related to Dysonâ€™s (1993) concept of â€œdoing social work.â€ Within this move, the class members were working towards maintaining and further promoting a sense of friendly communal relationships, where individuals and their personalities are recognized and liked, and where members work together toward common goals. The move was primarily expressed through utterances when a participant positively referred to the personality or to the experiences of another class member or explicitly tried to help another member complete or refine his/her ideas. The move accounted for 16% of the total number of teacher utterances and for 9% of the total number of student utterances. The move is demonstrated in the following excerpts: 1. Ms. Enthis: Were you in New York last year or this year, Ellie?
116 2. Ellie: Last year. 3. Ms. Enthis: Last year. Did you go to the Metropolitan museum? (Ellie nods yes). You went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Hello! Tell us something! (session 1) 1. Ms. Enthis: . Ok. This is question one (writes the title of the next chapter on the board: â€œThe Siegeâ€). There is just a little bit of time. What is this word? 2. Many: The siege siege 3. Ms. Enthis: Tyrone. 4. Tyrone: When you capture somebody or 5. Kent: To get something 6. Tyrone: Yeah! (session 4) 1. Craig: Because it, it just like itâ€™s kind of magical and 2. Constantine: It has fairies. 3. Ms. Enthis: It does look magical like Harry Potter. I mean, elves and fairies and 4. Many: and a brilliant 5. Ms. Enthis: and a brilliant child. 6. Unknown: Leprechauns. 7. Ms. Enthis: Leprechauns (nodding in agreement). (session 3) The first excerpt is an example of community building on behalf of the teacher. The selection comes from an episode when the class was talking about New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Suddenly, Ms. Enthis turned to Ellie and asked, â€œWere you in New York last year or this year, Ellie?â€ The question, which was further expanded in Ms. Enthisâ€™ follow-up utterance, clearly shows Ms. Enthisâ€™ familiarity with Ellie and her experiences, especially in light of the fact there had been no recent mentioning of the trip. By expressing this knowledge and by humorously inviting Ellie to share her experience with the class, Ellieâ€™s position in the class as a valuable, recognized member was validated and strengthened. The second excerpt shows a community building act among students. In the fourth utterance of the excerpt Tyrone started presenting his interpretation of â€œsiege,â€ but after the first phrase his voice tapered off indicating that he was stuck. Kent quickly took the initiative to step up to the plate and â€œassistâ€ Tyroneâ€™s utterance by offering a phrase
117 completing the proposition Tyrone started. On his behalf, Tyrone appeared to appreciate Kentâ€™s assistance by confirming it with a cheery â€œYeah!â€ Finally, the last selection demonstrates a more complex use of the move during one of the classâ€™ collaboratively built thoughts. In such collaboratively built ideas, the class engaged in an interesting type of social work where an idea initiated by one participant received a number of fast-paced contributions by a number of members. In this way, by the time a proposition was completed, it had received additions and amendments by so many individuals that it was practically impossible to really attribute it to one member. In general, the move of trying to build community appeared to promote a community spirit in the classroom. Recognizing members as individuals with interesting experiences and perspectives and courteously assisting co-participants to complete or refine their ideas seemed to function similarly to Dysonâ€™s (1993) â€œsocial workâ€; it promoted social cohesion and facilitated the negotiation of comfortable social spaces for each one of the participants. Teacher-only moves As mentioned earlier, the discourse analysis of the transcripts yielded a total of thirteen moves. Nine of those moves were common to the teacher and the students whereas four were unique to the teacher. The four teacher-only moves were: addresses procedure, encourages students to express opinion, ascertains understanding, and reiterates/refocuses student idea. The presence of nine common moves, especially in light of the absence of student-only moves, suggests that Ms. Enthis, to a certain degree functioned like a regular class participant. At the same time, however, the occurrence of teacher-only moves in the classroom discourse indicates that Ms. Enthis also assumed
118 further interactional responsibilities. An examination of the four teacher-only moves shows that those further responsibilities referred to discussion moderator duties. The move of addressing procedure was assigned to teacher utterances related to classroom management. As will be more extensively discussed in chapter 6, Ms. Enthisâ€™ management style was quite discreet, and often functioned through implicit channels. An utterance was coded as addressing procedure when Ms. Enthis gave instructions to the class regarding upcoming activities, when she tactfully reminded students of rules or instructions as well as when she explicitly reprimanded students. The move accounted for 17% of the teacherâ€™s utterances. The following transcript excerpts illustrate the three different types of the move: Ms. Enthis: Ok. After youâ€™ve written down the definition of child prodigy, skip a line or two, write â€œChapter one: The bookâ€ and then we are going to kick back and read a little bit to get into it. Ermis? (session 3). 1. Ms. Enthis: Yeah... Whatever you say, I need you to give support. What do you think now? Do you think Artemis is evil? 2. Unknown: Yes, he is evil. 3. Ms. Enthis: If you think so, tell me why. If you think not, tell me why (session 4). 1. Ms. Enthis: ok. Jay you have your hand up. 2. Many: (inaudible) 3. Ms. Enthis: Hold on a second Jay. Let me get everyone else around quiet so that we can hear him. (voices stop). Go ahead. 4. Jay: Theyâ€™d go to the snack machine. Those are not locked up. (session 1) The first example represents an instance of the instruction-giving manifestation of the move of addressing procedure. Ms. Enthisâ€™ utterance functioned both as finalizing remark for the preceding episode when the class had discussed the meaning of â€œchild prodigyâ€ and as an introduction to the stretch of reading that followed. Typical of Ms. Enthisâ€™ instructions, the utterance was explicit and informative and left the students knowing precisely what they were to do. The second excerpt represents one of Ms.
119 Enthisâ€™ reminders of standard classroom practices. Supporting oneâ€™s claims and opinions with textual evidence was one of the fundamental norms of booktalks in this classroom. However, when appropriate, Ms. Enthis took the opportunity to remind her students of that requirement. Finally, the last segment is an illustration of an explicit reprimand, where Ms. Enthis targeted a specific inappropriate behavior; in this case the instance of more than one persons talking at the same time, without showing the proper courtesy to the selected speaker. Similarly to most such reproofs, the comment was directed to the class in general rather than to specific students. Actually, through all four sessions, there was only one instance where Ms. Enthis addressed an explicit reprimand to a particular student. The move of encouraging students to express opinion was a fairly prevalent move as it accounted for 20% of the teacherâ€™s utterances. An utterance was identified as such when Ms. Enthis appeared to be extending an invitation to the class members to express their opinions, ideas, feelings or perceptions about an issue. The move was delimited to invitations for tentativeness, with openendedness being a fundamental atmospheric element. Requests for more concrete and indisputable types of information were coded as the previously discussed move of â€œrequesting information/clarification/elaboration.â€ The following excerpt from session one includes two illustrations of the move. The selection is the initiating part of a more extended episode regarding the plausibility of Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler . 1. Ms. Enthis: Raise your hand and tell me, do you guys think that this could really happen? Do you think that this could actually that kids could actually be successful for a night, sneaking into the Metropolitan, well going into the Metropolitan Museum of Art and having this plan where they hide and become, and be undetected for, at least for, for a night? Do you think that this sounds reasonable? Craig, what do you think?
120 2. Craig: If it were today, no, because they have like those monitors, those, em em the 3. U: The lasers? 4. Craig: Yeah â€“ (Muffled voices) Craig: -and they photograph them and they all have like cameras and stuff, andyou know, back then they didnâ€™t. 5. Ms. Enthis: Ok. What do Anybody else has a different point of view? (3 second pause). Everybody agrees with Craig? (most nod positively). Pretty much? Sapfo? 6. Sapfo: Well, today, em New York has gotten quite a bit more dangerous and two kids could not just walk around town. I mean, they would be unnoticed, but it would be pretty dangerous and it would be much harder, people might know. (session one) In the first turn, that also served as the initiating turn for the episode, Ms. Enthis presented the class with an opinion seeking inquiry, â€œDo you think that this could really happen?â€ Even though the question itself is not by nature open ended, obviously the class interpreted it as such as students started presenting their cases as to why they thought the story was plausible for its historical setting. Ms. Enthis repeated the move in the fifth speech turn by encouraging the presentation of further opinions with â€œAnybody else has a different opinion?â€ With this turn, Ms. Enthis encouraged the presentation of opinions while at the same time explicitly stating one of the standing norms of the class; that the presentation of different point of views was not only legitimate but also encouraged. Much like the first speech turn in the above quoted excerpt, the move was often brought into the interaction through a relatively long utterance which somewhat explicated the situation the students were invited to offer their opinions about. However, after the first introduction of the move in the episode, the move would be expressed through shorter, repetitive utterances like â€œWhat do you think, Ellie?â€ or by simply mentioning the name of a volunteer in an interrogative tone. Such utterances, by virtue of
121 their interactional context carried the underlying meaning of an invitation to express opinion, as they functioned as symbolic reminders of the initial, more explicit invitation. The third teacher-only move was the move of trying to ascertain understanding . The move, which accounted for 5% of the teacherâ€™s total number of utterances in the four sessions, sought to determine whether the class had adequately comprehended a remark made in the text or a point examined during the booktalk. The following is an excerpt from session one, in which the class was talking about the function of the parenthetical comments included in Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) narrative. The last speech turn of the selection shows how Ms. Enthis used the move of ascertaining understanding to check student comprehension. 1. Ms. Enthis: What is that supposed to be? How that little section was in parentheses? 2. Juno: Itâ€™s a trick. 3. Ms. Enthis: What is the author doing with that little trick? About the part. Did you just notice that part about â€œmy chauffer Sheldon and Security?â€ Itâ€™s got parentheses around it. What is that supposed to be? Juno? 4. Juno: Itâ€™s the em Itâ€™s a person who. Itâ€™s â€“ 5. Unknown: Ms Juno: Ms. Frankweiler who is, who was, was supposed to be writing this book and she was just putting in a little thing about herself. 6. Ms. Enthis: Yeah There is a lot of these little interruptions, you know? And itâ€™s the narrator, who is Ms. Franweiler who wrote this story, but she interrupts herself to add little tidbits because she kind of wrote it for her lawyer, right? To tell her lawyer: I changed my will and this is why I am going to tell you this story. And the narrator, Ms. Frankweiler, interrupts the story to add little tidbits. You understand that, Constantine (Constantine nods)? You understand that part, Damon (Damon nods)? Do you guys get that? Ok. Raise your hand if you find another one while we are reading. In this traditional sounding interaction, Ms. Enthis sought to bring the parenthetical comment technique to the studentsâ€™ attention, and to make sure that they comprehended the function of that technique, which repeated itself at various points in the text. After Juno provided the expected answer, Ms. Enthis further explicated the use of the technique
122 and then turned to the class and tried to ascertain that everybody was clear about its function by explicitly asking her students. By making sure that her students comprehended some potentially confusing elements and information, the teacher monitored student comprehension and was able to determine whether any further explanation was needed to avoid misapprehensions that would impede studentsâ€™ ability to adequately enjoy and deal with the literary text at hand. Finally, the last of the four teacher-only moves is the move of trying to reiterate/refocus student idea . This was a fairly frequent move as it accounted for 29% of the teacherâ€™s utterances. Teacher speech turns were coded as such when Ms. Enthis incorporated part of the utterance of the previous speaker or a rephrased version of the utterance in what she was saying. Often, the incorporation was a simple reiteration, which appeared to draw attention to what the previous speaker said and to indicate that the contribution was heard and appreciated. At the same time, the reiteration seemed to function as an invitation to other class members to offer other, relevant contributions. Often, the move went beyond simple reiteration as Ms. Enthis used the utterance of the previous speaker or the utterances of a number of previous speakers as a springboard towards a different direction. The move is illustrated in the below quoted excerpt which comes from the early part of session three. Session three was the first time the class was coming in contact with Colferâ€™s (2001) Artemis Fowl and at the time of this selection, the students were using the information they could gather from the covers of the book to make predictions about the story. A lot of the conversation focused on the hieroglyphic-like symbols adorning the cover of the book. 1. Ms. Enthis: . Kent, whatâ€™s your prediction? 2. Kent: I think that the symbols are a message or a warning.
123 3. Ms. Enthis: A message or a warning? 4. Kent: Yeah 5. Ms. Enthis: How did you come up with that? How did you come up with a warning thatâ€™s kind of a like, an ominous 6. Kent: It Maybe they are reading something and its like, on the back itâ€™s like a some army person something from the special forces 7. Ms. Enthis: Oh so we hear some clues from the back. 8. Rashell: (starts to speak over Ms. Enthis and Ms. Enthis surrenders the floor to her) They are talking about Fairy culture. 9. Ms. Enthis: On the back it says something about another person from the Special Forces, so Kent is predicting that there is going to be some kind of, these symbols, some kind of a warning or a message. Tyrone, what do you think? (session 3) In the excerpt above, Kent was mainly trying to reflect on the information provided by the cover of the book and to present his prediction to the rest of the class. Ms. Enthis flanked his utterances with reiterating/refocusing moves thus indicating that she was attentive to and interested in what Kent was saying. In addition with her comments in turns seven and nine, she turned to the rest of the class, drawing their attention to both what Kent was saying and also to Kentâ€™s way of gathering and processing information. Even though there was no explicit compliment about the astuteness of Kentâ€™s reasoning, Ms. Enthisâ€™ remarks clearly implied that she liked his use of clues from the back cover. The move samples from the excerpt above were primarily reiterating Kentâ€™s contribution. In the following selection, which comes from a subsequent section of the same episode, the move of reiterating/refocusing student utterance was realized closer to the refocusing end of the continuum. 1. Sapfo: I think it says in the back that he is planning to steal the treasure, so I think itâ€™s a warning, warning from that elf, em, captain Holly Short, to like, telling him not to steal it. 2. Ms. Enthis: Actually, letâ€™s read the back, since you said that, Sapfo. Letâ€™s take a look at that. It gives us a little pre, prelude Alana go ahead. As can be seen in this example, Ms. Enthis still made an explicit reference to what Sapfo said in her preceding utterance, but rather than reiterating Sapfoâ€™s comment, Ms.
124 Enthis used that comment to lead the class to a relevant but different direction: the reference to the information presented in the back cover was used to lead the class into reading that information out loud. In general, the use of the reiterating/refocusing move, especially when considering its high frequency (29%) is indicative of the scaffolding mode that appeared to characterize much of Ms. Enthisâ€™ verbal activity. Through reiterating and refocusing studentsâ€™ points, Ms. Enthis modeled active listening, implicitly reinforced desirable approaches to written text, and communicated to student participants that their contributions were valued enough to be allowed to shape the interaction. At the same time, by using this move, the teacher created scaffolds that supported the interconnectedness of the booktalks. By drawing studentsâ€™ attention to their classmatesâ€™ contributions, she clearly communicated that subsequent utterances should consider previously presented ideas and opinions and that they should build on them in an effort to reach more refined communal understandings. Summary The analysis of discourse in the four sessions indicates that (a) there was widespread student participation in the interactions, (b) the students had active and complex interactional roles, (c) the teacher in many ways functioned as a â€œregular participant,â€ and (d) the teacher had the added role of the moderator of the interaction. Examining the Characteristics of Authentic Discussions The so far presented examination of the texture of talk in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom depicts an interactional community where: Students have extensive participation;
125 Students enter the conversation without necessarily having to go through an invitation procedure; The teacher shares many of her interactional moves with the students; Students demonstrate a wide array of interactional moves, including moves like initiating/refocusing theme and requesting information/elaboration/clarification that show ownership over the interaction, as well as moves like reflecting, connecting with written text and expressing opinion that imply the presence of abstract, complex thinking. The existence of these characteristics suggests that the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions is present in this classroom. In chapter 1, three criteria where established as identifiers of authentic discussions. According to them, in authentic classroom discussions (a) participants have opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas, (b) a wide array of participants present multiple ideas present multiple ideas, and (c) contributions often build on ideas expressed by other participants in previous turns. As the final phase of the discourse analysis of the four sessions, I used the three criteria to identify authentic discussion episodes in the transcripts. A scrutiny of the transcripts for the three criteria yielded two separate categories of interactional episodes; a category of authentic discussion episodes and a category of episodes identified as â€œother.â€ Based on this categorization system, authentic discussion episodes accounted for 54% of the transcript of session one, 21% of session two, 52% of session three, and 77% of session four. As was to be expected, the academic task of booktalk was not characterized by a single interactional modality, and so not every bit of classroom interaction was an authentic discussion. Booktalk was a complex task, the various purposes of which would be impossible to serve through a single speech genre. When discussing the conceptual framework of this study in chapter 1, Figure 1-1 sought to demonstrate the relationship
126 between the speech genres of booktalk and authentic discussion through their visual representation as intersecting ci rcles. Figure 4-5 is a more detailed version of the same conceptualization, informed by the findings of this study. Beyond authentic discussions, booktalks al so included brainstorming events, surface-level reading comprehension question-a nd-answer episodes, as well as procedural interactions. In brainstorming events , participants were invite d to propose ideas and/or predictions about a variety of topics. Even though such brai nstorming sessions did satisfy the authentic discussion criteria regarding th e invitation and the presentation of multiple ideas and perspectives, they failed to meet th e criterion of idea building, as participants were primarily offering ideas for later scruti ny rather than trying to build understanding. Surface-level reading comprehension question-and-answer exchanges were also reckoned as â€œother,â€ since they did not invite or rece ive the presentation of multiple ideas. Such Figure 4-5. Relationships between sp eech genres in the classroom.
127 events were mostly initiated and controlled by the teacher who asked test-like questions that required the students to mentally or physically revisit the written text and find the one appropriate answer to the inquiry. P rocedural interactions were also identified as â€œother,â€ as they involved requests for and delivery of instructions as to how particular activities were to be completed. Overall, even though the episodes identified as â€œotherâ€ cannot be clamped together as representing one particular speech genre they can all be said to have been akin to more traditional modes of classroom interactions. In general, authentic discussions were employed when they served the interactional purposes of the participants. Therefore, in the more exploratory and tentative session four, authentic discussions accounted for 77% of the interactions, whereas the surface-level reading comprehension impetus of session two limited authentic discussion to 22% of the transcript. Nonetheless, the pervasiveness of authentic discussion episodes in the four booktalk sessions analyzed indicates that authentic discussions were a fundamental component of booktalk events as those were realized in the classroom under study. After categorizing the transcripts of the four sessions into authentic discussion episodes and â€œotherâ€ episodes, I compared the two types of episodes across the discourse moves discussed in the previous section. The findings of this comparison are illustrated in Figure 4-6 for the teacher and Figure 4-6 for the students. The purpose of this comparison was to help identify what Bakhtin (1986) calls â€œtypical utterancesâ€ of the speech genre of authentic discussion. Comparison of Teacher Move Percentages Between Authentic Discussion Episodes and Other Episodes As is clearly indicated in Figure 4-6, the allocation of teacher moves in authentic discussion episodes was substantially different from how the moves were distributed in
128 the episodes identified as â€œother.â€ The teacherâ€™s move of trying to initiate or refocus theme received a substantial decrease in authentic discussions (Other=16%, AD=7%) as the teacher released more authority to the students during authentic discussions. This claim is further strengthened by the findings in the student move comparison where studentsâ€™ attempts to initiate and refocus theme rose from 2% in other episodes to 6% in authentic discussions. It seems then that whereas in the â€œotherâ€ episodes Ms. Enthis held tighter control over the interactions by being the main person influencing the direction of the conversation, in authentic discussion episodes some of that control was delegated to the students who, given more decision-making power in the interaction, intensified their attempts to affect the discussion themes. The moves of requesting and providing information/clarification/elaboration also demonstrate an interesting discrepancy between the two types of episodes. Whereas Ms. Enthis had a considerably higher percentage of the providing move in the â€œotherâ€ episodes (Other=23%, AD=15%), the trend was the exact opposite for the requesting move (Other=28%, AD=35%). This is again suggestive of a more dominating teacher presence in the more traditional episodes identified as â€œother.â€ On the other hand, the more student-centered authentic discussion episodes were characterized by less teacher-provided content and more invitations for student participation. In addition, authentic discussion episodes contained a higher percentage of attempts to be humorous on the part of the teacher (Other=6%, AD=12%). The increased presence of teacher humor coincides with an equally drastic increase in the joking attempts of the students (Other=4%, AD=10%).
0%5%10%15%20%25%30%35%40% Percentage in Authentic Discussion Episodes7%35%15%24%17%10%8%12%18%11%30%2%33% 16%28%23%25%15%11%5%6%15%25%9%8%25%Initiate or refocus themeRequest information/ Provide information/ Connect with text Connect with experience/ReflectExpress opinion Be humorousBuild communityAddress proceduresEncourage students to express Ascertain understandingReiterate, refocus student 129 Percentage in Other Episodes Figure 4-6. Comparison of teacher move percentages between Authentic Discussion episodes and Other episodes.
2%3%29%19%6%5%15%4%4% Percentage in Authentic Discussions6%6%39%31%12%20%39%10%13%Initiate or refocus themeRequest information/ clarification/ Provide information/ clarification/ Connect with written text Connect with experience/knowledgeReflectExpress opinion Be humorousBuild community 0%5%10%15%20%25%30%35%40% Percentage in Other Episodes 130 Figure 4-7. Comparison of student move percentages between Authentic Discussion episodes and Other episodes.
131 This increase seems to indicate the presence of a more genial atmosphere during authentic discussion, as participants felt comfortable enough to be playful. As Lindfors (1987) points out, playfulness is a sign of confidence about oneâ€™s abilities both on an intellectual and on a social level. The teacher move of reiterating or refocusing student idea also showed an increase in authentic discussions when compared to the â€œotherâ€ episodes (Other=25%, AD=33%). I believe that this upsurge was in many ways related to the scaffolding role Ms. Enthis appeared to have within the classroom interactions. Her reiterations and refocusing actions seemed to function as fundamental supports to interactions where students held commanding interactional roles. Through this move, Ms. Enthis held the conversationâ€™s internal coherence while at the same modeling active listening. In addition, she drew the classâ€™ attention to the previously spoken ideas, subtly inviting the students to consider those ideas as they were formulating their own contributions. By far the most impressive increase in the teacherâ€™s moves occurred in the move of inviting students to express opinion. The respectable 9% encountered in the â€œotherâ€ episodes was replaced by a staggering 30% in authentic discussions. Even though the trend itself was unsurprising, as the move is evidently closely related to the criterion of inviting multiple perspectives, the extent of the increase was beyond my expectations. The high frequency of the move of inviting students to express opinion indicates that it functioned as a fundamental element of authentic discussions. Through it, Ms. Enthisâ€™ explicitly and implicitly communicated to students that their opinions were important and valuable and that the presentation of differing opinions was not only legitimate but also desirable.
132 Beyond the move of initiating/refocusing theme discussed earlier, the moves of ascertaining understanding and addressing procedure also showed marked decrease in authentic discussions. The move of ascertaining understanding dropped from eight percent in the â€œotherâ€ episodes to two percent in authentic discussion episodes thus indicating that Ms. Enthis more actively sought to determine adequate surface-level comprehension in the episodes identified as â€œother.â€ This is understandable, considering that many of the â€œotherâ€ episodes centered on reading comprehension question-answer exchanges where establishing that the students sufficiently comprehended certain surface level features of the plot was of the essence. Finally, the striking decrease in the move of addressing procedure (Other=25%, AD=11%) is of great interest, given that it reflected Ms. Enthisâ€™ attempts for classroom management. In general, when one invites pre-service or in-service teachers to try to implement more open-ended interactions in their classrooms, and to try to relinquish some of their control to their students, a typical response received is that any such attempt would cause chaos in their classrooms. This expresses a common teacher fear, discussed by Lindfors (1987 & 1999) and Dyson (1993), that if teachers give up some of their authority, the class would unravel and students would misbehave and be off task. However, the decreased use of the addressing procedure move in authentic discussion episodes demonstrates that this is not necessarily the case. Even in a generally well-behaved class like Ms. Enthisâ€™ class, moves that in some way sought to manage the behavior of the students were very frequent in the more traditional â€œotherâ€ episodes. However, in authentic discussion episodes, the need for the move faded as the class fell
133 into a pattern of decentralized discourse control, where each participant seemed to adequately manage his/her own behavior and remained engaged in the interaction. Comparison of Student Move Percentages Between Authentic Discussion Episodes and Other Episodes Probably the first aspect that catches the eye in Figure 4-7 is the fact that every single move has an increased percentage in the authentic discussion episodes. Admittedly, I was taken aback when I first noticed the trend. However, a re-examination of the transcripts led to an interesting observation; indeed, the students were doing more in authentic discussions. In general, in authentic discussion episodes the students had longer utterances, which were more heavily coded. For example, rather than simply providing information/clarification/elaboration with one of their utterances, in authentic discussions a student utterance would express an opinion while at the same time reflecting and trying to build community. In other words the overlap of moves was much more intense in authentic discussions as the students were not simple participants in a teacher dominated interaction, but invested co-leaders of a discussion. It seems that student duties during authentic discussions went well beyond simply trying to provide input based on the teacherâ€™s lead. Instead, students also probably felt the responsibility to hold the discussion together, to lead the discussion towards the exploration of their own purposes, and to work towards a more refined communal understanding. Apart from the student moves of trying to initiate/refocus theme and trying to be humorous, which were discussed in conjunction with the teacherâ€™s moves, a number of other student moves provide noteworthy comparisons between authentic discussion episodes and â€œotherâ€ episodes. As Figure 4-7 illustrates, in the â€œother episodesâ€ the only move that accounted for more than 20% of student utterances was the move of providing
134 information/clarification/elaboration (Other= 29%). Even though all the other moves were also present in varying degrees, the dominating presence of the move of providing information/clarification/elaboration reflects a narrowness of purpose in the studentsâ€™ participation. On the other hand, the interactional terrain of student participation in authentic discussions was much more diverse with moves like connecting with written text, reflecting, and expressing opinion also holding a percentage above 20%. The move of trying to connect with written text showed an impressive upsurge in authentic discussion episodes (Other=19%, AD=31%). The move typically overlapped with the moves of providing information/clarification/elaboration, expressing opinion, and reflecting. In other words, students were connecting with written text as part of their efforts to be clear and informative, as a means of justifying and supporting their opinions, and as the basis for taking a reflective stance. The close-knit relationship implies a mature way of talking about books by the students. With this move, the students were using their experience with and knowledge of the text at hand as well as other written texts to construct meaning. In this way, their utterances maintained a close focus on written text and their analytical comments appeared to follow Rosenblattâ€™s (1995) suggestion that textual analysis must respect the written text. The fact that the move of connecting with experience/knowledge held double the percentage in authentic discussions when compared to the â€œotherâ€ episodes (Other=6%, AD=12%) is also in alignment with Rosenblatt (1995) who states that â€œan intense response to a work will have its roots in capacities and experiences already present in the personality and mind of the readerâ€ (p.41). In authentic discussions the students often made spontaneous or teacher-elicited connections between the text under study and
135 experiences they had had either as a class or as individuals. According to Langer (1995) such connections are vital to the creation of envisionments, â€œthe text-worlds in the mindâ€ (p.9) that readers build as they relate to a literary work. The move of expressing opinion also showed a marked increase in the authentic discussion episodes (Other=15%, AD=39%). Even though student opinions were also voiced during the episodes identified as â€œother,â€ the fact that the move accounted for almost 40% of the student utterances in authentic discussions suggests that it played a substantial role in shaping the character of the episodes. By definition, the move of expressing opinion is related to the idea of presenting multiple perspectives, which functioned as one of the criteria for identifying authentic discussion episodes. The overwhelming presence of attempts to express opinion on behalf of the students seems to suggest that the move was functional in at least two main ways. First, the students used it so often because they perceived it as a move that possessed the intellectual and interactional thrust to serve the purposes of authentic discussions. At the same time, the fact that it was so widely used suggests that the move was adequately successful in achieving those purposes. Also notable is the increase observed in the move of trying to build community, which referred to participantsâ€™ efforts to connect with each other by showing solidarity and by declaring the importance of other participantsâ€™ contributions. Whereas the move accounted for four percent of the total student utterances in the â€œotherâ€ episodes, it more than tripled in authentic discussions, reaching thirteen percent. This rise signifies that authentic discussions demanded or inspired greater social bonding activity on behalf of student participants. I believe that the studentsâ€™ community building activity was in part
136 due to the increased responsibility students had over authentic discussions. When individuals have a personal stake in an interaction and they feel that its success depends on them, they are much more likely to take action to facilitate its effective continuation. Community building gestures can assist tremendously in such an endeavor as they keep other participants comfortable and content and as they can be extremely helpful in repairing strained relationships that might lead to a breakdown of the interaction (Goffman, 1974). At the same time, building social relationships can play an essential role in sustaining authentic discussions by moderating the weight of imposition the speech genre seems to carry. As Lindfors (1999) points out in her discussion of inquiry, speech acts that try to engage others in interactions that pursue the purposes of an initiator are acts of imposition, as they require the â€œothersâ€ to forgo their own agendas and shape their participation according to the purposes of the initiator. Based on this, it appears that the authority students seem to have in authentic discussions to shape the direction and the purposes of conversations also comes with the need to cajole other members into partaking in these conversations. Finally, the most impressive increase between authentic discussion episodes and â€œotherâ€ episodes occurred with the student move of reflecting. The nondescript five percent of the â€œotherâ€ episodes quadrupled to an impressive 20% in authentic discussions. Both the remarkable difference between the two types of episodes and the lofty final percentage indicate that reflection was also a defining component of authentic discussions. In an interactional terrain where multiple perspectives were invited and presented and where participants were building on each otherâ€™s ideas, the act of reflecting seems to be a good fit. Beyond that, though, the frequency of reflecting may also be
137 intimately related to the feeling of personal accountability for the construction of communal meaning that seemed to permeate authentic discussions. The energetic and multifaceted roles the students seemed to undertake during authentic discussions, in many ways made passive reception of information impossible. The intellectual content of authentic discussions was not presented to be absorbed or presented to be tested, as is often the case in traditional classrooms. Rather, the intellectual content was there to be explored, to be felt, to be made sense of. And it was the individualâ€™s responsibility to use the energy of the interaction and the medium of the interaction to pursue his/her own attempts for meaning making. The pursuit of such active meaning making endeavors made authentic discussions a fertile ground for individuals to realize inconsistencies or problematic regions, to wonder about different â€œwhat ifs,â€ to seek further, more elaborate understandings. At the same time, authentic discussions offered themselves as an inviting forum for such reflections to be expressed and pursued. The Purposes of Authentic Discussions Table 4-4. Authentic Discussion episode presence in the four sessions. Number of authentic discussion episodes Total number of episodes % of total number of episodes % of transcript (length) Session 1 6 20 30% 54% Session 2 3 13 23% 21% Session 3 8 21 38% 52% Session 4 8 14 57% 77% Beyond move allocation, authentic discussion characteristics became evident through other analytical views. As can be seen in Table 4-4, authentic discussion episodes tended to be longer than the episodes identified as other. With the exception of session two which was the most traditional session of the four, the length authentic
138 discussion episodes occupied in the transcripts substantially outweighed what one would predict based on their numerical presence in the sessions. This discrepancy suggests that authentic discussions involved meaty subjects that demanded a significant amount of verbal exchanges in order for them to be fully explored and for all of their aspects to be sufficiently scrutinized. At the same time, it implies ample interest from the participants. No matter how meaty a subject is, participant indifference will inevitably lead to premature termination. In order to discover what these meaty subjects were, I scrutinized the set of authentic discussion episodes I had identified in the four booktalk sessions analyzed as to their overarching purposes . The discourse analysis, had the utterance as the unit of analysis and, through the theoretical construct of the move, sought to identify the various purposes each participant attempted to pursue with each utterance. The unit of analysis for this examination was the episode and the goal was to identify the main purpose that appeared to be driving the therein-included exchanges. Naturally, each episode examined incorporated the pursuit of a variety of purposes. However, unlike the discourse analysis system of overlapping moves, through this coding system, I ascribed only one label to each episode based on the purpose I perceived as the main driving force behind the episode. Figure 4-8 reports the findings of this analysis, examining what were the meaty subjects that appeared to captivate the class membersâ€™ interest and lead them to lengthy dialogic explorations that, as the previous sections showed, highly involved the expression of opinions, the presentation of information/clarification/elaboration and reflection. The scrutiny of the overarching purposes of the four sessions suggests that
139 written text often functioned as the inspiration of authentic discussions. With the exception of the negotiate-ive episode where the students engaged in a negotiation of their rights with Ms. Enthis, all the other authentic discussion episodes had the text as a definite point of departure and in some way attempted to refine understandings about it. Interestingly, the text-related episodes demanded active idea-building action in part of the participants. The better understanding was not something that laid in the text waiting to be discovered, but an endeavor that demanded to actively engage oneâ€™s mind as well as each other. For example, the purpose of trying to make a prediction necessitates carefully looking at the text for clues as to what might follow. However, it also requires tapping into oneâ€™s life experiences and her/his knowledge of the genre, of the authorâ€™s style, and of other literary works. At the same time, predictions in Ms. Enthisâ€™ class were not one-man shows nor did they function as mere brainstorming events. Rather, predicting evolved into a communal effort where individuals built on each otherâ€™s ideas and provided refined predictions or built and presented counterpoints explicating why certain predictions were improbable. Given that all these purposes appeared to be effectively served by a single genre, it seems safe to assume that they all share some defining characteristics, which render them amenable to be pursued through authentic discussions. In general, the purposes pursued through authentic discussion tended to be open ended and demanded active idea building on behalf of the participants. At the same time, the fact that authentic discussions were not associated with a single purpose but instead seem to serve a wide array of overarching purposes suggests that authentic discussion is not a purpose-specific speech
140 genre. Rather, it might be an indication that the speech genre of authentic discussion can be used to serve a variety of purposes within and beyond language arts. 0123456 Intertextual connectionsWithin-the text connectionsConnection with experienceNegotiating rightsPredictingWonderingExploring characterExploring wordCollaborative storytelling Figure 4-8. Overarching purposes of the authentic discussion episodes in the four sessions. Summary According to Bakhtin (1986), speech genres are characterized and defined by their typical utterances; the types of utterances that one expects to see used as a particular speech genre is played out. The comparative analysis of authentic discussion episodes and the more traditional episodes identified as â€œotherâ€ reveals a number of authentic discussion characteristics that can be said to represent Bakhtinâ€™s typical utterances. In general authentic discussions appeared to be a complex interactional modality characterized by (a) the use of various moves on behalf of the participants, (b) the sharing of a number of moves between teacher and students, (c) an abundance of teacher invitations for student participation, (d) a considerable presence of types of moves that are consistent with abstract, complex thinking (connect with text, connect with experience/knowledge, reflect and express opinion), (e) a shared-authority climate, (f) a
141 significant use of scaffolding moves on behalf of the teacher and (g) they serve a variety of purposes that are open ended and demand active idea-building on behalf of the participants.
