A major part of my analysis was to determine what talk the children used.
Talk was divided into six areas; Personal Unrelated Talk (PU), Personal
Related Talk (PR), Forming Intentions (FI), Teacher Talk (Te), Organisational
Talk (O) and Tool Talk (To).
Related and Unrelated talk
From the data collected in the recorded sessions, the Personal Talk used
by the children was divided into two kinds of talk: 1) that unrelated
to the task; and, 2) that which was personal but related to the task of
forming intentions to write or being part of a small group.
switch to Related Talk
order thinking skills
Unrelated Talk was made up of instances of discussion, comments and sounds
the art and work in the area they were working in
• the classroom sounds coming from the four rooms adjoining
to the shared teaching space
• personal life and unrelated experiences
After discussion with staff, my professional colleagues, I had expected
a large amount of Personal Talk that was unrelated to the task or their
writing. The data showed that Team A, a pairing of two boys, Adam (level
2) and Tui (level beg. 2) had no Unrelated Personal Talk at all over the
recorded sessions as shown in graph
The video recordings and observations show no apparent cause of this.
In my professional opinion this lack of Unrelated Talk relates to the
amount of silence this group exhibited in the recorded sessions. They
socially had nothing to say to each other, as each did not relate to the
other as a close peer or friend, therefore they sat in silence where the
other groups had chatted, shared personal comments and laughter. There
was some uneasy laughter from this group in which one child tried to relate
to the other through laughing at their own forming intention comments.
However as graph 2 shows,
the amount of talk rose and the silences dropped away over the three recorded
sessions, showing a change in their working relationship, yet the Unrelated
Talk remained at zero.
Cazden (1988) talks about speaking rights within the classroom environment
where teachers have rights to speak at anytime, fill silence, interrupt
speakers, any volume, any student, anywhere and children get nominated
to speak. Tui and Adam in their drop of silences and increase of talk
instances were making sense of this new learning environment where the
speaking rights were theirs and the teacher was not part of the equation.
They made inner choices about the rules of conversation and how it would
work for them. The silence can be looked at in terms of thinking time
in peer interaction or before entering a conversation.
Team B had the largest amount of instances of Unrelated Talk over the
recorded sessions as shown in graph
3. This Team was made up of Adrian (boy) and Dee (girl), both working
at level 2.
In their first recorded session the data shows a ratio of 1 Unrelated
Talk to 3.4 instances of all other talk. This changed drastically over
the middle 1:12 and last 1:30 recorded sessions.
Graph 4 shows that their
Unrelated Talk in the first session was made up of environmental, word
play and play. The environmental instances of Unrelated Talk came from
the artwork at the table, the presence of a computer, mouse and the video
recorder. The play instances of talk were unrelated to environment or
the current topic of discussion. These play instances were, in observation,
a reflection of the friendly and humorous nature of each child’s
personality and their interaction with each other.
The use of word play instances as a tool to analyse the Unrelated Personal
data comes from Nuthall (1997) and his discussion of ‘Concept-play’.
In this study it was found that talk which appeared at first glance to
be unrelated to the business of the classroom, generated by the students’
need to play, was in analysis found to be examples of word play, social
play off the responses of others, playful associations and variations
on the words used in discussion. This spontaneous thinking is a skill
required in many classroom tasks involving brainstorming or freethinking.
In the talk of Team B this word play or ‘concept-play’ was
related to a word said by the other as in the first example below, or
by the use of voice as in the second example where the children’s
discussion had started to sound like a radio interview.
somehow you’ve got to get back (Tool talk)
A: yes, oh... (Tool talk)
D: what did you do that for? (Organisational talk)
A: bring it down to about>
D: >we’re going down >town
A: >there.. yeah Stacey Jones kicks it downtown
D: I’m going downtown
A: well it’s already there on the idea of course, comic of course...ok
D: wait I’ve got one other one, awe (FI)
A: stupid, absolutely shocking (laughter and playing to the camera)
Ok this is rated M
D: hm M.. tonight we have (named child)
A: tonight on the news...
