Grade four students' perceptions of oral language activities: a teacher's inquiry into the importance of talk in the language arts classroom

Date

2010-01-06T17:36:57Z

Authors

Clayton, Jill

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Abstract

The purpose of this research was to consider the role of language in learning and to investigate whether or not students ascribe any value to the opportunities they are given to share purposeful structured conversations around literature. A social constructivist theoretical framework was used as the guiding structure for the research procedures and methodology. The research included students participating in a language arts unit that centred on structured oral language activities. Students worked in both partners and small group settings to discuss literature and to develop opinions about and connections to the literature. The study included ten grade four students (six girls and four boys) from one classroom setting. The participants represented a full range of abilities. The researcher was the classroom teacher. Data were collected once at the beginning of the language arts unit with a Likert survey and then again at the end of the unit of instruction. Data was also collected from two focus group sessions and students’ responses to short answer questions. Data were analysed according to a set of categories that students’ opinions and perceptions tended to fall within. These categories were related to ground rules for working together in groups, the ability to build onto one’s own ideas while listening to the ideas of others, the usefulness of talking with peers and the potential talking with a peer has for making learning engaging and enjoyable. The results of this study concurred with a very limited number of similar studies that have also investigated how students feel about group work. Grade four students stated that they prefer to work with classmates they know and that talking with peers helps them develop their thinking. This research contributes to the very limited research that considers students’ perceptions of classroom practice.

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Keywords

structured talk activities, oral language, group work, partner work

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