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A question of response : responding to literature through small group discussion Archer, B. M. Lynn 1992-12-31

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A QUESTION OF RESPONSE: RESPONDING TO LITERATURETHROUGH SMALL GROUP DISCUSSIONbyB. M. LYNN ARCHERB.A., University of Victoria, 1978A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDEPARTMENT OF LANGUAGE EDUCATIONWe accept^as onformingto th reauiri s dardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAJune 1992© B. M. Lynn ArcherIn presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature) Department of  Lail tko-  e- Educa:Fi o AThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate Tut y 30 ) 199'2DE-6 (2/88)AbstractThis study, A Question of Response: Responding to Literature Through Small GroupDiscussion, looked at the question of how do small student-led discussion groups work tomake meaning within the context of discussing short stories. In order to investigate the abovequestion, ethnographic case study methodology was used.The study involved sixteen grade twelve students from a middle class, suburbancommunity. The students worked in four groups of four students each to respond to shortstories during four discussion sessions.The small student-led discussion groups' responses to the short stories evolved almostin the shape of a typical five-paragraph essay. The initial responses, usually general in nature,expressed engagement with the story and evaluation and analysis of the story. The middlesection of the discussions focussed on more specific details of the story, and the concludingsegments often returned to topics similar to the opening segment, such as expressingevaluation, engagement, and interpretation.While there was no definite pattern to each discussion session, it was possible tocategorize the students' responses. There were four categories of response: (1) literaryelements, (2) personal response, (3) interpretation, and (4) evaluation. More interesting thanthe broad categories of response were the meaning-making strategies used by the studentswithin and across the categories. The most commonly used meaning-making strategies wereanalysing, inferring, referring to personal experience, questioning, evaluating, expressingengagement, and speculating. Use of the strategies was influenced by the style and content ofthe stories, the group process and composition, and whether or not the students liked the storyand felt confident about interpreting it.The students focussed chiefly on character in their small group discussions. They alsofocussed on theme, setting, plot, and symbolism. They displayed limited awareness of toneand mood, point of view, and style. As a means of discussing the short stories, the studentswere most comfortable using the literary elements as a frame for their discussions.The choice of short story has an important influence upon the discussions. The story'scontent shaped what the students talked about, and the style in which the story was writteninfluenced how the students went about making meaning.The small groups varied in the way they approached and responded to the short stories.Personality, each student's personality and the combination of these personalities to form agroup personality, strongly shaped how each group functioned. Each of the four groups alsodemonstrated four categories of behaviour: (1) agreeing and providing support for each other,(2) clarifying or elaborating upon a statement, (3) contradicting or offering a different opinion,and (4) directing the discussion either by one individually or collaboratively as a group.In conclusion, the study demonstrated that small student-led discussion groups arevaluable starting places for students to develop their own responses to literature and confidenceas interpreters of literature.iiTable of ContentsAbstract ^ iiChapter I: The Problem ^ 1Chapter H: Review of the Literature 4Chapter III: Methodology ^ 28Chapter IV: Findings 38Chapter V: Conclusions and Recommendations ^ 105Bibliography ^ 120Appendix 1 128Appendix 2 ^ 129Appendix 3 131iiiAcknowledgementsFormy husband, Ed, who encouraged and supported me throughout the whole process;my daughter, Rosalind, who taught me to look at learning with fresh eyes;my parents, Richard and Norma, who valued learning; andmy advisor, Wendy, who provided kind wisdom.ivA Question of Response: Responding to LiteratureThrough Small Group DiscussionChapter I: The ProblemA. IntroductionI embarked on this research study because of a strong interest in the theory and practiceof response to literature. For some time I had been using response to literature techniques inmy own teaching and had been encouraging other teachers to use the techniques as well. Thetheory sounded plausible and intriguing and the practice seemed to work with my students andother teachers' students. However, I wanted to know more about why it worked with studentsand, more importantly, I wanted to know more about how students went about making senseof literature. Because the practice of response to literature in the classroom lends itself tostudents working together in small groups and because a prime focus of literature learning insecondary schools involves short stories, I decided to investigate how students respond toliterature when given the opportunity to discuss short stories in small student-led groups.B. The ProblemResearch and theory examining response to literature indicate that literature instructionhas not fully achieved the goal of producing independent and thoughtful readers ( Barnes etal.,1971; B. C. Assessment of Reading & Writing, 1988; Bullock Report, 1975; Jackson,1982, 1983; Marshall, 1989; Protherough, 1983; Purves, 1973; Rosenblatt, 1976, 1978;Thomson, 1987). As students develop as readers in school, they learn to talk about literaturethrough the influence of teachers' talk and expectations. Studies have indicated that thepredominance of teacher talk in classrooms inhibits students' abilities to formulate meaningorally for themselves (Barnes et al., 1971; Cazden, 1988; MacLure et al., 1988; Marshall,1989). What literature instruction seems to have produced within students is the belief thatthey do not possess the skills to read and make meaning of a literary text. However, whenstudents are given the opportunity to interact with literary texts in a personally meaningful way,research indicates that they adopt a variety of reading stances and respond at different levelsaccording to their experience as readers (Dias, 1987; Langer, 1989; Protherough, 1983;Purves, 1973; Purves & Rippere, 1968; Squire, 1964; Thomson, 1987; Vipond & Hunt,1984). Nevertheless, much remains to be learned about developing response, response styles,levels of response, effects of group interaction, and questioning strategies.1C. Research QuestionsBecause we still need to learn more about how students respond and make sense ofliterature independent of a teacher, I decided to investigate the overall question of how do smallstudent-led discussion groups work to make meaning within the context of discussing shortstories. In order to accomplish that, I conducted a qualitative case study of sixteen gradetwelve students. During the collection, analysis, and reporting of the data, I also kept thefollowing sub-questions in mind.1. How does response to literature evolve in small student-led groupdiscussions? For instance, is there an initial focus and where does it go fromthere?2. Are there clearly identifiable patterns in students' responses during their smallgroup discussions? For instance, what tends to be discussed; what strategiesdo the students use?3. Which aspects of story do students in groups tend to focus upon?4. What influence does the choice of short story have upon the group discussions?5.