Date of Award

1-1-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Dawn Butterworth

Abstract

This study examines the socially constructed context of whole group storybook reading in pre primary classrooms. The study is centred in the shared communications that occur between pre primary teachers and students before, during and after the storybook reading. In particular, insights are sought on the nature and extent of the pre primary teachers' and the pre primary students' communicative contributions and the opportunity provided for the inclusion of personal knowledge and personal experience in the communication. Whether there is a change in the nature of the contributions over time is also examined. The study seeks to extend current understanding of the situated nature of socially constructed classroom communicative repertoires beyond the descriptions of teacher dominated communicative strategies in order to develop an appreciation of the potential that whole group storybook reading has for student communicative constructions. Moreover, the capacity of whole group storybook reading for encouraging reciprocal communicative opportunities between the pre primary teacher and students in the classroom is examined, The study has been carried out in three phases. The initial phase involved the completion of an open-ended questionnaire by forty three pre primary teachers. The aim of the questionnaire was to establish an understanding of the importance pre primary teachers placed on the whole group storybook reading activity. Phase two was the pilot study containing a field of five pre primary classrooms where teachers were invited to share their whole group storybook reading sessions. The storybook reading sessions were videotaped and analysed and a coding structure was developed from the communications that occurred between the teacher and students. The coding structure provided a framework which was used in organizing and analyzing the classroom communication that occurred during the final case studies. Phase three involved year long case studies of teacher-student communication during whole group storybook reading in three pre primary classrooms. The three pre primary classrooms were drawn from high, middle, and low socio-economic suburbs in the Perth metropolitan area. The case studies involved videotaping a storybook reading session every fortnight in each of the classrooms totalling twenty. The whole year period was considered necessary to map changes that occurred to the context and communication exchange during storybook reading. A case study approach facilitated understanding of how teachers organize their whole group storybook reading and an appreciation of the repertoire of personal knowledge and experience pre primary teachers and pre primary students brought to the storybook reading context. The case study research found the physical organization of whole group storybook reading in each of the pre primary classrooms to be similar. The main differences between the storybook reading activity were derived from the different goals the pre primary teachers had for storybook reading and the individual differences the students brought to the storybook reading context. The teachers' contributions to the whole group storybook reading activity were based on communications with the students that contained directives, questions, statements and responses. All three teachers used the categories of communication but with differences in emphasis and use. One teacher adopted an approach that was interactive and encouraged learning through shared communication. Another teacher concentrated on shared communication to promote confidence with speaking and competency in language and literacy development. The students' contributions to the whole group storybook reading activity were based on requests, questions, statements, and responses. Students were not major initiators of the communication in any of the three pre primary classrooms, but contributed to collaborative communication when opportunities were presented to them. Differences noted in the students' contributions could be attributed to the approach taken by the pre primary teachers, the students' background knowledge and experience and the choice of book being read to the students. The strategies adopted by the teachers to create opportunities for the students to develop communications around experience and knowledge were based on teacher questions, statements and responses, and student statements and responses that referred to background experience and knowledge. All three teachers occasionally presented some of their personal experiences to enrich storybook events, whereas students were enthusiastic and spontaneous about sharing personal and family events that related to the storybook. Differences were noted in the teachers' overall approach to the level of shared communication which occurred during whole group storybook reading. Teachers provided additional opportunities for student participation and shared communicative contributions. The differences in teachers' and students' contributions throughout the year could be related to changes in the teachers' goals for the students and how that impacted on the communication and the increased skill level of the students. The students' communication increased as the year progressed in each of the three pre primary classrooms.

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