In the last recorded session Team B had only three instances of Unrelated
Personal Talk, all of which came under play. All of the comments were
initiated by Adrian and related to his need to play that day. Dee responded
to two comments with Organisational Talk and one by ignoring to switch
Adrian back onto the task. It is interesting to note here that neither
of the children had been observed as being the one to initiate more Unrelated
Talk nor had the data shown it. In the second recorded session both of
Team B had initiated and joined Unrelated Talk and both had used Organisational
Talk to return to task. Adrian had used ignoring once to return Dee to
switch to related
In classroom observation I had noted that Team B enjoyed a more relaxed
playful interaction of learning and the social culture within the classroom.
They both spent over half of their time in discussion and laughter with
others at the desk group, while roaming and in small groups gathered around
To explore this interaction further I looked at how young writers develop.
For developing young writers, gesture, drawing and play are closely linked
in children’s development. The symbolism young children use when
playing ‘shop keeper’ with imaginary money, delicious ‘stone’
lollies and ‘box’ counters, links into their later drawings
as shapes and squiggles. These are attributed names, actions and their
own adventures. As they start to symbolise sounds, letters and words the
learner demands that the ‘reader’ accepts and understands
these as valid forms of communication, the learner sees themselves as
a writer (Grainger, Goouch and Lambirth, 2005).
Berggren (1996) talks about the writer in relation to this development
as having ‘found’ an intellectual community where they may
see reason to write; writing as the action to achieve their goal, whether
it be to persuade, inform or just the human need to make meaningful statements.
Team B were quite comfortable within their intellectual community to be
able to explore themselves as writers. Within the classroom setting, Dee
would have very lively and humorous discussions with her desk-mates about
the story lines she wished to pursue and the characters she wanted to
form. These discussions on occasions became oral brainstorms that went
off on many tangents (concept-play) In the pre-interview she says about
this community discussion that “I was thinking and talked to (named
child) about what I was going to write about and he talked about what
he was going to write. He shared some ideas I could fit in and helped
me.” After sharing her ongoing piece with her desk-mate she asked,
“Do you think my story sounds like chatty or formal?” This
showed her need for feed forward from her community and her ability to
ask for specific feedback.
In the observations of Adrian, I noted his short spans of writing, he
would think, talk and write in short bursts lasting no more than 5 minutes.
Here is one session prior to my research (noted every 2 minutes).
10:50 Children sent off from modelling session, Adrian on floor- ruling
10:52- with ruler thinking, starring up, rocking
10:54 Up to (child 1) to ask for a rubber after (child 2) asked if Adrian
had one. Talk about writing topic.
10:56 To Dee for spelling support
10:58 Walking around looking for green pens (editing tool) back to floor
11:00 sitting with (child 3) reading aloud and discussing
11:02 still discussing
11:04 still discussing
11:06 to Teacher for feedback and feed forward
11:08 at door discussing weather (just after town floods)
11:10 at desk with (child 3) then to Teacher for toilet
11:12 middle room to remove cockroach (known skill amongst classmates)
11:14 return to desk, discussion with (child 3) about drowning cockroach.
Asks (child 3) how you use paragraphs (Teacher feed forward) “What
is a new paragraph?” “I don’t want to do any more”.
11:16 Teacher stops class 7 minutes left, Adrian writing.
11:18 still writing
11:20 spelling support with (child 3) and Dee, looking for words from
everyone’s writing in dictionary.
11:22 Teacher joins them, discusses what they are doing and views writing.
Adrian attentive to teacher, discussing task.
11:24 Teacher stops class
For Adrian this intellectual community caters to his preferred learning
style in that he can be silent and write, then enter a discussion, ask
for help, discuss important issues (the weather), return to writing, achieve
his teacher directed goal (paragraphs), switch off to writing and be switched
back on to it by the community, and still have a laugh.
This community of writers is very noisy with bursts of laughter, discussions
and movement of participants in and out of the group. As a result this
group was regulated by the teacher in response to the noise level, number
of participants and appearance of on task behaviour. As a consequence
their writing process was interrupted by the need to cater for the classroom
writing environment style regulated by the teacher.
Over the first two recorded sessions Dee and Adrian’s natural playful
learning style made a marked change from Unrelated Talk to Related Talk
as can be seen in graph 5.