^Do groups appear to vary in the ways they approach and respond to a shortstory?D. Significance of the StudyThe significance of the study is that it addresses areas of research in response toliterature where information is lacking. As indicated previously, more needs to be knownabout developing response, response styles, levels of response, and effects of groupbehaviour. The study will attempt to provide insights into these areas through its researchquestions, methodology, findings, and conclusions.Not only will the study yield information about the nature of response to literatureduring small group discussion, it will also build upon the value of Dias's (1987) small groupresponse procedure. Dias's research indicates the value of using small groups to encouragestudents to develop their own responses to poetry and to use talk as a means of exploring andarticulating their ideas. By applying this procedure to short stories, it will be possible to learnmore about response to short stories, oral discourse in small groups, and literature learning ingeneral.2E. ConclusionIn the remainder of the thesis, I will review the theory of and research into response toliterature, outline the methodology of this study, report observations and findings of theresearch, and present the conclusions and recommendations of the study overall.3Chapter II: Review of the LiteratureA. Introduction: Learning Through Language and NarrativeLanguage expresses our ideas, our dreams, and our questions. By asking questionswe try to make sense of the world around us. Sometimes our questions are answered withfacts, sometimes with stories, and sometimes with more questions.Nevertheless, the fundamental process by which we answer our questions is throughnarrative (Hardy, 1977; Jackson, 1983; Meek, 1982; Rosen, 1982). As children, weparticipate uninhibitedly in the stories of our inner and outer worlds (Applebee, 1977; Britton,1977). As adolescents and adults, we participate less freely in storying, preferring instead toexpress our ideas in the form of reasoned statements. But perhaps we do not abandonnarrative. Perhaps, as Rosen (1982) states, inside every non-narrative statement there is theghost of a narrative and vice versa. If this is the case -- and many language and literaturetheorists today seem to agree (Harding, 1977; Hardy, 1977; Meek, 1982; Smith, 1988) --"narrative must become a more acceptable way of saying, writing, thinking, and presenting"(Rosen, 1982, p. 18). Otherwise, we negate the premise thatstories are the primary basis of all our perception and understanding of the world. Theway we perceive, comprehend and remember events is in the form of story structuresthat we impose upon them, even though events may not present themselves to us insuch ways (Smith, 1988, p. 226).But what does this mean for the English classroom? As teachers, we are concernedwith fostering an aesthetic response to literature within our students. In order for them tobecome active readers of literature, and not readers about literature, they need to develop apositive belief in their abilities to transact with many forms of literature in a variety of ways.This means initiating response to literature by allowing students to express their own feelings,thoughts, stories, theories, predictions, and questions (Barnes, et al., 1971; Barnes & Barnes,1990; Bleich, 1975; Dias, 1987; Fillion, 1981, 1983; Foreman-Peck, 1985; Gambell, 1986;Golden, 1986; Iser, 1980; Jackson, 1982, 1983; Probst, 1988; Rosen, 1986; Rosenblatt,1976, 1978, 1982, 1985; Smith, 1988; Stratta, et al., 1973; Webb, 1985).One method of developing aesthetic response to literature is to have groups of studentscollaboratively generate questions about a text. Although questions from the various levels ofcognition have typically been considered the teacher's responsibility (Christenbury & Kelly,1983; Lamb & Arnold, 1980; Pearson & Johnson, 1978), self-generated questions may assiststudents in understanding their aesthetic responses by compelling them to ask, "Why do wefeel this or think that about what we have read?" (Barnes, et al., 1971; Bleich, 1975;4Christenbury & Kelly, 1983; Fillion, 1981, 1983; Jackson, 1982; Nelms, 1988; Probst,1988; Purves, 1973; Rosenblatt, 1976, 1978, 1985; Stratta, et al., 1973; Webb, 1982).Freed from the dictates of the teacher's interpretation, student-generated questions open thedoors for effective reading and aesthetic re-creation of the text. The affective and cognitiverealms of comprehension are brought into play because the process fosters the imaginative andthoughtful fusion of predictions, anticipations, and hypotheses into questions. No longerpassive recipients, the students transact with the text to create their own sense of the literature.And when teachers enable students to question and discuss literary texts in their own way, theycreate environments where language and story are real forms of communication, not pseudo-literacy events.Thus, the purpose of this chapter will be to discuss and review existing theories andresearch regarding the role of narrative, response to literature, the value of talk, and the use ofquestioning.B. Theoretical PerspectivesRole of NarrativeNarrative is fundamental to the various perspectives of reader-response theory not onlybecause it is the basis of literature, but also because it is the basis of language, literacy, andthought. As stated so succinctly by Barbara Hardy, "narrative [is] a primary act of mindtransferred to art from life" (1977, p. 12). For children, narrative suffices for all forms ofdiscourse. For adults, narrative is the internal mode of organizing daily experience, whileexternally, narrative is only one of a variety of discourse modes . Narrative does remainimportant, however, in the form of literature. Through literature we experience vicariouslymany lives, experiences, and emotions. Hence, Hardy's interest in the "qualities whichfictional narrative shares with that inner and outer storytelling that plays a major role in oursleeping and waking lives" (1977, p. 13).Another influential voice in the realm of narrative is Harold Rosen. Rosen believes thatnarrative is with us constantly, merging and forming with whatever we are doing. Because itis an intrinsic part of our language acquisition, he proposes that we never truly put awaynarrative; instead we refine it and broaden it (Rosen, 1982). "Stories become a way in whichthe story-teller appraises his experience" (Rosen, 1982, p. 10). Thus, Rosen believes that theEnglish curriculum "should find generous space for the retelling of stories" (1986, p. 236).The concept of the child's sense of story, as it relates to language development, literacyacquisition, and narrative experience, has many proponents. Arthur Applebee informs us that5by approximately the age of nine children no longer totally accept a story as being real; it is"just a story" (1977, p. 56). Age, however, is not the sole determinant of story sense.Applebee (1976, 1977, 1985) states that the individual's range of cultural and narrativeexperience is also influential in colouring the reader's response to the story. With experience,according to Applebee (1977), the individual's use of narrative moves from being almostcompletely participatory to being dominated by the spectator role. This theory draws heavilyupon the work of James Britton who is responsible for the notion of the participant and thespectator in relation to our use of narrative and literature. Britton (1977) relates his spectatorand participant roles to three forms of human behaviour: adaptive, reflective, and assimilative.The participant role, enacted through our adaptive behaviour, is our personal thoughts aboutthe external shared reality. The spectator role, enacted through our assimilative behaviour, isthe realm of fantasy and play, our area of "inner necessity," of which literature is an"organized activity" (p. 45). For Britton (1977), fantasy and narrative function as organizersof reality.According to Margaret Meek (1982), children's play, an "essential activity", is theircultural memory and means of incorporating the pressures of the inner and outer worlds (p.287). Play is the "shared text -- the first literature" of children (p. 287). Through play,children participate in narrative which she believes "stays with us as a cognitive and affectivehabit all our lives long" (p. 288). For Meek, the child's sense of narrative and children'sliterature contain the basic elements of "how a theory of literature may be a theory of reading"(p. 291). If this is the case, the process of reading literature in school needs to aid students inmaking the "discovery of the relationship of one's own 'storying' and the story of the book"(Sawyer, 1987, p. 36).Process of ReadingBecause the role of narrative is inextricably linked to literacy development, a briefconsideration of the reading process seems appropriate before delving into the realm of reader-response theory. Essentially, the reader uses prior knowledge, schemata, and stance in anactive process involving anticipation, prediction, and retrospection (Black & Seifert, 1985;Beach & Hynds, 1991; Harding, 1977; Iser, 1980; Jackson, 1982, 1982; Rosenblatt, 1978;Smith, 1983, 1988; Tierney & Pearson, 1983). "The reader casts backwards and forwards inthe story at the same time, making meaning by actively building inside her head a coherentunity that ties together the beginning, the middle and the ending of the story" (Jackson, 1983,pp. 18-19). The use of prior knowledge is important to Black and Seifert as they state that"understanding and remembering a story depends upon knowledge of the world" (1985, p.6209). Or as Beach and Hynds state: "personal constructs formed from experiences in the realworld shape readers' responses in the fictional world" (1991, p. 461).Reading, according to Rosenblatt (1976), is a reciprocal transaction involving a readerwho responds to letter symbols using his present and previous experience to enact a newexperience (a living through) with the text. An important component of the transactional theoryof reading is the reader's adoption of a stance. Depending on the purpose for reading, thestance may be efferent (an objective practical reading for information) or aesthetic (a subjective,sensuous lived-through reading).Since much of our linguistic activity hovers near the middle of the efferent-aestheticcontinuum, it becomes essential that in any particular speaking/listening/writing/readingevent we adopt the predominant stance appropriate to our purpose (Rosenblatt, 1985,p. 102).As well as adopting a stance, the reader reads selectively, developing a tentative anticipatoryframework which arouses expectations influencing further responses and expectations until afinal synthesis is achieved (Rosenblatt, 1978). Vipond and Hunt (1984) and Vipond et al.