Fostering students' participation in writing activity in three urban classrooms
Research on classroom writing has often paid scant attention to the role of the teacher in children's literacy development. This study investigated how teachers planned for and involved their diverse students in classroom writing activity. Informed by sociocultural learning theories, the study used a theoretical framework envisioning the classroom as a complex system of teaching/learning activity. It investigated three particular features of classroom teaching/learning activity: (1) how teachers planned for and organized writing activity; (2) how writing activity was enacted in classrooms to provide learning opportunities for students to engage with concepts, skills, dispositions, and strategies fundamental to written communication; and (3) how teachers fostered students participation in variety of activities across different social settings.This study occurred in the classrooms of three elementary teachers chosen from a pool of teachers nominated as effective writing teachers in urban settings. Students in these classrooms were racially, ethnically, linguistically, and economically diverse. For data collection I used naturalistic and ethnographic field methods including video/audio taping of classroom interactions, interviewing of both teachers and target students, and review of students writing. Initial analyses focused on the activity in each classroom. I developed case studies of each classroom to use in cross-case analyses of patterns across the cases.Findings from this study revealed that the teachers fostered students participation in writing activity in multifaceted ways and on a variety of levels. First, teachers planned for and involved students in complex units of study based on written genre or form. The units offered opportunities for students to experience and develop understandings of writing as social, conceptual, affective, and strategic activity as they undertook writing tasks. Second, teachers purposefully organized activity settings to foster students' participation in writing tasks. Communicative interactions in whole-class settings proactively prepared students for both the independent and interdependent work that followed. Finally, participation in writing tasks was a collaborative process. Teachers and students were co-participants in both learning and creation of written products. Fluid and constant negotiation of roles of teachers and students characterized their interactions. Implications for teachers, teacher educators, and researchers are discussed.
- Education - Seattle