"Showing Them Who I Am": Identity, Place and Performance in Seventh Grade Literacy Discussions
Smith, Ann Marie
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In this study, I explored the ways that a seventh grade teacher and her students interpreted literacy discussions in a multicultural school in Virginia. I examined influences of school culture and place on literacy learning and discussions, along with how teachers and students interpreted school culture and place. I used ethnographic methods to study the teachers, students and school culture. Data sources included observations of language arts and reading classes from November 2003 through May 2005. I also interviewed students and teachers and collected instructional materials and state curriculum guides. The language arts teacher structured group discussions and other literacy activities for efficiency; however, whole class discussions included open, analytical discussions about texts. Through modeling and literacy discussions, the teacher demonstrated her belief that writers must consider audience to produce effective texts. The teacher did not perceive that place affected literacy discussions; however, the teacher believed students' home lives or lack of reading experiences could inhibit students ability to analyze texts in discussions. The students perceived place and community as disconnected from school and literacy discussions. Although this study pointed out possibilities for critique through literacy discussions, research is needed on how teachers and administrators encourage a spirit of resistance to hegemonic conditions that exist in schools and society. The theoretical implications of this dissertation include a need for literacy researchers to investigate place and school culture as part of teachers' and students' constructions of identity and literacy learning.