(1990) discuss modes of reading, point-driven reading, story-driven reading, and information-driven reading, that are comparable to Rosenblatt's transactive reading. They view point-driven reading and story-driven reading as similar to aesthetic response. For example, inpoint-driven reading, or dialogic reading, the readers imagine themselves in conversation withauthors and texts. While story-driven reading involves experiential immersion in a storyworld. Information-driven reading, on the other hand, is similar to efferent-response becausethe purpose of the reading is to take information away.Wolfgang Iser also expounds a reading process theory akin to Rosenblatt'stransactional theory of reading. Iser states:The convergence of text and reader brings the literary work into existence, and thisconvergence can never be precisely pinpointed, but must always remain virtual, as it isnot to be identified either with the reality of the text or with the individual disposition ofthe reader (1980, p. 50).Iser's "virtual dimension of the text"(1980, p. 54) is similar to the poem that Rosenblatt'sreader creates during an aesthetic reading. The process of reading is an expansive, knowledge-producing event for both Iser and Rosenblatt.7Reader-Response TheoryIf our sense of story and experience with narrative are components of the active andcreative reading process, then we as teachers of literature need to take a closer look at reader-response theory so that our students may become active, autonomous readers and appreciatorsof literature.There are varying interpretations of reader-response theory. Some, such as Rosenblattand Iser, are known as transactionalists; others, such as Bleich and Holland, are known assubjectivists; while others still are known as post-structuralists or deconstructionists. Each ofthese theoretical perspectives differs sharply from the formalist tradition of New Criticism.Because this study is chiefly concerned with the transactionalist theory of reader-response, theother perspectives will not be discussed except for a brief consideration of Bleich's subjectivecriticism.Bleich believes that "a work of literature does not transform anything; only the persondoing the writing or reading is doing the transforming" (1975, p. 749). Hence, the reasonwhy he is associated with the subjectivist point of view. To Bleich, literature offers a specialopportunity for engaging the thoughts and feelings of the reader. His four phase method ofliterature instruction includes thoughts and feelings, feelings about literature, deciding onliterary importance, and interpretation as a communal act (1975). Although Bleich placesemphasis upon the reader's feelings and thoughts which result from the reading experience, hedoes advocate the movement toward a communally agreed upon interpretation of the text(1975). However considerate his theory may be of the reader's response, it seems to offerrather limited regard for the author's created text. Another questionable component of thetheory lies in how it may be practised by teachers. If subjective criticism is overused, psy-chotherapy in the classroom, instead of literature teaching, seems all too possible.Bleich, however, does have something in common with the transactionalists, and thatis, respect for the reader. Respect for the reader in the transactional theory of reader responsenecessitates that meaning be made, not found, by the reader (Probst, 1988). The reader strivesto fit his sense of text together into a consistent pattern, but there is no guarantee that the pro-cess is smooth or that we know exactly what happens to us while we are entangled with thetext. Nevertheless, the interplay of deductive and inductive operations in the aestheticexperience does seem to produce what Iser calls "the configurative meaning" (1980, p. 61).The aesthetic transaction in Rosenblatt's reader-response theory acknowledges thevitality of the text and the reader.8The literary work exists in the live circuit set up between reader and text: the readerinfuses intellectual and emotional meanings into the pattern of verbal symbols, andthose symbols channel his thoughts and feelings (1976, p. 25).For the reader, the evoked intellectual and emotional meanings result in 'the poem' which isessential in an aesthetic transaction with a text. Without the resulting poem, the reader does nothave an aesthetic experience on which to base a response. Using Rosenblatt's transactionaltheory of reading as a method for teaching literature is particularly appropriate because "theevocation together with the concurrent responses are the subject matter of interpretation, whichis the effort to report on the nature of thought and feeling called forth during the transactionwith the text" (1985, p. 103).James Britton, D. W. Harding, and Arthur Applebee espouse slightly differentperspectives of reader-response theory. Their theories posit the active interaction between thereader and the text, but the use of the terms spectator and participant make the reader appear tobe somewhat more passive than Rosenblatt's. Britton, for example, uses the term participantto designate the way we use language to "get things done in the outer world;" while on theother hand, the term spectator designates the way we use language in our inner world offantasy (1968, p. 10). He claims that when the language of the spectator is used in the outerworld it is spoken as gossip or is written as literature (p. 10). In Britton's point of view, thelanguage of literature is vital "because we never cease to long for more lives than the one wehave; in the role of spectator we can participate in an infinite number" (p. 10).As a development from Britton's (1968) discussion of "Response to Literature" at theDartmouth Seminar, Harding accepted his framework with the following conditions: responseimplies active involvement, not passivity; response may not only be immediate; and verbalresponse may not reveal the full inner response (1968, p. 11). Despite the proviso, Harding'snotion of response, while active, is inherently less active and reciprocal than Rosenblatt's.The mode of response made by the reader of a novel can be regarded as an extension ofthe mode of response made by an onlooker at actual events (Harding, 1977, p. 72).The onlooker, through experience, develops a greater capacity to attend and evaluate.Similarly, as our experience as responsive spectators grows, Harding contends that we developa stronger sense of narrative, social values, and feeling comprehension (1977).Applebee continues the consideration of our responses to literature and uses of story byinvestigating the shift in "our perspective from participant to spectator" (1977, p. 343). Hetheorizes that our transition from the child's realm of participant to the adoption of the spectatorrole may be understood "in terms of an attitude or approach to experience" (p. 343). In otherwords, our sense of story and language develops from being almost wholly the participant,9with an unformed ability to interpret and evaluate language experience, to being that of thespectator who is able to interpret and evaluate language experience.It is important to remember that neither Applebee, Harding, nor Britton propose thatwe negate or discard the participant role as our ability to assume the spectator role increases.For them, our sense of story and ability to use language are integral to our ability to make senseof our lives and grow culturally, intellectually, and emotionally.Although, the various theorists present different views about reader-response theory,each one consistently advocates the role of the reader interacting with a text and the need tohonour the reader's initial response. Reader-response theorists posit that if student readers