Alif Fakkar posted an update 1 month, 2 weeks ago
Book Review #1
Title: Classroom Discourse Analysis: A Functional Perspective
Author: Frances Christie
This book was written after many years of collection and analysis of classroom language from many different school subjects from three different Australian cities. Frances has gathered many data from recording the activities of many classrooms of Australian schools and the studies that was put into said recording.
The first chapter discusses the theoretical framework of Classroom Discourse Analysis. It has been a major theme in many researches of the linguistic and educational kind, for many years. And the interest in the language used in classrooms dated from the 1940s. In the next two decades, many researches has been undertaken regarding the topic of discourse, including classroom discourse in the English-speaking world. Back then, the technology used for classroom discourse analysis was tape recorders, eventually moving into video recordings as video recording facilities and equipments become much more accessible. The research that goes into the topic of classroom discourse analysis draws on one or more of the several tradition of linguistics, some approaches the topic of ethnographic, others on various psychological approaches.
There are many motivations for a researcher to delve in the topic of classroom discourse analysis. Sinclair and Coulthard’s study in 1975 (1975: 6) made it clear that they are more interested in understanding more about the nature of discourse by studying an identified field of discourse. You could say that their work in 1975 was not a piece of educational research, because their intentions as linguists are different than improving the nature of educational practices. However, they did conclude their work by reflecting some of their findings into possible applications in the classroom. In 1982, Sinclair and Brazil wrote a book exploring Teacher Talk in detail. Some other research that goes into improving the nature of classroom teaching was one from Barnes (Barnes et al., 1971; Barnes and Todd, 1977) who focused on classroom talk as well as the possibilities of small group talk in a classroom environment. Another one was from Mehan (1979), who developed an important ethnographic study, where he explored how classroom teaching and learning were structured.
The next chapter discusses the early childhood, and their first entry to school learning.
Transitions can be quite hard to handle. The first time a children would enter a school as a student would be around age 5 or 6, and for many of them, they would spend time in a pre-school setting to prepare them for the practices and expectations found in the schooling environment.
Most of the time spent in early childhood classroom goes into initiating children into getting used to the practices of schooling. Here, they learn about the organization of time and space, and learning of how to move themselves within the terms of time and space pre-determined by society. And so, the children learn about the ways a school day can be broken into various activities, all of which lasts for a certain period of time, and marked by a closure which usually involves movement, as they are expected to move into different parts of the room or even to a different area of the building.
In this period, patterns of acceptable movement around the classroom and school building are established, as well as acceptable behaviors for interacting with others. Teachers are meant to nail these acceptable behaviors in the head, often using foregrounded methods. As the time passes and the requirement for acceptable behavior is established, the methods of encouraging and maintaining the behavior is les foregrounded.
The curriculum in early childhood education usually consists of contents that are based from the broad areas of experience or themes such as foods, where the students can learn about what constitutes as a healthy food, what foods they like to eat, and the reason why we eat food. The early childhood education also attempts to build connection between the family and the school to ease their relocation to the school setting.
The third chapter discusses the early literacy teaching and learning.
The early childhood curriculum often built around a ‘theme’ with a range of activities which make up the language art, social and natural science elements of the educational program. Writing activities are an aspect of the language arts program. Here, the children would learn to write about the current theme. Taking the theme of food from the last chapter, this chapter provides the example of a teacher who read the children a short story about a boy who lost his lunch, and the students are to use that as a stimulus to write their own imaginative ‘stories’ lost lunches. Spelling is not given special attention, as teachers would provide assistance to students struggling with spelling, and the act of writing itself is deemed more important, as it is taken as evidence of learning and ultimately, development.
The fourth chapter discusses pedagogic discourse and curriculum macrogenres.
Macrogenres was first proposed by Martin (1994, 1995). He had observed the tendency of what he called ‘elemental’ genres such as recounts, reports, explanations or procedures to create larger unities in written texts. For example, in a school science textbook, a taxonomic report that describes a creature would often be followed by an explanation of its life cycle. This large unity which incorporated several ‘elemental’ genres is what Martin termed a ‘macrogenre’.
A curriculum macrogenre often have a pattern of beginning, middle, and end. The beginning would have an initiating genre, used to establish the overall goals for the teaching and learning. The middle genre involves several lesson, and it is where most of the essential work is done. The final genre will provide closure, usually requiring the completition of some tasks.
Finally, I would like to conclude the review by talking about the strength of the book.
In the second half of each chapter, the book would provide a transcript of activity that is relevant to the topic discussed in that chapter. After that, it would go on analyzing the discourse in great detail, followed by a conclusion at the end of the chapter. This can give you a great insight of the nature of classroom teaching and what to look for when you are analyzing the discourse in a classroom environment.