Following the Child, Socioanalysis, and Threats to Community: Teacher Response to Children's Texts

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Abstract

I brought two conceptions of teacher response to my teaching and research in a third-grade writing workshop. The first, drawn from workshop literature, emphasized following and supporting children's choices of topic and purpose for writing. Such a conception, however, ignored the problem of children pursuing questionable intentions and material in their texts, such as when children's texts affirm-even if unintentionally-gender, race, and social class stereotypes and boundaries. I developed a second conception of response-response as socioanalysis- from work by Habermas and Freire. Children's texts were conceived of as artifacts of an oppressive U.S. society (similar to how, in psychoanalysis, patients' stories are viewed as artifacts of Oedipal conflicts). The core of the paper is a detailed analysis of a particularly difficult occasion for teacher response. In this case, a popular child wanted to publish a fictional narrative that I read as an attack on an unpopular classmate. I examine how my interpretation of Maya's text, “The Zit Fit: The Lovers in the School,” depended on my knowledge of informal peer hierarchies and gender arrangements in the workshop and how my writing conferences with Maya were caught up in classroom norms and routines, as well as larger theoretical debates on the status of texts in the world and authors' responsibility for them. The case dramatizes the inadequacies of both following the child and socioanalysis as conceptions of response. I propose a revised conception of teacher response, and I argue that response must pay attention to the rhetorical play of children's texts in the classroom, and be aimed at encouraging and sustaining an engaged, pluralistic classroom community. © 1993, Taylor and Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-299
Number of pages35
JournalCurriculum Inquiry
Volume23
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1993

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