Document Type

Journal Article




Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education / Edith Cowan Institute for Education Research




Thwaite, A. M. (2014). Teachers and teacher aides initiating five-year-olds into science. Functional Linguistics, 1(6), online. Available here


Apprenticing children into discourses necessary for success at school begins at a very early age. In this paper I look at five-years-olds being introduced to Science and Technology while at the same time being involved in talk around literacy. The various adults who surround the children engage differentially in talk and action while merging the discourses of literacy and science. Data for this study were obtained during the course of the project ‘Early literacy through science in Indigenous and culturally diverse communities’, funded by Edith Cowan University in Australia from 2009–2010, in which the author was involved as a researcher. The project involved observing and recording a series of lessons over nine weeks in a Pre-Primary classroom of five year-olds from diverse backgrounds in a metropolitan school. Various functional analyses were used in order to bring out some of the differences in the discourse of the trained teachers compared with that of the other adults working with the children. Analyses included Field, Tenor, Exchange Structure and Speech Function. Differences were apparent in the structure of the discourse, Questions, Commands, vocabulary and the teacher-student relationships. As an example of the contrast between teachers and teacher aides, I look more closely at two lessons involving photography and use of electronic resources. These lessons show the teachers and the teacher aide constructing different relationships with the children and the teacher using a wider variety of linguistic resources in her interactions.



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