Researching children as becoming writers in their first year of school

Smith, K. (2016) Researching children as becoming writers in their first year of school. Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.


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Young children’s writing activity in English Reception classrooms is framed by a rigid developmental model whereby children are conceived of as ‘becoming’ writers. However, recent postSstructuralist research suggests that writing activity, as an assemblage of objects, bodies, expressions and territories, involves constant change rather than being fixed to particular frameworks.

This ethnographic enquiry focussed on six children in one Reception class during one school year. Deleuzoguattarian ideas were ‘plugged into’ a sociocultural, multimodal understanding of young children’s writing and the children were reSconceptualised as ‘becoming’: creating and disrupting multiple connections and relations through their actions as writers and research participants. Narrative observations, field notes, photographs, video and artefacts were analysed rhizomatically and vignettes of data were formed into discursive assemblages.

The findings indicate that children’s writing within openSended play in the classroom was a moving, overlapping and connective ensemble, utilising many different modes of expression (drawing, text making, map making, copying, etc.). The writing materials used in these encounters ‘mattered’ to children: their sensorial qualities, the histories associated with them, and the potential they had to be adapted. Writing activity, however, was often organised by adults into regular discreet phonics sessions where the children’s opportunities for material intraSaction, social interaction and links to other writing experiences, were limited. Alongside this, discourses surrounding writing in the classroom were reflective of the curriculum ‘ideal’, and certain modes of expression were privileged.

The conclusions suggest that containing young children’s writing within representative acts driven by external outcomes limits the potential of writing to be a sensory, embodied, material, and connected activity. Adults in schools should foster children’s playful writing encounters where these elements exist. Effective practices are needed to encourage young children’s multiple modes of expression, enabling them to build the language associations needed for their writing to be meaningful and desirous.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
Divisions: Faculty of Education
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2016 12:22
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2016 12:24

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00