Talk about language in a diverse urban community

Document Type

Book Chapter


Primary English Teaching Association

Place of Publication



School of Education




Thwaite, A., Gardiner, J., & McCullough, K. (2018). Talk about Language in a Diverse Urban Community. In Talking the Talk: Snapshots from Australian Classrooms (pp. 63-74). Available here


Project Build a positive environment, where dialogic discourse can occur, in a culturally diverse urban classroom.

Teachers Jayne Gardiner and Kate McCullough (pseudonyms) teach Years 4 and 5 respectively, and have been working at the same school for several years. Both came to teaching from other careers: Jayne previously worked as a social worker and Kate, who is enrolled in a Masters by Research degree at the time of writing, worked as a psychologist. Their classrooms are adjacent to each other, with a connecting door that is usually left open, enabling collaboration.

Mentor Dr Anne Thwaite is a Lecturer in Language Education at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia, specialising in spoken discourse analysis. She was able to work on this project with Jayne and Kate as her university has a special relationship with their school. Anne recorded videos of classroom practice and took photographs of artefacts as part of the mentoring process.

Setting An independent public school in suburban Perth, Western Australia (equivalent of a state school granted a greater degree of autonomy). The school is visually appealing, featuring open spaces and colourful artwork, and boasts good facilities, with a large oval, basketball and tennis courts, as well as other areas where the children can play. The classrooms are also well set up with iPads and computers. Each room has an education assistant (EA). Who provides much-needed support for children with significant physical, behavioural or other special needs. Around 300 children from many different cultures and backgrounds make up the student population. Just under half (410/o) have a language background other than English, representing up to 40 different languages spoken at home. There is also a big Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (approximately 17%). and a number of Aboriginal administrative staff provide additional support to these students. The school has an Extended Services philosophy and shares premises with its partner organisations, including the local university, the Smith Family and the Fogarty Foundation. It has been classified as below average on the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA), meaning its population is more disadvantaged than the average school body, and many facilities and personnel are provided to support students and their families. Some families are transient and move in and out of the community.

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