CHAPTER 5 PARTICIPATING IN AUTHENTIC DISCUSSIONS: A VIEW FROM THE INSIDE According to Goffman (1974), when individuals attempt to attend to situations in progress, they are faced with the basic question; â€œWhat is it thatâ€™s going on here?â€ (8). A researcher of language-in-use is inevitably faced with the same question when attempting to make sense of what it is that is going on as participants partake in verbal interactions. The most obvious territory to be studied is of course the linguistic product that is generated during the verbal communications under study. This is exactly what the first research question, addressed in chapter 4, sought to examine by asking â€œWhat was the texture of talk in the four recorded booktalk sessions and in their authentic discussion portions in particular?â€ At the same time, however, Bakhtinâ€™s (1986) and Vygotskyâ€™s (1987) discussions of thought and inner speech clearly demonstrate that talk is hardly all that is going on during conversations. Bakhtin (1986) asserts that language is not a static object but instead it is experienced by humans as a social tool in use; as words from other peopleâ€™s mouths. In his view, it is not only the act of expression that is important during a dialogue. Rather both Bakhtin and Vygotsky deem listening as an active process through which individuals may engage in inner speech attempting to make sense of their interlocutorsâ€™ utterances (spoken or written) and to construct appropriate responses for those interactions. This view seems to suggest that, verbal product, especially in interactions with more than two participants, is but one level, with numerous relevant thoughts and responses remaining hidden under the surface. 142
143 The emphasis on the vital role of â€œthe othersâ€ and the focus on the active nature of listening inevitably lead to questions about what is going on in participantsâ€™ minds as they are taking part in verbal interactions. In chapter 4, my attempt to answer the first research question partly addressed the issue of â€œwhat is going on in the participantsâ€™ mindsâ€ by trying to interpret the intentions of participantsâ€™ utterances via discourse analysis. By making inferences about participantsâ€™ purposes and identifying the moves expressed through their utterances, I was, in part, trying to acquire a sense of the participantsâ€™ view of the classroom interactions. The second research question, which is addressed in this chapter, attempts to go a step deeper into participantsâ€™ heads by asking, â€œWhat were the participantsâ€™ perspectives on the issues raised in authentic discussions?â€ This question was driven by a dual purpose. The first purpose was a methodological one and it was related to member validation of my analysis. By giving a voice to the participants during my interviews with them, I was seeking to establish the soundness of my understandings of what was going on during authentic discussions. In other words, I wanted to affirm that my interpretations were in alignment with the way participants were interpreting their own experiences of authentic discussions. Beyond the methodological objective, however, this question was also trying to address a more substantive issue: the thinking authentic discussions appeared to instigate for the participants. To address this question, I conducted and analyzed a series of interviews with the classroom teacher and four focal students (Jay, Sapfo, Natalia and Mechanic) 1 . One of the major objectives of the interviews was to examine the intervieweesâ€™ perspectives on the 1 All names used are pseudonyms mostly chosen by the participants themselves.
144 issues explored in authentic discussion episodes in the immediately preceding video-recorded session. Each one of my five informants was interviewed four times. One to three days after each official recording of a booktalk session I met separately with each one of my interviewees in a small storage room adjacent to the classroom. There, the interviewee and I would sit at a table and, among other things, we would talk about the class in general, the books the class was reading and the recorded conversation. To jog participantsâ€™ memories and to facilitate the conversation, I used the TV/VCR available to show selected clips (usually excerpts from authentic discussion episodes) to each interviewee. Of course, at this point, Gubriumâ€™s and Holsteinâ€™s (1997) concerns regarding the validity of such self reports need to be noted. Interviews can yield exciting and valuable data, but one needs to remain aware that getting â€œinside someoneâ€™s headâ€ is really a utopic objective. Even if the researcher has good reason to believe that the informants are being as truthful as they can, the interview is but the intervieweesâ€™ constructions and interpretations of their experiences. Experiences they might have never had a reason to rethink and/or interpret if it had not been for the interview itself. In the interviews I invited my informants to reflect on the booktalk sessions I had recorded and to talk about the sessions in general, about the thoughts they were pondering, and about the rationales behind their verbalized ideas. Often, interviews centered on specific authentic discussion clips I had selected. At the same time, however, the interviews were not all business. My interviewees and myself frequently went on tangents that transformed interviews into conversations between two people who liked each other and who cared about common things. My interviews with Ms. Enthis
145 frequently included digressions regarding her frustration over testing, her plans to move, our backgrounds and our families. Similarly, my interviews with Jay often involved discussions about books we had both read and enjoyed; my interviews with Sapfo included conversations relevant to our shared love for animals and horses in particular; the interviews with Natalia incorporated talks about her artwork and fun episodes from her life; and the interviews with Mechanic incorporated conversations about his favorite books and his run-ins with Yugi (one of his classmates). During the interviews themselves but especially as I was analyzing their transcripts, I was fascinated by the participantsâ€™ depth of thinking and the similar and differing ways in which they were responding to the book under discussion and to the booktalks. In this chapter I will first briefly introduce each one of my five informants and report each individualâ€™s expressed views on booktalks. Subsequently, I will discuss patterns that emerged form the examination of the focal participantsâ€™ perspectives on authentic discussion episodes and the issues they involved. Finally, I will present one authentic discussion episode I talked about with all five interviewees and I will discuss the participantsâ€™ perspectives on that particular episode. Portraits of the Five Informants Ms. Enthis My first interviewee was Ms. Enthis, the classroom teacher. Ms. Enthis was a tall, athletic woman with a head of unruly, shoulder length, curly hair. Ms. â€œIronwomanâ€ as her students affectionately referred to her, had been a teacher for about a decade and held a reputation among her peers for being a dynamic and thoughtful educator. Ms. Enthisâ€™ presence in the classroom exuded an air of energy and excitement combined with genuine affection towards her students and a vibrant sense of humor. Through my five months in
146 her classroom I rarely ever saw her sitting down. Ms. Enthis moved in a floating manner around the room situating herself close to her students. As discussed in chapter 4, Ms. Enthis presented a complex interactional identity during booktalks being both a participant and a moderator. During our interviews and our numerous unofficial conversations, we had the chance to talk about her teaching style, her beliefs, as well as her perspectives towards the booktalks I had recorded. At the same time, our interactions often went off on abundant tangents on a variety of topics including but not limited to the politics of education, problems specific students were facing in the classroom, our backgrounds, and our lives. Through our interactions I felt that I got to have a privileged view to the mind of an exceptional educator and a genuinely wonderful person. In general, Ms. Enthis enjoyed an amiable relationship with her students; she had a social constructivist understanding of learning; she adopted a reflective approach to literary analysis; she believed in and practiced student-centered teaching; and she intensely respected her students and their capabilities for constructing meaning. Ms. Enthisâ€™ relationship with her students and her beliefs about learning and the nature of knowledge, about literary analysis, about teaching, and about her students will be analyzed in detail in chapter 6. Jay Jay was a tall and stout Caucasian boy with brown curly hair and sparkling brown eyes. He was bright, funny and chatty, and loved to talk about literature as well as about anything else that caught his attention. Jay had been identified as gifted and he participated in the schoolâ€™s pullout gifted program for mathematics and science. He was one of the most prominent participants in the classâ€™ booktalks. As Ms. Enthis herself jokingly mentioned in one of her interviews, â€œAnd Jay of course raises his hand â€™cause he
147 always has somethingâ€ (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4). Actually, as Table 4-2 in the previous chapter indicated, Jay had the highest number of participatory utterances in the four booktalk sessions analyzed. His participation was always characterized by high energy and a good-natured excitement about books and about sharing his views with his classmates. Always smiling, he raised his hand animatedly or blurted out responses as they came to him. Probably because he also was a teacher pleaser he was rarely off task and he had the tendency to nod in agreement to Ms. Enthisâ€™ statements, and to quietly (or not so quietly) finish her sentences. As Jay indicated in our conversations, he loved to talk about books and he liked participating in booktalk discussions because he always had a lot to say. He also said: I like that idea [of talking about books in class] â€™cause then I get to learn more about the books. I get to read more interesting books than I would just alone and I like to discuss things â€™cause itâ€™s easier for me to understand the book. And I just think itâ€™s fun because we get to do stuff about the book like activities. And thatâ€™s why I like it. (Jay, Interview 1) This quote is indicative of the high value Jay seemed to ascribe to classroom booktalks, and of his personal engagement in the conversations themselves and their satellite activities. Despite the fact that Jay was an extremely accomplished reader who obviously had very effective comprehension strategies, he often stressed how beneficial classroom booktalks were for him in his effort to understand the books the class was reading. At the same time, being very socially aware, Jay recognized that his zealousness to offer his opinions and express his ideas during classroom conversations occasionally got a bit out of hand and stated. â€œBut my problem is that I talk too much. I talk out when I shouldnâ€™tâ€ (Jay, Interview 2). Jay was a lover of literature and our conversations often included episodes about his interest in reading and about the books he was reading independently at home. At the
148 same time, Jay often took the opportunity to bring up wonderings that he had about the books the class was reading, and discuss them with me, thus using our interview time as another venue of exploring books with a fellow lover of literature. For example, during our first interview, Jay said that he predicted that one of the guards at the Metropolitan would identify the two runaway heroes of Conigsburgâ€™s (1963) story From the Mixed up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler. When I asked why he thought that, he explained that authors rarely spend time talking about characters or objects that will have no significance to the story. But then, he immediately went on to say that that is not always the case and used examples from Holes and from My brother Sam is dead (two other books the class had read) to illustrate his point. Through such conversations, Jay had the chance to bring up themes he was interested in and talk about them with a person who obviously loved literature, was evidently very interested in what Jay had to say, and had the habit of talking with him rather than to him. In a farewell letter that he wrote to me towards the end of my observations he wrote: â€œI loved getting to talk to you alone about school stuff I donâ€™t get to talk about in real life.â€ Sapfo The second student I interviewed was a Caucasian girl with straight shoulder-length brown hair, big almond eyes and a cute dimpled smile. During the first two of months of observation Sapfoâ€™s participation in whole class events was very subdued. Her closest friends Juno, Rashell and Leta were also very quiet, and with the exception of some in-group asides, the four very rarely volunteered to participate in whole-class conversations. Interestingly, just as I had made the decision to â€œcastâ€ Sapfo as my quiet informant, her classroom participation slowly started to increase. Knowing that my decision to interview her was unrelated to her behavior change, as I had not shared my decision with
149 anyone, I decided to keep with my decision and to continue to observe her new, energetic classroom persona. Through the last two months of observation Sapfo flourished into one of the major players in booktalks. Actually, as Table 4-2 shows, Sapfo had the third highest number of participatory utterances in the four sessions analyzed. Even though I cannot be sure what triggered and supported the change, some possible reasons might include (a) a parent-teacher conference between Ms. Enthis and Sapfoâ€™s mother a couple of weeks before the transformation; (b) the fact that a new classroom set-up brought Sapfo to the front of the classroom, close to Melpomeni who was the most vocal female student; and (c) the possibility that Sapfo had stronger responses towards the books the class was working with at the time. Also, even though I can be certain that my decision to interview her did not trigger Sapfoâ€™s increased participation, it is quite likely that our weekly conversations might have supported the change. Sapfo had an impressive cache of literary experiences. She was an avid reader, and beyond the fourteen books covered in class, she independently read another sixteen novels during fifth grade. She bashfully stated, â€œI read way too muchâ€ and admitted, â€œmy mom threatens to not let me read my book until I clean my room.â€ In our interviews, the quiet, shy girl of the first three months of observation was nowhere in sight. With eyes shining and an excited tone in her voice, Sapfo talked about the books she had read and articulately discussed her literary preferences. For example, in our first interview, Sapfo stated that she liked fantasy books, which contain both human and mythical creatures: Sapfo: I just like to have humans and them [mythical creatures] too. I donâ€™t. I donâ€™t like, I donâ€™t like books that have just lots and lots of humans in it, except for some. I mean because if itâ€™s got lots and lots of humans and animals itâ€™s like they
150 end up Sometimes the author is giving the humans animal traits and human traits to animals. . . Xenia: And you donâ€™t like it when that happens? Sapfo: Well sometimes itâ€™s sort of annoying and I, I just Like my favorite author [Tamora Pierce] writes books about mystical animals and humans together. And like the humans, thereâ€™s some bad in this book and thereâ€™s some good. And thereâ€™s, it sort of tells the history of them. But I donâ€™t like it where authors have all good creatures because itâ€™s better to have some bad ones too. (Sapfo, Interview 3) This quote, shows that Sapfo had had enough experience with novels to not only have a favorite author but to also be able to discuss her favorite authorâ€™s writing style, to make comparisons with other books, and to make value judgments regarding authorsâ€™ choices. At the same time, Sapfo appeared to have refined enough tastes to recognize and criticize overly simplistic literature where characters are underdeveloped and all fit under a blanket category of their â€œkind.â€ In our conversations, which wove back and forth between life and literature, Sapfo revealed herself as a person who was fascinated by history and especially by the Medieval and Renaissance ages, as a lover of the visual arts, an animal lover, as well as a feminist. While discussing Colferâ€™s (2001) Artemis Fowl, she stated, Sapfo: I like Holly, I donâ€™t know why, but it says in the beginning that she was the first female elf on the LEP, the leprechaun squad, in a long time. So I thought that was sort of cool.  Xenia: .Well what do you think of that? I mean, I know that youâ€™re very active, very, very intelligent, very determined young woman. What do you think of ? Sapfo: I thought that was . . . well I read a lot of books like Tamora Pierce, she writes books especially about that. About like females or girls doing something that the boys donâ€™t think, or other people donâ€™t think she can do. Xenia: Why do you find that fascinating? Sapfo: Because . . . I donâ€™t know. It just sort of tells what girls can do. (Sapfo, Interview 4) This excerpt expresses Sapfoâ€™s views of female empowerment and her fondness for books that portray dynamic, emancipated female characters, who take on and fulfill challenging tasks. At the same time, it is an expression of another mode of thinking that
151 came out clearly during various points in our interviews; Sapfoâ€™s inclination to relate literature to real life. On numerous situations she talked about how a particular episode from a book reminded her of things she had done or places she had visited, she discussed issues of realism, and made connections on a moral or ethical level. Finally, it is important to note that much like Jay, Sapfo also seemed to highly value her classâ€™ booktalks. She said, Well I really like reading the books in class because well I just, I read a lot and I read every day and so I just sort of like reading the books in class when we read together â€™cause there are lots of books I havenâ€™t read that way. (Sapfo, Interview 1) Even though Sapfo obviously enjoyed reading independently, she maintained that she also enjoyed reading with her class because it gave her a different way of reading. In other sections of her interviews, she added that talking about books with other people gives you more ideas and thatâ€™s â€œa good way to learn about thingsâ€ (Sapfo, Interview 1). Mechanic My third student informant was a thin and rather short Caucasian boy who chose his pseudonym to be Mechanic. As the reader probably suspected from the quirky pseudonym, Mechanic was one of the students teachers typically describe as â€œcharacters.â€ Mechanic found his way into the focal student foursome through the category of the troublemaker or as I often referred to them in my field notes â€œthe usual suspects.â€ Mechanic was a lively, often mischievous child who frequently managed to get himself in trouble. Even though as will be further discussed in chapter 6, Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom was relatively free of misbehavior, when transgressions did occur, Mechanic was often somehow involved. During one of my unofficial conversations with Ms. Enthis right after one of Mechanicâ€™s mischievous stunts she said:
152 Mechanic is clever. He is very clever and very quick. He gets things easily and fast. Understanding comes easy to him. Because of that, he thinks that he doesnâ€™t have to pay attention and that he doesnâ€™t have to work. As a result, he acts out and distracts the other kids as well. He just gets this condescending look and refuses to apply himself. And itâ€™s not only that he disrupts the class. Itâ€™s bad for him too, because there are things that he doesnâ€™t know and there are things that he needs to work for. As long as he refuses to pay attention, he will get himself in trouble. Things will be taught and heâ€™ll miss them. (Fieldnotes) Ms. Enthisâ€™ exasperated statement is very descriptive of Mechanicâ€™s occasional behavior. Especially when lessons were seeking to acquaint students with a new task or when the focus was on practicing skills or strategies, Mechanic quickly lost interest and got himself in trouble by bothering other classmates or talking too loudly. At the same time, every so often, Mechanic would get involved in brawls during recess either with Craig, who interestingly was his best friend, or with Yugi with whom he never seemed to see eye to eye. During booktalks, even though he often participated appropriately and insightfully, he also engaged in behaviors that were either disrespectful or gave the impression of being disrespectful. As explicated in chapter 4, the classâ€™ booktalks were characterized by a burst-and-pause rhythm created by stretches of reading out loud and bursts of verbal interactions. In general, Mechanic was well behaved during the verbal interaction part of booktalks, only occasionally getting sideward glances from Ms. Enthis for not letting go of jokes as quickly as the rest of the class did. However, the reading stretches presented a decisively different story. During reading, Mechanic was restless, shifting from intently following along in his book to squirming about in his seat or putting his head down on the desk and closing his eyes. Even though the pre-interns who worked with the class for a few months reprimanded him about it, to my surprise, Ms. Enthis seemed mostly to ignore this behavior and, despite his antics, Mechanic insisted that he valued booktalks
153 and he always seemed to be aware of what had been read. Mechanic clarified that for me during our first interview, Mechanic: I like reading it with the class â€™cause like, I read it at home and I wasn't really getting it [From the mixed-up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler] that much. So I decided to stop so, so I wouldnâ€™t be messed up in what I think was happening and not like get the true sense of the story like so that Ms. Enthis could talk about it so she could like summarize it what was happening. Xenia: Okay that makes perfect sense. I notice that sometimes you, you get in trouble when youâ€™re not following along. What is that? Is it that you are bored or is it that youâ€™re really following? Mechanic: I pay more attention when Iâ€™m not looking at something, especially if, I donâ€™t know, â€™cause sometimes, usually I like start out and just start reading before I get to this page â€™cause Iâ€™m a really slow person. And then I just keep the book closed cause thatâ€™s . . . I understand and listen better that way. (Mechanic, Interview 1) In general, as shown in Table 4-2, Mechanic exhibited average levels of participation. However, in spite of his â€œaverage participationâ€ and his troublemaker profile, Mechanic appeared to be very aware of the booktalk conversations taking place in his classroom. In the interviews he appeared to remember the clips I played back for him and he was typically able to recall what he was thinking at the time. Natalia My fourth student informant was Natalia, a shy and quiet African American girl. Natalia had shoulder-length hair she often wore in a ponytail and a petite, slender figure reminiscent of a dancer. Natalia was one of the less talkative members of the class, only occasionally participating in whole class interactions. As Table 4-2 shows, she had the fewest participatory utterances of all my interviewees. Her quietness transferred into our first couple of interviews, which were short and kind of awkward. Reflecting about them I wrote in my fieldnotes, Natalia was kind of quiet and she was obviously hard-pressed during particular lines of questioning. She was very willing to talk about the book and herself and
154 have small talk, but when the questioning became more demanding metacognitively, she struggled. (Fieldnotes, May 8) During the first two interviews, Natalia seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable, giving me short answers or freezing during the more complex kind of questions that invited her to reflect on her classroom experience. Even though, as the quote above indicates, she seemed willing to engage in conversations with me, I suspected that, despite my declarations that I was not looking for specific answers, Natalia felt intimidated by the possibility of my having some kind of an evaluative function. Thankfully, the difficulty drastically lessened as we progressed in the third and fourth interviews. Natalia became more talkative and the interviews acquired a much more flowing character. I believe that the change was probably brought about through a combination of factors. First, as Natalia came to know me better through our conversations and got to become more familiar with the process of the interviews, she was probably convinced of my non-judgmental purposes and allowed herself to relax and express her ideas. Second, Natalia repeatedly indicated that she did not really like From the mixed up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1969), the book her class was reading during our first two interviews. On the other hand, Natalia appeared to really enjoy Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001); the book related to the last two interviews. Consequently, Nataliaâ€™s increased engagement in the interviews could have also been related to her greater engagement in the book. Even though Natalia was not as much of an avid reader as Jay and Sapfo, she did read independently and she did have a definite sense of the types of novels she enjoyed. While talking about From the mixed up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1969) Natalia explained that she did not particularly enjoy the book because she felt that
155 it was unrealistic; two children would never get away with hiding in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She went on to comment that she did not enjoy fantasy or unrealistic books that much because part of her was always thinking â€œthere is no way this could happenâ€ and she could not relate with the characters. Instead, Natalia stated that she felt much more comfortable with humorous realistic novels like Maniac Magee (Spinelli, 1992). Often in our interviews Natalia expressed connections between the books she was reading and her personal experience. When I asked her about this, she said, Xenia: Sometimes do you find yourself doing that [making connections] when you read a book? Natalia: Um, hm (yes). Sometimes. Xenia: How . . . can you give me an example of when you did that? Do you remember one? Natalia: Um when Miss Frisbee and the Rats of Nimh, the rats were moving and they had to hurry up like kind of and it reminded me of me and mom and my dad and my brother because our house sold really quick so we had to hurry up and find another house. (Natalia, Interview 3) Even though in her interviews Natalia did not articulate a clear, eloquent description of the function of personal connections, the frequent appearance of such connections, combined with the fact that she linked her distaste towards unrealistic books with her difficulty to connect with them, indicates that those connections were an important element of her response strategies. She even noted that she enjoyed hearing other peopleâ€™s personal connections. Natalia did not claim herself to be a passionate fan of booktalks, stating that sometimes she would prefer Ms. Enthis just telling them â€œwhat [they] need to knowâ€ and that she didnâ€™t really like the â€œwhy questionsâ€ because they were difficult (Natalia, Interview 1). At the same time, however, Natalia stated that she believed booktalks to be useful because they helped better understand the books and she got to learn new things
156 from Ms. Enthis and her classmates. She added, â€œItâ€™s like sometimes itâ€™s like youâ€™re in your own little world but then most of the times like youâ€™re listeningâ€ (Natalia, Interview 1). Summary In trying to address the research question regarding the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues explored in authentic discussion episodes, I interviewed five class members: the teacher and four students who were chosen to represent a variety of participatory profiles. The interviews, in combination with classroom observations, revealed five different personalities with varying purposes, stances and perspectives. Ms. Enthis , the classroom teacher was a dynamic and thoughtful educator with a great sense of humor, who held and practiced a social constructivist approach to teaching, and respected her studentsâ€™ thinking and reasoning abilities. Jay was a chatty and excited lover of literature who participated vigorously in booktalks because he liked sharing his ideas, because they were â€œfunâ€ and because they made it â€œeasier for [him] to understand the book.â€ Sapfo was a fundamentally introverted child who, during the course of my research, transformed from a silent participant to one of the major contributors in booktalks and stated, â€œI just like to have a say in what weâ€™re talking about in classâ€ (Sapfo, Interview 1). An avid reader of literature, Sapfo loved fantasy books and, like Jay, she ascribed high value to booktalks because they provided her with a different way of reading. Mechanic , the groupâ€™s troublemaker often appeared to be inattentive during reading. However, his relevant participatory utterances and his undoubted ability to effectively discuss the class-read books during his interviews indicated that Mechanic, who stated that booktalks made him a more effective reader, was attentive in his own way. Shy Natalia completes the foursome of my focal students. An essentially silent student, Natalia rarely
157 participated in booktalks but insisted that she always got an opportunity to express her ideas when she volunteered. After getting over her early nervousness with the interviews, Natalia talked about her preference towards humorous realistic novels and her tendency to make personal connections with literature. Examining Participantsâ€™ Perspectives As mentioned earlier, the purpose of this chapter is to explore participant perspectives on issues raised in authentic discussion events. During the participant interviews, I sought to tap that realm of information by replaying video clips of a number of authentic discussion episodes for my interviewees and asking them to talk about those episodes, while prodding them with relevant questions. As each participant viewed and commented on the same clips, the interview data afforded me with prismatic views of a number of authentic discussion episodes and the issues explored within them. In an effort to make sense of these perspectives, I created a matrix wherein I recorded each episode discussed along with the intervieweesâ€™ comments about those episodes. As I developed the matrix, I was struck by the wealth of experiences and knowledge the participants expressed, by the depth of the participantsâ€™ thinking about books, as well as by the many commonalities and the differences in their perspectives on conversations they had collectively participated in. Table 5-1 presents an abridged version of the matrix on three of the authentic discussion episodes explored through the interviews. The purpose of the table is to illustrate the range of perspectives rather than to analytically explore each episode through the vista points of the five focal participants. That function will be performed by the immediately following section where I present an authentic discussion episode and discuss participant perspectives as those were put forth by the five focal participants.
