Whole group discourse in kindergarten: Responses to sharing time narratives

Edith Pratt Newman, Fordham University


In this hypothesis generating study, ethnographic methods were used by a teacher to examine sharing time dialogues in her own kindergarten during one school year. In the dialogues, storytellers were encouraged to act as moderators of discussions about their own narratives. The purpose of the study was to determine to what extent storytellers would regulate listener turn taking and child participants would control the direction of topic development. Following a Vygotskyan rationale, the teacher coached participants about discourse behavior and modeled methods of listener response but later tried to limit her own involvement. Child participants were an intact, ethnically and linguistically diverse kindergarten class of 20 children. Sets of dialogues, in which each child was invited to share one story, were tape-recorded in early fall and late spring. Fall dialogues averaged 8 minutes, spring dialogues, 16 minutes. Altogether, 37 dialogues were recorded. Analysis revealed that the teacher demonstrated a complex model of discourse behavior not encompassed by explicit turn taking rules. The teacher's model included systematic, unsolicited interventions to monitor child behavior or clarify child utterances. This model allowed children to adapt storyteller prerogatives to the listener role, so that listeners shared responsibility for monitoring turn taking behavior with storytellers and the teacher. Storytellers and listeners assumed control of narrative interpretation early on and maintained that control throughout the year, with teacher contributions generally following children's interpretive directions. In contrast, oversight of turn taking procedure, although ultimately shared with storytellers and listeners, was never relinquished by the teacher. While the teacher accepted children's collaborative understanding of narrative content, she continued to adjudicate storyteller and listener turn taking for the sake of fairness and inclusivity. These findings suggest that when kindergarten children assume responsibility for narrative interpretation within a collaborative discourse framework, teacher input validates child interpretations and promotes balanced interaction among participants.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Preschool education|Communication

Recommended Citation

Newman, Edith Pratt, "Whole group discourse in kindergarten: Responses to sharing time narratives" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3003028.