ofliterature do not experience a sense of enjoyment and understanding, literature faces a bleak fu-ture. Thus, reader-response theory calls for readers who read literature, and not readers whoread about literature. After all, "it is literature, not literary criticism, that is the subject"(Harding, 1977, p. 392).Value of TalkIf responding to literature means that we "think of language as an experience rather thanas a repository of extractable meaning" (Fish, 1980, p. 99), then encouraging students todiscuss and share responses is crucial. However, the creation of a classroom conducive tocollaborative interchange between students and teacher is an imposing challenge. Barnes's(1971) descriptive study of "Language in the Secondary Classroom" garnered a strongimpression of passivity in classrooms. This is a serious contradiction to the active participationrequired for language learning and literature experience.We want children, as a result of our teaching, to understand; to be wise as well as well-informed, able to solve fresh problems rather than have learnt the answers to old ones;indeed, not only to answer questions but also able to ask them (Britton, 1971, p. 81).Perhaps, to enable students to use talk to solve problems, consider feelings, share responses,develop interpretations, discuss evaluations, and generate criticisms about literature, the teachermust step aside as the overt director of instruction, discussion, and questioning (Barnes, et al.,1971; Dias, 1987; Foreman-Peck, 1985; Golden, 1986; Jackson, 1982, 1983; Probst, 1988;Purves, 1972; Rosenblatt, 1976, 1985; Stratta, Dixon, & Wilkinson, 1973). More specif-ically, Rosenblatt (1976) directs practicing teachers of reader-response theory to refrain fromimposing preconceived notions of how to respond to a text or direct the discussion in apredetermined direction. When an open and trusting atmosphere is created, students willinglyembark upon the exploration of literature. Students' explorations of a literary text naturally10entail informal, flowing, friendly discussion. Initially, this type of discussion seems tangentialand discursive; however, if talking about literature is a means of discovering thoughts andfeelings, we must allow the students the freedom of joint exploration to arrive at conclusionsthat they would not have discerned individually (Britton, 1971; Dias, 1987; Foreman-Peck,1985; Golden, 1986; Jackson, 1982). As Golden states, "discussion of the story after thereading process has occurred enables students to reflect back on the text and to sort out theirthinking about the story" (1986, p. 94). Similarly, Dias (1987) views the process of sortingout the meaning of a poem and the verbalization of the process as being interdependent.Use of QuestioningIt seems, therefore, that we learn through talk, and more particularly exploratory talk.This means that students must be encouraged to hypothesize, predict, and question (Barnes, etal., 1971; Dias, 1987; Christenbury & Kelly, 1983; Fillion, 1981,1983; Jackson, 1982,1983; Probst, 1981, 1988; Purves, 1972; Rosenblatt, 1976; Stratta, et al., 1973). Theoristssuggest that questioning is a natural component of the reading and discussion process andbelieve that students should be encouraged, even instructed, to generate their own questionsabout literature (Christenbury & Kelly, 1983; Fiderer, 1988; Fillion, 1981; Jackson, 1982).Student-generated questions may also assist the process of clarifying thoughts and feelings.Christenbury and Kelly (1983) claim that "talking - asking and answering questions - oftenreveals our thoughts and feelings to us as well as to others" (p. 1). They consider it importantfor students to formulate their own questions in order to participate fully in the journey oflearning.Typically, questioning to foster reading ability and aesthetic response has been theteacher's domain. Teachers are instructed to consider the levels of questions which they ask inrelation to formulated taxonomies of thought (Christenbury & Kelly, 1983; Lamb & Arnold,1980; Pearson & Johnson, 1978). As a result, the teacher held the key to the interpretation ofliterature, which conflicts with the spirit of reader-response theory. The atmosphere of aninquisition does not invite students to share their responses to literature. Therefore, if we wishto encourage the growth in attitudes and insights that asking and answering questions entails,the responsibility of asking questions must become the students' (Christenbury & Kelly, 1983;Fillion, 1981; Jackson, 1982). "Reading for learning then becomes a 'conversation' with thetext in which the student asks his own questions, finds the answers, and makes his owncomment" (Fillion, 1981, p. 708).Fillion (1981) suggests that teachers develop a grid to chart students' questioningstrategies. In this way, students broaden the scope of their learning, and teachers note and11guide the students' progress. Working in small groups to question literature validates thestudents' responses to literature and enables more students to participate in the learning process(Barnes et al., 1971; Christenbury & Kelly, 1983; Fillion, 1981; Jackson, 1982; Rosenblatt,1976; Stratta et al., 1973).Jackson (1982) proposes a theoretically based methodology where small groups ofstudents generate questions to develop reflective awareness. Using this process, studentsmove inside the story to construct personal interpretations. Jackson states that when studentsgenerate their own questions about a story, they rarely ask questions that call for lower levelthinking skills. With greater competence and comfort in generating questions, students mayeventually stop imitating the efferent types of questions to which they have become accustomed(Fillion, 1982; Jackson, 1982; Rosenblatt, 1976). In this fashion, asking questions aboutliterature may actually promote aesthetic response.Reader-response theory advocates a pedagogy of literature study that will result instudents who enjoy reading literature because they are comfortable with their ability to readwith competence and understanding. If this is our goal, students need to be given many andvaried opportunities to read, discuss, and question literature. Furthermore, "students mustcome to realize that to be left with questions is a far better state to be in than not to have anyquestions at all" (Dias, 1987, p. 75).C. Research in Response to LiteratureAccording to Purves and Beach (1972) and Beach and Hynds (1991), researchers inresponse to literature have generally based their studies on the transactional reading theory. Anoutgrowth of that research has been various perspectives of response containing cognitive,personal, and social aspects. In order to discuss further the notion that collaborative groups ofstudents discussing short stories may foster effective readings and aesthetic responses, threeareas of reader-response research will be reviewed. The three categories are written responseto literature, oral response to literature, and response to literature through questions.Written ResponseNumerous studies have used written responses to literature to ascertain more about thenature of aesthetic response. In fact, writing about literature is an established method ofdetermining students' levels of comprehension, interpretation, and evaluation. As well, manystudies of written response are not only interested in learning about readers' responses, but arealso interested in learning more about the connections between reading and writing.12Purves and Rippere (1968) used responses written by students after reading a literarytext to conduct a content analysis study. Recognizing that this type of study does not provide acomplete picture of response to literature, they caution that the elements of writing aboutliterature described in their study are not exhaustive nor taxonomical. Because Purves andRippere found other existing categorization schemes inappropriate for their purposes, theyidentified four main categories of response: engagement-involvement (the reader's submissionto the work), perception (the reader's sense of the work as a separate object), interpretation (thereader finding meaning in the work), and evaluation (the reader assessing the work). Withineach of the four categories, specific sub-categories allow for more discrete analysis of re-sponses to literature.The study discusses four methods of analysing and reporting data. For example, whenthirteen and seventeen- year-olds' responses to literature were analyzed by categories, theydiscovered that the thirteen-year-olds wrote more evaluative responses (35%) than any othercategory (p. 50). However, the seventeen-year-olds wrote more perception responses (46.6%)(p. 50). Purves and Rippere indicate that the reported change in the content of writtenresponses may be a