158 Table 5-1. Abridged version of Participant Perspective Matrix for three authentic discussion episodes Episode Ms. Enthis Jay Sapfo Mechanic Natalia 1. In The Mixed-up Files the two main characters used a test typewriter from a store. Possibly responding to studentsâ€™ grunts of disbelief, Ms. Enthis asked, â€œDoes this sound realistic?â€ The general sentiment expressed was that testing a typewriter was as common in 1968 as testing out a computer is today (Session 2) Aimed to discuss the realistic value of the story and to relate it to studentsâ€™ experience + Thought it was weird that Jamie and Claudia found a typewriter. Made the connection with todayâ€™s test machines in computer stores â€“ originally thought it was weird but when the connection was brought up and discussed, he thought that it was realistic You donâ€™t find typewriters except in antique stores + connection with computer stores today Thought it was weird that Claudia and Jamie found a typewriter on the street. Didnâ€™t think it was unrealistic â€“ she has been to stores where you can try stuff out + was thinking about the differences between typewriters and computers 2. As the class was playing a clue-game as part of working with From the mixed-up files Ms. Enthis mistakenly offered the class bonus marbles for a clue that had already been mentioned. This triggered a negotiation between Ms. Enthis and the students (Session 2). â€œI wasnâ€™t listening to Craig, was I?â€ + Discusses the function of the marbles + â€œThe negotiation is part of my relationship with the classâ€ That was funny + made a personal connection with a similar situation in Social Studies + likes the marble system + enjoyed the humorous way Ms. Enthis handled it Surprised that Jamie was cheating (the clue in question) + Knew they wouldnâ€™t get the marble just for being honest + Has had experience with the marble tradition in previous years The marble system is an ok idea + Wanted to get the extra marble but didnâ€™t really care + Thought that Ms. Enthis handed it well Jamieâ€™s cheating was a funny element (the clue in question)+ She knew that Craig had already said that + Likes the marbles idea but agreed that Ms. Enthisâ€™ decision was fair
159 Table 5-1. Continued Episode Ms. Enthis Jay Sapfo Mechanic Natalia 3. This episode came about when Ms. Enthis handed the students copies of Artemis Fowl for the first time and asked them to predict what the story was going to be about without opening the book. The discussion that ensued focused on the hieroglyphic-like symbols on the book cover and on storyline possibilities (Session 3). Thought that this would be a good way to preview and predict States that the symbols are a kind of Fairy Morse code (heâ€™s already read part of the book) + Enjoys predicting Likes the book â€“ She is a fun of fantasy + Predicted that the symbols were a warning + Enjoys predictions Thought that the symbols were a key to something. Now he enjoys using them for translations + Likes predictions Not thrilled about this book. She prefers realistic, funny books + Thought the symbols might be a spell + Kind of enjoys predictions. The samples in Table 5-1 serve to illustrate a number of characteristics of participant perspectives that were identified through the comparative analysis of the relevant interview data. First, it is important to note that all of the participant responses are in some way connected to the clip they had just watched. In other words the participantsâ€™ responses were not unrelated tangents but they mostly concentrated and commented on the overarching purpose of the episode under scrutiny. The participants used the book (or the situation at hand) and the classroom discussions as springboards for their own thinking. Second, there were a number of similarities found in responses across participants. For example, in the first episode presented in Table 5-1 all five of the participants, as they did in the classroom discussion they had just watched, focused on the realistic value of the fact that Jamie and Claudia, the two main characters in Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler, found a display typewriter just when they
160 needed one. Interestingly, with the exception of Mechanic who simply stated that he thought that finding the typewriter was â€œweird,â€ the student participants maintained that they were skeptical about the realism of the event until a comparison was made during the classroom discussion between stores selling typewriters in the sixties (when the story had supposedly taken place) and modern-day computer stores. At the same time, however, a third point becomes visible: each response was in some way unique in its focus, with participants offering some opinions and connections none of the other responders had made. For example, in the second episode presented in Table 5-1 the different participants responded in different ways; Ms Enthis focused on her role as a teacher and on her relationship with her class (â€œThe negotiation is part of my relationship with the classâ€); Jay talked about a connection he made with a similar situation in social studies; Sapfo talked about the written text itself and expressed her surprise that Jamie (one of the main characters) was cheating; Mechanic commented that he wanted to get the extra marble but did not really care if that happened or not; and Natalia remarked that she thought that Jamieâ€™s cheating was a funny element. The three patterns identified above become particularly important when combined with what we know about language development (Lindfors, 1987) and verbal thought (John Steiner, 1997). According to Lindfors, meanings exist in the human mind as bundles of semantic features. These features represent semantic details each individual has associated with each particular meaning, based on her/his unique experiences. As a result, the bundle of semantic features two different individuals have regarding one particular meaning can never be exactly the same. Rather, the two respective bundles of semantic features include a number of similar features that render communication
161 between the two individuals possible, while at the same time including a number of features unique to each person. This divergence of features can lead to different individuals finding different points of salience on specific situations and, through that, having different responses and ideas about those situations. The difference in responses and ideas across individuals is clearly illustrated in Table 5-1. Going back to the discourse analysis findings presented in chapter 4, it becomes evident that authentic discussions allow for these different perspectives to have a legitimate place in official classroom interactions. Therefore, it can be inferred that authentic classroom discussions have the capacity to provide a public space for the expression of what is by and large â€œnaturallyâ€ taking place in the minds of engaged participants during verbal interactions. Contrary to traditional classrooms where only one perspective acquires legitimate status in their official interactional terrain, authentic discussions seem to honor the diversity of ideas that may develop in participantsâ€™ minds during interactions, and provide a forum for their expression and negotiation. In this way, the unique experiences and ideas that exist in the participantsâ€™ minds are afforded the opportunity to become verbalized. Through their verbalization, ideas become more organized, coherent and solidified (John Steiner, 1970) thus benefiting the utter-er. At the same time they benefit the interlocutors by enriching the pool of experiences and ideas of the interactional community. As the samples in Table 5-1 indicate, the participant perspectives expressed by the interviewees regarding authentic discussion episodes they had all participated in were diverse. To explore this diversity, I present one excerpt from an authentic discussion and I use the information provided by my informants during their interviews in an effort to
162 supplement the audible thinking (verbal product) with the inaudible thinking (unverbalized thoughts). The purpose of this prismatic view goes well beyond simply seeing one episode through various pairs of eyes. Rather it attempts to, as much as possible, go inside participantsâ€™ minds, explore their thoughts and thus get to a fuller picture of what was going on during authentic discussions and of how the participants came to view the issues discussed. The following excerpt is the concluding section of an extensive authentic discussion episode from session four (38 lines out of a total of 110). The overarching purpose of the episode was to examine Artemis, one of the major characters of Eoin Colferâ€™s (2001) Artemis Fowl. Artemis was a twelve-year-old child prodigy who, tortured by his fatherâ€™s death and his motherâ€™s mental illness decides to regain his familyâ€™s immense financial power by extorting gold from the elusive fairies, who live prosperously underground. The moral quality of Artemisâ€™s behavior had been a recurring theme in at least two of the preceding classâ€™ booktalks. Through the episode, which was introduced when Ms. Enthis asked, â€œWhat do you think? Is Artemis evil?â€ a number of students presented their perceptions of Artemis and, possibly in response to Ms. Enthisâ€™ introductory request, they supported their opinions with text-based information. 1. Tyrone: I think he is still evil because he captured Holly, he wants gold, he tried to kill commander Root, and he is dangerous, and he wants pretty much a World War III between fairies and humans 2. Ms. Enthis: Good support! Melponi? Melponi: I said, I think that he is not evil because he is young and doesnâ€™t know what heâ€™s doing and that what he is doing will affect the future, like how [it will affect the] fairies and everything, and his brain is too smart for his body and heâ€™s nice to Butler and his mom without (inaudible). 3. Ms. Enthis: You think he is evil or he is just irresponsible? 4. Many: Irresponsible! He is evil both doesnâ€™t Melponi: He didnâ€™t know what he was doing If he knew what he was doing
163 Ms. Enthis: So he doesnâ€™t understand the repercussions, the consequences of his actions Jay 5. Jay: Aa I think I still donâ€™t think that Artemis is evil because heâ€™s (other voices make inaudible). 6. Ms. Enthis: Jay, hold on a second! (the voices quiet down). Go ahead. 7. Jay: I still donâ€™t think Artemis is evil because he is too young to know everything in his mind that he does, like that he knows all that technology. I do not think he, he just canâ€™t control it. I think it has something to do with his dad. If he finds his dad, his mom will get well and 8. Unknown: Heâ€™s too smart! 9. Ms. Enthis: Sapfo. 10. Sapfo: It might, but I think that Artemis is sort of evil. Not pure evil, but sort of evil because he is willing to try to kill a Fairy or I think he is, because he is willing to kill two fairies because he might have killed commander Root and he, I think he is sort of threatening to kill, hinting that he is going to kill Holly just for gold and he doesnâ€™t really care about the environment, because I think, isnâ€™t like lead like flammable? 11. Ms. Enthis: Leadâ€™s not flammable, but itâ€™s poisonous. If itâ€™s like ingested, if people eat it. 12. Sapfo: Well, and he, heâ€™s like putting a lead coated ship on fire and then some of the lead bonds with the water and poisons it. And he, but, (other voices) but the reason that 13. Ms. Enthis: Hold on a second, I canâ€™t I am getting distracted. You guys might want to show the same courtesy that she showed previously. 14. Sapfo: The reason why I didnâ€™t think he is pure evil is because he likes his mom and he probably will grow out of being sort of evil or something like that. 15. Ms. Enthis: So not pure evil. But evil actions (Sapfo nods in agreement). One more thing. Jay. (Session 3) Even though this excerpt is only a portion of the complete classroom discussion on Artemisâ€™ character it provides an illustrative sample of the episode. As can be seen from the excerpt, there was a divergence of opinion in the class as to the â€œevilnessâ€ of Artemis. Some individuals like Tyrone presented evidence of his criminal actions (turn 1), whereas others like Melpomeni and Jay insisted that Artemis was just misguided and irresponsible (turns 6 and 10). With the exception of some information-providing utterances like the comment about lead (turn 14), Ms. Enthis had a primarily moderating role in this episode, giving the floor to different individuals, reiterating and refocusing student points and
164 intervening to quiet down students who commented about Artemisâ€™ character with their neighbors. Ms. Enthis When asked to reflect this excerpt, Ms. Enthis said that she initiated the conversation on Artemisâ€™ character because she felt that exploring story characters is an important element of analyzing and comprehending narrative works. Issues of character exploration had come up on a number of occasions during our conversations and Ms. Enthis had stated that character exploration and development was a staple in her teaching of both reading and writing. She said that she believed that it was important for students to realize that fictional characters, like real people, are multidimensional and they evolve through their experiences. Foregrounding her plans for Artemis Fowl (Colfer, 2001), Ms. Enthis mentioned that this was an interesting book character-wise because â€œthe characters change throughoutâ€ and added that the studentsâ€™ journaling would help them become aware and keep track of those changes (Ms. Enthis, Interview 3). Even though she did not explicitly express her opinion of Artemisâ€™ character in the classroom discussion, in her interviews and in our unofficial conversations Ms. Enthis commented that Artemis was an interesting villain because unlike many other childrenâ€™s booksâ€™ villains he was developed as a complex personality rather than as a one-dimensional caricature. Throughout the episode, Ms. Enthis repeatedly asked students to explain the judgments they were presenting regarding Artemisâ€™ character (â€œWhy do you think that?â€) and praised students for their rationale statements (â€œGood supportâ€). In her interview, Ms. Enthis confirmed my deduction that she was encouraging students to express their
165 opinions and to elaborate on and support those opinions through textual evidence. She said, I guess itâ€™s teaching comprehension skills and itâ€™s teaching, you know, being able to make inferences, being able to find details in the, in the reading to support what theyâ€™re saying and maybe being able to infer from the, from what theyâ€™re reading. So, you know, I accept either one. Iâ€™ll accept inferences as long as thereâ€™s a basis for that. I mean thatâ€™s just something . . . I just notice that thatâ€™s lacking in the beginning of the year a lot of times is that maybe they can find concrete, factual questions . . . if I ask, you know factual questions they can find it. But some, sometimes itâ€™s inferences or, or they understand it but I donâ€™t . . . they give me the right answer but I donâ€™t know if they, how they got to that place, you know. They can say, â€œyes heâ€™s evil.â€ And maybe I agree that heâ€™s evil but, but how did they get there? I want to know if theyâ€™re finding the information from what theyâ€™ve read and if theyâ€™re processing it. So I guess just from the, just from, the beginning of the year thatâ€™s something I emphasizeâ€”supporting details. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4) This statement explains why in the recorded episode Ms. Enthis appeared to be equally accepting of both the answers that claimed that Artemis was evil and of the answers that insisted that Artemis had a soft side to him, and that he was misguided. What was important to her was not the conclusion itself (whether Artemis was evil or not) and whether the studentsâ€™ conclusions fit her own judgments on the matter. Rather, based on her long-term objectives for the class, she was primarily interested in the studentsâ€™ ability to describe the process that led them to their conclusions, and to support their inferences through textual evidence. Jay Jayâ€™s interview on this session started with an exclamation â€œThis is a really cool book!â€ (Jay, Interview 4) and soon afterwards Jay went on to give me an excited, impromptu summary of the part of the plot the class had covered during the day of the recording. As he was animatedly recounting the episode where Artemis blew up a ship (referred to by Sapfo in turns 13 and 15), I expressed my puzzlement about the explosion, Jay: [Artemis actions] werenâ€™t . . . yeah . . . they werenâ€™t that bad.
166 Xenia: Well, that was pretty bad because there were, I was thinking that, well weâ€™re going to talk about it a little bit later too, but up until that point I was kind of debating how evil and ruthless Artemis was but then he blew up a ship and there were bound to be people on it and he feels okay if he does kill the whole crew of the ship Jay: There was nobody on the ship. Xenia: How do you know? Jay: Because he, Root checked his locator. There were no human life forms around the boat at that time. Xenia: Yeah, but wasnâ€™t it lead-based so he couldnâ€™t really see? Jay: Huh? Xenia: Didnâ€™t they say . . .? Jay: Oh no, no, no. Thatâ€™s, thatâ€™s in the other locator, human locator, that was Hollyâ€™s. Xenia: So you think that there was nobody on the ship? Jay: Yeah. I doubt it. (Jay, Interview 4) Knowing that Jay was one of the most dedicated supporters of Artemis in the class, in this interview segment I decided to play devilâ€™s advocate and challenge Jay to explain his position regarding Artemisâ€™ character. Interestingly, Jay appeared to have a very clearly thought-out perception of Artemis and his actions. His quick and articulate responses to my challenges suggest that his insistence in saying â€œI still donâ€™t think that Artemis is evilâ€ during the classroom discussion (turns 8 and 10) was not a frivolous judgment that failed to consider important book evidence. Rather, it is possible that the classroom discussions about Artemisâ€™ character had provided Jay with the opportunity to consider the character and his actions and to reach to an informed judgment, which incidentally was in disagreement with what a number of his classmates thought. In Jayâ€™s view, Artemis was not really aware of the consequences of his actions and was lashing out out of grief (turn 10 in the excerpt). Later on in interview four he said that he recognized that his views on Artemis were not shared by most of his classmates and went on to explain his perception of Artemis using textual information much of which had been debated during the relevant classroom discussion. In the interview, Jay stated that
167 Artemis â€œknew too much for his own goodâ€ (Melpomeni had said, â€œhis brain is too smart for his bodyâ€), â€œhe was only 12â€ (Melpomeni had said â€œHe is too young and he doesnâ€™t know what he is doingâ€), and he refuted the possibility of human presence on the blown-up ship (Ms Enthis had said, â€œYou would think that people were on that boatâ€). The similarities among these remarks suggest that Jayâ€™s thinking was indeed shaped in some ways by the discussion in class. Sapfo Sapfo expressed similar views regarding Artemis, even though she was not as forgiving as Jay was and did characterize Artemisâ€™ actions as evil. Xenia: Okay. The next, the next clip (I was getting ready to play a video clip of the excerpt above) has to do with something that the class has, the class has been talking about throughout this book. Itâ€™s the question: is Artemis evil? Sapfo: Well before I did think he was evil but now Iâ€™ve sort of changed my mind a little bit. Xenia: Why? Sapfo: Because, I mean, he sort of felt bad when his mom was . . . like he was trying to hold back tears and everything in that one in the beginning. So I just thought that his actions were evil and that he wasnâ€™t really that evil himself but everything he was doing was evil. Xenia: Why do you think that heâ€™s doing these things, if heâ€™s not evil? Sapfo: Cause well heâ€™s greedy and heâ€™s taking advantage of his smartness and he wants money. Xenia: And well one of the things that, that people . . . well letâ€™s see now . . . Sapfo: Heâ€™s troubled. Xenia: Heâ€™s troubled? Why? Sapfo: Because his mom is like, right now she doesnâ€™t, sheâ€™s just totally living in the past. And she, and then his dad supposedly is dead. (Sapfo, Interview 4) Like Jay, Sapfo was one of the students who believed that Artemis was not purely evil. However, as she mentioned in her interview, she had not always held that position. In the interview excerpt above, it appears that Sapfoâ€™s experience with the book and her classroomâ€™s booktalks possibly encouraged her to reconsider her perceptions of Artemis and to construct a differentiation between his character and his actions. Similarly to what
168 Jay did in his interview, in the excerpt above, Sapfo supported her views by using evidence and rationales presented in the relevant classroom discussion. With point quite similar to the ones Michira and Leta had made in the booktalk, Sapfo maintained that Artemisâ€™ affection for his mother confirmed that he was not totally evil. Also, she reiterated Kentâ€™s contention that Artemis was greedy and agreed with Jayâ€™s point regarding Artemisâ€™ immense intelligence and technical knowledge. During the course of interview four, Sapfo and I also talked about another issue that took up a considerable portion of the episode about Artemisâ€™ character: whether or not there were humans on the whaler Artemis blew up. After I brought up the explosion, Sapfo said: Sapfo: Afterwards it said that he didnâ€™t like whaling ships and he, like because it was in the end (inaudible). Thatâ€™s what he said afterwards anyway. Xenia: Yeah he . . . I remember that. I was, I was wondering throughout the thing and Iâ€™m still not clear where there were humans on the ship when he blew it up or not. Sapfo: There wasnâ€™t. Xenia: There wasnâ€™t? Okay. Sapfo: I think it was just tied out there. It was like anchored out somewhere so it wasnâ€™t that far out because Artemis had to get on to it. And it was confiscated. Xenia: Yeah. Maybe I need to go back and reread that part because I thought that Artemis got on it when it was docked on the port but then they left on a trip. And I wasnâ€™t sure if . . . Sapfo: It was confiscated though because . . . and they werenâ€™t allowed to whale with it any more. So I think itâ€™s just . . . (Sapfo, Interview 4) Much like Jay, Sapfoâ€™s perception of Artemis as â€œnot evilâ€ was inextricably linked to a certainty that there were no humans on the ship he blew up. In the classroom discussion this belief had been stated by David but it was never substantiated. At the same time, Ms. Enthis mentioned a contrasting point by saying, Ms. Enthis: I would er Root didnâ€™t see any signs of life but that it was lead coated paint and it was made of lead, you would think that a ship would need, a whaler would need humans on it to run on an ocean. You would think that
169 people were on that boat. So, for that he is evil to humans too. I mean, blowing up a tanker or a whaler. (session 4) Despite this teacher statement, however, both Jay and Sapfo insisted that the ship was deserted: Jay because he was convinced that the lead coating interfered only with some Fairy instruments but not with the â€œlife-scanner,â€ and Sapfo because she remembered that when the ship had first been mentioned, it was described as confiscated because of illegal whaling. Even though neither Jay nor Sapfo presented this information during the booktalk, and even though they did not explicitly identify a relationship between the booktalk and their thinking on the matter, the quickness and fluency of their responses may be an indication that the booktalk had in some way supported their thinking on the issue. Mechanic Contrary to Sapfoâ€™s improving perception of Artemisâ€™ character, Mechanic stated that the latest events had caused his opinion of Artemis to deteriorate. Xenia: .The other one is one question that has been coming up quite a bit in this group. It is the question â€œIs Artemis evil?â€ What do you think? Mechanic: Iâ€™m not sure. At first I thought he wasnâ€™tâ€™ evil. I just thought he had a pretty big ego. But now I think that heâ€™s kind of evil cause heâ€™s like capturing people and poisoning them and putting them in jail for ransom. Xenia: Do you, do you still think that . . . do you think that heâ€™s purely evil or heâ€™s somewhat evil or what do you think about him? Mechanic: I think heâ€™s somewhat evil. Xenia: Okay. And what would make him not totally evil? What, what is the part that makes him not totally evil? Mechanic: Cause like he feels sorry for his mother and like heâ€™s like, he starts to cry sometimes. (Mechanic, Interview 4) Mechanic had started off the book thinking that Artemis was not all that bad and that he was just a conceited person. However, Mechanic explained, as the story progressed and Artemis proceeded to conduct a series of criminal acts (poisoning, kidnapping, extortion), he started to believe that Artemis really was â€œkind of evil.â€
170 Interestingly, all the points that Mechanic brought up to support his views had been mentioned during the classroom discussion. Poisoning had been mentioned by Sapfo who had said, â€œheâ€™s like putting a lead coated ship on fire and then some of the lead bonds with the water and poisons it,â€ and kidnapping and extortion had been brought up by Kent who had said that Artemis had â€œkidnapped Holly to get the fairy goldâ€ and Craig who had mentioned the fact that â€œhe [was] keeping Holly hostage.â€ Like Michira, Leta and Melpomeni in the booktalk, Mechanic viewed Artemisâ€™ sensitivity towards his mother and the loss of his father as signs that he was not all rotten. This assumption is probably related to the hopeful ending he would like the book to have. Rather than wanting the bookâ€™s villain to be punished for his actions, Mechanic stated that he wished for a happy resolution both for the fairies and for Artemis. This hope had also been expressed during the booktalk when Jay started to say, â€œIf he finds his dad, his mom will get well andâ€ Furthermore, Mechanic explicitly stated his agreement with Michiraâ€™s statement during the booktalk where she had asserted that Artemisâ€™ criminal behavior appeared to be primarily directed against fairies. Xenia: Well there were two issues here. The one issue is that Michira thought that, you know, heâ€™s evil but not totally evil because heâ€™s only evil to the fairies and not to the humans. Do you agree with that? Mechanic: Yes. Yeah cause like (inaudible) fairy and they are not mean to any human. But heâ€™s not like poisoning any humans or ransoming them for gold or putting them in jail or shooting them or stuff and capturing them. Xenia: But why, well why is he doing it to the fairies though? Mechanic: Cause they have valuable gold that he wants. (Mechanic, Interview 4) When considering Artemisâ€™ treatment of fairies and humans, Mechanic expressed his agreement with Michiraâ€™s who had said, â€œArtemis is enemies with Fairies but not with humans because he is nice to Butler and his mom and Juliet.â€ To support this claim
171 he once more cited textual evidence that had been mentioned during the particular booktalk episode. As mentioned earlier the issues of kidnapping and extortion had been brought up by Kent and Craig and poisoning had been referred to by Sapfo. In addition, Mechanic mentioned shooting which was an issue referred to by a number of participants, including Tyrone and Craig, at different points in session four. Again, we can say that the commonalities between the classroom discussion and the interview suggest that Mechanicsâ€™ participation in the discussion shaped the perspectives he presented in the interview. Natalia Nataliaâ€™s views of Artemis were in many ways similar to the opinions Mechanic had put forth. She too mentioned that originally she thought that Artemis wasnâ€™t evil but then, as the story progressed and Artemis so ruthlessly mistreated the fairies, she changed her mind. Natalia: I, I thought he was evil because . . . The first time I didnâ€™t; the second time I did. I thought Artemis was kind of evil because he didnâ€™t, he didnâ€™t know of another reason why, well itâ€™s not . . . itâ€™s just that itâ€™s like heâ€™s evil because you can tell how heâ€™s treating the fairies and everything. And itâ€™s like just for a piece of gold! And I donâ€™t even think they have the gold because early in the book thereâ€™re like, â€œGold! Gold you human? Thatâ€™s like strangeâ€ or something like that. Thatâ€™s how they were saying. Iâ€™m not sure they were tricking him. Or if it was true what they were saying. Xenia: Oh you are not sure whether the fairies indeed did not have the gold or whether they did and they were just pretending that they didnâ€™t? Natalia: Yes heâ€™s kind of rich because . . . heâ€™s rich but he kind of wants some money so he can like pay for, pay for something, I think something about his dad or something, how he died. Xenia: Oh, you think that he wants to get the money to, to try to find out how his dad died? Or to find his dad if heâ€™s still alive? Natalia: I donâ€™t . . . it said something like that about debts or something, to pay off something. Xenia: Oh, oh. I donâ€™t remember that. Natalia: In the book. Xenia: Well maybe. I donâ€™t, I donâ€™t remember that. He had to . . . oh that his dad has debts or something like that?
172 Natalia: I donâ€™t remember. All I remember is it was something like that. Xenia: But you think that he needs the money to pay something? Natalia: Um, hm. Xenia: Okay. Natalia: â€™Cause it said it like early in the book, but I donâ€™t think everyone was paying attention. (Natalia, Interview 4) Even though Natalia did not have any participatory utterances in the extensive classroom discussion episode on Artemisâ€™ character, her clearly thought-out perceptions of Artemis and his motivations suggest that our interview was not the first time she had considered those issues and that, though silent, she had been very much a participant to the booktalks. Similar to much of the textual evidence put forth by the other interviewees, Nataliaâ€™s rationales were also closely related to ideas that had been explored during the classroom booktalk. The issue of mistreating the fairies that Natalia mentioned had been raised by Michira, Leta, Melpomeni and Ms. Enthis, whereas Artemisâ€™ greediness had been asserted by Kent (â€œI think that heâ€™s em evil and greedyâ€), Tyrone (â€œhe wants goldâ€) and Ms. Enthis (â€œI think that you are right about the greedy part â€œ). Natalia not only used Artemisâ€™ treatment of the fairies as support for judging Artemis as evil, but she also went on to contend that his actions seemed even more appalling when considering that he was driven solely by greediness. Going a step further into Artemisâ€™ possible motives for his actions, Natalia made reference to a piece of information that she felt did not get brought up during the classroom booktalk because not â€œeveryone was paying attentionâ€ when it had been mentioned in the story. Natalia stated that she suspected that Artemisâ€™ thirst for money might have been driven by dire financial straits caused by his fatherâ€™s shady business dealings.
173 In a follow-up question asked right after Natalia watched an excerpt from the episode on Artemisâ€™ character, I prompted Natalia to comment on Michiraâ€™s opinion that Artemis was evil to the fairies but not to the humans. Natalia: I think I agree with Michira because itâ€™s like heâ€™s not mean to Butler, heâ€™s not mean to his mom and heâ€™s, sheâ€™s the main person he needs to be mean to because she is like â€œYou know my little Arty?â€ and heâ€™s not mean. . . I think those are the only people heâ€™s not really mean to. But heâ€™s mean to the elves and dwarves and fairies and everythingâ€”all things that live underground. (Natalia, Interview 4) Like Mechanic, Natalia noticed the differential treatment Artemis employed for the people who were close to him in contrast to the way he treated the fairies. Even though Artemis ruthlessly pursued his plan to extort gold from the fairies, he indeed appeared to have great affection for his butler and especially for his mother. In the statement above, Natalia not only expressed her agreement with Michiraâ€™s comment, but also added that if there was someone Artemis had reasons to be mean to, that would be his mother. This statement was connected with an earlier portion of the interview where Natalia had stated that she did not believe that a mother, no matter how sick she was, would ever forget her child like Artemisâ€™ mother had. In Nataliaâ€™s view, the motherâ€™s illusions were a form of escapism, and Natalia seemed to feel that Artemis had every right to be angry with her. However, even though Natalia conceded to a number of mitigating circumstances for Artemisâ€™ criminal behavior (the pain of loosing his father, having a mother who was delusional, having to pay off a debt), and acknowledged that he had a soft side to him, she was not as forgiving as the other three focal students were. Instead, as the story progressed she became more convinced that Artemisâ€™ criminal behavior was because he indeed was evil.
174 An Overview of the Five Perspectives In the immediately preceding sections I attempted to present a kaleidoscopic view of an authentic discussion episode by examining the focal participantsâ€™ perspectives on the issues therein raised as those perspectives were revealed through their interviews. Table 5-2. Focal studentsâ€™ perceptions of major issues in the authentic discussion episode â€œIs Artemis evil?â€ Is Artemis evil? Were there humans on the ship? Is Artemis selectively mean to the fairies? Why is Artemis acting the way he is? Ms. Enthis Artemis is a villain but he is a complex character. There likely were humans on the ship Jay Artemis is not evil Always thought Artemis was not evil There were no humans on the ship Artemis knows too much for his own good and is lashing out out of grief Sapfo Artemisâ€™ actions are evil but he isnâ€™t really that evil himself Originally thought he was evil There were no humans on the ship Artemis is greedy and troubled. Mechanic Artemis is evil but not totally Originally thought he wasnâ€™t evil There likely were humans on the ship Artemis is trying to be more mean to the fairies Artemis wants the fairy gold Natalia Artemis is evil. Originally thought he wasnâ€™t evil Artemis is nice to humans but mean to the fairies Artemis needs the fairy gold to pay a debt Artemis is pained by his fatherâ€™s death and his motherâ€™s poor mental condition
175 In what follows, I will present an overview of the five perspectives, highlight some of the emerging patterns, and draw inferences regarding possible connections between the interviews and the thinking authentic discussions appeared to support and/or stimulate. A comparative overview of the focal participantsâ€™ perspectives on the main issues addressed in the episode about the character of Artemis (see Table 5-2), indicates that the five focal participants did not leave the booktalk discussion having had the exact same experience, having served the exact same purposes or having reached the exact same conclusions as everybody else (Townsend, 1998). When reviewing Table 5-2 one sees only part of how Ms Enthis described her perspective on this particular episode. As the table focuses on the participantsâ€™ perspectives on Artemisâ€™ character it fails to capture the â€œteacherishâ€ aspect of Ms. Enthisâ€™ perspective. Beyond stating that Artemis was a complex villain, Ms Enthis also concentrated her response on the fact that one of her constant goals in booktalks was to help her students establish a mode of thinking: refrain from giving frivolous judgments but instead supporting their opinions with book-based rationales. I believe that this pattern, which appeared to characterize many of Ms. Enthisâ€™ responses to the classroom clips, was in many ways indicative of the way she approached her role as a teacher of booktalks. Both in the interviews as well as in her classroom â€œpersonaâ€ Ms. Enthis presented an interesting blend: she was a reader with an instructional mission. In other words, as is further discussed in chapter 6, Ms. Enthis appeared to approach booktalks as an interested reader who responded to literature as an individual as well as a thoughtful teacher with goals and objectives that often reached far beyond comprehending the specific literary work at hand.
176 Conversely, the four focal students focused primarily on what they felt was the overarching purpose of the discussion: Artemisâ€™ character. When responding to the discussion clip, they all expressed their view on Ms. Enthisâ€™ theme-setting question (â€œIs Artemis evil?â€) and they all used textual information to construct inferences as to the motives behind Artemisâ€™ criminal behavior. Interestingly, all the motives presented related to Artemisâ€™ greediness but also to his pain, with each student using valid but occasionally different textual elements to support the specific inference s/he was putting forward. At the same time, Natalia and Mechanic focused on what probably was the most prominent point of complexity for Artemisâ€™ character: the fact that he appeared to be kind to the humans around him whereas he was aloof and ruthless in his dealings with the fairies. Also, with the exception of Natalia, the focal students considered the ambiguous plot event of the shipâ€™s explosion. For them, the presence of humans on the ship was of pivotal importance as each case could turn the verdict to â€œevil.â€ The analysis of the five participantsâ€™ perspectives on the character of Artemis reveals an interesting pattern. The interviewees, even the ones who did not offer any verbal contribution to the booktalk episode, appeared to have been attentive to the discussion. In their interviews, they all made comments that in some way were connected with the classroom discussion. For example, Ms Enthis explained the rationale behind her frequent requests of â€œtell me why you think so,â€ and Natalia and Mechanic expressed and justified their agreement with a statement made by Michira during the booktalk. At the same time, there were a number of less explicit connections as the participants often used ideas that had been presented during the booktalks to construct and support the views they were expressing in the interviews. Furthermore, the elaborateness and the fluency
177 characterizing the intervieweesâ€™ speech as they were explaining their perspectives on those issues is a possible sign that the classroom discussions might have led to unverbalized consideration of the issues. At the same time, the fact that none of the participants presented a dogmatic clear-cut verdict of â€œevilâ€ or not evil suggests that those individual conclusions were not final or indisputable. Rather, the presentation of evidence-based arguments and their apparent willingness to recognize mitigating circumstances as well as faults is an indication of openness to new evidence, new interpretations and new discussions. This indication is supported by the fact that three of the four focal students stated that their current opinion was substantially different from their original judgment of Artemis. And, even though one cannot assume that the intervieweesâ€™ participation in authentic discussions definitely was the cause for the evolution of their judgments, participating in interactions where contrasting opinions and supporting textual evidence might well have supported and facilitated the process. It is quite likely that the three criteria established in chapter 1 as signifiers of authentic discussions -the presence of opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas and perspectives, a wide array of participants to present multiple ideas and perspectives, and opportunities for the students and teacher to build on ideas expressed by other participants in previous turnsprovided the resources for students to develop their own thinking. First, my informants appeared to be very accepting of the various perspectives that had been presented in the discussion clip they had watched. In general, they appeared to take the presentation of a variety of opinions and stances as a natural part of the conversation, and none of the interviewees expressed or even implied discontent about
178 the practice itself or hostility towards any of the ideas expressed. Second, the participants appeared to be very comfortable with a setting that invited them to present their opinions. They readily answered my interview questions, often providing me with articulate, lengthy comments rather than just quick responses that â€œsimply answered the question.â€ It is possible that the intervieweesâ€™ high level of comfort with open-ended, exploratory conversations was related to their familiarity with such interactions through their participation in authentic classroom discussions. The same can be said for the intervieweesâ€™ willingness not only to express their ideas but also to express ideas that came in direct contrast with what many of their classmates and even their teacher seemed to think. Finally, the participants used ideas that had been presented in the booktalks to construct their own arguments and made references to what other classmates had said during the discussion itself. At the same time, comments like â€œI hadnâ€™t thought of that until she said itâ€ (Jay, Interview 4), the intervieweesâ€™ insistence that classroom booktalks helped them understand the book better, as well as the participantsâ€™ willingness to reconsider ideas and remold judgments suggest that booktalk discussions possibly served as building blocks for the studentsâ€™ thinking. In considering the focal studentsâ€™ perspectives to the episode yet another significant pattern becomes visible. The way the students chose to address the issues that came up in the interviews either via my questions or through their initiation was in many ways reminiscent of the discourse analysis findings regarding authentic classroom discussions. More specifically, even though I did not conduct discourse analysis on the interviews, it was evident that the ways in which the focal students structured and supported arguments and their ways of responding to literary works were congruent with the ways the class
179 operated during authentic discussions. Some of the most prominent moves the focal students appeared to use during their interviews were consistent with the moves that appeared to characterize the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions as described in chapter 4. In general, during their interviews the focal students were connecting with written text, connecting with experience/knowledge, expressing opinion, and reflecting. Connecting with written text The move of connecting with written text, which increased from 19% of the student moves in the more traditional â€œotherâ€ episodes to 31% of the moves in authentic episodes (see chapter 4), was prevalent in the student interviews. The judgments and opinions presented were invariably supported via text evidence with students offering primarily unprompted support for their statements. Similar to the authentic classroom discussions, when confronted with a text-related inquiry, the focal students appeared to mentally revisit the text in search for relevant information. This information, anthologized from various parts of the story, was used to first shape and then to support the studentsâ€™ opinions. For example, in her comments on Artemisâ€™ motives Natalia made a connection with statements made early in the book regarding possible debts, whereas Sapfo used the information that the boat Artemis blew up had been confiscated to infer that there were no humans on the ship when it exploded. At the same time, the focal students often used their experience with other written texts and other authors to connect to the text at hand, to make interpretive comments or to make comparisons. Using this practice, Jay insisted that authors rarely spend time talking about something that will not matter in the plot, except when they do so in an effort to throw the reader off.
180 Connecting with experience/knowledge The move of connecting with experience and knowledge was also one that appeared to characterize authentic discussions, as it showed a marked increase between authentic discussion and â€œotherâ€ episodes (AD=12%, OE=6%). Connections with experience and knowledge were also frequent in the interviews. In constructing their arguments, the students were making regular connections both with classroom conversations, as well as with other conversations and experiences. Jay discussed how the marble controversy in session two reminded him of a similar situation in social studies (see Table 5-1) and Sapfo connected the mythical creatures in Artemis Fowl with the animals that lived on her familyâ€™s farm. It is also important to note that the focal students stated that they made regular connections between the books they were reading and their lives because such connections facilitated comprehension (Natalia) and made reading more enjoyable (Jay). Expressing opinion Based on the findings reported in chapter 4 the move of expressing opinion was of substantial significance for authentic classroom discussions. Increasing from a 15% of the utterances in the â€œotherâ€ episodes to an impressive 39% in authentic discussions, expressing opinion seemed truly to set the tone of the interactions. Expressing opinion also appeared to be a move the focal students often employed during our interviews. For example, in the perspectives presented in Table 5-1, all focal students expressed their opinions of Artemis and drew inferences about the motives behind his belligerent behavior. Naturally, the fact that many of my questions encouraged them to present their ideas and opinions probably contributed to the high frequency of the move. At the same time, however, the ease with which the focal students responded to such invitations, and
181 the fluency that characterized their responses might be related to the fact that the students were accustomed to constructing and presenting their opinions. Even shy Natalia, who was originally hesitant to express her opinions in our first two interviews, eventually relaxed and spoke her mind with no apparent reluctance. Reflecting The most impressive move discrepancy between authentic discussion episodes and â€œotherâ€ episodes lay undoubtedly in the move of reflecting (AD=20%, OE=5%). Reflection was also a stance that appeared to characterize the student interviews. In their interviews, the focal students easily sustained conversations where they reflected on the books they were reading, their beliefs and their classroom experiences. Through their reflections, the focal students demonstrated solid literary thinking through drawing book-based inferences, wondering about characters and their motives, and making connections among texts and among author styles. At the same time, they exhibited impressive metacognitive abilities as they often reflected on their classroom experience and presented their estimation as to why Ms. Enthis chose certain activities or initiated particular conversation topics. The issue of studentsâ€™ reflections on their classroom experiences is further discussed in chapter 6. Summary When invited to comment on authentic discussion episodes my five informants provided responses that revealed different perspectives that were informed through a wealth of experience with literature and other realms of life, and that revealed a quality of literary thinking that was quite advanced for students their age. Interestingly, beneath the diversity of the focal participantsâ€™ perspectives lay an assortment of common patterns, which appeared to be related to the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions:
182 The informantsâ€™ stances during their interviews were strongly reminiscent of the three criteria of authentic discussions: (a) participants have opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas and perspectives, (b) a wide array of participants present multiple ideas and perspectives, and (c) the students' and teacher's contributions often build on ideas expressed by other participants in previous turns The ways in which the focal students responded to literary works and the structure of their arguments were consistent with the types of moves the discourse analysis had revealed as characteristic of authentic discussions: connecting with written text, connecting with experience/knowledge, expressing opinion, and reflecting. The similarities between the focal studentsâ€™ habits of thinking and presenting ideas in their interviews and their participation in authentic discussions suggest that the two might be somehow related.
