Shaping reading and writing: Common threads and unique patterns in one fourth-grade

Carole Cook Freeman, University of Pennsylvania


This study explores reading and writing teaching and learning in one fourth grade classroom to identify and explain connections between teachers' classroom practices, children's learning, and the kind of literacy jointly constructed. In contrast to the traditional focus on reading lessons, methods, materials, and standardized test scores, this study explores teaching by closely examining teacher-child interactions with texts across the school day. It examines children's learning by looking at classroom participation. Procedures derived from ethnography including collaboration with two teachers and analysis of classroom interactions were combined to get a close view that accounts for the perspectives of teachers and children. Data were collected during an exploratory phase, in the fall of 1989, and during the study proper, three months during the winter of 1990 for a total of some 280 hours of classroom observation. Procedures included fieldnotes, audio-taping of literacy learning events, audio-taped reflective conversations with teachers about the data, and collecting the teachers' records. In addition, 7 focal children were selected, all of their writing was collected, and each of the books they were reading was noted. Three frameworks for talking about teaching and learning were developed: (1) for showing the relationships among the variety of literacy learning events, (2) for describing the literacy work and (3) for a sketch of individual literacy learners. Using these frameworks, I show how literacy learning events relate to literacy teaching and learning more generally. I argue that teaching and learning of reading and writing were a major part of the fabric of classroom life. Reading, writing, and speaking were not separated but were taught as interrelated processes. Literacy learning was shaped by the interactions of teachers, children, and texts. Teachers played an active role designing the program and negotiating specific literacy learning events. The children's literacy was personal, self-reflective, meaning-centered, highly intertextual, and based on awareness of the relationship between reading and writing. Each child displayed a unique pattern of literacy development. Implications from the data for further study of children's literacy learning in the context of the classroom, design of reading and writing programs, and teacher education are discussed.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Elementary education|Curricula|Teaching|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Freeman, Carole Cook, "Shaping reading and writing: Common threads and unique patterns in one fourth-grade" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9200336.