result of high school curriculum and personal development. This con-clusion seems related to an idea of Wilson's (1966) that college freshmen would rarelymisinterpret literature to the degree that high school students might. Even though writtenresponses are only one component of the process of reading and responding to literature,Purves and Rippere (1968) demonstrate how students' writing about literature, and teachers'insightful reading of their written responses, may aid the development of aesthetic reading ofliterature.One asks students to read the novel to develop their response and their capacity to re-spond, and they develop these things by examining themselves, their world, and thenovel. The teacher's function is to strengthen this examination and to make it excitingand stimulating (p. 63).Using Purves's categories of response, Somers (1972) analyzed free written responsesof readers in grades seven, nine, and eleven to two different short stories. In order todetermine possible changes in the responses from one grade level to the next, Somers codedthe responses to obtain a grade profile. The differences in responses by grade level weregenerally not significant except that grade seven students had more engagement responses thandid grade nine and eleven students. The students' preferred form of response was evaluation,but the complex theme-oriented story elicited more interpretive and wide ranging responsesthan did the less difficult plot-oriented story. Somers's study reveals the need for more studiesof how students' responses are affected by different genres, forms, and styles.13A study of one senior high school student's written responses to three novels wasundertaken by Odell and Cooper (1976). One of the study's central concerns was to learnmore about the nature of written responses so that teachers would be more open in their readingof responses and less inclined to look for what they considered to be right and wrong. Usingfour categories: personal statement, descriptive statement, interpretive statement, and evaluativestatement, Odell and Cooper found that the student's responses focused on personalengagement, description, and interpretation of parts. Statements about setting, language,form, interpretation, and evaluation were rarely written. The writing was also analyzedaccording to the intellectual strategies revealed. Generally, Odell and Cooper did not find thattheir systems of analysis guaranteed insight into written responses to literature; however, theysuggest that the Purves's scheme might be used as a teaching aid for varying responses.Geisler (1990) also looked at response through essay writing. Her four subjects, twoPhD philosophers and two second year university students, read eight articles and then did athink-aloud while writing an essay addressing a topic common to each of the articles. Shedetermined that the experts responded in a highly abstract way while the students responded ata literal or everyday level. Not surprising, she concluded that readers need to be able torespond in more than one mode.An interesting development from the research conducted using schemes to categorizewritten responses is a study on determining response styles to literature by Cooper andMichalak (1981). They used three measures to analyze written responses in order to determinethe effects of classroom instruction on preferred response modes. Of the three, essay analysis,response preference measure, and statements analysis, essay analysis was the most validmeasure because it enabled the reader to see the essay's thesis and details, rather than thesupporting details only.Some studies of written response to literature have focused on on-going responses.For example, Hancock (1991), Kooy (1988), and Angelotti (1972) studied on-going writtenresponses to novels. Although Kooy's and Angelotti's studies are dissimilar in purpose, theyfound that response altered according to the form and content of the novels. This is similar toSomers's (1972) finding that the responses differed between a thematically oriented story and aplot oriented story. Hancock found that "the content of the written responses to literaturegenerally reflected the active role of the reader in the meaning-making process and supportedthe idiosyncratic nature of response" (1991, p. 1239-A).Written responses to poetry have also been studied. Colvin Murphy (1987) found thatfostering subjective engagement with the poem by an extended written response prior todiscussion had a greater effect on readers' engagement with the text than answering short-answer questions or no writing at all. In Casey's (1977) study of responses written about a14poem, the responses from the group who had discussed the poem without a teacher presentwere the most divergent. As well, the nature of the question: "Did the poem affect you in anyway?" evoked varied affective responses. Both of these studies contain information thatteachers should consider when asking questions, assigning writing, and facilitatingdiscussions.The relationship between gender and response is the focus of Pappas's (1991) study.He used written response and oral interviews to discern the gender-related responses of twomale and two female college students to characters and relationships in six short stories. Hefound that relationships with families and friends do influence response. As well, he noted that(1) men assign strengthening characteristics to men, (2) women see male characters generallyas insensitive and unemotional, (3) readers sometimes rely on stereotypes, and (4) men tend toadmire characteristics found only in male characters and women admire characteristics foundonly in female characters.Creating a classroom environment conducive to responding to literature is the focus ofstudies by Otto (1987) and Kearney (1987). They report that students in classrooms structuredto facilitate personal responses to literature wrote about literature, discussed literature, and readliterature with a greater sense of confidence, skill, and enjoyment.In conclusion, research of written responses to literature reveals that writing aboutliterature may enhance the transaction between reader and text. As well, information discernedfrom studying written responses contains implications for teaching and research: for example,the differences in responses with relation to different literary forms, the influence of discussionupon writing and reading, the use of questioning strategies by readers, writers, and teachers,the different nature of expressive and transactive written responses, and the value ofdeveloping the range of literary response through using categories of response schemes.Oral ResponseThere are many methods and purposes used by researchers to study oral responses toliterature. Some studies focus on oral information to learn about the on-going process ofresponse. Other studies use oral responses to obtain a retrospective look at response or tostudy the use of talk and/or discussion in response to literature.An important study of response to literature is Applebee's "Children's Construal ofStories and Related Genres as Measured with Repertory Grid Techniques" (1976). Usingrepertory grid techniques, Applebee interviewed and administered questionnaires to studentsafter they had read stories. Chiefly interested in discerning the dimensions of what studentslike about literature, he discovered that developmental changes occur in children's responses as15they grow older. For instance, teenagers, in comparison to young children, are more tolerantin their evaluations of literature; their concept of simplicity is related to the complexity of thecontent, rather than the reading difficulty; and their concept of realism changes from a concernfor whether it is true or not, to judging the distance between the reader and the work. Applebeeclaims that the repertory grid technique allows for the range of possible response rather thandirecting the content and nature of the response which may be accurate, but there is a lack ofother similar studies for comparison. Nevertheless, the study provides further informationabout the developmental nature of readers' responses.Miall (1985) also used repertory grid measures to determine the points of commonalityand points of individuality in undergraduates' responses to a poem. He found that the gridsrevealed much about the students' common responses. Individual differences in response wererevealed by interviewing the student. As a result, Miall suggests using repertory grids as away of mapping the boundary between individual idiosyncrasies and group commonalities.Even though oral discussion is not the main component of Applebee's and Miall'sstudies, the conducting of interviews indicates a recognition of the importance of readersarticulating responses to