CHAPTER 6 CLASSROOM CONTEXT: A COMMUNITY AT WORK The key to understanding language in context is to start, not with language, but with context Only by viewing the relationship from the side of contexts can we see an essential part of what is going on when language is taught and used. (Hymes, 1972, xix) The purpose of this study was to examine the speech genre of authentic discussion in the booktalks of a fifth-grade classroom. Chapter 4 addressed the texture of talk in booktalks and in authentic discussion episodes in particular, and chapter 5 attended to the participantsâ€™ perspectives. The present chapter addressed the third research question: What were the contextual features of this interactional community? Researchers from a variety of disciplines within the social sciences agree that context is crucial in making sense of human utterances, behaviors and events (Bakhtin, 1986; Dewey, 1931; Dyson, 1993; Emerson, 1983; Goffman, 1974; Gubrium & Holstein, 1997; Lindfors, 1999; Vygotsky, 1978). Failure to take context into consideration when trying to understand the meaning or significance of an experience is, according to Dewey (1931), a dangerous fallacy, for context is not simply the environment that contains the experience. Rather, as Goffman (1974) points out, context is crucial in assigning meaning to the experience and in making the experience possible. As groups of individuals are interacting, knowledge and understanding of their particular context renders inter-actors able to comprehend the immediate and the underlying meanings of the utterances of others. In addition, as the knowledge of context includes knowledge of cultural norms for proper participation, it also assists interactants in forming culturally appropriate 183
184 utterances that will be adequately comprehensible to others. In other words, context substantially shapes the nature of interactions by providing guidelines as to what can be said, how, to whom, for what purpose, and under what circumstances. This conception of context indicates that the speech genres that are manifested in the interactions of linguistic communities are closely related to the nature of that communityâ€™s life. The context, created through the ever-evolving communal life, coexists in a dynamic relationship with those speech genres. The communityâ€™s life supports and nurtures the development of certain types of speech genres and in turn, the interactions supported by those speech genres provide the material that build and rebuild the construction that communal life is (Bakhtin, 1987; Bruner, 1990). As was discussed in chapter 4, the booktalk interactions of the class under study included the speech genre of authentic discussion. Given the relationship between context and speech genres, it is safe to assume that authentic discussions in the booktalk events of this fifth-grade classroom were at the same time shaping and being shaped by the classroom context. It is therefore important, that the study of the speech genre of authentic discussion be extended to investigate the context that shaped and made it possible. However, as Lindfors (1999) and Dyson (1993) point out, that is an exceptionally challenging task because classroom context is on the one hand tremendously complex and, on the other hand, ever-changing. Lindfors proposes two different views of context: the surround view and the weaving view. The surround view refers to the idea of looking at context through a location metaphor. Through this metaphor, context is perceived as the environment within which events and interactions between class members occur. This
185 environment both physical and social â€œprovides the resources for and also the constraints of interactionâ€ (Lindfors, 1999, 276). On the other hand, the weaving view looks at context as something the participants create as they are participating in social work. The possibilities and resources provided by the surround context (social, intellectual, self) operate as repeatable threads, which the participants have available to them during any given interaction. As each interaction event develops, the participants select and weave these threads in unique ways. In this chapter, I examine the context of the class under study through both the surround and the weaving views. Being cognizant of the complexity and fluidity of classroom context, my effort has been to identify and describe some major contextual threads and to examine how those threads may have supported authentic discussions. The process of identifying the major contextual foci was a generative one and it begun with the initial coding of the fieldnotes and the interview transcripts. The goal of this initial coding was to use databased descriptors to systematically illustrate the content of the data. During a subsequent phase, I extracted the context-related descriptors from the general list of codes and, through merging descriptors and rethinking and refining categories, I created the list of major contextual foci I discuss in this chapter: Surround Context: Physical environment and curricular demands Weave Context: Teacher beliefs, student beliefs, relationships among members, and classroom procedures. Norms of class participation Even though the categories themselves originated from the fieldnotes and the interview data, when I was considering each category I also drew information from the booktalk session data to triangulate the intervieweesâ€™ claims with what was happening in
186 interactions, and to derive possible connections between the context and authentic discussions. The categories and subcategories of the classroom context I will discuss in this chapter are graphically represented in Figure 6-1. Surround Context Physical Environment As mentioned in chapter 3, Grassroot Elementary School was a quintessentially middle class school, and its physical environment looked the part. Housed in a relatively new building and surrounded by an region full of wooded areas and neighborhood houses, Grassroot looked clean, tidy and orderly. The building had a rather complicated floor plan as it consisted of two semi-independent structures; the first structure housed the offices, grades three to five and the media center, whereas the second, housed the first and second grades. Configured in quads design, the building allowed for all the classrooms of each grade level to be accommodated in the same area and to have a common centrium in the middle. Walking through the corridors of Grassroots one could not help but notice the student work exhibited on the walls. The exhibits which, changed frequently, were mostly related to the visual arts, even though occasionally pieces of writing also found their way on the corkboards. The welcoming atmosphere created by the display of student work was boosted when one entered Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom. Generally orderly but with points of homey clutter the physical environment of the classroom exuded an air of belonging to its denizens rather than to the school. Studentsâ€™ art and writing decorated the walls along with some posters created to chart the historical events the class had been studying in
187 AUTHENTIC DISCUSSION RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MEMBERS 1.Ms Enthis Towards Students2.Students Towards Ms Enthis3.Among Students 4.Humor and Playfulness STUDENT BELIEFS ABOUT CLASSROOM DISCUSSIONS TEACHER BELIEFS 1.Beliefs about Learning and the Nature of Knowledge 2.Beliefs about Literary Analysis / Literature 3.Beliefs about Teaching 4.Beliefs about Students CLASSROOM PROCEDURES 1.Explicit Rules 2.Classroom management NORMS OF CLASS PARTICIPATION Figure 6-1. The classroom context as revealed through the data.
188 social studies. Even the ceiling was occasionally used as a display area with student-created three-dimensional objects hanging from it. There also were the twenty or so origami cranes Chow Young (one of the students) decided to bring to the class one day as part of a game he thought up. The teacherâ€™s desk was placed at the far left corner at the front of the room next to the board. Rarely used by Ms. Enthis during class time, the desk was cluttered with books, stationery and other class materials, and a cherished present from some of Ms. Enthisâ€™ previous students: a clay pot with the inscription â€œashes of problem students.â€ The student desksâ€™ configuration is challenging to describe as it changed every few weeks. From traditional rows, to group clusters, to linear clusters, to hybrid arrangements. As Ms. Enthis stated in our unofficial conversations, the different configurations were always structured to accommodate studentsâ€™ access to the lessons and to allow her the ability to circulate around the class effectively and to every one of her students. She mentioned that she was seeking to help quiet students be more verbal and to keep problems from arising between unsuitable neighbors. It is also important to note the striking presence of books and other reading materials in the classroom, an occurrence that I believe communicated a great appreciation of reading. A number of thesauruses, atlases and other reference materials was stored in shelves around the room, and two large shelves full of childrenâ€™s literature books were located at the back of the room right next to what the class called the â€œcomfortable area.â€ The comfortable area was also located at the back of the classroom and it was made up of an assortment of old but comfortable looking lazy-boy chairs and beanbags.
189 Another important area of the school that appeared to be significant to the communal life of Ms. Enthisâ€™ class was a patch of shaded grass located right outside the classroom. Occasionally, on beautiful, warm days, the classâ€™ booktalks were held there and, along with the comfortable area, this appeared to be a favorite spot for reading as students excitedly asked to go there during reading time. In general, the physical environment of the classroom community can be described as exuding an air of comfort, belonging and coziness. Such an environment seems to have a great potential for fostering interactions that are socially demanding and that require individuals to allow themselves to be vulnerable by offering opinions, sharing personal experiences and reflecting. A sterile, unfriendly environment would probably not be as supportive to such endeavors. At the same time, the fact that, most of the time, class members had direct visual access to each other also probably facilitated the exchange of ideas and the collaborative meaning building authentic discussions involved. Curricular Demands and Enacted Curriculum Like every other fifth grade public-school class in the state of Florida, Ms. Enthisâ€™ class was bound by the demands of the Sunshine State Standards for the fifth grade. The original Sunshine State Standards were established in 1996. However, according to the website of the Florida Department of Education, â€œAs Florida moves toward greater accountability for student achievement at each grade level,â€ the Standards were further expanded to include grade-level expectations with the intention of using these expectations as the basis for the state assessment for each grade. The grade-level expectations delineated for fifth-grade language arts constitute an extensive list of specific performance objectives regarding reading; writing; listening, viewing and speaking; language; and literature. In our conversations, Ms. Enthis mentioned that she
190 was attentive to the Standards, and made an effort to work with her class on the objectives established for fifth grade. She went on to say that most of those objectives represented items that she would have worked on anyway, but that they only constituted a part of her curriculum. Beyond the requirements set by the Standards, Ms. Enthis stated that she had to take into consideration the fact that, like all Floridaâ€™s public school fifth graders, her students would be taking the statewide FCAT test towards the end of the school year. Talk about the FCAT came up during the very first stages of data collection. As reported in my fieldnotes, during an unofficial conversation on January 17 th , Ms. Enthis confessed: â€œI am starting to feel the weight of the testing. We are starting to have meetings about itâ€ and making a face mixed with fatigue and discontentment she continued, â€œwe have the math and the reading test coming up and itâ€™s just so heavy Plus we have two fieldtrips before that andarghThatâ€™s the thing with testing. It makes you feel that any moment you spent doing something else is a moment wasted.â€ (Fieldnotes) Despite the stress of the testing culture and the financial consequences associated with test performance, Ms. Enthis maintained that testing â€œshould not be your whole teachingâ€ and refused to pressure her students into becoming overly invested in the test. Therefore, explicit test preparation occurred in the classroom in a minimal way. Class time was used for filling in worksheets in preparation for the test and for discussing test-taking techniques in only four out of the twenty-one days I spent in the class between the beginning of spring semester and the stateâ€™s test (March 11 th ). During those times, the students remained on task, fulfilling the requirements of the test preparation activities and, by and large, exhibiting effective strategies for tackling challenging test items. As the fieldnotes clearly indicated, however, the mood and the style of those activities seemed to be distinctly different from the typical classroom atmosphere, lacking the
191 spiritedness of participation otherwise present. The students seemed to be simply going through the motions, and Ms. Enthis herself made a point of explicitly identifying such activities as test preparation. At the same time, she occasionally expressed her frustration at nonsensical test items and reminded her students that they just needed to do their best and to â€œremember that [they] are not supposed to answer everything correctly in a standardized testâ€ (Fieldnotes). Beyond the external mandates Ms. Enthis had to negotiate when constructing the Language Arts curriculum for her class, she maintained that she and her grade-team enjoyed a considerable decision-making power. She said that the fifth-grade teachersâ€™ team had come together and had decided that instead of using the state-approved basal series, they wanted to build their curricula around a collection of novels. Upon reaching this decision, the team compiled a list of quality childrenâ€™s literature trade books and laid out a plan of how to use them to address the objectives outlined by the Sunshine State Standards. The novel collection included award-winning childrenâ€™s literature books like Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott Oâ€™Dell (1960), The Witch of Black Bird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1986), Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1996), Holes by Louis Sachar (1998), From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil Frankweiler by E.L. Konnigsburg (1968) and Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (2002). This plan was presented to the schoolâ€™s principal who, satisfied with its instructional soundness, approved it and actively assisted in securing the necessary instructional materials. Weave Context Teacher Beliefs According to Brody (1998) â€œteachers' beliefs may have the greatest impact on what teachers do in the classroom, the ways they conceptualize their instruction, and learn
192 from experienceâ€ (25). As a rule, teachers operate within complex and often ill-defined contexts. Consequently, their beliefs about learning and the nature of knowledge, about teaching, and about studentsâ€™ roles are essential in disambiguating their circumstances. Teacher beliefs provide a framework based on which teachers judge enacted or proposed practices, comprehend experiences, and make instructional decisions. In other words, â€œbelief systems can be understood as deeply-etched patterns reflecting orientations that guide the task of teachingâ€ (26). Given the significant relationship between teacher beliefs and instructional practice, it seems imperative to examine those beliefs when studying exemplary practice. For this purpose, in the official interviews as well as in the unofficial conversations I had with Ms. Enthis I often invited her to talk about her beliefs and to discuss how those beliefs shaped her classroom practice. Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about learning and the nature of knowledge Ms. Enthis firmly believed that learning is a process of active meaning-making. Rejecting traditional views of learning as pieces of information imparted from more knowledgeable to less knowledgeable individuals, Ms. Enthis expressed beliefs consistent with a social constructivist view of learning, even though she never identified herself as a social constructivist. Helping her class become a vibrant community of learners seemed to be a goal of paramount importance for Ms. Enthis, as she stated that she believed that student learning was greatly facilitated by active participation in a community that allowed students to put forward their ideas and perspectives, and that responded in honest but kind ways to those ideas. Both Ms. Enthisâ€™ statements and her practice indicate that she viewed knowledge not as an external truth that must be passed on to the students, but as a product of
193 thoughtful exploration by the learner, and often in collaboration with others; a view that appears to be in line with the findings of this studyâ€™s discourse analysis of authentic discussions (See chapter 4). She did not, however, subscribe to a nihilistically relativistic view where every idea counts equally. She encouraged conversations and negotiations, she accepted and was actually delighted by the expression of various ideas and opinions, but placed heavy emphasis on having and articulating a logical rational for each idea or opinion. On this issue she stated: I guess itâ€™s teaching comprehension skills and itâ€™s teaching being able to make inferences being able to find details in the, in the reading to support what theyâ€™re saying and maybe being able to infer from the, from what theyâ€™re reading. So, you know, I accept either one. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4) Consistent with her view of learning as an active process of meaning-making, Ms. Enthis stated that she avoided presenting her students with ready-made pieces of knowledge that were to be memorized and regurgitated on demand. Instead, the general design of her lessons sought to problematize and make salient certain issues and, in extension, invited students to think about those issues and use various strategies in trying to comprehend them. Ms. Enthis asserted that when students are given the opportunity to engage their minds in active explorations, the learning/product of those explorations is more meaningful and is of a more permanent quality. Thus, when commenting on a particular activity during one of her interviews, she stated, â€œI want them to find it out on their own. And theyâ€™ll remember it better that wayâ€ (Ms. Enthis, Interview 3). Ms. Enthis indicated that she occasionally opted for mini-lessons that used direct instruction approaches to teaching, especially in situations when her intention was to use a tool or teach a skill that she herself did not feel adequately experienced and comfortable with. Even in those situations though, Ms. Enthis tried to make the subject relevant and
194 comprehensible to the students by connecting it to previous classroom experiences and inviting students to think of other pertinent examples. One such instance occurred on May 16 th , when Ms. Enthis decided to introduce a mini-lesson on first liners (introductions), before providing students with writing time. Ms. Enthis introduced the mini-lesson by saying that she was going to provide the class with some tips on writing first liners. As she started introducing her eight-item list, she illustrated each strategy with examples coming either from pieces that the students had written or from the novels the class had read. By the time she got through the first item, the students caught on and started providing their own examples of strategies or suggesting other possibilities. As a result, instead of going through a fifteen-minute lecture on first liners, the mini-lesson evolved into a conversation where the classroom community took the list of strategies and made it part of the class culture by infusing it with communal meaning. When reviewing a video-clip of this episode, Ms. Enthis declared that part of the lesson was kind of dry and attributed what she perceived as awkwardness to her lack of experience with the material. In her view, the students saved the day by helping her make the mini-lesson effective: Iâ€™m imparting this information to them rather than, rather than having them participate in it. And like I said it was the first time that I used this material and did this presentation. So I didnâ€™t have a lot of examples to, examples of those different strategies, those different first line strategies. And I think they came up with some. I think they came up with . . . I donâ€™t know if that was before that or, or if they, they start doing this next. But they help me out teaching because I have something I want to share with them and then they come up with examples when theyâ€™ve noticed it in, in stories they read. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4) This quote is also indicative of Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about the value of the knowledge students bring into the classroom. Her statement clearly demonstrates that she understood herself as simply one of many knowledge bearers within the classroom. Ms. Enthisâ€™ view of knowledge as socially constructed and her perception of students as bearers of knowledge appears to be related to the high frequency of the teacher move of
195 inviting students to express opinion (30% in authentic discussions). Beliefs that view knowledge as external, and perceive the teacher as the sole bearer of legitimate knowledge in the classroom prohibit the existence of a social space for student opinions and ideas to be heard and considered. Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about literary analysis/literature: Ms. Enthisâ€™ view of knowledge as socially constructed also permeated her view of literature and literary analysis. Her perspective did not fit traditional molds in a number of ways. First, Ms. Enthis did not believe in the tenet of â€œone correct interpretationâ€ of literary works. Instead, both her statements and her teaching practice indicated that she held a stance of openness to different interpretations of texts, even accepting and validating construals that came in direct contrast to her own views. In our conversations, she frequently maintained that competent readers â€œinteract with the textâ€ in order to make meaning of it (Ms. Enthis, Interview 1). For this reason Ms. Enthis encouraged students to reflect upon the literary works they were reading and often reminded them that there is no â€œone correct answerâ€ to their reflective inquiries. I was surprised to find that this stance also prevailed in situations that were less easily identifiable as open-ended. As I wrote in my Fieldnote Reflections: â€œEven when she [Ms. Enthis] asks didactic questions, with pre-decided definite answers, the answer is not necessarily just one. Many people jump in to add to or further refine the answer given in previous utterances. Also, Ms. Enthisâ€™ speech is filled with uncertainty markers and questions asking for clarification and further refinement. (Fieldnotes, Feb. 12, 59) Second, Ms. Enthis appeared to accept a broad definition of literary analysis. Rather than limiting classroom discussions to strictly analytical comments regarding â€œthe meaning of the book,â€ Ms. Enthis encouraged the presentation of personal responses that included making connections with other literary works as well as connecting the text under study with personal experiences. In addition, Ms Enthis, not only encouraged such
196 connections, but, as indicated by the discourse analysis results (see chapter 4) she included such moves in her own participatory utterances during authentic discussions (Connecting with written text 24%, Connecting with experience/knowledge 17%). While reflecting on her teaching during her first interview, Ms. Enthis said: Iâ€™m noticing on the tape and as I, you know, reflect that I like them I like the part of class where they make connections where they have to interact with the text somewhat. I mean I, I, I see myself now tending to go through questions like that like, â€˜Do you think this is possible?â€™ Or, you know, â€˜What does that remind you of?â€™ Or rather than just comprehension type questions or skills that, skills that readers need to, to, to comprehend material. I think I do that. But Iâ€™m seeing that I gravitate towards more interactive questions where they have to get some personal input to answer it. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 1) It needs to be noted, though, that even though Ms. Enthis encouraged departures from the written text in the form of predictions, inferences, judgments, connections with other literary works, and connections with knowledge and experiences, she did not accept any and every answer. Departures needed to comply with what the actual text was claiming. When such an unwarranted departure occurred, Ms. Enthis tried to refocus the student on the text without being disparaging. In one such instance, Yugi responded to a question using his imagination and failing to take into account explicit, text-provided information. When reviewing the episode, Ms. Enthis stated, Yeah. I mean I donâ€™t want to shut him off, especially him because Iâ€™m happy that heâ€™s participating. But I donâ€™t want . . . he also participates in inappropriate ways at times and I donâ€™t want the discussion to get too much on a tangent and we can philosophize about the reason. But when there is an actual concrete reason in the text I want them to refer to that. I want . . .so I just kind of redirect it and I said, â€œmaybeâ€ to him, â€œmaybe, but there, but there is something in the textâ€ because I wanted them to go back to the text and find the specific answer. I mean, this is a comprehension thing. They need to know that they can look back and find some of the stuff that is embedded right there, you know. Some of it is read between the lines. But not all the questions are. So, I kind of accepted that but I wanted it tweaked. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 3)
197 Ms. Enthis maintained that quality childrenâ€™s literature was an excellent way of teaching language arts. She asserted that the sequenced presentation of skills in basal readers is not necessarily the best way approach. Rather, she said, all those skills can be successfully taught within the context of a great book. In this way the students can have the benefit of enjoying a quality piece of literature while at the same time learning and applying the skills of effective readers. Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about literature in general and about the potential of high-quality children literature for teaching students undoubtedly had an effect both on her curricular choices and her instruction. The high value she placed on literature definitely influenced her decision to adopt a literature based curriculum, and her espousal of a response-based approach to literary analysis probably heavily influenced the high frequency in authentic discussions of the teacher moves of encouraging students to express opinion, making connections with written text, and making connections with experience (see chapter 4). Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about teaching According to Lindfors (1987) teachersâ€™ philosophical orientations towards learning and the nature of knowledge, and their perceptions of the subject matter being taught constitute a primary foundation of their view of teaching. Perceptions of learning as a process of transmission within which the learner holds a relatively passive cognitive position and perceptions of reality as externally determined, lead to the adoption of instructional models that reflect this particular outlook. In this view, the teacher is located at the center of the instructional process and assumes roles such as knower, transmitter of information and model-to-be-imitated. On the other hand, perceptions of learning as an active and fundamentally social, meaning-making process, and perceptions of reality as
198 socially constructed, lead to roles such as demonstrator, responder, learner, observer and provider. As Ms. Enthisâ€™ perceptions of learning seemed to align with the social constructivist view, it is not surprising that her beliefs about teaching and her actual teaching practice also reflected roles consistent that view. Ms. Enthis appeared to be a firm believer in the idea that saliency, personal interest, and involvement play an enormous role in learning. Consequently, her teaching was sensitive to identifying what was salient to the students. The pursuit of student interests during booktalks and especially during authentic discussions could be clearly observed in the episodes that developed around student-initiated themes. My interviews and my other conversations with Ms Enthis revealed that she often made sure to direct the class towards explorations of issues students brought up or appeared to be interested in. I cannot be sure how frequently she chose to abandon her teaching plan to pursue such teachable moments, as the transition was often quite seamless. On a number of occasions I would observe a class session thinking that the main issues examined had definitely been preplanned, only to find out during subsequent interactions with Ms. Enthis that some of the explored issues had been the result of an in-the-moment decision. The matter of following issues of interest to the students came up during our very first meeting when Ms. Enthis mentioned: I need to warn you, though. I donâ€™t know what it is that you expect to see, but classes here do not always end the way they were supposed to. Sometimes I start off with one goal in mind and then well, we find something more interesting along the way and we get sidetracked and we have these huge discussions about different things. I donâ€™t know I donâ€™t think that this is bad. We do have the curriculum to cover, but such discussions are useful too, you know (Fieldnotes) In subsequent conversations, when the awkwardness and uncertainty of a first meeting with a researcher were replaced by familiarity, the mild, almost timid tone of this
199 early quote was replaced by much more intense statements. Ms. Enthis revealed that pursuing studentsâ€™ ideas was one of her great prides in teaching, and stated that this was one type of instructional freedom that she would never give up. Beyond sharing her theme-setting authority with students, in a statement that came in perfect alignment with â€œopportunities to invite and consider multiple perspectivesâ€ (one of the three criteria I developed for authentic discussions), Ms. Enthis asserted that it was important to encourage students to freely express their opinions about the issues at hand. Her interviews indicated that her ideal was not a typical classroom literature talk where the purpose is for students to learn what the teacher â€œknowsâ€ the book means. Rather, she aspired to facilitate the development of the kind of discussions adults have when talking about books they like: I mean I feel like thatâ€™s more, a more mature way to discuss books. I feel like itâ€™s you know what adults do sitting around in a book circle. And, yeah, I want them to be able to feel comfortable enough to offer their opinions or to, you know, just have, to disagree with others. I mean, as long as theyâ€™re respectful about it or to I want their input. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4) Ms. Enthis stated that her duty was not to impose her values and ideas on her students, but rather to help them become effective and thoughtful readers. She wanted students to aesthetically enjoy the books they were reading, to comprehend the storyline and the information presented by the text, and also to go beyond the printed page and reflect on the ideas therein presented: I just notice that [the ability to make and provide rationale for inferences] is lacking in the beginning of the year A lot of times it is that maybe they can find concrete, factual questions . . . if I ask, you know, factual questions they can find it They give me the right answer but I donâ€™t know if they, how they got to that place, you know. They can say, â€œYes heâ€™s evilâ€ and maybe I agree that heâ€™s evil but, but how did they get there? I want to know if theyâ€™re, you know, finding the information from what theyâ€™ve read and if theyâ€™re processing it. So I guess just from the, just from, the beginning of the year thatâ€™s something I emphasizeâ€”supporting details. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4)
200 Ms. Enthis not only recognized that different individuals can have different responses to the same text, but she also appeared to rejoice in such diverse responses. This became evident while Ms. Enthis was commenting on an episode from a booktalk on E.L. Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler. In this episode, the class was discussing the question â€œWhere would you stay if you were to spend a night in the Metropolitan museum?â€ You know, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve had this discussion before with a novel. I mean, I donâ€™t think, I think it was fresh and I was pleased that they werenâ€™t all picking the same one for the same reason. They had different reasons why they were choosing something. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 1) The practice of expressing oneâ€™s opinions and ideas stood even when those opinions were in direct contrast to what Ms. Enthis thought. The class fieldnotes contain a number of instances where students openly disagreed with an opinion Ms. Enthis had expressed or where students corrected Ms. Enthis over a misreported fact. One such example occurred on March 5 th during a time when the class was working on one of the rare test preparation worksheets on text comprehension. While discussing a particular item, Ms. Enthis agreed with the opinion and the rationale presented by a group of students regarding one particular multiple-choice option. Another group of students, though, disputed that conclusion and presented their rationale about why another possibility was more appropriate. Upon hearing their rationale, Ms. Enthis agreed that they were making a convincing case and added that she was no longer sure that her original answer was correct. I brought up the matter of students disagreeing with Ms. Enthis in one of our interviews. The issue came up while reviewing an episode in which Jay had rebutted a point Ms. Enthis had made. When I asked her about how she felt about students
201 disagreeing with her, Ms. Enthis said that she had not really thought about it as an issue until I pointed it out. She went on to say: Theyâ€™re, you know, theyâ€™re little humans. They have their own opinions and their own personalities and theyâ€™re intelligent. Theyâ€™re allowed to have that. And I guess they . . . I mean I, I allow them to express that without . . . I encourage that, you know. No, itâ€™s not a reprimand situation so, when they understand that itâ€™s, maybe it is different to them. I donâ€™t know. I mean, itâ€™s just the way that I, that I wanted the class. So it seems usual to me but I guess what made me, you know, realize that thatâ€™s okay, as long as they, they can support their opinion, they can disagree with me. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4) Beyond encouraging the expression of opinions on subject-matter related issues, Ms. Enthis also allowed students the right to get involved in issues related to classroom management. On several occasions I observed, often successful, negotiations between Ms. Enthis and the students, or amongst students, regarding the organization of classroom events, securing â€œbonus marblesâ€ for good behavior or good performance, and making judgments as to the fairness or unfairness of events or decisions. In session three, the class was talking about the gambling habits of Jamie, one of the characters in E.L. Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. E. Basil Frankweiler. Forgetting that Craig had already mentioned that the character cheated, Ms. Enthis offered bonus marbles to the class for reporting, â€œWhat was interesting about the way Jamie played cards?â€ The students pointed out that Craig had already mentioned it, but claimed that they still deserved the marbles as a reward for their honesty. The negotiations lasted for a number of exchanges and, even though Ms. Enthis refused to indulge them, the episode maintained a friendly, lighthearted tone concluding with everyone laughing at the end. While reviewing the episode during an interview Ms. Enthis stated: That just happens. I mean thatâ€™s just my personality. Thatâ€™s just my relationship with the class. And, you know, itâ€™s the end of the year and sometimes weâ€™re falling apart at the edges but sometimes we built this foundation as a class and we know how to relate to each other and, you know, we can play off each other and have fun
202 and I can make jokes and they can get it or . . . Iâ€™m not going to give them everything they want all the time but . . . and they know that. So they can ask and I can say no and we can laugh about it. Good try. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 2) In general, Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about teaching were structured around the principle that teaching involves facilitating student learning. This conviction developed into instructional practices that were sensitive to studentsâ€™ interests and invited and accepted student opinions even when they challenged her own views. Being in such a classroom probably supported students in their participation in authentic discussions as it provided a safe environment for pursuing personal interests through initiating themes and for expressing oneself through verbalizing opinions, reflections and connections to personal experiences. Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs about students as learners Another important aspect of Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs was her perceptions of students as learners. As it has probably already been made apparent through the data presented so far, Ms. Enthis appeared to have a tremendous respect for her students and their learning capacities. In her interviews, Ms. Enthis repeatedly stated that her students were very intelligent and reported that, because of that belief, she had high expectations for them. She believed them capable of competent literary analysis, of complex, rational inferences and of critical thinking. On this issue she said: (laughing) Oh no! Only five or six of them are smarter than me this year! Theyâ€™re fine really. They are smarter than me in some ways. I mean you know itâ€™s kind of cool that they have different knowledge bases and views. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4) Theyâ€™re, theyâ€™re smarter than [simplistic, clear cut literature]. Theyâ€™re more intelligent than that. They can understand that there are shades of gray, you know, in that situation, in that particular conflict, and in people, (Ms. Enthis, Interview 3) Theyâ€™re, you know, theyâ€™re little humans. They have their own opinions and their own personalities and, I mean, theyâ€™re intelligent. Theyâ€™re allowed to have that. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4)
203 As the quoted statements indicate, Ms. Enthis not only respected her studentsâ€™ intellectual power, but she also recognized the value of the background knowledge and of the points of view each one of them brought to the classroom. This belief was probably related to Ms. Enthisâ€™ penchant of inviting students to present their opinions and ideas during booktalks and to make connections between the book being read and their personal experience and knowledge. In addition, it is most likely linked to the fact that she often sought her studentsâ€™ assistance in making sense of unclear issues and graciously accepted information students had to offer. The following exchange is a characteristic example of such an occurrence: Emily: Tarantulas shed their skin too and you think that there is another spider in there! Ms. Enthis: Really? I didnâ€™t know that. Cool! (Fieldnotes) Closely knit with Ms. Enthisâ€™ belief that her students were intelligent and knowledgeable seemed to be her apparent interest in the studentsâ€™ contributions to classroom discussions. My conversations with Ms. Enthis revealed that even though she felt that, to a degree, she had to make sure that students could also answer the more didactic, surface-level comprehension questions (discussed in chapter 5), her enjoyment in teaching mainly came from listening to her studentsâ€™ reflections. Their fresh approaches and ideas were a source of learning for her, as they gave her new ways of thinking about her favorite childrenâ€™s books, thus opening new windows of possibilities and building new understandings. She said: But also I have a feeling that [I seek their opinions] because Iâ€™ve been teaching 10 years in 5 th grade and Iâ€™ve read this book six times. I want to take it to another level. I donâ€™t want to do characterization, just characterization on this novel or you know just dialogue or personification and figurative language. So maybe itâ€™s because Iâ€™m so familiar with the story and the concepts â€™cause I, Iâ€™ve done it repeatedly over the years that I want to get their opinions on it. Iâ€™m tired of, Iâ€™m tired of my own lessons on it. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 1)
204 In short, one of Ms. Enthisâ€™ statements during our last interview probably best sums up how she viewed her students: But I think theyâ€™re just, you know, ready for somebody to allow them to be interesting. I think it just comes from them and theyâ€™re just given the freedom to try it out. (May 16-1, 76) Again, the authentic discussions that took place in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom appear to be closely related to Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs. Perceiving students as active meaning-makers and treating them as such during classroom interactions cannot but assist in the development of a speech genre where students are active participants who initiate and refocus themes, who negotiate their rights, who express their opinions. It is also important to note that Ms. Enthisâ€™ acceptance of difference probably played an important role in nurturing studentsâ€™ willingness to take such active roles as it attested to Ms. Enthisâ€™ honesty and demonstrated that this classroom was indeed a safe place for engaging in authentic discussions. Studentsâ€™ Beliefs about Discussions When exploring the context that creates and supports a specific classroom speech genre, it is important to examine the beliefs of the teacher, as s/he invariably is the most powerful inter-actor within the community, at least during official interactional events. However, especially when examining speech genres like authentic discussion that allow move variability and active participation from the students, it would be a mistake to limit oneâ€™s examination to the teacher. The analysis of studentsâ€™ moves in chapter 4 showed that the students in the classroom under study had very active roles during authentic discussion. Therefore, as the students appeared to be extremely influential in shaping authentic discussion events, it became essential to examine the beliefs of the students, especially in the ways that those beliefs pertained to classroom discussions.
