Do you want to be in my story? The social nature of writing in an urban third- and fourth-grade classroom

Katherine Schultz, University of Pennsylvania


This study was a year long interpretive research project about the culture of writing in a third- and fourth-grade urban classroom. The study examines the ways in which writing was taught and learned in an unusual classroom, in order to document the possibilities that currently exist in public schools for students from diverse backgrounds. This study was conducted as a teacher-researcher collaboration. As such, it argues that the collaborative relationships and collective understandings that develop over the course of a research project must be understood as a critical component of the research itself. Research methods included the collection of students' writing, field notes obtained through participant observation and interviews with teachers and students conducted by both the researcher and student researchers. The study describes the collaboration between and among teachers and students as they jointly constructed the writing curriculum. Arguing that writing is a socio-cultural and cognitive process, this study explores the social interactions that both shaped and reflected the composing processes of individual students in the classroom. Teachers and students co-constructed a writing curriculum within a set of social and organizational routines established by the teachers using the processes of initiation, negotiation and appropriation. Supported by an ethos of collaboration throughout the school, students and teachers established a range of social networks that encouraged students to become involved with each other's texts in a variety of ways. Three case studies illustrate the individual curricula students and teachers jointly constructed to foster growth in the students' writing. Each case study is nested within the network, or group of students who consistently wrote together, and in the larger context of the classroom as a writing community. Students were given time to both forge their own paths and to collaborate with their teachers and peers. Given the diversity of students in urban classrooms, their preferences and strengths, their purposes and meanings they take from writing, a classroom such as this one provides a range of invitations and opportunities for students to write and become engaged academically in school.

Subject Area

Language arts|Elementary education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Schultz, Katherine, "Do you want to be in my story? The social nature of writing in an urban third- and fourth-grade classroom" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9200386.