Supporting the Student Writer: The Role of Teacher Talk during Kid Writing Workshop

Open Access
Cook, Carolyn L.
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 05, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Jacqueline Edmondson, Committee Chair
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Member
  • Jamie Myers, Committee Member
  • Susan G Strauss, Committee Member
  • psycho-linguistic writing model
  • socio-linguistic writing model
  • expressionist writing model
  • teacher language
  • conferencing
  • kid writing
  • writing workshop
  • sociocultural theory
  • zone of proximal development
  • teacher relationship with students
The purpose of this study was to observe and describe one teacher’s use of language with her second-grade students during Kid Writing: a writing workshop curriculum. The researcher was interested in discovering the impact of the teacher’s language with her students in learning to write. In a sociocultural perspective, learning is both social and contextual, and language is vital to constructing meaning within social interactions. The goal of this study was not to evaluate the Kid Writing program or to generalize the findings, but to inform other teachers about the role of language during writing instruction. A microethnographic research design was used to observe and record the details of the interactions during Kid Writing workshop. The researcher utilized ethnographic techniques of prolonged behavioral observations as well as becoming a participant observer during Kid Writing workshop. The researcher also utilized socio-linguistic techniques to analyze language and discursive practices of the behavior observed. As a microethnographic study, the researcher was particularly attentive to the discursive practices, specifically language use during writing instruction. Data were analyzed utilizing discourse analysis methods which realized the interconnectedness of text, discourse, and context. First, the writing conversation data were analyzed by following the linguistic and thematic patterns in the language. Second, by utilizing intertextual analysis, these data findings were compared to the data collected from observations and interviews with the students, parents, and teacher. Analyses of these data provided the researcher with the thematic content of the conferences between the teacher and the students, the linguistic structure of the interaction, and the extralinguistic forms utilized during instruction. Kid Writing, as a curriculum, was situated within the pedagogical framework of writing workshop. Writing workshop was defined and described using four models: expressionist, socio-linguistic, psycho-linguistic, and critical. The role of language by teacher and students in each model was explained. Then the Kid Writing curriculum was analyzed and positioned within these workshop models, particularly within the psycho-linguistic model. The findings revealed that the teacher used her language to build relationships within the community of Kid Writing workshop. Through her language and discursive practices, she established positive rapport with students by learning about them, by thinking out loud with them, and by conversing with them. Her language use also revealed the importance of establishing the meaning of the text and co-constructing knowledge during conference interactions. The findings revealed that this teacher used her expert discursive practices to provide a means for students to learn the language and skills necessary for school discourse. The findings also revealed that the teacher pulled her students along the learning continuum to grow as writers. Through her language use the teacher noticed and named the actions and content of the text so that students could claim identities as writers. Her instructional language included utilizing questions and conditional phrases to reveal knowledge to the students as well as utilizing specific strategies to explicitly tell students information so that they could become self-sufficient writers. During Kid Writing workshop the teacher pulled her students along to become productive writers. This study provides teachers with an example of how to use language and discursive practices to assist students to grow as writers. This study also situates the Kid Writing curriculum within a sociocultural perspective of learning. This study contributes to the body of knowledge about writing instruction by revealing the importance of using language both to build relationships with students and to support them as writers. At a time when public education is very content-driven, this study emphasizes the importance of the teacher as she utilizes her language to teach contextually to the needs of individual students.