205 The studentsâ€™ cheerful willingness to participate in authentic discussion events by initiating topics, expressing opinions, reflecting, making humorous comments, and providing information, elaboration and clarification (see chapter 4) seemed to indicate that they were positively disposed towards classroom discussions. This positive attitude suggested by the observational and the audioand video-recorded data, was also supported by results from the focal studentsâ€™ interviews. All four of my student interviewees stated that they enjoyed their classâ€™s booktalk discussions and felt that those discussions were valuable on a variety of levels. The most commonly identified benefit of booktalk discussions was its function in enhancing oneâ€™s comprehension of the written text under study. All of the student interviewees maintained that listening to the diverse contributions of other participants was a powerful experience, as it provided them with alternate ways to view specific episodes or story events, and helped them expand their own interpretive frames. While discussing the subject, Sapfo stated: Because [Ms. Enthis] knows that everybody has different opinions. If lots of those people all thought the same thing, then it wouldnâ€™t be very . . . it wouldnâ€™t be really opened up to the other possibilities because usually the person that has an idea they, they stick to it and they donâ€™t really think about anybody elseâ€™s ideas. But if somebody else shares their idea then you sort of get to hear about other things and sometimes that changes your mind. (Sapfo, Interview 4) Through this insightful statement, Sapfo explicated an important facet of the intellectual importance of authentic discussion as it was experienced by participants. In the absence of discussion, a reader is left with just his/her own interpretive analyses of the written text s/he is reading. However, by getting exposed to other interpretations, one has the benefit of viewing multiple possibilities at the same time, consider the validity of
206 these possibilities, and even decide to change his/her mind and choose to adopt an opinion or idea presented by another participant. A similar sentiment was expressed by Jay, who said: Jay: Yes some . . . I . . . most of the time I get to say [what I want to say] and sometimes I change it when my other classmates say something, â€™cause I think that their answer was a, a good idea. Xenia: So sometimes you change your mind because of the ideas that are presented. Jay: Yeah. And thatâ€™s how I use it from the class to my advantage.â€ (Jay)Beyond the benefit of getting in contact with a variety of perspectives, Mechanic and Nydia alluded to the value of booktalk discussions in enhancing student interest and engagement with the book at hand. For example, Mechanic responded to the question â€œDo you like listening to what other people say in booktalk discussions?â€ with the following: Mechanic: Um, hm cause then they can get . . . yes, cause then they can give me more ideas to . . . reasons to get me more interested in the book. (Mechanic, Interview 1) This statement indicated a belief that exchanging ideas about a book with a group of peers can increase a readerâ€™s interest in the book and augment his/her level of engagement. The social event that surrounds the reading of the book adds social meaning to the otherwise solitary act of reading. Knowing that the reading will lead to a discussion appeared to ascribe a more concrete intentionality to the activity itself and, through that, it seemed to increase the Mechanicâ€™s motivation to be more attentive and thoughtful and to â€œbe into the book moreâ€ (Mechanic, Interview 1). Beyond recognizing the value of listening to other peopleâ€™s input during booktalks, my focal students also talked about the significance of active contributions to such discussions. Mechanic pointed out that the act of mentally constructing participatory utterances to booktalk discussions was extremely useful in keeping his mind focused on the book. He said:
207 sometimes Iâ€™ll forget about my ideas but if I tell myself Like sometimes I just raise my hand so I can remind myself to stay focused in my mind easier â€™cause then Iâ€™ll be able to be more focused into the book. (Mechanic, Interview 1) This statement becomes particularly poignant apt combined with Lindforsâ€™ (1987) comments that â€œlanguage aids recallâ€ (269) and that â€œit is likely that in the struggling act of representing (re-presenting) our understanding in spoken or written from, we render those understandings more precise, give our nebulous ideas a definite shape they did not have beforeâ€ (268). In the naivet of his remark, Mechanic touched upon two profound functions of language: making understandings more memorable and more precise. In addition, Natalia and Sapfo commented on the function of booktalks as venues of personal expression. Natalia pointed out: [Booktalks are] valuable because that way we can say what we need to say about whatâ€™s happening and what happened and stuff like that.(Natalia, Interview 1) At the same time, Sapfo made a similar point by saying: I just like to have a say in what weâ€™re talking about in class, especially if there is something I have to say or something Iâ€™ve experienced. Like, you know, what happened in the book or what weâ€™re talking about. (Sapfo, Interview 1) As reported in chapter 4, authentic discussions were characterized by students expressing opinions, providing information, clarification and elaboration, connecting with written text, connecting with experience and knowledge, and reflecting. Both girlsâ€™ comments suggest that the ability to engage in booktalks allowed them to express themselves. Classroom interactions as described by researchers examining traditional classroom contexts(Cazden, 2001; Nystrand, 1997a; Dyson, 1993) would be unlikely to elicit such comments, as they rarely serve the function of personal expression. However, Sapfo and Nataliaâ€™s remarks indicate that they not only thought that the classroom was an appropriate place for personal expression, but that it was their inalienable right to say
208 what they â€œneed to sayâ€ (Natalia, Interview 1) and â€œto have a say in what [the class] is talking aboutâ€ (Sapfo, Interview 1). In general, my classroom observations in combination with the focal student interviews indicated that students in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom were positively inclined towards classroom discussions. They reported that they enjoyed the booktalk discussions held in their classrooms and articulated both intellectual and personal reasons as to why they thought such booktalks were useful to them. Relationships Among Members Another contextual thread that appeared to play an important role in making authentic discussions possible was the geniality evident in the relationships among class members. In general, the classroom community was characterized by a climate of friendliness and good intentions. With the exception of Yugi (about whom I will talk in detail later in this chapter) who was the only real cultural outsider in the classroom, the rest of the class members seemed to have carved out a relatively comfortable social position for themselves within the classroom community. As with every other aspect of the classroom culture, the membersâ€™ social positionings were constantly built and rebuilt. As in Dysonâ€™s (1993) analysis, the class members were perpetually negotiating their social space within the classroom community. They also seemed to be counting on their common history, their familiarity with each other, and the relationships they had developed to guide their participation in the classroom interactional events in general and in authentic discussions in particular. Member behavior as observed in the classroom over the course of the research, as well as the member interviews, indicated that the relationships among class members were essential factors in determining both the frequency and the nature of participation in
209 classroom interactions. The discussion of member relationships is organized into three categories. First, I discuss the relationship between Ms. Enthis and her students from Ms. Enthisâ€™ perspective and subsequently from the studentsâ€™ perspective. Finally, I examine the relationships among students. Yugiâ€™s case, and the possible reasons that situated him in the uncomfortable social position he habitually occupied, will be examined in the section discussing the relationships among students. Ms. Enthis towards students Ms. Enthis occupied a complex relational position within the classroom community. Among other roles, she understood herself as the leader of the classroom community who was responsible for the ever developing learning of her students and who needed to provide her class with a physical and social environment that was conducive to learning. Based on these responsibilites, Ms. Enthis appeared to demand and to have authority in the classroom community and to manage disruptive situations. Unlike traditional classrooms, however, this authority was not a de facto derivative of Ms. Enthisâ€™ position as a teacher, but it instead seemed to be the product of constant communal negotiations, through which, students and teacher were continually rebuilding their relationships. Instead of a dry, clear-cut student-teacher relationship with her students, Ms. Enthis made a point of treating her students as human beings rather than simply as students she needed to teach. In interviews and informal conversations, Ms. Enthis stated that she was interested in her students as individuals and that for this reason she always made an effort to get to know them. During classroom observations I was often struck with how well Ms. Enthis knew her studentsâ€™ likes and dislikes, their hobbies, their habits, and events from their lives outside school. This knowledge frequently found its way in references
210 connecting the lesson content with specific student experiences, in invitations asking students to share their experiences, and in friendly, teasing remarks. When such a reference occurred in the sessions analyzed through discourse analysis, it was coded as the move of trying to build community. One such example came from a discussion of E.L. Konnigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil Frankweiler. The setting of the book was the Metropolitan museum in New York, and Ms. Enthis knew that Emily had been to New York with her family: I knew Emily had gone to New York. I remembered it from last year. Her mom, I have had her sister . . . the family has been at this school for a while. And so all of a sudden, you know, I was like â€œoh Emilyâ€™s been there. She needs to tell usâ€ . . . . I havenâ€™t been to that one [to the Metropolitan] and I was going to ask them in general. I probably thought â€œI need to get Emilyâ€™s input on this because I think sheâ€™s been there.â€ (Ms. Enthis, Interview 1) Therefore, knowing that Emily had gone to New York, Ms. Enthis asked: S: Were you in New York last year or this year, Emily? Emily: Last year. S: Last year. Did you go to the Metropolitan museum? (Emily nods yes). You went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Hello! Tell us something! Emily: It was boring (smiling). (Laughter). (session 1) According to Calkins (1994) and Dyson (2003), taking the time to get to know students and become acquainted with their background are essential both in establishing rapport with students and in figuring out ways to make the content-to-be-learned relevant and salient to students. By showing an interest in studentsâ€™ lives and experiences, and by listening to their stories, Ms. Enthis appeared to be communicating to them that they were important as individuals and that their experiences mattered. In addition, by making reference to those experiences during class time, and by inviting relevant contributions, she indicated that their out-of-school lives had a legitimate position within the schoolâ€™s
211 official world. From this perspective, in the above quoted booktalk excerpt Ms. Enthis was communicating a number of messages regarding her relationship with Emily: that she had been attentive when Emilyâ€™s mother had talked about her trip more than a year ago, that Emily was an important member of the classroom community, that Emilyâ€™s experiences were unique and valuable and were welcomed in the classroom. Ms. Enthis stated that making references to studentsâ€™ experiences and inviting them to bring those experiences in the classroom is something she did often, especially as she got more and more acquainted with her students in the course of the school year. She said: And you know, it depends on how much I know about them as individuals. I think probably that happens more as the year goes on and you have a better knowledge base of each other. Or, you know, so I can relate things to the ones who . . . â€œoh Alana you play softball. Tell us about, you know, blah, blah, blahâ€ or if I know a little bit about their interests and I can get them to be an expert in something. Yeah Iâ€™ll use that. I use that a lot! (Ms. Enthis, Interview 1) By taking the time to get to know her students and by sharing her decision-making power and the role of the expert with them, Ms. Enthis continuously reaffirmed the message that she valued students as individuals and that, even though she always occupied the more socially powerful role of the teacher, she too was a member of the group. Ms. Enthis attributed the close and comfortable relationship between her students and herself to both her personality (â€œI mean thatâ€™s just my personality. Thatâ€™s just my relationship with the classâ€) and the extended time the class spent together as a group: Actually the way we, the way we structure the class I mean, Iâ€™m with them for reading, language arts, most of them for science, social studies, math You know, all day, every day. Itâ€™s not switching for different academic areas. And so weâ€™re a family. By the end we know each other pretty well, our faults and our strengths. And we kind of feel like a community more, because Iâ€™m the one they answer to and Iâ€™m responsible to them. And so, I think, itâ€™s built more quickly. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 3)
212 It seems then, that in Ms. Enthisâ€™ view, the relationships within the classroom community were not simple and sterile business relationships, but they were more like the complex and intimate relationships usually characterizing family life. Within those relationships she functioned as the caring parent figure who was not only interested in the intellectual development of the students but was also mindful of their social and emotional well-being. She appeared to know and care for her students as individuals. She perceived herself not only as responsible for them, but also as responsible to them. An episode revealing of Ms. Enthisâ€™ affection for her students is one that evolved during the very last days of data collection. In one of our unofficial conversations, Ms. Enthis approached me visibly upset; she had just learned that Damon would probably be required to repeat fifth grade, as he had received a failing grade both at the FCAT and at the end-of-the-year test the state allowed as an alternative: â€œThis is not fair,â€ she said, her eyes tearing up. â€œYes, he is not at the same level as some of the more advanced students in the class, but he has worked so hard this year and he has made so much progress! And he is such a good kid He is not a good test-taker, but his writing has really improved and he does such a good job participating in class discussions. I am going to fight this! He does not deserve to be retained!â€ (Fieldnotes) I had never seen Ms. Enthis so visibly worried and upset. She felt sad for Damon, and she was angry at the system that did not allow her to use her professional judgment and was unable to recognize Damonâ€™s strengths and the progress he had made. Thankfully, after some negotiations she initiated and carried through, the next day she was able to write me in a triumphant email, â€œDamon will be graduating with the class!â€ This emotional connection with her students permeated all of Ms. Enthisâ€™ interactions with them. In general, she was friendly, caring, attentive, and cheerful, and made a point of bringing positive attention to different studentsâ€™ unique experiences and
213 talents. She complimented them on well-performed tasks and constructive contributions; she sought their ideas and opinions; and she shielded them from potentially embarrassing situations. As will be further discussed in the section on classroom management, even disciplining events were short and discreet and addressed the disappointing inappropriateness of the infraction rather than degradin the student him/herself. The combination of all the elements characterizing Ms. Enthisâ€™ community building moves suggests that they probably played an important role in positively influencing class membersâ€™ willingness to engage in authentic discussions. In the supportive and nurturing environment she promoted, participants were doubtlessly more likely to take substantial social risks, offer tentative contributions and state often-controversial opinions. Students towards Ms. Enthis The behavior of students in the class and the frequent impromptu classroom visits of old students, in combination with the interview data, provide an abundance of evidence that the feelings of caring and friendliness between Ms. Enthis and her students were mutual. In their classroom interactions, the students typically assumed a respectful but warm stance towards Ms. Enthis. This attitude was often translated into affable teasing and to frequent connections between the issues discussed and the studentsâ€™ knowledge of Ms. Enthis, her interests and her experiences. Such relationship/community building moves were evident both during official class time as well as outside class sessions. For example, during the 2002 Winter Olympics, knowing that Ms. Enthis was a passionate sports fun and religiously watched the Olympic games, the students often greeted Ms. Enthis in the mornings with questions like â€œDid you see the girl who won in figure skating? She was awesome!â€ or they brought the Olympics up at appropriate junctures during class. Such references are important in building and maintaining
214 relationships, as they indicate an effort to connect personally with the addressee and to communicate that what s/he is interested in is known and appreciated. The close and genuine relationships built between Ms. Enthis and her students were also very compellingly demonstrated by her long lasting relationships with students. Once every couple of weeks, a number of old students of Ms. Enthis, who at the time were in middle or high school, alone or in pairs, would drop by the classroom before or after class. Such visits typically involved excited exclamations, smiles and hugs, and the conversations revolved around the visiting studentsâ€™ news and their experiences in their new schools. The visitors often asked questions about the books the new class was reading and about how the new class was behaving. Also, they jokingly admonished the fifth graders to be good and to not give Ms. Enthis trouble. Without exception, my focal students stated that they thought that Ms. Enthis was a great teacher and on occasion, when trying to illustrate a point, they compared her very favorably to other teachers they had in the past. (Following a comment by Natalia about feeling comfortable to interrupt Ms. Enthis when needed) Xenia: What do you think makes your class so comfortable even to interrupt the teacher and narrate the story together rather than keeping quiet and say â€œOh my God itâ€™s the teacher talking. I cannot interruptâ€? Natalia: Probably itâ€™s Miss Enthis She does, sheâ€™s not really like all teachers â€™cause some teachers are like dull and, and Iâ€™ve had teachers like that. (Natalia, interview 4) In addition, the informants attributed their positive feelings towards Ms. Enthis to her being â€œgood with kidsâ€ (Natalia, Interview 2); her humor: â€œshe makes it funâ€ (Sapfo, Interview 1); her firm but fair classroom management style: â€œWhen youâ€™re messing up the class, what sheâ€™s teaching she wonâ€™t put up with itâ€ (Jay, Interview 2), â€œ[Sometimes] sheâ€™ll let you slide by and laugh with you.And I think the kids respect her more for that
215 than just saying â€˜go outsideâ€™â€ (Jay, Interviews 2); her knowledge of the students and her willingness to reveal herself as a person in class: â€œShe shares stuff thatâ€™s happened to her and if she knows that somebodyâ€™s done something, she will either say it herself or sheâ€™ll ask them to say it (Sapfo, Interviews 1); and her inviting attitude towards studentsâ€™ opinions: â€œShe will respect your opinion and take it and consider itâ€ (Jay, Interview 4), â€œShe lets it sort of string off a little bit so we can talk a little bit about you know, if somebodyâ€™s gone there or you know just about little stuff. And she doesnâ€™t think that itâ€™s not important. So I like thatâ€ (Sapfo, Interview 1). Again, the reciprocity of positive feelings between teacher and students probably played an important role in establishing a classroom atmosphere where students felt comfortable to engage in socially demanding conversations like authentic discussions. Truly appreciating and liking their teacher probably encouraged students to follow her lead, respond to her invitations for expressing ideas and reveal themselves as individuals. Among Students Apart from the positive student teacher relationships, studentsâ€™ willingness to participate in classroom discussions appeared to also be influenced by the relationships among the students. During my time with the class, with the exception of a couple of playground skirmishes, I never became aware of any significant confrontations between students. Rather, the students appeared to be getting along nicely, collaborating amicably and laughing together frequently. Ms. Enthisâ€™ lesson plans often provided for active cooperation among students. Beyond working together during booktalks to construct meaning through authentic discussions and other speech genres, the students also worked together in a variety of other activities like conducting science experiments, solving math problems and
216 performing peer editing. During such cooperative events, Ms. Enthis made a point to reiterate the importance of respect, and by and large, the students seemed to work together eagerly and productively. Of course, not everything was always picture-perfect. Often, pair or group configurations were characterized by instances of goofing off, which I was inclined to identify as benign as they were typically short in duration and as they rarely derailed the group workings too far from their official objective. My interviewees often referred to their classmates as â€œmy friendsâ€ and insisted that the friendly relationships they had with them, as well as the sense of security and trust those relationships generated, were instrumental in rendering their classroom experience an enjoyable one. Also, the interviewees insisted that their classmatesâ€™ behavior supported their willingness to participate in classroom discussions and to express freely their ideas and opinions. For example, after stating that she felt comfortable saying what she wanted to say in class, Sapfo went on to discuss what classmate behaviors or characteristics would act as a deterrent in a different situation: Sapfo: Maybe they would laugh at something I said or something. And that would sort of make it difficult to share. And maybe theyâ€™re just not the kind of people that you want to tell stuff to â€™cause theyâ€™ll maybe like tell everybody and then you end up having the whole school know something about you. So something like that. Xenia: Okay. So in general you think that thatâ€™s not the case with this class? Sapfo: Um, hm [no]! (Sapfo, Interview 1) Sapfoâ€™s response indicated that she felt that she could trust her classmates to be discrete and respectful and that this feeling of security made the class a comfortable community to inhabit and within which to interact. Similar sentiments were expressed by Mechanic who also stated that he felt very comfortable expressing himself in class and that he liked working with his classmates,
217 My friends [make it comfortable for me to participate]. Like sometimes, they really make me feel comfortable like that . . . Like when me and Craig get comfortable on the same beanbag, on the big beanbag cause itâ€™s a two person thing And then we start talking about the book if weâ€™re reading independently. (Mechanic, Interview 1) As mentioned in the introduction of this section, the only member of the class who appeared to occupy a problematically uneasy social position within the community was Yugi. As Ms. Enthis related in our conversations, in contrast to most of the students who had been together since second grade, Yugi had transferred schools at the beginning of the year. However, unlike Woza who was also a new classroom member, Yugi never managed to create a comfortable social space for himself in the community. In general Yugi was quiet with occasional bursts of classroom participation. His behavior was often unpredictable, as his mild, dreamy demeanor would suddenly get replaced by extravagant efforts to impress his classmates or by violent outbursts. As Ms. Enthis put it: â€œHe walks around with a huge chip on his shoulderâ€ (Fieldnotes). Yugiâ€™s participation in classroom discussions often involved narrating obviously imaginary stories about himself and insisting that they were true, or making statements that involved gruesome details. For example, during a sharing event Yugi insisted that one of his favorite things to do was sneak out and go to the arcade. Also, during the booktalk in session one he stated that if he were to spend a night at the Metropolitan Museum he would stay in the Egyptian room because there he would probably find â€œthe torture devices that they used to a mummify a personâ€ (session 1). According to Webb (in progress) and Gubrium and Holstein (1997), counterexamples and norm violations are tremendously valuable in qualitative research, as they make social scripts visible through the punishing response of the community. True to form, the studentsâ€™ uncharacteristic responses to Yugi were particularly telling, as
218 they elucidated student relationships and highlighted the norms of participation in the classroom community. In contrast to any other student, Yugi often received dismissive responses from his classmates, as his participation was frequently deemed inappropriate. His attempts to impress his classmates, shock them, and establish himself as a cool and exciting leader-figure, failed, as his classmates saw through his tall tales and refused to indulge him. Instead, they expressed their disbelief at his exaggerated stories, and challenged the information he tried to put forward. In an interview with me, it became obvious that Yugi was aware of the awkwardness and smugly stated, â€œI donâ€™t care if people think my ideas are stupid. I like themâ€ (Yugi Interview). Yugi indicated that he was exasperated with his classmatesâ€™ refusal to acknowledge him as a leader, that he felt that they envied him, and that certain individuals persistently picked on him. He said that he was often the victim of bullies and added, â€œThatâ€™s why I get transferred to so many schools.â€ Despite Yugiâ€™s insistence that he was misunderstood and unfairly taunted, I did not find the studentsâ€™ disapproving attitude towards Yugi surprising. As reported in chapter 4, the interactions of this classroom community included frequent connections to knowledge and experience. In a community where connections with personal experience and the world were presented and appreciated, Yugiâ€™s efforts to pass off imaginary or at least exaggerated stories as real experiences were not welcomed. Similarly, his bold attempts to establish himself as a â€œbad boyâ€ who was strong and worthy to be a leader did not sit very well with a group whose members connected with each other through positively charged moves that built and reaffirmed personal closeness (building community moves). Rather than slowly earning the communityâ€™s respect by following the rules, Yugi tried to
219 aggressively grab his classmatesâ€™ attention. Therefore, the community responded in a punishing way. The examination of the relationships among students reveals a two-way connection between authentic discussions and those relationships. The general climate of trust and safety enabled the risk-taking involved in authentic discussions (see chapter 4), whereas the demands of authentic discussion regarding social cohesiveness and truthfulness in some ways dictated the types of relationships to be fostered and were somewhat intolerant to behaviors incongruent with that process. Humor and Playfulness An important component of this classroomâ€™s life that appeared to both reflect and help construct the amicable relationships among class members was the abundance of humor and playfulness. As Bakhtin (1986) put it, â€œseriousness burdens us with hopeless situations, but laughter lifts us above them and delivers us from them. Laughter does not encumber man, it liberates him laughter only unites everything that is truly great must include an element of laughterâ€ (134). The jovial, playful atmosphere permeating the classroom context appeared to be a fundamental element of the classâ€™ communal life. Humorous comments, friendly joshing, wisecracks, wordplay and self-deprecating jokes were a daily staple in the classroom. Upon entering the classroom, one knew that there would be numerous entertaining instances and that there would be a number of occasions to smile or to laugh out loud. The abundance of humor in the classroom interactions appeared to create a cheerful, lighthearted climate, which kept the participants in good spirits without, however, derailing the academic endeavors pursued (as shown in Table 4-1). In my fieldnote reflections I wrote:
220 Ms. Enthisâ€™ humor is a very attractive personality trait. She uses it often in her interactions with the students both during official and unofficial class time. I suspect that one of the reasons that teasing, wisecracks, humorous moments in general, smiles and giggles are a frequent element of the class culture is exactly because Ms. Enthis is so much into humor herself. She does not hesitate to laugh out loud when reading funny passages, she makes jokes about the material the class is working with, and she good-naturedly teases the students. Her responses to students and her humor appear to be genuine and to originate from affection. On their part, the students seem to receive Ms. Enthisâ€™ humor as a reflection of affection and often reciprocate with jokes of their own. (Fieldnote Reflections) According to Crump (1996) humor is a major component of teacher immediacy, a term that refers to â€œbehaviors which reduce physical and psychological distance between interactants and enhance closeness to one anotherâ€ (4). In her study of student beliefs regarding effective teacher behaviors, Crump (1996) found that humor ranked as the most effective and maintained that the use of humor positively affects student motivation and, through that, enhances student learning. Interestingly, as reported in chapter 4, in this classroom the humor originated both from Ms. Enthis and the students, a characteristic that indicates that within this classroom culture the expression of humor was understood as a move appropriate for all participants and not simply the prerogative of the teacher. At the same time, it is important to note that the move of trying to be humorous had a substantially higher frequency in authentic discussions for both the teacher (Other=6%, AD=12%) and her students (Other=4%, AD=10%) when compared to the â€œotherâ€ episodes. On nearly all occasions, humorous comments were directly related to the thematic content of the interactions at hand. Typically, they were well received by the classroom community through responses of laughter and follow-up jokes to the original quip. Many of the humorous comments during booktalks were inspired by the book being read, and some took the form of remarks about the charactersâ€™ conditions. For example, while
221 reading Artemis Fowl by Eoin Golfer (2001), the class responded with obvious humorous intent to a passage where Artemisâ€™ mother was hallucinating and acting like a little girl: Many: (giggles) wow (the episode is characterized by overlapping speech) Ms. Enthis: So You think she is getting better? Many: No! cuckoo! Ms. Enthis: She has the lamps on! Samantha: Right! Melpomeni: Sheâ€™s amusing herself! Unknown: At least sheâ€™s up! Unknown: The lights are on! Unknown: She is alive! (session 4) Through humorous sequences such as this, the class members entered the universe created by the book, pondered the situations of the book characters, and at the same time kept themselves interested in and entertained by the text. I believe that responding to literary text in humorous ways indicates attention and a keen willingness to engage in a transactional relationship with the text, as suggested by Rosenblatt (1995). Beyond conversations internal to the book, humor found its way in conversations that related the book to class membersâ€™ experiences. Such comments were initiated by the related person her/himself thus indicating personal investment. For example, while reading an excerpt from Covilleâ€™s (1992) Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher that described the massive quantities of food consumed by the dragon Tiamat, Ermis exclaimed, â€œThis book makes me hungry!â€ a statement followed by giggles and agreeing nods (Fieldnotes). In addition, humorous comments abounded in conversations that spun away from the book and focused on good-naturedly teasing class members about their behaviors, their skills or their habits, thus denoting friendly intentions. A recurring joke in the classroom had to do with how horrible Ms. Enthisâ€™ singing was. The joke emerged in a variety of situations, with Ms. Enthis threatening the students with singing, if they did not
222 comply with her directives, or with some students teasingly urging Ms. Enthis to sing. In those occurrences the result was always the same: the students pretended to be terrified at the prospect of the singing, exclaimed that they would do anything to avoid that, and eventually everyone burst out laughing. Furthermore, humor appeared to function as a release valve that momentarily discharged some of the pressure built through the intellectual pursuits, and provided members with a short break before diving back into their intense cognitive work. The presence of humor, and especially of events that directly related to one or more class members, possibly played a significant role in lessening the psychological distance among interactants; a function essential to authentic discussion. Through the use of self-deprecating humor and the gracious acceptance of teasing comments, class members appeared to be presenting themselves as â€œgood sportsâ€ and in that way continually built and maintained amicable communal relationships. Ms. Enthis attributed the extensive presence of humor in her classroom to the good match between her students and herself. At various points during our interviews and our unofficial conversations she stated that humor was an essential part of her personality, as she liked making jokes and enjoyed working and living in environments where humor was plentiful. She stated that this year, she felt particularly fortunate because her class was mature enough to recognize that the presence of humor did not signify lack of rules or of important intellectual endeavors. Rather, Ms. Enthis felt that this class had managed to strike a comfortable balance where humor was not only a possibility but also an enjoyable expectation. During one of her interviews Ms. Enthis stated: Thatâ€™s just part of me. I want to have fun at my job. And I have an audience! Iâ€™m a little bit of a ham obviously. I have this trapped audience of ten year olds, which is
223 right on my level. So Iâ€™ve got a stage. Thatâ€™s just my personality and they seem to respond to it. So we can laugh a little bit and then I can rein them in. I mean, there are times when it gets out of control or there have been years where there has been less humor because they canâ€™t take the humor or they canâ€™t seem to settle back down into the academics once humor is introduced. And so I have to be careful with it. But, I mean, I enjoy it! (Ms. Enthis, Interview 2) The students also appeared to enjoy the presence of humor in their classroom. Some of my informants stated that humor made school much more pleasant, gave them energy, and enhanced their interest to do their work. In their comments about the presence of humor in their classroom, the focal students recognized the important role Ms. Enthis and her naturally humorous and openhearted demeanor played in building a classroom context that embraced the presence of humor: Natalia: I think itâ€™s good [that Ms. Enthis uses humor a lot] because not a lot of teachers act the same way as Miss Enthis. Xenia: What is different about her? Natalia: She laughs and she just . . . has a different personality. (Natalia, Interview 2) Jay: And I just think [using humor is] a way to help the kids because theyâ€™re better to react to somebody who is more with them and funny and makes them laugh than to a person whoâ€™s strict and like down. (Jay, Interview 2). Sapfo: Well it, it works. Sometimes Ms. Enthis will make a joke and if youâ€™re just sort of bored or youâ€™re stuck on a problem and everyone will laugh. And itâ€™s just sort of a break from it all. (Sapfo, Interview 2) Through their statements, Natalia, Jay and Sapfo indicated an appreciation for Ms. Enthisâ€™ penchant for humor and clearly connected it with student motivation and learning. In their view, the use of humor reduced the distance between teacher and students, invigorated the class members, and rendered students more motivated to participate in classroom activities. At another point in her interview, Sapfo mentioned: Sapfo: Well I think it happens because we have Ms. Enthis as a teacher and she really likes to get people to laugh. Sheâ€™s really nice and sheâ€™s funny and she always tells jokes or she makes a joke out of something. And even if she sort of like picks
224 on you or picks on me or somebody, I mean, itâ€™s always funny and she has fun. (Sapfo, Interview 2) Sapfoâ€™s statement is telling of the way the classroom interactional community interpreted jokes. To use Goffmanâ€™s (1974) terminology, the interpretive frame the community used for jokes, even when jokes took the form of attempts to tease a member, was one that attributed amicable intentions to the joke initiators. Barbs and wisecracks were generally understood as friendly jousting that expressed the closeness among class members and aimed to elicit laughter. Apart from Yugi, the cultural outsider discussed in the previous section, who complained about Woza and Mechanic teasing him in the playground, I never became aware of anybody getting insulted by the teasing comments exchanged among class members. I believe that this held especially true in the presence of Ms. Enthis who showed no tolerance to unkind jokes. An indicative example of this occurred during a time when the class was brainstorming with the purpose of writing farewell poems to the pre-interns who had been visiting the classroom. Craig suggested the statement â€œMs. Blake dresses kind of cheesyâ€ and started laughing at his own joke. A few other people let out a couple of giggles, but most of the class appeared unsure about how to respond to Craigâ€™s tactless comment. With a disapproving frown Ms. Enthis responded, â€œIs this nice? Is this something that she would like to read about?â€ (Fieldnotes). In general, humor appeared to act both as an intellectual and as a social catalyst in the classroom. By responding to the books they were reading in humorous ways the class found fresh ways to transact with literary texts; they used humor as an analytical modality as well as a relief mechanism for intellectual tension. On the other hand, humor
225 functioned as a community building mechanism as it fostered the building and maintenance of personal relationships among class members. Classroom Procedures One other aspect that appeared to be an important element of the class context was the classroom procedures. Within the category of classroom procedures I identified two main subcategories: explicit rules and classroom management. As it is typical of organized communities, social life in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom was controlled by a number of explicit rules that sought to shape the membersâ€™ behavior by distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable actions. In addition, as indicated by the teacher move of addressing procedure (see chapter 4), one of Ms. Enthisâ€™ functions was to regulate classroom procedures. This function included organizing and managing classroom events, as well as dealing with rule violations. Explicit rules The explicit regulations that governed Ms. Enthisâ€™ class were in many ways typical of American public schools: the students needed to be in their assigned room ready for class when the bell rang, they were prohibited from engaging in physical or verbal brawls, they were expected to perform their designated duties (e.g. morning patrol, daily attendance monitor), and they were required to raise their hands and wait to be called on before speaking in class. However, what was probably slightly atypical in the way these and other explicit regulations functioned in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom was the fact that they were viewed as components of a wider regulation that explicitly and explicitly held center stage in their communal life: the rule of respect . Based on the rule of respect, which as will be explained later was a communally selected regulation, all class members had complete
226 ownership over their work and had the right to hold and present their opinions. At the same time, each member had the responsibility of making sure that his/her actions did not assume unwarranted freedoms that violated the rights of others in any way. The issue of respect and its significance in the life of Ms. Enthisâ€™ class emerged frequently in the fieldnotes, occasionally as a focused command or warning, and often as a generalized undercurrent embedded in a comment. The decree of respecting the rights and feelings of others regularly found its way in the instructions Ms. Enthis gave when introducing an activity, reminding students of regulations like: using othersâ€™ names of nicknames in stories required their consent, responses needed to be honest, helpful and kind, othersâ€™ opinions were to be respected, and discourteous comments were inappropriate. In a typical example of fore-wording a writersâ€™ workshop event, Ms. Enthis gave students a short spiel about reviewing and editing and encouraged them to have peer conferences. As the students were getting ready to go to work, Ms. Enthis said: Heads up! This is important and I forgot to say it! Make sure you ask [the peers whose paper you are reviewing] if itâ€™s ok if you write on their draft. You know how sometimes itâ€™s easier to mark spelling mistakes and ideas right on the paper when you see them So make sure that your partner is ok with this, and if they are, go ahead and do that. (Fieldnotes) With this short statement, Ms. Enthis expressed a number of significant understandings that appeared to permeate her classroomâ€™s life: collaboration is important and othersâ€™ ideas and suggestions can substantially improve the quality of your thinking/writing; all class members are knowledge-bearers and valid evaluators; the author of a piece has full ownership over it and is ultimately the only person with decision-making power over it; and as a reviewer you have a duty to respect the rights of the author.
