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Multiple discourses of literacy meaning-making : case studies of two English and French classrooms

By Helen G. Langford


In this thesis, I examine the influence of institutional control on three teachers' and twelve linguistically and culturally diverse childrens' perceptions and constructions of literacy meaning making in English and French in two grade six English and in two grade six French classrooms in the province of Quebec. The children in this study represent a cultural and linguistic mosaic of new arrivals, second-generation immigrant and native Montreal families that include Cambodian, East Indian, French, Italian, Lebanese and Portuguese families. Similarly, the three teachers come from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds that include a native Montreal anglophone, an immigrant from Egypt who is fluent in Arabic, English and French, and a second-generation Italian Quebecer who is fluent in Italian, English and French. The diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the participants add a further dimension to the research project, that is, an understanding of the dialogic encounters between multilingual children and teachers during literacy events in two languages and two classroom contexts.I draw from Halliday's (1978, 1985) social theory of language use, Bakhtin's (1981, 1984) dialogical theory of discourse and Vygotsky's (1978, 1981, 1986) socio-cultural theory of language and learning to provide a theoretical lens for viewing the childrens' appropriation of literacy meaning making practices. I audiotaped, transcribed and interpreted the literacy events, teachers' discourse and discursive practices and the childrens' literate actions and artifacts for emerging patterns. In addition, interviews were transcribed, coded for emerging patterns and interpreted as socially negotiated texts.The findings led me to four major conclusions. First, while institutional controls such as textbooks, programs, evaluation, and teacher beliefs about literacy continue to maintain power of literacy meaning making practices in these four classroom contexts, the reconstruction and negotiation of this power varies across the classroom contexts and amongst the teachers and children. Second, the teachers' discourse and discursive practices, as well as, situational complexities such as the intersections of cultures, communities, classrooms and languages shape the childrens' literacy perceptions, interpretations and constructions in English and French within and across the classroom contexts. Third, teaching practices for literacy meaning making are neither solely analytical or experiential nor are they solely explicit or implicit. The three teachers' literacy practices appear to be more along a continuum than a dichotomy, that is, they appear to be local, strategic and contexts-related. Fourth, the recognition of a plurality of literacies suggest that childrens' cultural stances and viewpoints need to be considered, as well as, the kinds of literacy experiences they are and are not being asked to engage in their English and French classrooms

Topics: Literacy., English language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching., French language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching., Psycholinguistics.
Publisher: McGill University
Year: 2000
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Provided by: eScholarship@McGill
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