Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Ian Malcolm

Second Advisor

Dr Caroline Barral-Pugh


This study investigates the use and occurrence of talk during the implementation of the key approaches of Shared Book Reading and Class Dictated Story in three Primary Two classrooms in Singapore. These approaches are based on a constructive perspective of literacy where children make meaning from texts read with the teacher through joint exploration and connection with their respective background knowledge and experiences. Central to this joint exploration and meaning-making is the teacher-pupil talk. The occurrence and use of talk in the implementation of these approaches in three primary two classrooms was recorded, transcribed and analyzed. Teachers' and pupils' experiences and practices of talk at home were also obtained through interviews, pupil logs and observations and audio recordings of shared reading and shared writing done in the classroom and in some homes. These would show the teachers' and pupils' orientation to talking to learn and consequently, the cultural congruence of the two major approaches currently being used in the classroom. The theoretical rationale informing the study is a sociocultural perspective. The relationship between language and culture is emphasized because use the learning of English in Singapore has been based on the second language paradigm for a long time. Given the cultural heterogeneity in the classroom and the learning of English as a first language in Singapore, this paradigm needs to be replaced. The different cultural scripts that Singaporeans take with them into the classroom necessitate a change of paradigms and a shift towards a sociocultural perspective of literacy learning. The study found that the talk which occurred during the shared literacy lessons in the classrooms of the Chinese and Indian teachers was dominated by the teachers with the pupils participating only to answer teacher questions. Both the Chinese and Indian teachers also stated that pupil comprehension was their main concern during the Shared Book Reading and Class Dictated Story sessions. This seemed to match the home reading experiences of the Chinese and Indian children in this study. In the Malay teacher's class there was pupil-initiated talk with the pupils initiating topic change as well as plane change and responding to teacher-questions spontaneously. The study argues that literacy is culturally loaded and therefore it is important to ensure the cultural fit of pedagogic approaches implemented in the classroom. It also argues the inadequacy of only a linguistic adaptation of pedagogic approaches originating in different cultural and linguistic contexts. Pre-service and in-service training of teachers need to transcend the imparting of procedural knowledge of the approaches and instead sensitize teachers to the cultural embeddedness of the approaches, Emphasizing the sociocultural perspective of literacy so that teachers perceive the Shared Book Reading and Class Dictated Story as necessitating and encouraging social dialogue would ensure that teachers and pupils with different cultural scripts and consequently engaging in reading and writing practices for different reasons and in different ways are not marginalized and disempowered. Attending to the cultural load of learning to read and write in English in Singapore has become urgent in view of the national call to create ''Thinking Schools, Learning Nation". Pedagogic approaches are culturally loaded. They cannot be viewed as being neutral. Recognizing the cultural situatedness of English language learning and teaching and the pedagogic approaches used in the process is necessary if the government's vision is to become a reality.