227 Interestingly, in Ms. Enthisâ€™ class, the rule of respect did not selectively apply only to the students. Rather, Ms. Enthis made a point of positioning herself as a full member of the community with the same obligations and rights regarding respect as the other members. For example, when a book discussion led to an examination of nicknames and, through that, to a class-wide decision to experiment with nicknames, the process was bound by rules: nicknames could only be used when initiated and authorized by the individual the nickname referred to, and the nicknamed individual could select who could use his/her nickname and when. Ms. Enthis concluded the rule-setting episode stating: Notice that not everybody gave a nickname. I have not given a nickname for myself. You need to respect that. (Fieldnotes) In this way, Ms. Enthis asserted her membership and demanded the rights this position afforded her. This episode was also an expression of the flip side of the issue, with Ms. Enthis as a giver of respect. In one of our unofficial conversations following this episode, Ms. Enthis stated that she originally had no intention of focusing on the nicknames in the text and that she was very reluctant to allow experimentation with nicknames, as such activities can very easily turn awry. However, given the intense interest of the students, their excitement over the idea and their willingness to abide by the rules, she felt that she had to respect her studentsâ€™ desires and help them frame the experiment. And indeed, the nickname excitement lasted for about three weeks during which no nickname-related infractions were reported. Acknowledging the maturity of the studentsâ€™ behavior on the matter, Ms. Enthis eventually allowed herself to be nicknamed as well. As for me, I became known as the â€œlaptop lady.â€ The data from Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom revealed respect as the guiding force behind every specific regulation governing class life. Interestingly, regulation violations always
228 led to scolding when the violation clearly infringed upon the rights of class members. However, that was not the case when the violation did not incur such an infringement. The most typical example of this was related to the â€œhand-raisingâ€ rule. Even though everybody knew and understood it as a rule, it appeared that everybody also knew that there were types of interactional events when the rule simply did not apply. When booktalks took the form of discussions rather than question-answer formats, individuals often took the floor and expressed their contributions without the hand-raising ritual. Instead, the interaction became a smooth, multi-vocal exchange where participants floated in and out of the foreground based on the temporal and thematic relevance of what they had to say and not on a teacher selection pattern (see chapter 4). The behavior of class members as well as comments made during the focal membersâ€™ interviews on the matter indicated that disregarding the hand-raising rule on such occasions was in no way understood as disrespectful. Rather it was part of the social script of the event. So, for example, as Natalia was comparing other teachers with Ms. Enthis, she said: So theyâ€™re like . . . and every, every little thing theyâ€™ll tell you raise your hand, raise your hand, raise your hand. But Ms. Enthis she kind of if itâ€™s like a conversation, I donâ€™t think you have to raise your hand as much. You probably still have to but not as much (Natalia, Interview 4). Ms. Enthis herself brought up the issue of the hand-raising rule, while reflecting on one of the videotaped discussions. The issue was initiated in a self-deprecating mode, when she realized that there were parts of the discussion when the rule was completely ignored. However, as she talked her way through what started as an apology, with no interruption on my behalf, she concluded with the following: Weâ€™re at a point where I can relax the, the policies, you know, the raising your hand policy because it, it. I can control it if it breaks down into an argument or everyone is speaking at once. You know, theyâ€™ve kind of learned to manage discussion rules and itâ€™s all more informal than it was in the beginning of the year,
229 because they need training on how to discuss things, and to, look at the speaker, and have one person speaking at a time, and how to respond to each other in a courteous manner. But I mean sometimes . . . So you know Iâ€™ve relaxed it a little or I donâ€™t stick to everybody has to raise their hands because I do like them jumping in (intonation emphasis). (Ms. Enthis, Interview 4) Based on this information, it appears that the various explicit rules of the classroom were upheld when they served the fundamental purpose of the central rule of respecting the rights of the class members. However, in interactional events where the constraints of some regulations were not needed to ensure respect, those regulations were suspended, thus enhancing the liveliness and the agility of the interactions. It is also important to note that in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom, respect appeared be an ideal important to all class members rather than just a behavior rule. The focal students spoke fondly of it in their interviews, and stated that the knowledge that their participation would be respected played a substantial role in their willingness to speak up in class, offer their opinions and express their ideas. Also, in various occasions, I observed students demanding their rights when they felt that those were violated or using community building moves to ensure that they were adequately respectful of other members. The communal embracement of the ideal of respect might be related to the class-wide feeling that this was a communally established principle. In one of her interviews, Ms. Enthis mentioned that the principle of respect was the product of a guided class conversation at the beginning of the year, in which the class worked on creating a regulatory framework of their classroom lives. Talking about that conversation, Ms. Enthis stated: From the beginning we had respect as one of the rules, as one of the . . . that we you know developed jointly although of course I have it in my mind and they think they come up with it. (Ms. Enthis, Interview 2)
230 The joint decision-making through which respect became a classroom rule may account for its high levels of observance as it fulfills Habermasâ€™ (1990) central tenet of discourse ethics which posits that a norm is considered valid when â€œall affected can accept the consequences and side effects its general observance can be anticipated to have for the satisfaction of everyone's interestsâ€ (60). Connecting authentic discussions with the issue of respect as a fundamental rule of the classroom community is not a tough link to establish. In the absence of a culture of respect, an imposing and personally-revealing speech genre like authentic discussion would be very unlikely to flourish. The frequent presence of moves like the expression of opinions and reflections, connecting with experience and knowledge, and building community, demands respect as a necessary condition. For instance, if respect were not an expectation, why would a participant express an opinion and thus open him/herself up for malevolent criticism or ridicule? Classroom management After examining the explicit rules governing the social life of Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom, it becomes important to also examine the way those rules were enacted through classroom management. Probably one of the most pleasant surprises I encountered as a participant observer in Ms. Enthisâ€™ class was the absence of any obvious focus on classroom management. Often, classrooms are characterized by a policing mode, wherein students appear to always be on the verge of misbehaving and teachers spend a considerable amount of class-time reprimanding students, handing out punishments or lecturing the class over instances of misbehavior (Lindfors, 1987; Avery, 2001).
231 Ms. Enthisâ€™ class on the other hand, did not appear to suffer from such antisocial attitudes, so much so that during the first few days of observation I thought that classroom management was a non-issue in the class. As I began delving deeper into the classroom culture, however, I realized that classroom management, though mild and transparent, was very much present at any given moment of classroom life, emanating not only from Ms. Enthis but from the students as well. The defining difference was the fact that classroom management here scarcely ever had to take the negative form of discipline. Rather, it was a mostly positively charged form of organization that helped class members work together harmoniously, keeping them well informed on what they needed to be doing, how they needed to be doing it, and how and whom to ask for help when the need arose. On most occasions classroom management was realized as short and explicit instructions on how a particular activity was supposed to be performed, and on how to make sure that the rights of other people would not be disrespected during its performance. The following are some typical examples from the fieldnotes: Ms. Enthis: So you gave them [the pre-interns visiting the class for the first time] nicknames, already? [The class laughs.] Ms. Enthis: You need to ask whether it is acceptable to call them by those, though. (Fieldnotes) [The class has started working on a writing assignment in which each student is expected to write about a mischief. Ms. Enthis is responding to a question by Shanaynay about the assignment] Ms. Enthis: Shanaynay, if you are comfortable sharing it with your groups you can share it with them and ask them to help you rephrase it. Ermis: Are you going to show this to our parents? Ms. Enthis: No, these are not going anywhere. (Fieldnotes) [Woza just read his story in which he mentioned Anakinâ€™s name] Ms. Enthis: I forgot to mention this earlier, so thatâ€™s ok, but if you want to use classmatesâ€™ names in your stories, you need to get their permission. Thatâ€™s how it works. You know how Ms. H. [me] had to get our permission before she could use
232 what we are doing in her report? These are the rules. In order to use somebodyâ€™s name in your work, get their permission. If they are ok with it, then you can use it. (Fieldnotes) Ms. Enthis appeared to be very careful in providing students with precise and adequate information about what was expected of them before giving them independent work or group work time. In addition, she invariably made a point of explaining to students the rationales behind activities and behind rules. Nothing was just ordered with the expectation of dutiful execution. Most probably related to Ms. Enthisâ€™ belief in the reasoning abilities of her students and the respect she held for them, activities were explicated as meaningful endeavors that sought the fulfillment of valuable objectives. Even when introducing test-related activities, which Ms. Enthis did not believe to be educationally valuable, she upheld her decree for respecting students and shared her true rationale with the class; test preparation activities, even though occasionally not very well constructed and not very meaningful needed to be worked on in order for students to become familiar with the test format. In this way, students embarked on completing the activities planned with a fairly clear idea of the activityâ€™s goals, of the rules that bound the activity, and of different strategies they might use when working on the activity. Overt disciplinary events were a rare occurrence in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom. Infractions were typically as minimal as speaking out-of-turn or not following the text in oneâ€™s book during reading aloud, and they were usually swiftly managed with a reprimanding stare or a mild but stern reproof. Actually, with the exception of one instance involving Mechanic and another instance involving Yugi (the two â€œusual suspectsâ€ of the class), I did not witness any serious disciplinary episodes. Interestingly, both cases overtly violated the paramount principle of respect discussed in the preceding section.
233 The episode involving Mechanic occurred during a sharing event. Over the couple of days preceding the incident, Ms. Enthis and the students had worked on creating what they called their â€˜Personal Collages,â€™ where each individual depicted an artistic snapshot of his/her personality. Ms. Enthis invited volunteers to present their collages to the class. Craig, who had a very friendly, but occasionally volatile relationship with Mechanic, was the first person to share his collage. He showed his piece to the class and briefly talked about some of the pictures it included and why he chose them. As his presentation came to an end, Mechanic made a sneering sound. Probably recognizing that this was a serious infraction, the students went immediately quiet and tensely looked towards Mechanic. Ms. Enthis, who was sitting at an empty seat at a desk, got up and walking towards Mechanic she asked in an uncharacteristically stern tone, â€œMechanic, you have a comment?â€ Mechanic looked down towards his desk and said â€œNo.â€ Ms. Enthis went to Mechanicâ€™s desk and quietly ordered, â€œWhy donâ€™t you go outside and Iâ€™ll come and talk to you about your inappropriate response?â€ Mechanic exited the room and Ms. Enthis asked for a second volunteer. Melpomeni was selected and, picking up her collage, she went to the front of the room and started her presentation. In the meantime, Ms. Enthis followed Mechanic outside. A few minutes later she came back and picked up with the sharing with no further reference to the event. Mechanic entered the room a few moments after her, red-faced and visibly distraught. He closed the door behind him and sat at his desk. A few heads turned to look at him momentarily and right away turned their attention back to Ermis who was now giving his presentation.
234 Norms of Class Participation According to Webb (in progress), the behavior of members of any social group is substantially influenced by sets of cultural norms that describe what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior within that particular group. This cultural knowledge renders individuals capable to successfully operate within the social groups they are members of, and to project the image of productive, well adjusted members. Ignorance of those social scripts and inability or unwillingness to abide by them leads to identifications like â€œoutsider,â€ â€œmaladjustedâ€ or â€œantisocial.â€ Cultural norms dictate what kind of social events are appropriate, what kinds of behaviors are expected within each event as well as what kind of behaviors are aberrant and will result in some form of negative consequence. Even though Webb (in progress) was referring to communities and institutions of a much grander scale than a classroom, his discussion of the function of social scripts is a useful one for the purposes of this analysis. Regardless of the size of a community, cultural norms are extremely significant in molding the activities taking place within its confines. Therefore, when attempting to examine the components of a classroom context, it is imperative that one considers the tacit norms that appear to frame the social life of the classroom community under study. In general, beyond the explicit rules of the classroom, classroom participation appeared to be guided by social scripts that defined the types of behaviors that constituted acceptable and effective participation in booktalks. According to Hymes (1972), the task of a classroom ethnographer is â€œthat of making explicit and objectively systematic what speakers of the language, or members of the community, in a sense already knowâ€ (xv). Therefore, in this section I will try to deconstruct the tacit norms that appeared to guide
235 participation in the booktalk conversations of the fifth grade class under study. In making these cultural expectations explicit, the effort is to reveal and describe the finer threads that interweave with the major strands of this classroom environment to make the speech genre of authentic discussion. What follows is a discussion of some of the major norms that appeared to guide member behavior during authentic discussions as those norms became apparent in analysis of the fieldnotes, the participant interviews, and the session transcripts. More specifically, in identifying these norms, I approached the different sources of data with the question: â€œWhat are the messages communicated to class members regarding what constitutes appropriate participation?â€ The reader will notice that many of the norms identified are closely connected with some of the moves discussed in chapter 4. Those commonalities were to be expected, as the norms that define a speech genre are inevitably part of the norms that define the context of that speech genre (Bakhtin, 1986). The first norm identified was a standing invitation to class members for participation. Booktalks in general and authentic discussions in particular invited the participation of all classroom members who had something to offer to the conversation. The sense of welcoming member participation is evidenced both by the widespread student participation in booktalks (see Table 4-2) and in the focal student interviews where the interviewees stated that they â€œwant[ed] to have a sayâ€ in the class conversation (Sapfo, Interview 1) and insisted that they felt comfortable participating because their opinions and ideas were welcomed and valued. In addition, authentic discussions appeared to encourage listening attentively and respectfully to the contributions of other members. The fact that authentic discussions
236 fulfilled the criterion of building on each otherâ€™s ideas suggests that active listening was in place, as it would be impossible to respond to or add on another personâ€™s ideas without first having listened and understood their contribution. In addition, the norm of active listening was substantiated by the modeling of the norm by Ms. Enthis through the frequent use of the move of reiterating/refocusing student ideas (33% of utterances in authentic discussions). Another norm that became apparent was that, during authentic discussions, students had the right to raise and pursue issues they were interested in and to influence the direction of the discussion in the pursuit of their interests. As discussed in chapter 4, during authentic discussions, the students in Ms. Enthisâ€™ class shared theme setting responsibilities with their teacher (6% of student utterances and 7% of teacher utterances). It is also important to note that the legitimacy of student-initiated themes was affirmed by the fact that such initiations often introduced lengthy and lively discussion episodes. Another important norm was that during authentic discussions participants were expected to express their opinions and ideas about the issues at hand. This norm was inferred by the impressive percentage of the student move of expressing opinion in authentic discussions (39%). At the same time, the fulfillment of the criterion of expressing multiple ideas and perspectives indicated that the norm not only encouraged the presentation of opinions but also extended to cover ideas and opinions that came in contrast with each other. Interestingly, as discussed earlier in this chapter, the rule did not apply only to contrasting student ideas, but it seemed to also consider as legitimate explicit disagreements with views put forward by the teacher herself.
237 The norm of expressing oneâ€™s opinions appeared to coexist with an accompanying amendment. Authentic discussion in booktalks was not an â€œeverything goesâ€ discourse modality. Rather, as explained both by Ms. Enthis and the focal students (see chapters four and five) book-related opinions needed to be supported by textual evidence. In addition, as indicated by the session transcripts, when students did not justify their propositions, Ms. Enthis asked, â€œWhy do you say that?â€ In other words, inferences were deemed as legitimate when they were accompanied by a reasonable rationale that respected the written text at hand. Based on this amendment, the frequent presence of the move of connecting with written text in authentic discussion (25% of the teacherâ€™s utterances and 31% of the studentsâ€™ utterances) is quite unsurprising. Based on the extensive use of the move on connecting with experience/knowledge in authentic discussions both by Ms. Enthis and her students ((Ms. Enthis=15% and students=12%) a norm that encourages bringing the out-of-school lives of class members in the classroom becomes visible. In contrast to what one would expect in the traditional classroom environments described by Dyson (1993), Ms. Enthis and her students shared stories from their home lives and mentioned knowledge gained in out-of-school experiences. In this way, it seemed that the classroom culture allowed for the official and unofficial worlds of the membersâ€™ lives to find legitimate positions in the classroom (Dyson, 1993). The frequent presence of the move of building community in authentic discussion episodes (Ms. Enthis=18%, students=13%) suggests the possible existence of a norm that dictated a genial treatment of co-participants. As discussed in chapter 4, the classroom participants often engaged in verbal behavior that acknowledged other participants,
238 complimented their knowledge and their contributions or assisted them in making their contributions more complete and effective. The functionality of such a norm becomes visible when one considers the fact that the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions is a discourse modality that requires participants to engage in socially perilous acts. More specifically, during authentic discussions a participant (a) renders him/herself vulnerable by expressing disputable opinions and ideas, and (b) has to secure othersâ€™ assistance in pursuing his/her purposes when s/he initiates a new theme. The use of a social lubricant such as community building moves can alleviate the perils and make the speech genre possible. Finally, classroom participation in authentic discussions appeared to be characterized by another norm pertaining to a social lubricant: humor. As discussed earlier in this chapter, humor abounded in the classroom interactions and especially during authentic discussion episodes. The frequent presence of humor in combination with the fact that humor originated both from Ms. Enthis and her students seems to signify the presence of a norm based on which all participants had the right to produce humorous comments that were relevant to the conversation at hand and that did not violate the rights of other members. Similarly to the previously presented norm of being genial to co-participants, humor can also be characterized as a social lubricant that helped build and maintain a sense of community and probably played an important role in rendering the classroom environment a safe place for authentic discussion. Summary This chapter addressed the third question driving this research: â€œWhat were contextual features of this particular interactional community?â€ The examination involved the scrutiny of all three data sources (recorded sessions, interviews, and
239 fieldnotes) and involved a study of the surround context, the weave context and the norms of classroom participation. Probably the most valuable lesson learned through this examination is that there are no easy answers in trying to describe the context of an interactional community. A classroom context is ever-changing, it is comprised of numerous features, and it demands to be treated as a complex entity. Some of the major threads explored were the following: Physical environment : The physical environment inhabited by the classroom community appeared to be an orderly but comfortable setting. Curricular demands and enacted curriculum : Ms. Enthis had collaborated with her grade-team to create and implement a literature-based curriculum that complied with the Sunshine State Standards. Teacher beliefs : Ms Enthis believed that learning is a process of active meaning-making by the learner, held a stance of openness to different interpretations of literary text, respected her students and their learning capacities, and in general appeared to hold a social constructivist approach to teaching and learning. Student beliefs about discussions : The students appeared to be positively disposed towards booktalks, stating that discussions about books facilitated comprehension, provided opportunities for personal expression and made reading books more fun. Relationships among members : In general, the relationships among the classroom members appeared to be amicable. Ms. Enthis seemed genuinely to care about her students and, in turn, the students sang her praises. In addition, the students stated that they liked their classmates and that they believed that the good relationships they enjoyed in their classroom were instrumental in their willingness to participate in classroom discussions. Classroom procedures : The community life appeared to be structured around the central rule of respect. Ms Enthis employed a discreet management style that kept students informed of expected behaviors and ensured the upholding of respect. Norms of class participation : Beyond the explicit rules, classroom life was regulated by a set of cultural expectations regarding appropriate participation in classroom discussions.
CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSION: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM STUDYING AUTHENTIC DISCUSSIONS? The purpose of this study was to explore the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions. This inquiry was carried out as a case study of the booktalk events of a fifth-grade class where authentic discussions were taking place, and it operated within the framework organized by the following three questions: What was the texture of talk in the four recorded booktalk sessions and in their authentic discussion portions in particular? What were the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues raised in authentic discussions? What were the contextual features of this interactional community? In an effort to describe the texture of talk in booktalks and in authentic discussions in particular, I analyzed the verbatim transcripts of four booktalks that had been audioand video-taped during data collection. In addition, I used the transcripts of a series of interviews with five focal participants to gain an insight into participantsâ€™ perspectives, and I combined the interview data, the fieldnotes collected through observations, and the classroom transcripts to try to deconstruct the classroom context. In this chapter, I summarize the findings reported in chapters four, five and six, I describe their limitations, and I discuss possible implications for educational practice. Finally, I draw some implications for future research. Summary of Results Traditional classroom discourse, as described by Mehan (1979) and Cazden (2001) is characterized by what is known as the IRE pattern where the teacher Initiates, the 240
241 students Respond and the teacher Evaluates the truth value of that response. The examination of the discourse of the classroom community under study revealed decisively different patterns of interaction. Even though the teacher still had an extensive role characterized by leadership features, she appeared to be open to exploratory interactions and she shared her discussion-shaping authority with her students. At the same time, the students undertook much more energetic interactional roles than the confines of an IRE pattern would allow. More specifically, the analysis of the verbatim transcripts of four audioand video-recorded booktalk sessions indicated that the students had a higher number of utterances than the teacher, and that participation was distributed with great variability among the students. The surface-feature analysis of the transcripts showed that student participants entered interactions in a variety of ways, with only 41% of the studentsâ€™ participatory acts initiated after an explicit teacher invitation. Interestingly, most student attempts to enter the conversation without having been specifically invited were recognized as legitimate contributions to the interactions. An examination of the transcripts for the moves of the participants yielded a total of 13 overlapping moves for the teacher and nine overlapping moves for the students. The high number of student moves is indicative of the studentsâ€™ active interactional roles. In addition, the fact that all nine of the student moves were also identified as moves characterizing the teacherâ€™s speech, indicates that Ms. Enthis (the teacher) modeled appropriate ways of participation for her students and often took part in the interactions as a â€œregular participant.â€ The list of moves common to the teacher and the students included categories like initiating or refocusing theme, making connections with written
242 text, expressing opinion, and reflecting. Beyond the nine common moves, the teacher had four teacher-only moves, which can be characterized as moves expressing her role as a discussion moderator. Those included categories such as tries to repeat/refocus student idea and tries to address procedure. In a subsequent analysis, I scrutinized the transcripts based on the three criteria for authentic discussions established in chapter 1: (a) participants have opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas, (b) a wide array of participants present multiple ideas, and (c) contributions often build on ideas expressed by other participants in previous turns. I used the three criteria to classify episodes into two categories: authentic discussion and â€œotherâ€ episodes. Authentic discussions were found to be a pervasive interactional modality in the classroom booktalks. A comparison of the distribution of moves between the authentic discussion episodes and the â€œotherâ€ episodes indicated that there were substantial differences between the two types of episodes. The teacher moves of initiating/refocusing theme and providing information/clarification/elaboration were substantially less frequent in authentic discussion episodes, suggesting a delegation of control to students. The teacher moves of trying to be humorous, of reiterating/refocusing student idea and of inviting students to express opinion showed a marked rise in authentic discussions. These increases suggest an effort to create a comfortable atmosphere that supported the presentation of multiple ideas and perspectives. At the same time, the decrease in the teacher moves of ascertaining understanding and addressing procedure indicate a reduced interest in addressing issues of surface-level comprehension in authentic discussions, as well as a diminished need to control student behavior.
243 On the other hand, all student moves in authentic discussions showed an increase when compared to the â€œother episodes.â€ This global increase can be attributed to the fact that students appeared to be â€œdoing moreâ€ during authentic discussions as they had longer utterances that seemed to pursue a variety of overlapping purposes. In contrast to the â€œotherâ€ episodes where the student move of providing information, clarification and elaboration was the only category exceeding 20% in frequency, in authentic discussions the moves of connecting with written text, reflecting, and expressing opinion also accounted for 20% or more of the student utterances. In general, the results of the discourse analysis of student participation in booktalks indicated that authentic discussions tended to exhibit a substantially increased use of moves such as expressing opinion, reflecting, connecting with written text, and connecting with experience and knowledge, all of which reflect mental activity associated with studentsâ€™ developing cognition and ability to think abstractly. The second research question of this study sought to examine the participantsâ€™ perspectives on issues raised in authentic discussions. For this purpose, I interviewed the teacher and four student participants after each one of the recorded sessions. The interviews revealed five distinct personalities who approached their classâ€™ booktalks with notable depth of thinking and who exhibited both similarities and differences in the ways in which they responded to books and to booktalks: Ms. Enthis, a dynamic and thoughtful educator, approached booktalks through the dual capacity of an interested reader and a teacher with instructional objectives. Jay, a chatty, smiling boy was an active participant who stated that booktalks helped him learn more about the books. Sapfo, an introverted and quiet girl, was a surprise during the course of fieldwork when she flourished into an energetic booktalk participant who wanted â€œto have a sayâ€ in classroom discussions and loved fantasy books.
244 Mechanic, a charming troublemaker, insisted that what looked like disengagement was just his way of getting into the books, and said that booktalks helped him understand books better. Natalia, a shy and quiet girl, liked humorous realistic books, and did not always appreciate the challenging â€œwhyâ€ questions of booktalks, even though she reported that she learned new things through booktalks. A comparative view of the five participantsâ€™ perspectives on a number of authentic discussion episodes indicated that, during the interviews, the participants tended to use the books they were reading and the class booktalks to inform and shape the views they were expressing. In addition, there was variance in the opinions expressed on a number of issues among the focal participants. The interviewees were aware that at least some of their classmates would disagree with the opinions they were putting forward but seemed to be comfortable with the multiplicity of perspectives. At the same time, the evidence of the focal participantsâ€™ evolving views suggests that they considered othersâ€™ ideas and often used them in shaping their own opinions. They espoused an attitude of tentativeness that seemed to be open to new interpretations and new discussions. In general, the analysis of the perspectives of the five participants on issues raised in authentic discussions revealed common patterns that appear to be related to the speech genre of authentic classroom discussions. First, the informantsâ€™ stances during the interviews were strongly reminiscent of the three criteria of authentic discussions (opportunities for inviting and considering multiple perspectives, presentation of multiple perspectives, and building on othersâ€™ ideas). Second, the ways in which the informants participated in their interviews were consistent with the functions of their verbal participation in authentic discussions, as they used with ease many of the same types of moves (expressing opinion, reflecting, connecting with written text, and connecting with experience and knowledge).
245 The third research question involved the examination of the context of the interactional community. The analysis of the particular classroomâ€™s context led to three major themes: the surround context (physical context and curricular demands), the weave context (student beliefs, teacher beliefs, relationships among members, and procedures), and the norms of participation in booktalks. The substantial number of relevant contextual elements reaffirms Goffmanâ€™s (1974) and Lindforsâ€™ (1999) assertions that contexts are complex configurations. The surround context included a physical environment that offered conducive surroundings for authentic discussion through the provision of physical comfort and access to the other class members. In addition, Ms. Enthis was able to negotiate the state-mandated curricular demands and established a literature-based language arts curriculum. The weave context brought the community members into focus. The weaving threads that I examined revealed Ms. Enthis to be a teacher who held a social constructivist philosophy of teaching and learning, who espoused responsive approaches to literature, and who considered her students capable constructors of meaning. At the same time, the students appeared to have positive attitudes toward classroom discussions and asserted that booktalks fostered learning. A third thread examined was the relationships among class members. Ms. Enthis seemed to genuinely care about her students and to value them as individuals, and reciprocally, the students appeared to have positive feelings toward Ms. Enthis. There also seemed to be positive relationships among students. I believe that, the amicable relationships among class members may have been related to the abundance of humor and playfulness that characterized class life. Finally, I examined the issue of classroom procedures. Beyond the traditional rules, the
246 classroom seemed to operate primarily around the rule of respect, and Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom management style was characterized by positive organization and swift and discreet handling of misbehavior. Finally, a synthesis of the findings of this study generated a list of tacit cultural expectations that appeared to guide classroom participation in authentic discussions. Those norms included offering relevant contributions to the discussions, engaging in active listening, pursuing personal interests and points of salience, expressing opinions and supporting them with relevant evidence, making connections with experience and knowledge, treating co-participants genially, and making humorous contributions. Limitations of Results This research project was a qualitative case study. As discussed in chapter 2, this methodological choice was dictated by the exploratory nature of the questions being asked. By definition, qualitative case studies seek to intensely and exhaustively examine the bounded instance under study and to attain a thorough understanding of the case. The comprehensive nature of a case study demands that the case is delimited enough for a thorough examination to be carried out effectively. As a result, the number of participants is unavoidably small and for this particular study the total number of participants was 25 (24 students and 1 teacher). At the same time, the middle-class public school class that participated in the study was not a randomly selected group and did not claim to be a sample representing a more general population. Rather, as discussed in chapter 3, this was a group of individuals selected because they appeared to have frequent conversations about books that seemed to fit with my, then rudimentary, definition of authentic discussion.
247 Due to the small number of participants and to the fact that the research examined exemplary practice and not a sample of a population, this study does not aspire or intend to make claims of generalizability as that is understood by quantitative approaches. However, even though the findings of this study cannot be generalized to a particular population, the research does have â€œextensityâ€ (Webb, 1961). By describing, representing, and explaining the speech genre of authentic classroom discussion as it was realized in the booktalks of this particular classroom community, the study sought to provide insight into the nature of authentic discussion and into its possibilities in other classroom contexts (see section on educational implications). At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that the results of the analysis presented in chapters four, five and six are not to be understood as immediately transferable to other classroom contexts. As with any group of individuals, the particular verbal and other behaviors, its context, and the participantsâ€™ perspectives on the events in which they were participating are, in many ways, unique to that particular group and that particular point in time. Therefore, the nine student moves and the 13 teacher moves identified might not be precisely replicable in another classroom, the participantsâ€™ perspectives might not display the exact same patterns, and the contextual elements might not work together in the same way. The terrain studied appears to simply be too complex to be perfectly replicated. However, this does not defeat the potential of this study as a valuable source of guidance as to how we can recognize authentic discussions, and to how teachers can try to foster the development of classroom communities where authentic discussions will flourish.
248 Also, another limitation that was briefly discussed in chapter 5 has to do with the use of interviews as a means of examining participant perspectives. Even though the participants were not informed about the purposes of the interviews, thus limiting the probability of them trying to intentionally assist or hinder the research, the focal participants probably had working theories as to the aims of the research and might have been shaping their responses based on those theories. Furthermore, as Gubrium and Holstein (1997) note, participant self-reports should not be regarded as accurate accounts of their experiences, as interviews can only provide access to participantsâ€™ reconstructions of the experiences. Finally, this study has a limitation that is inherent in all types of qualitative research. Given that in qualitative studies the researcher is the major tool for considering and analyzing data, research results are inevitably a product of the researcherâ€™s interpretations. Of course, the trustworthiness of those interpretations is bolstered by practices such as the researcherâ€™s extensive presence in the field, use of a number of sources of data to triangulate findings, and employment of inter-rater reliability checks, all of which have been used in this study. At the same time, however, subjectivity of interpretation remains. The subjectivity issue becomes even more complicated when considering that, despite my prolonged presence in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom, and the comfort level that developed regarding my presence there, I was never a full participant of the community. Therefore, despite my efforts at bracketing, my interpretations of events, behaviors, and utterances were inevitably influenced by my own experiences, biases, and knowledge and do not necessarily accurately reflect the interpretations of the community members.