Their laughter and need to make the other laugh had changed and now related
to the task with feedback and feed forward comments, discussion about
related experiences, personal comments on the ideas of the other, jokes
about writing topic and reflection on how they are doing as a team. Their
laughter and playful interaction was the same in how it sounded and looked
to the observer or classroom teacher, however in analysis their talk related
to their forming of intentions to write or working in a small group (Organisational
I wondered when analysing this data what role the teacher played in this
change, so I observed her teaching style. The classroom teacher has a
relaxed playful style, using her own humour and laughter to draw out students
and involve them in the modelled lessons. All personal answers are accepted
and interpreted. Personal stories are told to illustrate ideas and children
are invited to relate to the concept with their own ideas, stories and
experiences. She talks aloud her thought processes, problems and solutions,
and in turn makes the writing process ‘visual’ for her students.
The recorded data and noted observation are unable to give a definite
and countable answer to my wondering about the teacher’s role in
Team B’s change in Personal Talk. It may have foundation in the
growing comfort levels of the children with working around the video camera,
the shared teaching space and with the computer in front of them. In my
professional opinion there is a strong influence from the teacher’s
modelling of the writing process and the reflection of her personality
within it. Team B are students who need to know the boundaries to feel
‘safe’ to exhibit their personal nature without getting in
too much trouble. The more the teacher modelled the writing process with
laughter, jokes, stories and inviting a giggle at her personal mistakes,
the more Team B observed this role modelling within the writing environment
and adopted those strategies. Team B were developing their use of the
teacher-modelled structures to make the writing processes accessible for
themselves and each other.
Related Talk included for all the groups the talk used to interact with
another person. A large amount of that talk was interpersonal talk relating
to team-work and feedback/feed forward.
“nah, doesn’t matter”
“you sound really strange, not like yourself”
“ya right with that”
“that was too long”
“that’s too long isn’t it”
“I think we haven’t done a very good today, a very good session”
“but we’re still doing our best”
“that was so stupid we ruined the whole thing”
“that’s good, that’s good, I think that’s good,
or do you think we should do it again?”
“I didn’t even know”
“why are you happy?”
“yeah that is great”
“ah, that’s good, that’s great”
Bishop (1992) concluded in her research that talk helps the writer sort
out their feelings, options and positions
is central to what we do as writers and as humans. It is the collaborative
activity that underlies most- if not all- individual acts of composing
(Bishop 1992, p 22).
In her pre-interview
Olive from, Team C, talked about an experience of Related Personal Talk
in which the talk about her feelings and how she felt that day had a marked
effect on her written piece. Sound
Talk as a human need to relate to others was also observed in the modelling
sessions and the teams within the classroom environment. Here there had
been Related Talk in the form of story telling. Where students related
to the classroom or peer discussion by sharing there own similar experience.
Nuthall’s (1997) study also had students’ making connections
to new experiences or knowledge through sharing a story of an existing
experience or knowledge base with their peers. These personal stories
were a reflection of that child’s personal understanding of the
concept, idea or experience. They were acknowledging and reinforcing the
speaker’s ideas through sharing their own experience.
Nuthall (1997) referred to the theory of ‘Internalism’
in discussion of these story tellings, interpreting their data as evidence
that a large amount of student’s prior knowledge is involved in
the interpretation of experiences in the classroom. That the cognitive
process of learning involves the student relating any new experiences
to their prior knowledge and experiences to be able to understand the
patterns, the components and rules and therefore internalise their understanding
of it. Internalisation is the process of acquiring expertise and peer
talk provided a window on the internalisation process of the individual
These story tellings were observable in the classroom, however within
the recorded sessions there were none. The internalisation that did occur
in Personal Talk was involved in relating to others in a partnership.
