Functions of English language learners' talk during writing

Date

2010-12

Authors

Montgomery, Marlene M.

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Abstract

Framed by a sociocultural perspective, this qualitative study explored how English language learners' talk during writing-sessions changed over time and how English language learners' writing and talk during writing influenced and supported their school-based literacy development. In this study school-based literacy development was operationalized as how students talk, read, and write in school.

Within an eight-week duration, writing sessions with various combinations of three English language learners (the focus participants of this study) and two non-focus participants engaged in writing sessions in a first grade classroom. The sessions were digitally recorded and documented by ethnographic field notes. These recorded sessions were transcribed and coded in two ways using NVivo 8, a computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software.

An analytic description was developed through the collection of the focus participants' writing samples, weekly records of oral reading, and the results of an oral language instrument administered at the beginning and end of the study. The analysis of these observational assessments showed uneven gains in writing, reading, and oral language.

The first coding process was completed to identify how Halliday's (1975) seven functions of language were used by the focus participants during the writing sessions. This analysis revealed that the imaginative function of talk emerged most robustly. The factors impacting the dominance of this function were identified as group membership, the writing genre being composed, and the teacher-selected writing purpose.

The second coding process was completed to allow other themes to emerge. Six categories of peer talk were identified as self-regulation or private speech, giving assistance, view of writing, request for help, language usage, and talking about one's writing. Factors that influenced the use of these types of talk were group membership and the writing genre being composed. A major finding was the frequent usage of private speech in English during writing. Finally, private speech in English showcased the participants' usage of their second language as a meditational tool.

Educational implications resulting from this study include providing a responsive/collaborative classroom, a process writing model of instruction, and promoting biliteracy to deepen English language learners' understanding of English literacy.

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Keywords

Education, Language, literature, and linguistics, English language learners, Functions of talk, Literacy, Writing

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