249 Implications for Educational Practice The Value of Authentic Discussions The research findings presented in chapter 4 indicate that authentic classroom discussion was a prevalent speech genre in the booktalks of Ms. Enthisâ€™ class. As discussed in chapter 2, theory and research in literacy suggest that discussions, and literature discussions in particular, are valuable for student learning (Almasi, 1996; Applebee, 2002; Bruner, 1986 & 1990; Gambrell, 1996; Langer, 1995; Rosenblatt, 1995; Townsend, 1991; Vygotsky, 1978 & 1986). Even though the research process did not involve an assessment of student learning, inferences about possible positive effects of authentic discussions (in booktalks) on student learning can be drawn based on the studentsâ€™ performance on state testing and, more importantly, on the ideas, attitudes and quality of literary thinking evidenced in the booktalks and in the focal studentsâ€™ interviews. At this point, it needs to be noted that my intention in this discussion is not to create a polarity between authentic discussion and more traditional recitation patterns where the former is promoted as valuable and the latter is vilified. The peaceful coexistence of both modalities in the discourse community under study indicates that such a polarization would be inappropriate. Indeed, the findings of the study suggest that both recitation and authentic discussion were useful tools in the classroom communityâ€™s exploration of literary texts serving different and complementary purposes. Recitation was used to check and ascertain adequate surface-level understanding of the text, whereas authentic discussion was used for exploring the more complex, open-ended issues that literary analysis often requires. Therefore, I suggest that both types of interaction are necessary for a competent discussion of literature: exploration without comprehension of
250 key plot elements is unproductive, and surface level comprehension without examining more complex issues is incomplete. Increased comprehension of specific texts and enhanced quality of literary thinking With the exception of Damon, all of the students in the class demonstrated satisfactory performance on the state-required tests for advancement to sixth grade (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and the county approved end-of-the-year basal test). Notably, Grassroot Elementary changed its status from a B to an â€œA schoolâ€ based on its studentsâ€™ performance on the FCAT during the year data collection took place. And, even though I do not mean to endorse standardized tests as a valid way of fully assessing student learning, the studentsâ€™ success on those tests seems to support Fuâ€™s (2000) claim that quality in teaching leads to high test scores. More importantly, beyond the test scores, an examination of the booktalks and of the focal student interviews indicates that Ms. Enthisâ€™ students exhibited mature literary thinking for students their age. First, the students demonstrated a high level of comprehension of the books the class was reading. In classroom interactions as well as during the focal student interviews, student participants were on the whole able to summarize the plots of the books they were reading, to describe relationships among characters, to synthesize information and make reasonable inferences, and to construct rational predictions. In addition, the students were able to engage in text-related discussions that dealt with complex issues like characterization, character motivation, author techniques, author intentions, intertextual connections and realism. Even though this research cannot prove that it was the discussions themselves that produced this apparently advanced level of comprehension, it is very likely that the studentsâ€™ ability to talk about books in such a competent manner was supported by their participation in
251 interactions where those issues were explored and relevant ideas were explicitly articulated. The studentsâ€™ comprehension of the specific literary texts they were working with is important in and of itself but the competency with which the students were able to discuss such intricate issues suggests implications on a more general level. The complexity and abstractness of such themes demand abstract, complex thinking from the participants. They require that participants use their background knowledge (including their knowledge of other texts), their knowledge of the text at hand, and their deductive reasoning to analyze information, to synthesize ideas, and to draw possible conclusions. In the classroom under study, such topics were initiated often by the teacher but also by students and they were often explored in an open-ended way, with Ms. Enthis frequently refraining from providing students with ready-made final answers that would shut down the conversation. Instead, the students competently and constructively participated in the exploration. In general, their contributions revealed a relative maturity of literary thinking, as they made relevant connections and their arguments were typically well supported from the texts they were reading. It is also important to note that, as documented in chapter 4, the studentsâ€™ talk during authentic discussions was characterized by moves like reflecting, expressing opinion, connecting with text, and connecting with experience/knowledge that are linked with critical thinking. These findings are consistent with Gambrell (1996) and Applebee (2002) who report that literature discussions are positively related to the development of critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. At the same time, the frequent presence of
252 such moves shows promise towards Lewisâ€™ (2001) suggestion that students should probe and resist texts. Increased pool of experiences and ideas As one of the criteria of authentic discussion demanded and as the impressive frequency of the expressing opinion move demonstrated (39% in AD), authentic discussions in this classroom were characterized by the presentation of multiple ideas and perspectives. According to Keene and Zimmermann (1997) participation in interactions where an individual has the benefit of listening to other peopleâ€™s ideas can assist the individual in making new connections and in enhancing her/his level of comprehension. When narrating a teacher workshop event, Keene and Zimmermann quote a teacherâ€™s response after a literature discussion: â€œYou know, Iâ€™m sort of embarrassed. I had only a vague idea what the piece was about until I began to hear other people talk about it. Then I was like my memory kicked in. When sheâ€ the woman gestured across the room, â€œsaid something about the authorâ€™s use of color as symbolic, I remembered that the colors were vivid in my mind when I read, too, but I didnâ€™t think about it until I heard her say it. By discussing this, itâ€™s like we decided what it meant together.â€ (32) Even though the idea of an enriched experience pool and the notion of deciding â€œwhat it meant togetherâ€ were never articulated as explicitly and eloquently by the participants of this study, the findings strongly suggest that the multiple ideas presented during authentic discussions served in triggering and supporting important thinking, and assisted in improved understanding. In their interviews, the focal students claimed that booktalks provided them with ideas and comprehension cues and helped them understand the book better. Also, they frequently made explicit or implicit references to information and ideas presented during booktalk discussions as they were presenting their own perspectives on issues.
253 According to Lindfors (1987), verbal interaction â€œserves an important cognitive function for adults and for children by getting us to new ideas or observations, taking us beyond the limits of our own experienceâ€ (273). As one is reading a book, the only ideas available for meaning-making are the ones that are created through the transaction between the book and the reader (personality, experiences, values). And indeed, those can be the basis of a powerful thinking and learning process. On the other hand, participating in authentic discussions adds another enriching component to the mix: other peopleâ€™s ideas and experiences. In this way, participants have the benefit of getting exposed to information and perspectives they would not have access to otherwise. These new sources can then be considered along with personal resources and the text, and thus, in some way, create a three-way transactional relationship where the experiences and understandings of others can help the reader extend his/her thinking, modify his/her interpretations and other theories and, ideally reach more complete understandings. Increased engagement and rarity of misbehavior According to a number of theorists and researchers, attention is fundamental in learning (Bruner, 1990; Gibson, 1979;Graves, 1983; Lindfors, 1987; Vygotsky, 1978 & 1986). The world encompasses infinite elements and characteristics, and, therefore, it is impossible for humans to attend to each and every one of those elements. Instead, humans have the capacity for selective attention, which shields them from getting overwhelmed by sensory input and thus renders cognitive processing manageable. Whereas selective attention is a necessary element of cognitive processing, it also adds a complication to the work of educators: because children will learn what is salient to them, it becomes the educatorâ€™s task to ascertain that the activities s/he involves students with have the capacity to draw and sustain the attention of students.
254 The active and relevant participation of these students in authentic discussions \ indicates that in Ms. Enthisâ€™ class authentic discussions about books had the power to draw studentsâ€™ attention and to keep them engaged in the task of booktalk. Therefore, it can be inferred that such discussions may have similar success in other classrooms. I believe that the high level of engagement was related to a number of factors, including the increased student control of the interaction documented in authentic discussions (see chapter 4) and, to use Gibsonâ€™s (1979) term, the affordance of authentic discussion for carrying out the three fundamental, compelling human urges Lindfors (1999) identifies as the major forces behind the human need for language: to connect with others, to understand oneâ€™s world, and to reveal oneself within it. Whereas the ritualistic patterns of traditional classroom discourse tend to reduce student talk to recitation or guessing, the more exploratory and democratic character of authentic discussion appears to provide students with the ability to engage in language acts based on which they can connect with others through the moves of building community and of being humorous; they can use language to understand their world through initiating or refocusing themes, seeking information/clarification/elaboration, and reflecting; and they can reveal themselves by expressing opinions and making connections with their personal experiences and knowledge. In addition, student engagement was also suggested by the rarity of student misbehavior during the authentic discussions I studied. According to Dyson (1993), disengagement from the content of the official world of school leads students to â€œcurricular abandonmentâ€ and to the creation of â€œcurricular sideroadsâ€ where dialogue and negotiation go underground and act in subversive ways. As discussed in chapters four
255 and six, however, student misbehavior was a rare phenomenon in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom. This finding challenges the necessity of teachers absolutely controlling every aspect of the interaction and of student behavior, which, according to Cazden (1986) constitutes â€œperhaps the most obvious feature of teacher talkâ€ (443). Typically, teachers say that they need to maintain tight control because otherwise the result will be a behavioral nightmare. In Ms. Enthisâ€™ class, however, instead of chaos, the sharing of control in authentic discussions led to fairly organized interactions where, in general, participantsâ€™ utterances flowed seamlessly in and out of conversations, respecting the class rules of turn taking (see chapter 4), and making relevant and appropriate contributions. I believe that the low level of misbehavior characterizing Ms. Enthisâ€™ class are related to the studentsâ€™ high level of engagement in the themes discussed, and their personal stake at successfully pursuing interactions they were partly responsible for. In addition, I believe that an essential role was played by teacher-related factors like Ms. Enthisâ€™ propensity to provide full and explicit instructions delineating expectations for student actions, her amicable relationships with the students, and her discreet but swift ways of dealing with instances of disrespect (see chapter 6). Creating crossroads between the school, the peer and the home social spheres In her exploration of the social worlds of children as they were learning to write, Dyson (1993) found that a permeable curriculum was instrumental in helping students negotiate comfortable social positions for themselves within their classroom. According to Dyson, a permeable curriculum recognizes student authority, accepts student-to-student interaction, and invites the out-of-school lives of the students into the classroom. In this way, Dyson proposes, the students can create crossroads between the official school world of school, the peer world and their lives outside of school.
256 Booktalks, and especially authentic discussions within booktalks, in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom appeared to embody all the characteristics of a permeable curriculum. Student authority was recognized, as students could control the interaction through initiating and refocusing themes, and through their ability to enter conversations without necessarily having been explicitly invited by their teacher. In addition, even though whole class interactions cannot really have the closeness and immediacy small student-only group conversations can have (Lewis, 2001), there is evidence that the peer social world was also a part of the spectrum of authentic discussions. More specifically, such social negotiations were suggested by the facts that the students frequently used community-building moves, they laughed together a lot, and they occasionally talked directly to each other. Finally, authentic classroom discussions appeared to invite the membersâ€™ â€œhome worldsâ€ into the classroom as the move of making connections with experience/knowledge was used in good measure both by the students and Ms. Enthis. Dyson (1993), Fu (1995), Graves (1983), Lindfors (1987) and Townsend and Fu (1998) maintain that providing opportunities for students to make connections between their home-life and their schooling are immensely valuable both cognitively and emotionally, especially for students form diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. First, such connections render school learning more salient and meaningful, as students are supported in building from what they already know, in this way creating more sophisticated and interconnected mental schemata. In addition, the ability to construct school-home crossroads renders the school experience emotionally congruent with the studentsâ€™ home lives and communicates to students that they and their unique experiences are recognized and valued by the official school culture. And that, according to Dyson, is
257 an essential precondition for students to be able to negotiate a comfortable social space in the classroom. Addressing issues of power and voice As discussed in chapter 2, traditional classrooms and the interactions that typically exist there create a power differential between teacher and students that prohibits active student participation. In traditional classrooms, power, distance and rank are structured in ways that render student-initiated, socially demanding speech acts intolerably imposing (Lindfors, 1999). Instead, the only legitimate participatory acts available seem to be reactive in nature. At the same time, in traditional classrooms teachers appear to exercise further control over students by imposing a definition of knowledge that privileges the knowledge of the teacher and does not consider students as legitimate bearers or constructors of knowledge (Giroux, 1992). Contrarily, authentic discussions incorporate utterances with which students attempt to shape interactions in pursuit of their own sense-making agendas, as well as utterances which express studentsâ€™ knowledge. When discussing the social-emotional benefits of engaging in discussion, Almasi (1996) states: â€œWithin classroom discussions, the responsibility for learning is transferred from teacher to students. In such an environment, students come to believe that they can control their own learning as they learn how to interact with one anotherâ€ (17). Similarly, Langer (1999) and Applebee (2002) suggest that literature discussions where multiple perspectives are understood as important empower students as learners and as social participants in the classroom. In the particular class studied, students initiated and refocused themes and expressed opinions and ideas that often were in direct contrast to what other class members, including the teacher, had proposed. They also provided information,
258 elaboration and clarification and made connections with their experience and knowledge, practices that suggest a communal appreciation of studentsâ€™ knowledge. In addition, even though not all of the students in Ms. Enthisâ€™ class were very energetic participants in the whole-class booktalks, the pervading sense, which was univocally asserted by all four of the student informants, was that everybody had real opportunities to participate and to present his/her opinions. Even Natalia who was the most quiet of the four focal students insisted that she felt she always got to say what she wanted to say. I believe that the legitimate position of student initiated themes, the contemplation of multiple perspectives, the recognition of all members as bearers of knowledge, and the sense of â€œhaving a sayâ€ as Sapfo put it, were instrumental elements of an interactional community where the power differential between teacher and students was limited, and where students could use their classroom participation as a venue for making their voice heard. In addition, I believe that the opportunities for personal expression afforded through authentic discussions allowed the class members to get to know each other as individuals. According to Webb (in progress) such a familiarity hinders otherizing and helps dispel stereotypes against groups or individuals. In other words, it seems that authentic discussions allowed students to reveal themselves and their thoughts in the classroom instead of forcing them to â€œmute [their] colors and blend inâ€, (R. Sasaki, in Fredericksen, 2000, 301). Even though issues of power as they related to gender or cultural diversity were not specifically explored, it can be reasonably inferred that authentic discussions would be a conducive venue for effectively dealing with issues of power and voice in the classroom. As Langer (1995) maintains, by allowing multiple voices in the classroom we avoid silencing individuals
259 and masking their distinctiveness in our stereotypes, and we allow for individuals to connect with others and develop the ability to view things from othersâ€™ point of view. Admittedly, authentic discussions as they were realized in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom did not fulfill the presuppositions to argumentation proposed by Habermas. More specifically, Habermas proposes that â€œ whenever discussing a claim to validity, one must follow the rules of logical sense, assume a hypothetical attitude toward the relevant facts, and ensure the free and equal status of all the participants in the dialogueâ€ (Endres, 1996). Obviously, authentic discussions in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom did not satisfy the last criterion as Ms. Enthis definitely had a position of higher authority than her students. Nonetheless, the fact that the students had active roles though which they made their voices heard suggests that, in educational contexts, discussion can occur even in the absence of complete equality. Actually, it can even be argued that teacher leadership is essential in educational settings, as absence of a power differential would disallow the development of apprenticeship relationships that according to Vygotsky (1987) and Rogoff (1990) are vital to the educational process. Preparing students of participation in a democratic society In his influential book Democracy in Education, John Dewey (1961) maintains that democratic life is essential for human advancement and suggests that preparing students for civil life in a democratic society must be one of the fundamental objectives of education. He argues that for democracies to function effectively, it is important for education to start an early process of enculturating students into the democratic ideals, habits, and processes necessary for them to become active and responsible citizens. Applebee (2002) and Langer (1995) suggest that literature discussions where students have the chance to present and examine multiple perspectives are an important
260 venue for developing democratic ideals. According to Applebee, considering different ideas and perspectives, getting trained in how to present and support counter-arguments, and realizing difference as a natural part of society are important activities for democratic citizens. In addition, Langer states: â€œWhat a preparation for life, if students can learn to interact in a community where their ideas can stimulate new awareness and possibilities, and where the reading of literature can assume a profound role in their human as well as cognitive developmentâ€ (44). The findings of the current research suggest that the class members had learned (and were continuing to learn) such lessons well. During authentic discussions, multiple ideas and perspectives were presented with participants often stating agreement or disagreement with previously proposed opinions. Despite the disagreement, though, participants appeared to be comfortable with the existence of difference. In addition, as documented by the focal student interviews, participants appeared to hold an accepting stance toward reinterpretation. Rather than being dogmatically attached to their opinions, the participants (including Ms. Enthis) were open to changing their minds based on new information. Internalizing the Speech Genre of Authentic Discussions As discussed in chapter 2, speech genres are the â€œrelatively stable types of utterancesâ€ that develop in spheres within which language is used (Bakhtin, 1986, 60). This means that when the members of an interactional community find themselves in situations which they recognize as warranting the use of a particular speech genre, they tend to use their knowledge of the types of utterances associated with that speech genre to formulate their participation.
261 As documented in chapter 4, in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom, the speech genre of authentic discussion appeared to be associated with student moves like expressing opinion, providing information/elaboration/clarification, connecting with written text, and reflecting. Interestingly, the studentsâ€™ ways of talking about books during their interviews were very reminiscent of their classâ€™ authentic discussions, as the focal student used the same types of utterances they employed during those interactions. This suggests that, for those students, authentic discussions were not simply what they did to appropriately participate in class booktalks, but a modality employed when thinking and talking about books. The observed transference is important in at least two major ways: it indicates that authentic discussion is a speech genre amenable for use in different contexts under certain circumstances, and it suggests that authentic discussion can be internalized as a mode of thinking. First, the fact that the focal students used the speech genre of authentic discussions to support their talk about books in a context different than the classroom context they typically used it in, suggests that authentic discussion is an interactional modality characterized by stable, cohesive patterns. If that were not the case, then the patterns of interaction would have been impossible to transfer across contexts. Therefore, the occurrence of transference affirms the status of authentic discussion as a speech genre by verifying its ability to adjust to different contexts while remaining an identifiable pattern of interaction. Naturally, the contexts of the booktalk discussions and the interviews shared some similarities, which made them amenable to the use of the speech genre of authentic discussions. Both the class booktalks and the interviews involved talking about books, invited participants to reflect and express opinions, and involved humor and
262 sharing out-of-school experiences. The co-occurrence of those characteristics probably suggested to my interviews that the speech genre of authentic discussions was an appropriate mode of communication for the purposes and the audience of the interviews. Second, the fact that the students were able to competently use the speech genre of authentic discussion in one-to-one context, without the support or social pressure of their teacher and their classmates, indicates that their extensive experience with the speech genre may have led to its internalization as a way of thinking and talking about books. Vygotsky (1978) maintains that inner speech, which in his view is fundamental in rational thinking, problem solving and memory, is the result of the internalization of social modes of interaction. What I am suggesting, is that the studentsâ€™ repeated use of authentic discussion in their classroom led them to identify it as a useful way of approaching literature and possibly led to an internalization of the thinking strategies involved in authentic discussion. In this way, authentic discussion became a resource for thought-tools the students could use to approach literature-related â€œproblems.â€ If we accept that authentic discussion is a stable speech genre that can be transferred across contexts and that can be internalized as a mode of thinking, then the potential of authentic discussions in classroom interactional communities becomes even more promising. By educating and enculturating students in the speech genre of authentic discussion, we might be able at the same time to help them acquire or hone thinking strategies that are extremely valuable in situations that demand dealing with complex problems, that require critical thinking and that warrant collaboration among individuals. Such a mode of thinking is not only important in all areas of the curriculum but also in effectively dealing with experiences beyond school.
263 Making Authentic Discussions Possible One of the observations that struck me the most about authentic discussions in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom was the familiarity and the comfort level of the class interactional community when using authentic discussions to talk about books. As an educator who has worked very hard to establish discussions as a mode of communication in my own classroom, I am aware that authentic discussions donâ€™t just happen. Rather, it seems that a classroom community where the speech genre of authentic discussion is effectively used is the outcome of a developmental process rather than a full-blown phenomenon. Contemplating the issue of literature discussions Keene writes in Mosaic of Thought, As I lie in bed eighteen years later, I clearly see the inside of that classroom at Greeley West High School. I recall how the anxiety lodged in my spine as I tried to formulate some kind of contribution to the discussion. My pulse raced as I raised my hand, ready to make a different point. Mostly, I remember feeling utterly ill prepared for this level of discussion, concluding I wasnâ€™t intellectually capable of participating. And, given that school hadnâ€™t provided an opportunity for this kind of discussion before the twelfth grade, I was unprepared. (Keene and Zimmermann, 1997, 4) Keeneâ€™s testimonial suggests that, when considering authentic discussions in classroom contexts, it is essential to ask how we can prepare students for effective participation in authentic discussion, and how we can foster authentic discussions in classrooms. The study of authentic discussion in the booktalk events of Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom provides a number of valuable insights. In what follows I will concentrate on three major foci: stance, linguistic behavior and community. Stance Ms. Enthisâ€™ beliefs regarding learning, students and the nature of knowledge, literature and teaching revealed a teacher stance of openness that undoubtedly influenced
264 the kinds of conversations that took place in her classroom (see chapter 6). Rather than hiding behind her authority as a teacher, claiming herself to be the sole bearer of valid knowledge whose function was to transmit that knowledge to students, Ms. Enthis adopted a stance that positioned herself as one of many bearers of knowledge whose function was to help the active and capable thinkers she believed her students to be. Through this stance Ms. Enthis appeared to communicate a number of important messages to her students: (a) there is no singularly valid knowledge, so the students should not perceive the ideas presented by their teacher, written texts or tests as absolute; (b) all class members hold important knowledge and have the capacity to create ideas that can inform others (including their teacher); (c) the students are responsible for their learning and for the advancement of the communal comprehension; therefore they have a responsibility to ask questions and present their ideas and (d) difference is to be explored. The value lies in the exploration rather than in the eradication of difference and the attainment of consensus. Ms. Enthis appeared to guide her participation in classroom events based on this stance. At the same time, she appeared to be persistently trying to instill a similar stance in her students both through modeling and through explicit and implicit suggestions for attitudes and behaviors. That I believe was of great significance in getting students to respond positively to her efforts. As Kachur and Pendergast (1997) reported, students are more likely to adopt a stance their teacher is promoting when they identify that stance as honest. On the other hand, when the stance promoted is different than the stance practiced by the teacher, students will sense the insincerity and refuse to indulge the teacher. Furthermore, by explicitly communicating her expectations to students, Ms. Enthis put
265 into practice Taylor, Pressley and Pearsonâ€™s (2000) suggestion of demystifying the paths toward successful participation. Linguistic behavior Often, it is assumed that for classroom discussions to be truly authentic the teacher must be physically absent or have a very limited participation in the interaction. Therefore, researchers like Nystrand (2002) and Vogt (1996) turned to collaborative student groups for investigating real discussions, and Avery (2001), Graves (1983), and Langer (1995) advise teachers to refrain from talking too much. Though the advice definitely has excellent merits, the findings of this study suggest that beyond attending to the quantity of teacher talk, it is of vital importance to also attend to what the teacher is â€œdoingâ€ with what s/he is saying. The surface characteristics of the classroom transcripts analyzed in this study documents high teacher participation both in number of utterances and in number of transcript lines (see chapter 4), a result that is congruent with findings in traditional classroom contexts. However, the significant difference between the two had to do with what Ms. Enthis was doing with her talk in the classroom. As discussed in chapter 4, Ms. Enthisâ€™ linguistic behavior during authentic discussions was characterized by two major elements: she shared nine of her 13 moves with her students, and the remaining teacher-only moves were the verbal realization of her role as discussion moderator. The first important implication that can be drawn from Ms. Enthisâ€™ participation is that teachers who effectively foster authentic discussions in their classrooms should, to a degree, present themselves as regular participants. In this way, they model appropriate behavior, and they demonstrate the sincerity of their open stance. A teacher who proclaims tolerance and negotiation of contrasting views but does not allow his/her views
266 to be challenged, and who never changes his/her mind despite valid counter arguments cannot have much credibility. On the other hand, a teacher who graciously accepts challenges and shows willingness to entertain alternative interpretations demonstrates â€œhow itâ€™s done,â€ confirms his/her sincerity, and establishes the classroom as a safe place for such negotiations. In addition, the teacher-only moves and how they were used by Ms. Enthis are consistent with Applebeeâ€™s (2002) suggestion that students should be supported during discussions. By encouraging students to express their opinions, Ms. Enthis was actively supporting her students in achieving one of the main requirements of authentic discussions, which is the presentation and consideration of multiple perspectives and ideas. At the same time, by employing the move of reiterating/refocusing studentsâ€™ ideas Ms. Enthis, reinforced the cohesion of the conversation and supported students in building on each otherâ€™s views by explicitly drawing their attention to those ideas. In addition, the move of ascertaining understanding sought to ensure that the studentsâ€™ comprehension was adequate for the class to be able to move forward, whereas the move of addressing procedure ensured the smooth flow of the discussion. In general, it can be said that Ms. Enthisâ€™ linguistic behavior in the classroom appeared to be consistent with Brunerâ€™s (1986) notion of scaffolding. Scaffolding involves the teacher (as the more knowledgeable other) as a co-participant in the task to be learned who slowly releases more responsibility to the â€œapprenticesâ€ as they become increasingly competent in it. Rather than telling the students how to comprehend and how to respond to the books they were reading like a traditional teacher would, Ms. Enthis helped the students figure out how to do it by modeling her own processes and by
267 involving students in real participation in the task. Even though the releasing of responsibility portion of scaffolding is not immediately observable in the four sessions analyzed, which, after all were recorded during a three-week period, Ms. Enthis stated in her interviews that she allowed more freedom and authority over discussions to her students as the year progressed. In addition, the increased authority of students is identifiable in a number of discussion elements like the exploration of student initiated themes, the fact that Ms. Enthis did not speak every other utterance (4/6 teacher-student ratio), and the frequent abandonment of the hand-raising rule. Community Another important component that appeared to greatly facilitate authentic classroom discussions was the sense of community that permeated class life in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom. As examined in the section on member relationships in chapter 6, in general, class members appeared to share excellent rapport and to have positive feelings toward each other. Given that language is a medium through which human relationships are constructed, sustained and rebuilt (Bruner, 1986; Lindfors, 1999), it is important to look at the talk of a linguistic community to identify and examine relationship-building processes. Two of the participant moves that seem to be closely related to member relationships are the move of humor and the move of building community, both of which were common to the students and the teacher. The move of trying to be humorous was fairly common in authentic discussions and, as discussed in chapter 6, classroom humor was typically related either to the book or to the experiences and habits of classroom members. One fundamental characteristic of these humorous comments was that they appeared to be enjoyed by all the members of the class. Even when a particular member was getting teased, the teasing was respectful
268 and appeared to be kept at a level that was not offensive to the target of the teasing. This seems to be an essential component of the kind of humor that has community-building capacity. If the laughter elicited by a humorous comment is not something the community can share, then it is more likely that humor will cause rifts rather than cohesion. Notably, the isolated instances when humorous comments appeared to cross the line received immediate reproof. In general, humor in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom appeared to denote familiarity and comfort among participants, as well as a pleasant working environment where people enjoyed their interactions with each other. At the same time, the presence of humor probably enhanced the atmosphere of familiarity and openheartedness. Cazden (1986) maintains that â€œlaughter can make institutions more humanâ€ (444) and goes on to suggest that jokes may function as demarcations of areas of knowledge that are negotiable. Also, Crump (1996) suggests that humor has the capacity to minimize psychological distance among class members. I believe that the increased presence of humor in authentic discussions reflects a need to minimize psychological distance during a socially demanding speech genre. As discussed in chapters two and four, authentic discussion is a speech genre characterized by a sense of imposition as well as a sense of participant vulnerability: imposition because the members are asked to forgo their own agendas to assist in the pursuit of the purposes put forth by the initiator, and vulnerability because the participants offer tentative and personally revealing contributions like expressing opinions, reflecting, and connecting with experience and knowledge. Given the perils that by definition characterize such endeavors, the soothing effects of humor become
269 necessary, as humor can create a safe, comfortable climate for such a hazardous undertaking. In general, the members of Ms. Enthisâ€™ class appeared to be working very hard at building a community where people like each other and where they feel safe and comfortable. Beyond using humor to build and maintain relationships, class members also used the move of building community. By acknowledging, complimenting and helping other class members, Ms. Enthis and her students seemed to use positive and negative politeness (Gallas, 1999; Lindfors, 1999) and to be active in what Dyson (1993) termed â€œsocial work.â€ This type of work appears to have potential in making members feel that they belong in the class community, that they are valued members of that community, and that others are willing collaborators in their search for meaning. In this way social cohesion is promoted and the negotiation of comfortable social positions for class members is facilitated. Implications for Future Research When talking about qualitative case study research Edwards (1989) mentions that â€œsuch research is inevitably hypothesis generating rather than hypothesis testing. Its promise lies in its potential for making the dimensions of any problem much clearer and better definedâ€ (322). This research study sought to address a neglected area in the literature regarding the nature and characteristics of authentic discussion. In many ways, this research aspires to be like an utterance in one of the authentic discussions in Ms. Enthisâ€™ classroom. In the domain of education in general and in the field of language arts education in particular, there is an open conversation about classroom discussions. This study is a contribution to that conversation. It does not supply any final, absolute answers to the questions the professional community is asking. It does, however, offer an
270 informed, thought-out contribution, supported by data, as one of the multiple perspectives to be considered in reaching a more advanced level of communal understanding. Being a contribution in an authentic discussion, this piece of work also invites other perspectives to further elucidate the various aspects of the matter. One important inquiry that should be explored by future research has to do with the development of classroom communities that have the capacity to foster authentic discussion. The present research sought to examine authentic discussion in action. Therefore, it studied an established classroom community where authentic discussions were taking place. Even though, as in all communities, the class studied was in a constant state of development, many of the practices, norms and patterns of interactions were already in place when data collection commenced. A natural follow-up study to this would be one asking: How are such classroom communities established? How does a classroom culture favorable to authentic discussions develop, and how is this development effectively supported? In addition, important questions remain to be asked regarding the relationship between experience with authentic discussions and studentsâ€™ cognitive development. In this study, I was able to draw inferences regarding a possible positive relationship based on the quality of literary thinking demonstrated by students. However, further research is needed that looks directly into this relationship. Moreover, this research study examined participant perspectives on issues raised during authentic discussions. The findings of this inquiry, which were presented in chapter 5, included information which strongly suggested that participation in authentic classroom discussions influenced the participantsâ€™ perspectives on the issues discussed. I
271 believe that exploring further ways to untangle the relationship between authentic discussions and the development of participant perspectives may be a fertile ground for future research. Such studies can ask: What are the participantsâ€™ perspectives towards authentic discussions? How does participation in authentic discussion affect participant perspectives? Furthermore, the function and possibilities of authentic discussions in culturally, socioeconomically and linguistically diverse classroom communities also warrant examination. Issues of diversity and its possible effects on power issues and voice were not explicitly studied in this research, even though some potential implications were drawn. Some important questions that need to be asked include: How do gender, ethnic, social, economic and cultural backgrounds influence participation in classroom discussions? Are there any cultural constraints to effective participation in authentic discussions? If yes, how can they be successfully addressed? Another relevant aspect has to do with the current trend for â€œlow performing schools,â€ which typically serve low socioeconomic status populations, to turn to direct, rigidly structured instruction in their effort to raise their disappointing test scores. The working assumption is that â€œthose childrenâ€ need explicit, direct drilling on the basics before they can read literature or engage in discussions. At the same time, speech genres like authentic discussion that involve abstract, critical thinking and allow student decision-making are assumed to be appropriate only for â€œadvanced students.â€ I would speculate that all students of all levels of academic performance and of all backgrounds can successfully participate in authentic discussions and can benefit from them. However, speculation is not adequate. Research on the ifs and the hows of these issues is needed.
272 In addition, one theme that piqued my interest during this research was the issue of troublemakers within interactive classroom communities. As mentioned in chapter 6, the class community studied included three troublemakers, each of whom appeared to manifest a different brand of troublemaking. What is it that renders certain students troublemakers? What are the social outcomes of such identities? How can they be supported in being productive members of their classroom communities? On a final note, this research sought to explore the speech genre of authentic discussions. It attempted to do so through the study of the booktalk events of a fifth-grade classroom. It offered some insights and it raised some more questions. My hope and aspiration is that it is a relevant and capable contribution to a dynamic conversation.
APPENDIX A CONSENT FORMS Parent/Guardian Consent Form Dear Parent or Guardian, My name is Xenia Hadjioannou and I am a doctoral student at the University of Florida. I plan to study classroom discussions from January to December 2002. The purpose of this research is to study classroom discussions, examine the language used in those discussions and consider discussionsâ€™ consequence for student learning. Participating students will be observed in the classroom. Also, the students may be asked about the classroom, their thoughts during classroom discussions and how they feel about talking in class. The data from your child will be in several forms: student interviews, samples of your childâ€™s writing (homework and class work), classroom observations, and audiotaped and videotaped class sessions. The class observations and student interviews will take place during the regular school day. Your child will not be removed from any class time to participate in the interviews. Participation in this research will not affect your childâ€™s grade. There will be no compensation for your childâ€™s participation. All tapes and transcripts, and any work samples will be kept completely confidential and any work samples will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. There will be no risk to any student participating in this study. A potential benefit of the study is an improved understanding of your childâ€™s learning style and attitude. However, if at any time you or your child wishes to remove him/herself from the study, 273
274 you may withdraw your permission for your childâ€™s participation without any penalty. Please note that participation or non-participation will not affect your childâ€™s grade(s). I would be happy to answer any questions that you have about the research, and I can be reached at 846-5783. My supervisor at the University of Florida is Dr Jane S. Townsend, and she can be reached at 392-0751, extension 231. For information regarding your rights as a participant in a research project, you may contact the IRB at the UFIRB office at the University of Florida, P.O. Box 112250, Gainesville, FL, 32611-2250 or by phone at 392-0433. Sincerely, Xenia Hadjioannou ( ) I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree for my child, ____________________________ (childâ€™s name), to participate in the research, and I have received a copy of this description. ( ) I have read the procedure described above. I do not wish for my child, ____________________________ (childâ€™s name), to participate in the research. ___________________________________________________________________ Parent/Guardian Date Please keep the attached copy for your records.