literature so that more may be understood about how we read andmake sense of literature.Conducting interviews with a study's subjects pre- and post-reading is another meansby which researchers have gathered information about the response process and the socialcontext in which it takes place. For example, Cothern et al. (1990), Rhodes (1991), andRogers (1991) interviewed adolescents prior to reading to learn more about them asindividuals. In the study by Cothern et al. (1990), the students stopped three times during thereading process to discuss the literature. Rogers's (1991) subjects did think-alouds as theyread short stories. While in Rhodes's (1991) study, the students read a novel uninterrupted.After reading, each study's interviews focussed on how the students made sense of theliterature and what meaning they had constructed. The researchers found that studentsconstruct their own sense of the literature based on their prior experience and knowledge andtext content and type. They also felt that the setting in which the response occurs is crucial forstudents' ability to develop as aesthetic readers and interpreters of literature. Rogers, perhaps,best summarized the three studies' findings when she wrote, "a reader's critical stance is highlyindividual" (1991, p. 417)One common method of obtaining information about readers' on-going responses toliterature is to interview readers at pre-determined points in their reading or to record theirthoughts as they read in what are known as think-aloud-protocols (TAPs) or read-aloud-protocols (RAPs). The seminal study in this area is James Squire's (1964) The Responses ofAdolescents While Reading Four Short Stories. Squire divided the four stories to be read by16ninth and tenth graders into four segments. At the end of each segment, the student wasinterviewed to obtain information about the on-going response. Although the study does notreveal a completely accurate picture of on-going response because of the interrupted nature ofthe reading, it was the first to provide a picture of developing response. Analysis of theinterview protocols resulted in seven categories of response: literary judgment, interpretationalresponses, narrational reactions, associational responses, self-involvement, prescriptivejudgments, and miscellaneous.Squire's study is not only interesting for its methodology, but also for the informationlearned. Most significantly, the study revealed that the interpretational response was the mostcommon, over 42% of all responses; reading ability scores and sex differences were of littleimportance; self-involvement was strongly correlated to literary judgments; the nature ofdeveloping response varied widely among readers; and there were six common areas ofdifficulty experienced by these readers when interpreting literature. As well, Squire found"considerable evidence [which] suggests that individuals continually organize, sift, andevaluate their perceptions when these are incomplete" (p. 29). Consequently, Squire's studyprovided a solid foundation for further research.More recently, other researchers have utilized think-aloud-protocols or read-aloud-protocols to learn more about the processes of reading and responding to literature. Dias(1987) and Kintgen (1985) used RAPs to gain insight about how readers make sense ofpoetry. Not only did Dias use individual RAPs to discern four patterns of reading, he alsoused small group discussion to enhance the students' levels of comfort and articulation of re-sponses about poetry. Dias's study reveals a belief in the value of talk for encouragingstudents' developing responses to literature, as well as being a means of gaining insight intoreaders' methods of processing poetry. Kintgen (1985) discovered that when reading poetry,readers make decisions about syntax by considering meaning and semantics first. Thus,"linguistic analysis may provide a description of the syntax of the poem, but it does notdescribe how readers perceive that syntax" (p. 134).Think-aloud-protocols of students reading Dante's Inferno were used by Church andBereiter (1983) to understand the psychological processes of attending to style while reading.They found three modes of attending practised by readers, one particularly related toRosenblatt's aesthetic response. These readers paid attention to content and style while relatingholistically to the text. Compared to the other readers who read chiefly for information, theaesthetic readers did more analysis, question asking, and linking of the text to other texts andpersonal experiences. Because the aesthetic readers responded to the text more fully and morelike writers, Church and Bereiter think that aesthetic reading should be encouraged as aninstructional practice.17Another study which used think-aloud-protocols is Hynds's (1989) "Bringing Life toLiterature and Literature to Life." Although the central focus of this study was not the on-going responses of the participants, the oral information was crucial for understanding howreaders respond to a text and how they use their social contexts and constructs to interpret a textaesthetically. By using this methodology, Hynds recognized the socio-psycholinguistic natureof reading and the relationship of literature to life.Langer (1989) also used think-aloud-protocols (TAPs) to develop a sense of theprocesses that students use to understand literature. Analysis of the TAPs revealed that readersactively create meaning and change reading stances as they read. Langer identified four majorreading stances that operate recursively. They are (1) being out and stepping into anenvisionment, (2) being in and moving through an envisionment, (3) stepping back andrethinking what one knows, and (4) stepping out and objectifying the experience (p. 7).Miall (1990) conducted a think-aloud-protocol using short stories in order to determineif literary texts possess an intrinsic structure that can be demonstrated in readers' responses.He found that the readers' responses demonstrated commonality in three areas: (1) in phrasesrequiring interpretation, (2) in relationships between phrases, and (3) anticipations of phrasesor themes to occur later in the story. At the same time, however, the interpretations of thereaders differed because readers bring different experiences and values to bear on texts.Andringa (1990) also conducted think aloud protocols using short stories. Similar to Miall'sstudy, Andringa found that readers have expectations with which they want stories to conform.In particular, naive readers did not experience the "rapprochement of the reader's horizon andthe text's horizon" (1990, p. 252).Some researchers have used students' oral responses in interviews to formulatedevelopmental models of response. Protherough (1983) discusses the Hull Enquiries in whichchildren were interviewed about literature. Their responses were categorized according to athree level model of evaluation. Protherough speculates that there seems to be an apparentdevelopmental process of response because with "each successive year of the secondary schoolup to 14, more children give answers at the higher levels" (p. 53).Similarly, Thomson (1987) interviewed adolescents to create a tentative model ofdevelopmental response and to determine reading strategies associated with each level ofdevelopment (p. 167). His developmental model consists of six levels: (1) unreflective interestin action, (2) empathizing, (3) analogizing, (4) reflecting on the significance of events andbehaviour, (5) reviewing the whole work as a construct, and (6) consciously consideredrelationship with the author, recognition of textual ideology, and understanding of self (identitytheme) and of one's own reading processes (p. 360).18Many response to literature studies have used group discussion as the primary methodof gathering data. In "Talking to Learn," Britton (1971) tape recorded small group discussionsabout literature. The most important finding of this study is that teachers need to orchestratethe kinds of situations where students in groups may talk to learn from one another. Evenwhen the talk in the groups seems trivial and circular, "at its most coherent points it takes onthe appearance of a group effort at understanding" (p. 97), and it is "by means of taking it [theexploratory learning journey] in speech that we learn to take it in thought" (p. 114).Another study which used oral discussion to foster aesthetic response is Wilson's(1966) Responses of College Freshmen to Three Novels. After reading each novel, thestudents participated in class discussions where the influence of the professor's interpretationwas limited. During the early stages of the discussion, the students' responses indicated astrong degree of self-involvement. As the discussion continued, the level of