Team C had their largest amount of personal talk in their last recorded
session, with a ratio of 1 personal to 7.4 instances of other talk. This
was made up of 7 instances of Unrelated Talk and 5 of Related Talk. Each
instance of personal talk was directly in relation to working within a
partnership and how each child’s view of that relationship had developed
Team C consisted of two girls who both enjoyed writing and discussions
as writers, Olive (level 3) and Jaye (level 1iii). Overall their use of
different talk was similar to that of the other teams as can be seen in
Olive had developed an opinion of Jaye’s learning ability through
the interactions she had with her and used her experiences of how the
teacher would react in that situation. She internalised that knowledge
and changed her behaviour to that of a teacher or mentor. At Forming Intentions
level of talk her response was to change her questioning technique, which
is further explored in that chapter. At a Personal Talk level, when her
role of teacher was not having the effect on Jaye that she wanted, she
appeared to get impatient when Jaye was talking and her responses were...
sing and wave hands
• stop recording when Jaye took a breath “stars, moon,
hail and...oi I’m still going.” Olive dismissed Jaye’s
complaint with “Oh, well.”
• ask the teacher about metaphors without asking for Jaye’s
opinion, Jaye’s response was “You could have asked me”.
• Change in tone of voice, became demanding, “No, you’ve
got to ask me questions.” to which Jaye laughed “shut
This resulted in Jaye’s confusion because she had internalised the
peer relationship as being equal and supportive, and up until now their
experiences had appeared to her as such. Jaye brought in the topic of
conversation about her arm being hurt when Olive reached across her as
her way of bring the relationship back to an equal level as Olive was
required to apologise.
This change of relationship in Team C can be mainly attributed to a time
factor. Their relationship was unequal as an intellectual community from
the beginning and their Forming Intentions talk demonstrates that. Olive
was getting impatient with catering to the needs she perceived as Jaye
having and her personal needs for an intellectual community were not being
fully meet. Olive had used her manners and skill to work with Jaye, and
in observation of the previous recorded sessions had enjoyed herself.
This time factor was also observable in Jaye. She appeared to have had
enough of Olive’s ‘attitude’ towards her, and was feeling
undervalued. Jaye viewed herself as an equal writer to Olive, with valuable
experiences and creative ideas, and this lead to her defence of this treatment
through increased Personal Talk.
Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)
The teams in my research developed their Personal Talk based on relationships
and peer work, to using it within the writing process. The higher order
thinking skills they demonstrated based, on Bloom’s revised taxonomy,
were mainly at the higher level of Analysing and Evaluating
Team A used Personal Talk to extend their knowledge of peer interaction
and develop and use conversation as a tool for learning. Understanding
how their group works together based on Analysing experiences and making
inferences. Applying that knowledge in similar situations, then exploring
different ways to interact and enter conversations and Analysing the relationship
to increase interaction and participation.
Team C used Personal Talk to interact on an equal level and support each
other’s learning with positive comments. Having used Understanding,
Applying and Analysing similarly to Team A. They analysed their interaction
to make inferences and find evidence to support their generalisations
when making judgements. They used Analysing and Evaluating to defend their
opinion based on Applying their personal judgements in a familiar situation.
Team B used Personal Talk to play themselves forward in their own learning
and to make that learning accessible. Creating was evident in the change
of their personalities and learning styles into Related Talk. They created
new ways to use their interaction strategies and humour within their own
In the UK research of Grainger, Goouch and Lambirth (2005) they concluded
that the child needed sustained time to talk and to develop that talk
within the writing process:
knowledge and judgement are all necessary elements of writing and
are woven through the process in spoken threads. Children need sustained
time within the extended process of composition to use talk to play
their way forward, to experiment and reflect in order to develop ideas
and select from among them.
talk allowed the children to practice strategies, develop their use and
create new ones. For Team C their personal talk increased over time as
their relationship changed, whether from the children recognising a difference
in ability or of tolerance levels for the other’s personality. For
Team B their Personal Talk made the change from a consequence of their
personalities in Unrelated Talk to a reflection of working as a partnership
in the writing process. Team A was surprising in their lack of Unrelated
Talk at the beginning and with sustained talk and increased interaction
that Unrelated Talk remained zero.
Here the children were using their Personal Talk around the computer to
enhance their relationships and how they worked together to form their
intentions. There were many changes over the time in how they viewed and
used that talk. The chance to practice those collaborative interaction
skills and create their own way of dealing with the process of talking
about their own writing was very valuable to all teams. The sustained
time to talk in their own way without regulation from the teacher provided
one scaffold for the children to experiment and develop within.
The next chapter explores the teacher’s role in this sustained talk;
enhancing and scaffolding.