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Language Arts, Vol. 91, No. 1, September 2013

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Literacy Learning and Discourse

  • Call for Manuscripts [FREE ACCESS]

  • Thoughts from the Editors: Discourse Analysis and Language Learning [FREE ACCESS]

  • “Put an explanation point to make it louder”: Uncovering Emergent Writing Revelations through Talk

    Efleda Preclaro Tolentino

    Abstract: Young children emerging as writers bring a plethora of knowledge and skills related to literacy into early childhood contexts.  Based on the results of a year-long observational field study of fourteen prekindergarten children engaged in conversation during literacy events, the article focuses on the role of talk in igniting and influencing the pursuit of emergent writing discoveries and transforming emergent writers’ identities as literacy learners.  Using discourse analysis, children’s talk were examined across three levels: (a) what participants talked about; (b) roles they played during interactions; and (c) ways they communicated intent.   Three aspects of the classroom environment contributed to children’s writing revelations: first, work time is fertile ground for literacy learning; second, talk plays a key role in becoming literate; and third, peers play a role in the transformation of emergent writers. The article illustrates children’s use of writing to convey meaning and their ability to mentor and jointly construct their understanding of literacy with fellow writers.  Data were supplemented with excerpts from teacher interviews to describe the context in which writing revelations emerged.  The findings expand our understanding of emergent writing development and provide further direction for investigating the potential of talk in supporting emergent writers.

  • Small-Group Word Study: Instructional Conversations or Mini-Interrogations?

    Kathy Ganske and Robin Jocius

    Abstract: It is widely recognized that children need opportunities to engage with words to build vocabulary knowledge and to learn how words work as means for furthering their reading and writing. Although discussion and talk have the potential to foster children's understandings and their motivation for word learning, pressure to "get through" the curriculum often leads teachers to limit students' opportunities to think, question, reflect, and respond in meaningful ways. In this article the authors call for increased student talk during small-group word study. They first provide a theoretical framework and then describe the results of a study in which they observed small-group word study interactions in several culturally diverse 3rd and 4th grade classrooms. Finally, they suggest ways to promote student talk and thinking as means for developing students' spelling and word identification abilities, as well as their vocabulary knowledge, and to inform teachers about what students know and are ready to learn so they can provide motivating and appropriate instruction.

  • Research and Policy: Rethinking Common Answers to Critical Questions about Classroom Discourse

    Maren Aukerman and Jessica Zacher Pandya

    Abstract: This article poses and re-examines common answers to three interwoved questions: a) what counts as discourse? b) What counts as academic discourse? c) What counts as fruitful discourse? Each question, the authors argue, has too often been answered in a narrow way that limits available visions for literacy instruction, both for educators and for policymakers. The authors include a critique of several frequently proposed answers to these questions and argue for richer, more nuanced ways of answering each question. Specific attention is given to critiquing notions of discourse as limited to talk, to a dichotomous view of school and home discourse, and to accountable talk.

  • Professional Book Reviews: Transformational Talk [FREE ACCESS]

    Toni Williams, Scott Johnson, Emily Whitecotton, Priscila Alvardo, and Heidi Mills

    Abstract: The Professional Book Reviews department contributes reflections on compelling books that enhance our understanding of the transformative nature of discourse in schools, homes and communities of practice.  To open the column entitled Transformative Talk, Heidi Mills offers an overview of each book in the text set and a synthesis across all three books reviewed.  Toni Williams offers a thoughtful review of Practicing What We Teach: How Culturally Responsive Literacy Classrooms Make a Difference edited by Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt and Althier M. Lazar (2011).  Williams inspires readers to access this text for insights and strategies around culturally responsive teaching grounded in meaningful discourse and literacy engagements.  Scott Johnson’s thorough review of Talk about Understanding: Rethinking Classroom Talk to Enhance Comprehension by Ellin Oliver Keene (2012) compels readers to take up this book to foster deeper understandings during literacy instruction through principles and practices that promote healthy teacher talk and substantive student learning.  Emily Whitecotton and Priscila Alvardo review Beyond Communities of Practice: Language, Power, and Social Context edited by David Barton and Karen Tusting (2005).  They articulate the ways this book offers theoretical frames for noticing, naming, challenging and/or revising communities of practice.  As Mills suggests in the overview, “Individually and collectively, these books push us to imagine how our words might change ours and others’ worlds” (p. 49).

  • Children’s Literature Reviews: Quality Children’s Literature to Stimulate Discussion during Interactive Read-Alouds [FREE ACCESS]

    Jonda C. McNair, Alan R. Bailey, Deanna Day, and Karla J. Möller

    Abstract: The children’s literature review column focuses on titles that are likely to stimulate interaction and dialogue among children in grades K–8.

  • Conversation Currents: On Discourse and Language Learning

    David Bloome and Arlette Ingram Willis

    Abstract: Two international scholars, David Bloome and Arlette Ingram Willis, discuss the complexity of discourse and language learning. Each researcher problematizes the views of literacy while exploring the fluidity of it. They also explore how the ideologies of educators and researchers impact children in school. Useful resources that guide their thinking are also provided throughout the article.

* Journal articles are provided in PDF format and can be opened using the free Adobe® Reader® program or a comparable viewer. Click here to download and install the most recent version of Adobe Reader.

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