275 Student Assent Script And Consent Form Hello, I am Ms. Hadjioannou. I am trying to see how students talk with their teacher and with each other as they are learning. I would like for you to help me learn this by letting me hear what you talk about in class, talking to me about the conversations you have in class, and letting me share some of your work with other people who are also interested in learning how kids talk in the classroom. I will not use your name on any of the work I share. You can stop being part of this at any time without penalty. Being part of this study will not affect your grade. Would you like to be part of the study? _____ yes _____ no Signature _______________________________________
276 Teacher Consent Form Dear Teacher, My name is Xenia Hadjioannou and I am a doctoral student at the University of Florida. I plan to study classroom discussions January to December 2002. The purpose of this research is to study classroom discussions, examine the language used in those discussions and consider discussionsâ€™ consequence for student learning. Data will be gathered both from students and teachers. The data from students will be in several forms: student interviews, samples of your studentsâ€™ writing (homework and class work), classroom observations, and audiotaped and videotaped class sessions. Students will not be removed from any class time to participate in the interviews. All participants are volunteers, and informed consent will be obtained from students, parents and teachers. Because part of collecting information about learning environments means documenting classroom events and teaching styles, field notes will be taken while I visit your classroom. At times, I will audiotape verbal discourse. In addition to the above data, you will be interviewed on various occasions. Participants do not have to answer any interview questions they do not wish to answer. All information collected about you, your classroom, and the participating students will remain confidential and will be in my possession until they are destroyed. Participating in this study will require no changes in existing curricula of the teachers who choose to be involved. There will be no risk to any teacher participating in this study. A potential benefit of the study is an improved understanding of learning style and attitudes of participating students. However, if at any time you decide to remove yourself from the study, you may withdraw without penalty.
277 I would be happy to answer any questions that you have about the research, and I can be reached at 846-5783. My supervisor at the University of Florida is Dr Jane S. Townsend, and she can be reached at 392-0751, extension 231. For information regarding your rights as a participant in a research project, you may contact the IRB at the UFIRB office at the University of Florida, P.O. Box 112250, Gainesville, FL, 32611-2250 or by phone at 392-0433. Sincerely, Xenia Hadjioannou ____________________________________________________________________ Name ( ) I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the research, and I have received a copy of this description. ( ) I have read the procedure described above. I do not wish to participate in the research. ________________________________________________________________________ Signature Date Please keep the attached copy for your records.
APPENDIX B FIELDNOTES SAMPLE These are the fieldnotes I wrote for my observations of February 12 th . The booktalk involves Collierâ€™s (1974) novel My brother Sam is dead. The book is a historic fiction novel and the storyâ€™s setting is the United States during the Revolutionary War. The story involves the Meeker family and how it was affected by the war. Through the story of the Meekers, the war is presented as a horrific activity and issues of allegiance are explored. This is the second day the class is working on the book. 278
Table A-1. Sample fieldnotes from February 12 th . 279 Observations Reflections Codes As I come in, the class, as always, is going though the daily activities and homework for the day. Ms. Enthis writes on the transparency as she explains each item. Then she puts up todayâ€™s Caughtâ€™ ya and gives the class time to read it and re-write it as correctly as they can. Kent is selected to correct the passage on the overhead. As he is writing, Ms. Enthis is writing on the board some of the new or interesting words the class had encountered yesterday adhered, haiku, isosceles, scalene, equilateral. Melpomeni suggests the addition of the word â€œmonopoly.â€ â€œWe used that for social studies,â€ she adds. After Kent is done, she sits down. Based on the usual routine, the class scans his corrections and hands shoot up to suggest changes. Ms. Enthis goes over Kentâ€™s corrections one by one and asks him for the rational that led him to each decision. You caught a lot of corrections, Kent. But I think that he might have missed something Hands shoot up. Kent is one of them Kent: I should capitalize the â€œmâ€ in â€œMsâ€ Right. Thanks, I hadnâ€™t caught that. Anything else? Kent looks puzzled Ms. Enthis: This sentence is kind of long. Is there some punctuation that you could add? Kent looks at the sentence intensely for a few seconds as other classmates raise hands. He says: Oh add a comma after Ms. Enthis: Good job, Yeah! Caught Ya Bonus words
280280Observations Reflections Codes The class is involved in pair-work on their haikus (taught by the pre-interns). Tyrone and Shanaynay are sitting together. Tyrone has s tiny white ball-like object in his hand (a paper-ball maybe?). He is rolling it around in his hand with his fingers and tries to catch someoneâ€™s attention â€“maybe Craigâ€™s. He looks like he is ready to through the little white ball to someone. At this moment, he notices that I am looking at him. He immediately stops his throwing movement midway and turns away blushing slightly. I look away, trying to keep him within my visual field. A few seconds later he shoots a guilty looking glance towards me, probably checking to see whether I am still â€œonto himâ€ I just found out that no matter how much I try to remain at the margins of action and not establish myself as any sort of an authority figure, I still have some authority. That probably is just because I am an adult. Interns Me Participant observer status My brother Sam is dead Time for reading. S allows certain students to get comfortable at the back of the room. The rest are allowed to â€˜get comfortableâ€™ at their seats. As they are doing that she puts up a poster-paper on the board. A new version of the table they had started filling in yesterday (Loyalist, undecided or against the war, Patriot). Says that they will be filling this one in as new characters come in the story. In the text: the narrator is talking about his brother Sam having trouble keeping quiet because he thought he was a grown up. As a result, Sam is often in conflict with his father. Ms. Enthis: How many of you have a brother or sister who is like 15 or something? Many put their hands up Ms. Enthis: Keep your hand up if they sometimes think that they are grown ups and they know everything. Most of the hands stay up and a kind of quiet laugh emerges from smiling faces. Reading Personal connections Connections with life Text talks about the living arrangements of the family Even when she asks didactic questions,
281281Observations Reflections Codes (Meekers) Ms. Enthis: Do you kind of get a picture of what the Meekers (the family of the book) do? They have a farm Tyrone: I think itâ€™s like a general store where you can buy food and tools and stuff Ms. Enthis: Yeah, I think you are right. That was not the only thing, though. What else did they have? Leta: they had a kitchen and they cooked. Ms. Enthis: They cooked. Leta: Yeah, they cooked for other people. Ms. Enthis: so it was like a restaurant and they also had drink. Remember how it said that they had the barrels full of liquor? Kent: they had a hotel too. Ms. Enthis: and people stayed there? Did he already say that in the book? Have you read this book before, Kent? Kent shakes his head â€œyesâ€ with pre-decided definite answers, the answer is not necessarily just one. Many people jump in to add to or further refine the answer given in previous utterances. Also, Ms. Enthisâ€™s speech is filled with uncertainty markers and questions asking for clarification and further refinement. Didactic questions Further reading with the narrator and his brother, Sam talking about Samâ€™s relationship with his father, school, the war, and misbehaving. As Stephanie pauses from reading for a few short seconds: Tyrone: They had everything being a sin! Ms. Enthis: A sin? T: Yeah, like day dreaming is a sin, and cursing is a sin Ms. Enthis: You are right. Why is that you think? Kent: They are puritans. Thatâ€™s what they believed Ms. Enthis: Aha remember what we had talked about about the puritans? They were very strict They thought everything was a sin They were not allowed to read what they wanted. Pause Student initiating theme Response What do you think? Connections with previous knowledge
282282Observations Reflections Codes Ms. Enthis: Aha remember what we had said? In some houses the only book that was allowed was the Bible. That was the only thing they could read. Everything else was seen as sinful. Further Reading: The two brothers continue their conversation. In it they talk about different instances of mischief one knows about the other. Ms. Enthis: Do you hear the interaction between the two brothers? Does it sound like an old interaction or could it happen today? Could happen today (many voices) Thatâ€™s what I think too. The two of them talking about all the things they did They keep each otherâ€™s secrets about the things they did. And they tease each other, too Ms. Enthis: Yeah I guess some things never change. Connections with real life More reading. Sam states that he intents to take the gun they have above the fireplace and go to fight at the war. A description of a gun is part of that episode. Ms. Enthis: Does this description of the gun remind you anything? The xxxx gun Ms. Enthis: Right. It does look like it. It is long and heavy Do you know what a bayonet is (mentioned in the description of the gun)? Waza: Isnâ€™t it like an arrow like Robin Hood had? Yes, Robin Hood had a bow and an arrow, but thatâ€™s not what a bayonet is. Tyrone: Is it like a horn where they kept the gunpowder? Booktalk has a rhythm of burst and pauses. Lindfors says something about that I think. I need to look at it. Something about inquiry having this kind of rhythm. Anyway, it seems like the rhythm in the booktalk events of the class is a vital part of the process. The actual read-aloud acts almost like a pause that fills up the participantsâ€™ discussion dam with responses, issues and ideas. Especially poignant or relevant episodes make the floodgate of the dam open and a burst of utterances burst out. When all the participants wanted to say has been Connections with previous knowledge Ascertaining understanding. Vocabulary Exploring a word
283283Observations Reflections Codes Ms. Enthis: A horn for the gunpowder? No. I am glad I asked what it is, then It seems that you donâ€™t know Jay: Itâ€™s like a metal thing attached to the end of a gun itâ€™s like a knife that you can put on a gun and use it in battle when the enemy is close. Ms. Enthis: Yes Yugi: and they did use it too because often in battle the gunpowder was scarce so they run out and they had to use it. It said that in the book I am reading. They didnâ€™t have enough gunpowder. Ms. Enthis: You are right. She closes the book Moaning. Waza: can we read some more? Stephanie looks at the clock above the board. I guess we can read a little bit more said, then itâ€™s time for the floodgates to close again and the pause to begin for some more reading Liking reading In the part she is reading, Sam and his father are talking about Samâ€™s request to take the gun to go to war. The father refuses to allow him to do so, stressing how horrible war is by recounting his experiences with war. The description is vivid and chilling in its explicitness. Ms. Enthis: Raise your hand. So the father has had experience with war. Which war might he have fought at? The French and Indian war (the rest shake their heads in agreement) Ms. Enthis: Yes. You are probably right (points to the history posters hanging from the timeline on the ceiling). The major conflict before the revolution was the French and Indian war. And that was at a time when it would make sense for their father to have fought in that. That was not too long ago, right? So he was a soldier during that war. By the way I just wanted to As Ms. Enthis is reading I cannot help but have shivers down my spine. I think to myself that this is a kind of a graphic description for American standards. I look at the students to see how they react to the description. To my surprise they seem to be totally in tune with the book. They generally have solemn, contemplative faces that indicate that they are probably appreciating the description as the real and painful memories of gruesome battles of a war veteran. No smiles, laughter or coy glancing to their neighbors. Ms. Enthis was right to trust her students. Asking for conjectures Connection with previous knowledge Trusting students Knowing students Reflecting on teaching Information
284284Observations Reflections Codes say how proud of you I am. The fatherâ€™s description of the war was pretty intense, but you guys took it very well. You appreciated it as something fitting to the story. I really am very proud of you for the maturity you showed. Actually, that this is why I had asked you to make sure that your parents knew what you were reading. This is an exceptional book, but at times it gives some very intense descriptions of war and violence. In a conversation we had yesterday after class, she had mentioned that some of the upcoming scenes are pretty graphic as far as violence is concerned and that she was hoping that the students would have a mature attitude about it. â€œThey seem to be a pretty mature classâ€, she said, â€œand I am trusting them to be mature about it. Itâ€™s not that it is titilating or anything, but it is pretty gruesome in a very realistic and honest way. I like that in this book because it really drives home the point that war is not fun. That it does destroy people and families, that it is horrible and barbaric. But, you know, when you are presenting a book like this to children this age, there is always the danger that some of the boys especially are going to totally miss that point and start saying â€œcoolâ€ and beeing immature like that. These guys, I donâ€™t know I think theyâ€™ll be ok.â€ Complimenting the students Being real Test prep They go over the exercises as a whole class. The exercise is read aloud. The options are read too. Hands rise. The answer is given 2 examples And so it goes. Nothing much to report Testing At the end of the period Ms. Enthis comes close to me and among a bit of chit-chat she says: Ms. Enthis: I was so proud of them today. I knew that that scene was coming up, and I was not sure how they would Stephanie and Xenia conversations
285285Observations Reflections Codes respond. You know It was pretty intense stuff. Not easy at all. But it is so well written that they just got it and respected it. I love this book X: When you started reading that piece about the war, I was caught by surprise and I wondered how the kids would respond, but they were so good about it. No laughter, no comments about blood and intestines blowing out. Ms. Enthis: Yeah I guess they like the story too much to go off to things like that. X: So you did not have any negative responses from parents? Ms. Enthis: No. I very rarely do. Parents are generally ok with it. I mean, I am pretty sure that quite a few of them did not even get them out of their backpack, but I think that it was only fair to give them the responsibility to inform their parents about it. And if someone objects, then I can arrange for his or her child to read something else in the library during the time that we are reading, you know? Communication with parents
APPENDIX C SAMPLE OF CODED TRANSCRIPT Table C-1 presents a sample of a coded transcript from session two. The excerpt took place during a clue game the class was playing regarding Konigsburgâ€™s (1969) From the mixed-up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler. For the game, Ms. Enthis had prepared a number of cards with the names of objects that were important to the story. She put the cards in a hat and asked one student at a time to draw a card from the hat and to try to provide text-related clues to the class regarding the selected object. As the game unfolded, when students guessed correctly, and especially when they explained the significance of the object in the story, Ms. Enthis put a marble in the class bonus jar. At the time of this excerpt, two rounds of the game had already been completed and two bonus marbles had been added to the jar. Craig was selected to be the third clue giver and he had just picked a card. The codes used are presented in Table C-2 at the end of the excerpt. 286
287 Table C-1. Sample of coded transcript from session two. Line # Transcript Coding Craig: Ok. Jamie wins money doing it, he cheats doing it, it involves a king, a queen and S4 S3 others square objects. Unknown: Oh yeah! Craig: Natalia. Natalia: itâ€™s when he is playing cards with Bruce. S4 S6 Ms. Enthis: And what would the object be? T2 Natalia: Cards. S3 Ms. Enthis: Very good. Nice description and Craig already told us why it was important: thatâ€™s how T9 he wins money. Oh Bonus marble Whatâ€™s interesting about how Jamie plays cards? T4 T2 Many: ha ha ha (sing song voice) S8 Unknown: (low voice) He said it. S1 S3 Ms. Enthis: Ermis? Ermis: He cheats. S4 S3 Ms. Enthis: He cheats (adds a marble in the bonus jar). Many: Craig said that Craig just said that S3 Unknown: He said it. S3 Ms. Enthis: You said it? T2 Craig: I said that. S3 Ms. Enthis: Oh, thanks (taking out the two marbles she had placed in the reward jag). T8 T10 Ermis: Oh no. S8 Many: what? No? Aaa! S7 Unknown: No he didnâ€™t. S8 Jay: We were honest. S7 Ms. Enthis: A marble for being honest? T2 Many: yes! S7 Ms. Enthis: Yeah, right! (teasingly) T8 (laughter. Going to Emily and letting her pick a slip) (many voices in turns to come)
288Line # Transcript Coding Ermis: Hey, did we ever get our marbles for the call from Dr. Freeman (the principal)? S1 S7 S3 Ms. Enthis: No you didnâ€™t. Thank you for reminding me (adds a marble) T10 T9 T3 T9 Many: Yeah! Many: Sure Yeah Unknown: Remember when we got a compliment from the orchestra dude? S7 S3 Ms. Enthis: That wasnâ€™t. That doesnâ€™t count. T7 Sapfo: But he said that S7 Ms. Enthis: The orchestra dude giving a compliment to the audience does not count as this class T7 T3 getting a compliment.Sapfo: Because he saidS7 Ms. Enthis: I was watching this class. This class did not earn a compliment and I am sure that people are not going to beg for marbles because you know that, that you are not going to get it. (Giggles for a few seconds. Then voices stop). Alright Emily. T1 Table C-2. List of moves identified through discourse analysis Teacher Moves: Teacher tries to Student Moves: Student tries to T1. Initiate or refocus theme S1. Initiate or refocus theme T2. Request information/clarification/elaboration S2. Request information/clarification/elaboration T3. Provide information/clarification/elaboration S3. Provide information/clarification/elaboration T4. Connect with written text S4. Connect with written text T5. Connect with experience/knowledge S5. Connect with experience/knowledge T6. Reflect S6. Reflect T7. Express opinion S7. Express opinion T8. Be humorous S8. Be humorous T9. Build community S9. Build community T10. Address procedures T11. Encourage students to express opinion
289 T12. Ascertain understanding T13. Reiterate/refocus student idea
APPENDIX D INTER-RATER RELIABILITY CHECK Dear raters, Thank you for agreeing to participate in the inter-rated reliability check for my dissertation research. As part of this check you will be given 3 transcript excerpts and you will be asked to perform two tasks: (1) identify each excerpt as authentic discussion or as â€œotherâ€ and (2) code the transcripts using the list of moves provided. This packet includes (a) the criteria for authentic discussions (p.1), (b) a list of the moves identified, explanations and examples (p.1), (c) a sample of a coded authentic discussion escerpt (p.6) and (d) the inter-rater reliability check (p.8) Thank you very much for your help! Xenia. Authentic Discussion An interaction was coded as authentic discussion when it satisfied all three of the following criteria: 4. participants have opportunities to invite and consider multiple ideas and perspectives 5. a wide array of participants present multiple ideas and perspectives, and 6. the students' and teacher's contributions often build on ideas expressed by other participants in previous turns 290
291 Moves As part of my data analysis I performed discourse analysis on four booktalk sessions. During the discourse analysis I sought to identify the possible purposes of each one of the participantsâ€™ utterances. The analysis yielded a total of 13 overlapping teacher moves and 9 overlapping student moves. The following table provides a list of the moves. Teacher Moves: Teacher tries to Student Moves: Student tries to T1. Initiate or refocus theme S1. Initiate or refocus theme T2. Request information/clarification/ elaboration S2. Request information/clarification/ elaboration T3. Provide information/clarification/ elaboration S3. Provide information/clarification/ elaboration T4. Connect with written text S4. Connect with written text T5. Connect with experience/knowledge S5. Connect with experience/knowledge T6. Reflect S6. Reflect T7. Express opinion S7. Express opinion T8. Be humorous S8. Be humorous T9. Build community S9. Build community T10. Address procedures T11. Encourage students to express opinion T12. Ascertain understanding T13. Reiterate/refocus student idea I am asking you to use this list of moves to code the transcripts provided within this package. In order to make that task more manageable, what follows is a description of each move accompanied with examples from classroom transcripts. The highlighted portions of the transcripts represent examples of each move. Moves Common To Teacher And Students 1. Tries to initiate or refocus theme Expresses an attempt to shift the subject of the conversation, regardless of whether the attempt resulted in a successful switch or not. 1. Craig: This is kind of like e (louder) Itâ€™s kind of like Harry Potter to me. 2. Ms. Enthis: Well Why do you say that? 3. Craig: Because it, it just like itâ€™s kind of magical and
292 4. Constantine: It has fairies. 2. Requests information/clarification/elaboration Was used for instances when a participant asked for information related to a particular issue and when a participant asked another to clarify or expand on a previously expressed utterance. 1. Jay: They are caught! Itâ€™s their school! 2. Ms. Enthis: How can you tell? 3. Jay: Because itâ€™s saying, â€œsame school bus, same familiar namesâ€. 4. Ms. Enthis: familiar names? 5. Jay: Bruce. 6. Ms. Enthis: Isnâ€™t Bruce the one he 7. Unknown: played cards with 3. Provides Information/Clarification/Elaboration An utterance received this code when its utter-er appeared to be trying to introduce new information to the conversation or when s/he was trying to provide further clarification or elaboration on an issue that the class was in the process of discussing. 1. Alana : I need an update. 2. Ms. Enthis: You need an update. Alana needs an update. Um WhereWhere did you leave off? Where in your journal are we? (Alana shrugs her shoulders and she and Tyrone, who is sitting next to her, look through her journal together trying to figure it out. They exchange a couple of quiet utterances) 3. Alana: We had started chapter 5. 4. Ms. Enthis: We had started chapter 5 but we hadnâ€™t written anything? 5. Tyrone: She has written the sunglasses thing. 4. Connects with written text The move included three major subcategories: making within-the-text connections (used deductive logic to synthesize textual information). Example : When the name of Mr. Saxonberg was mentioned in From the mixed-up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1968), Kent exclaimed, â€œSaxonberg is her um l her lawyer!â€
293 participantsâ€™ efforts to make intertextual connections: Example : Ermis: â€œCanâ€™t you just like imagine Artemis Fowl as Draco Malfoy?â€ participants used textual information to support an analytical comment they were putting forward: Example: Sapfo: I thought, since Artemis is always giving people like shots and threatening with them and stuff, well I thought that maybe it was some kind of shot or a needle that he had, he had gotten an injection. 5. Connects with experience/knowledge Referred to participantsâ€™ efforts to import elements of relevant experience and knowledge they had gained either through their common class life or through their personal experiences outside of school. 1. Ms. Enthis: Raise your hand if youâ€™ve ever been to the Florida Museum of Natural History. I have a connection to this Egyptian mastaba that connects to the Florida museum of Natural History. When they describe it as a place where you can spend a lot of time in, reading all the little things on the wall or a place where you can just walk through and feel like youâ€™ve changed climates. Does anybody know what I am talking about? [I made a] connection. Tyrone, what do you think? 2. Tyrone: That cave where itâ€™s got all the animals and stuff and theyâ€™ve got that guy climbing up on a rope thing 6. Reflects Participants expressed tentative musings about the issue at hand (exploratory ideas + use of uncertainty markers) Jay: I still donâ€™t think Artemis is evil because he is too young to know everything in his mind that he does, like that he knows all that technology. I do not think he, he just canâ€™t control it. I think it has something to do with his dad. If he finds his dad, his mom will get well and 7. Expresses opinion Within this move participants presented their views, made predictions or guesses, agreed with other ideas expressed, and articulated counterpoints. During an exchange regarding the plausibility of Konigsburgâ€™s (1968) From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler Sapfo said, â€œWell, today, em New York has gotten quite a bit more dangerous and two kids could not just walk
294 around town. I mean, they would be unnoticed, but it would be pretty dangerous and it would be much harder, people might knowâ€ (session one). 8. Is humorous Utterances were coded as such when a participant appeared to be trying to make a witty comment that sought to elicit jovial responses from the rest of the participants 1. Ms. Enthis: Itâ€™s a good place to hang out, right? So they are just waiting in this Egyptian tomb. Oh, raise your hand if you think if you. There is something interesting about this group. Raise your hand if think you know (Ermis, who has read the book before smiles widely and excitedly raises his hand). Oh, Ermis, put your hand down, you read-aheader! 2. Ermis: (with an exaggerated innocent tone) Iâ€™ve read the book before! (laughter)(session 2) 9. Builds community Utterances with which the class members were working towards maintaining and further promoting a sense of friendly communal relationships. Two major types were identified: 1. utterances when a participant positively referred to the personality or to the experiences of another class member 1. Ms. Enthis: Were you in New York last year or this year, Ellie? 2. Ellie: Last year. 3. Ms. Enthis: Last year. Did you go to the Metropolitan museum? (Ellie nods yes). You went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Hello! Tell us something! (session 1) 2. a participant explicitly tried to help another member complete or refine his/her ideas. 1. Ms. Enthis: . Ok. This is question one (writes the title of the next chapter on the board: â€œThe Siegeâ€). There is just a little bit of time. What is this word? 2. Many: The siege siege 3. Ms. Enthis: Tyrone. 4. Tyrone: When you capture somebody or 5. Kent: To get something 6. Tyrone: Yeah! (session 4)
295 Teacher-Only Moves 10. Addressing procedure An utterance was coded as addressing procedure when Ms. Enthis gave instructions to the class regarding upcoming activities, when she tactfully reminded students of rules or instructions as well as when she explicitly reprimanded students. Ms. Enthis: Ok. After youâ€™ve written down the definition of child prodigy, skip a line or two, write â€œChapter one: The bookâ€ and then we are going to kick back and read a little bit to get into it. Ermis? (session 3). Ms. Enthis: ok. Jay you have your hand up. Many: (inaudible) Ms. Enthis: Hold on a second Jay. Let me get everyone else around quiet so that we can hear him. (voices stop). Go ahead. Jay: Theyâ€™d go to the snack machine. Those are not locked up (session 1). 11. encouraging students to express opinion Ms. Enthis appeared to be extending an invitation to the class members to express their opinions, ideas, feelings or perceptions about an issue. The move was delimited to invitations for tentativeness, with openendedness being a fundamental atmospheric element. Ms. Enthis: Ok. What do Anybody else has a different point of view? (3 second pause). Everybody agrees with Craig? (most nod positively). Pretty much? Sapfo? 12. Trying to ascertain understanding Ms. Enthis sought to determine whether the class had adequately comprehended a remark made in the text or a point examined during the booktalk. Ms. Enthis: Yeah There is a lot of these little interruptions, you know? And itâ€™s the narrator, who is Ms. Frankweiler who wrote this story, but she interrupts herself to add little tidbits because she kind of wrote it for her lawyer, right? To tell her lawyer: I changed my will and this is why I am going to tell you this story.
296 And the narrator, Ms. Frankweiler, interrupts the story to add little tidbits. You understand that, Constantine (Constantine nods)? You understand that part, Damon (Damon nods)? Do you guys get that? Ok. Raise your hand if you find another one while we are reading. 13. reiterate/refocus student idea Teacher speech turns were coded as such when Ms. Enthis incorporated part of the utterance of the previous speaker or a rephrased version of the utterance in what she was saying. 1. S.: . Kent, whatâ€™s your prediction? 2. Kent: I think that the symbols are a message or a warning. 3. Ms. Enthis: A message or a warning? 4. Kent: Yeah
(c) Here is one short sample of an authentic discussion excerpt I coded. In Colferâ€™s Artemis Fowl , Artemis is described as a â€œchild prodigy.â€ The class came across the term as they were reading the prologue of the novel. The conversation that follows stemmed out of that first encounter with the term. Ms. Enthis: So What is a child prodigy? Juno? *1 *12 *11 Juno: A genius child or a really smart kid. &7 Ms. Enthis: A genius child or a really smart kid? Ermis? *11 *13 Ermis: Like a child criminal. &7 Ms. Enthis: A child criminal? Melpomeni? *11 *13 Melpomeni: Itâ€™s like a child that is like smarter than most adults and, and can basically, like, &7 em can outsmart most people and just smarter than your average kid. Ms. Enthis: So kind of like what Juno was saying, some kind of child genius? *13 *2 Melpomeni: Genius, yeah. &3 Unknown: Extremely smart. &7 &3 Ms. Enthis: Craig. *11 Craig: I think a prodigy is this You know, I donâ€™t know On the Matrix, like people &5 &7 &6 who look at spoons and they can bend them with their mind and they are like really smart and they were like smarter than like anybody else297
Ermis: midgets? &9 &2 Craig: Huh? &2 Ermis: midgets? &9 &2 Ms. Enthis: They were like prodigies? They were studying the masters*2 Craig: Yeah, they are like â€“* &3 &5 Ms. Enthis: and they had these powers? Craig: -They moved stuff with their minds and stuff. Ms. Enthis: Hmm Ermis: Can I look it up? &1 &2 &9 Ms. Enthis: Ermis Ermis: Can I? &2 Ms. Enthis: Word-man. Look it up. *8 *10 *9 298 * the dashes indicate overlapping speech. When coding, the turn was treated as a continuous utterance.
Inter-Rater Reliability Check Instructions : As mentioned earlier, this check involves a two-level task. (a) identify each excerpt as authentic discussion or as â€œotherâ€ based on the three criteria provided, and (b) code the transcripts using the list of moves provided. Please observe the following guidelines: a. Code every utterance b. The moves are overlapping so utterances can receive more than one codes. c. Please mark the moves you associate with each utterance in the column to the right of the utterance. You do not need to identify which part of the utterance the code applies to. d. When coding the transcripts, please use the codes provided in the code table. For example, the code T4 stands for the teacher tries to connect with written text. 299
Excerpt 1: Circle one : authentic discussion other The class was talking about Artemis, one of the main characters in Eoin Colferâ€™s Artemis Fowl . Tyrone: I think he is still evil because he captured Holy, he wants gold, he tried to kill commander Root, and his is dangerous, and he wants pretty much a World War III between Fairies and humans Ms. Enthis: Good support! Melpomeni? Melpomeni: I said, I think that he is not evil because he is young and doesnâ€™t know what heâ€™s doing and that what he is doing will affect the future, like how it will affect the Fairies and everything, and his brain is too smart for his body and heâ€™s nice to Butler and his mom without (inaudible). Ms. Enthis: You think he is evil or he is just irresponsible? Many: irresponsible, He is evil both doesnâ€™t Melpomeni: He didnâ€™t know what he was doing If he knew what he was doing Ms. Enthis: So he doesnâ€™t understand the repercussions, the consequences of his actions Jay Jay: Aa I think I still donâ€™t think that Artemis is evil because heâ€™s XX (other voices make inaudible). Ms. Enthis: Jay, hold on a second! (the voices quiet down). Go ahead. Jay: I still donâ€™t think Artemis is evil because he is too young to know everything in his 300
mind that he does like that he knows all that technology. I do not think he, he just canâ€™t control it. I think it has something to do with his dad. If he finds his dad, his mom will get well and Unknown: Heâ€™s too smart! Excerpt 2: Circle one : authentic discussion other This was the first time the class was coming in contact with Colferâ€™s novel Artemis Fowl . Ms Enthis asked the students to make predictions about the story and the strange signs that appeared on the book cover without opening the book. Ms. Enthis: Kent, whatâ€™s your prediction? Kent: I think that itâ€™s a message or a warning. Ms. Enthis: A message or a warning? Kent: Yeah Ms. Enthis: How did you come up with that? How did you come up with a warning thatâ€™s kind of a like, an ominous Kent: It Maybe they are reading something and its like, on the back itâ€™s like a book or something (inaudible) 301
Ms. Enthis: Oh so we hear some clues from the back. Melpomeni: (speaking over Ms. Enthis) They are talking about the Fairy culture. Ms. Enthis: On the back it says something about another person from the Special Forces, so Kent is predicting that there is going to be some kind of, these symbols, some kind of a warning or a message. Tyrone, what do you think? Tyrone: I think that this is part of a code to open something important in it and the other part might be a key and then the keyhole in the front Excerpt 3: 302 Circle one : authentic discussion other The class had read a piece from From the mixed-up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg, 1968) where Claudia and Jamie (the two main characters) discovered a mark on the velvet pedestal the statuette â€œAngelâ€ used to be. Ms. Enthis: Angel, Jamie and Claudia discovered a clue. What was the clue they discovered after the workmen had em Angel? Chow-Young? Chow-Young: There was three rings and an â€œmâ€ Ms. Enthis: There was three rings and an â€œmâ€ where? Chow-Young: [The m was in one of the rings].
Ms. Enthis: The m was in one of the rings, but where was the three rings and the m? Chow-Young: On the Where Angel was. Ms. Enthis: Where Angel was. Where, on the velvet that angel had been sitting on. Ok, and so those rings were caused by the beer cans that the workmen had put there (pause). True or false? The rings, the three rings were caused by the workmenâ€™s beer cans that they had left on the pedestal. Damon. Many: (low voices) False. Damon: False Ms. Enthis: False. Of course not. What were the three rings from? Damon: The bottom of the Angel. Ms. Enthis: The bottom of the Angel. How did they know, how did they know that? What was the, what kind of a mark would cans leave and what kind of a mark would, were these so they could tell it was different. Melpomeni? Melpomeni: Cans would leave the velvet pressed down, but the three rings with the M on it where they were raised up so there was a little indent and then they were up Unknown: crashed up. 303
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Xenia Hadjioannou was born in 1975 in Paphos, Cyprus. From a very young age Xenia became fascinated with teaching and, when she graduated from high school, she entered the University of Cyprus as a major in elementary education. After her 1996 graduation with a bachelorâ€™s degree in the sciences of education, she worked as a first grade teacher in a small rural school. During her first year of teaching, Xenia received a Fulbright scholarship and, in 1997, she began her graduate work in the College of Education of the University of Florida. In the fall of 1998 she graduated with an M.Ed. in elementary education, and briefly returned to Cyprus where she taught fourth grade. In 1999, an Alumni fellowship brought Xenia back to the School of Teaching and Learning of the University of Florida where she undertook doctoral studies. Upon the completion of her degree program, she plans to work as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. There, she intends to teach undergraduate and graduate courses and do research on classroom discussions, diversity education, teacher education, and any other area that piques her interest. 314