interpretationincreased. Wilson found similar changes in the students' written responses pre- and post-discussion. Wilson equates the development of interpretive abilities with a decrease in empathyfor the literary text which either reflects upon the degree of interest engendered by theinstructional strategy or a continued degree of belief in the objectivity of the text as beingimportant for literary analysis. Nevertheless, both Wilson's and Britton's studies provideinteresting information about the value of literary discussion as a vehicle for exploring anddeepening responses to literature.In support of the knowledge gained from Britton's (1971) and Wilson's (1966) previ-ously discussed studies, Dias (1987) writes that a study he conducted "involving small groupsin generally undirected discussion of poetry over ten sessions, realized significant gains in theability of the groups' members to read and apprehend poetry independently" (p. 10-11).Research using groups engaged in different forms of oral discussion is another methodused to learn about the stages of response, developmental level of response, and types ofresponse. Beach (1972) compared the responses of three groups who had been given differentdirections for preparing to discuss a poem. The first group audio taped a free associationresponse to the poem immediately after reading it; the second group wrote a free associationresponse to the poem immediately after reading it; and the third group simply read the poem.He observed that the groups who had completed the free association responses conducteddiscussions which were more interpretational and less digressive. Whereas, the third group'sdiscussion began at a different level of response. Their discussion contained more evidence ofengagement and digression. Beach suggests that this may be because the group had notundertaken any form of assigned free association prior to the discussion. A final insight fromthis study concerns the influence of group behaviour upon discussion participation. He foundthat the group's attitude toward the poem and the task affected the responses in the discussions.19Therefore, Beach's study highlights the importance of using a variety of strategies for engagingresponse before students participate in group discussions and the need to be aware of theinfluence of group dynamics upon the development of aesthetic responses.Reid (1991) compared individual and small group response. From the think-aloudprotocols and discussions, she discovered that only one cognitive strategy (inferences) and twosocial strategies (social skills and solicit approval) were used by all readers in all cases. Aswell, she found four factors which influenced response: poem, reader, situation, and teacher.Casey (1977) and Fisher (1985) also used group discussion to analyse responses toliterature. Casey's (1977) three groups, teacher-led, student-led, and private response with nodiscussion, were studied to learn about affective response to a poem. Writing in response to aquestion assigned after the discussions, the subjects' writing displayed varied and extensiveaffective responses. He also found that the patterns of response were similar despite the groupsituation. However, the language of the teacher-led discussion influenced the language of theresponse, whereas the student-led discussion encouraged more divergent responses. Casey'sstudy is an example of how teachers influence students' responses and how teacher assignedquestions may direct the type of response. In Fisher's (1985) study four groups discussedshort stories. Three of the groups consisted of tenth grade students and the fourth groupconsisted of adults. One of the student groups discussed short stories under the direction ofthe teacher using a structured questioning strategy; a second group used the same questioningstrategy to discuss the short stories without the presence of the teacher; while a third group hada free discussion without any directions from the teacher or questions. Fisher concluded thatthe free discussion group "offered responses that were categorically more like the responses ofthe adults in their final free discussion" (p. 2062A).Marshall (1989) used videotapes to record discussions about literature involving thewhole class and teacher. He found teacher influence on the discussions to be quite pervasive.Students chiefly provided information in relation to the questions they were asked, whileteachers questioned, elaborated, and generally dominated the discussions through the amountthat they talked. Marshall speculates that "there will be a shift in roles when no teacher ispresent to guide the discourse in specific directions" (p. 42).Roberts and Langer (1991) studied a whole class discussion about a literary text wherethe teacher functioned solely as a facilitator. They found that the grade seven students engagedin the process of understanding the literature through social interaction and were able to speakmore about the literature. As well, the heterogeneous composition of the class offered allstudents the opportunity to use the discussion to deepen their level of understanding, no matterat what level they entered the discussion (1991, p. 63).20Townsend (1991), looked at how high school juniors wonder about literature. Shestudied three class discussions and found that the nature of wondering about literature wasidiosyncratic.A further group of response to literature studies used small group discussion as aclassroom strategy to enhance reading and aesthetic response (Eeds & Wells, 1989; Golden,1986; Johnston, 1987; Otto, 1987; Strickland et al., 1989; Wilson, 1975). Eeds andWells's (1989) observations reveal that the group discussions encouraged risk-taking toconstruct simple meaning, deepened the personal significance of a text for students, andrevealed the active questioning strategies being practised by students to uncover meaning.The depth of insight and feeling shown by these young students was a revelation. Asthey spent time contemplating meaning and digesting it, many children did show thatthey were generalizing - that they were working through what they perceived to be theauthor's message to them in writing the book (p. 24).Other studies' findings emphasize the value of students talking about their responses toliterature in groups (Golden, 1986; Johnston, 1987; Otto, 1987; Strickland, et al., 1989;Wilson, 1975). For example, Strickland, et al. (1989) state:Literature response groups helped students learn to interpret literature and extend theirliterary awareness. Students learned to use talk more effectively and to use it as amedium for learning (p. 200).Essentially, observations of small group discussions about literature indicate that sharingresponses broadens students' perspectives of texts and contributes to the reader's active re-creation of the text (Eeds & Wells, 1989; Golden, 1986; Johnston, 1987; Otto, 1987;Strickland, et al., 1989, Wilson, 1975).Research involving the gathering of information about aesthetic reading through oralresponse has provided a solid stimulus for future research and classroom practice. Despite thefact that there is always a degree of artificiality or incompleteness in any form of research, oralprotocols are one of the most effective means of learning about the thoughts and feelings ofreaders. Based on the information revealed by such studies it seems that if we are trulyconcerned about encouraging our students to become active, autonomous readers of literature,it is vital to nurture students' aesthetic evocations and responses through small groupdiscussion and self-generated questions.21Response to Literature Through QuestionsTeachers have traditionally asked students questions about literature to generatediscussion, to prompt writing, and to examine understanding. Usually the purpose of thequestions is to assist the students' interaction with the text, but too often questions stultify thedevelopment of felt responses and the enjoyment of literature (Bullock Report, 1975).Questions about literature have become synonymous with right and wronginterpretations. Students become inhibited about expressing their thoughts and feelingsbecause the text is viewed "as a repository of answers to which [the teacher] possesses thekey" (Bullock Report, 1975). D'Arcy (1973) writes that the 1968 comprehension assessmentconducted by the London Association of Teachers of English (L.A.T.E.) found that questionsmay not test comprehension of a passage as much as comprehension of the teachers' questions.Nevertheless, the established practice of using questions to determine comprehension levelsand correct interpretations remains strong. For instance, the assessment of reading and writingin grades four, seven, and ten undertaken in 1988 by the Ministry of Education in BritishColumbia states:it was somewhat distressing to find that a substantial number of teachers and studentsascribe to a rather narrow definition of student assessment which assumes that onlyquestions which have answers which are clearly "right" or "wrong" in terms of textcontent are appropriate (p. 2).The semantic misunderstanding and practical misapplication of questioning for comprehensionmay be the basis of the problem of how questions and comprehension have often come tosignify segmented skill development instead of unified understanding (D'Arcy, 1973).Questions, however, may promote aesthetic response, or unified understanding. Theyplay an influential role in fostering the transaction between the reader and text because "to readintelligently is to read responsively; it is to ask questions of the text and use one's ownframework of experience in interpreting it" (Bullock Report, 1975). Thus, if the readingprocess is a creative act of composing meaning (or "evoking the poem") by constructing andreconstructing a text then students need the opportunity to deepen their aesthetic response byconsciously formulating questions about a text in class.Studies of questions and response to literature have utilized a variety of procedures tolearn about the affective and cognitive components of reading, responding, and understanding.One of the traditional approaches involves using a taxonomy of hierarchically orderedquestions. Hillocks and Ludlow (1984) posit a two level hierarchy of comprehensioncomposed of seven question types. To test the hierarchical, taxonomical nature of thequestions, they applied the seven question types to four short stories to determine if the22hypothesized comprehension skills would hold across and within the four stories. Students atthe grade nine, eleven, and twelve level read each of the stories and then wrote answers to thequestions. According to Hillocks and Ludlow, the "results suggest the need to workhierarchically in helping students understand a given work at higher levels" (p. 23) because thestudents incapable of answering the lower level questions were also unable to answer thehigher level questions. At first glance, this suggests a rather traditional approach tocomprehension, but Hillocks and Ludlow believe that questions structured in this fashion bythe teacher will help students achieve better comprehension and enjoyment of literature.Similar to Hillocks and Ludlow's study, Lucking's (1976) study employed hier-archically ordered questions to study written responses. The study consisted of three phases ofshort story study. In phase one, students read a story and wrote an essay; during phase two,students read a story, discussed it, and wrote an essay; and during phase three, students read astory, discussed it using hierarchical questioning, and wrote an essay. Lucking found that theessays from the third phase displayed increased interpretational comments, fewermiscellaneous comments, and a broader sense of finding meaning with purpose. Because thestudy consisted of three phases, with the hierarchical questioning procedure being the lastphase, the content change in the essays may have been the result of prolonged short storyexposure and instruction.Beach and Wendler (1987) used questions to elicit responses to a story in order to learnmore about the development of inferring in students. Students read the story twice and thenanswered questions about the characters' acts, perceptions, and goals. For each of thequestion types, Beach and Wendler found that the eighth graders, eleventh graders, collegefreshmen, and college juniors responded differently. In particular, the college students'responses reflected a larger sense of socio-psychological contexts and thematic meanings.Using a somewhat similar focus, Fusco (1983) studied cognitive levels of development inchildren's responses to literature. During group booktalk discussions, Fusco asked studentsquestions taxonomically based on a Piagetian framework. Her findings that students respondto questions matched to their cognitive level relates to Beach and Wendler's study. However,both studies leave unanswered questions about aesthetic response and student-generatedquestions.Some studies have considered the use of open-ended questions for encouragingaesthetic response. In Ericson's (1984) study, three girls responded orally to open-endedquestions during and following reading. The thoughts and feelings articulated in thesesessions were compared with the group discussion responses. Similar to other studies,Ericson found that the girls had a preferred way of responding for certain types of texts. Alsosimilar to other studies, "all participants were able to benefit from group discussions, although23to different degrees" (p. 388A). Galda (1982) used open-ended questions when interviewingsubjects individually prior to a group discussion of a novel. The questions and the discussionsprovided information about the role that stance plays in determining a primary mode ofresponse for a young reader. Open-ended questions were used in conjunction with recall andchannelling questions by Golden (1978) to obtain oral responses to realistic and fantasy shortstories. The differences in age levels and texts affected the responses. But perhaps thedifferences in the responses due to age was more a factor of instruction and grade level, thansimply age.As a slightly different alternative to the traditional method of teacher questioning,Tompkins (1987) had college students select five questions from completed responsepreference measures which they felt would be the most helpful guides for writing an essayabout the metaphors in each poem read. Although Tompkins did not find a persistent pattern ofresponse across the poems, she did find that most of the questions were chosen from theperception category and that there was a high correlation between the scores on the essays andthe selection of metaphorical questions for specific poems.Purves (1973), in the study of Literature Education in Ten Countries, used responsepreference measures to determine national, cultural, social, and educational differences inliterature responses. The response preference measure for each story contained twentyquestions, and from these twenty questions, the students selected the five questions theydeemed most important. One of the reasons for having students choose questions to indicatetheir preferred response was "students learn .... to ask certain questions when they read aliterary selection, and the questions they learn depend in part upon the critical beliefs ofteachers and scholars" (p. 16). Generally the study found little consistency in the responseschosen on the three given opportunities. Nevertheless, students showed a distinct non-preference for the questions which asked if the story's characters were like people they knewor what did the story say about people they knew. And, they often chose "Is there anything inthe story that has hidden meaning?" (p. 26-7). The effect of literature instruction wasdetermined by the different pattern of questions chosen by the fourteen-year-olds and thosechosen by the eighteen-year-olds. The fourteen-year-old students were more inclined towardsquestions about moral, hidden meanings, plot, content, emotional involvement, and affectiveevaluation. Whereas, the eighteen-year-olds focused more on formal perceptual responses,affective evaluation, general interpretation, morals, themes, and hidden meanings.Although Purves's study contains a wide array of information, there are four mostintriguing findings. First, the finding that the home is the most formative environment forreading ability and attitudes toward reading confirms a long held belief of teachers. Second,the choice of the question about hidden meaning displays the students' sense of not being able24to understand or make sense of literature on their own. Third, the older students' movetowards formal analysis shows the influence of the teacher's formal critical training and thecumulative effect of years spent studying literature at high school. Fourth, the finding that"those schools whose students indicate their interest in the substance of the work and how itaffects them are those whose students comprehend it better" (p. 243) seriously questions theformalist tradition of extracting meaning from the text only. In conclusion, the questionsselected by the students clearly display the effects of literature instruction and the importance ofstudents being able to find the answers to their own questions about literature.McGreal (1976) and Webb (1985) undertook descriptive research of literature study inclassrooms to determine the effects of instruction on response. In particular, McGreal (1976)looked at teacher questioning behaviour for short stories. Some of the study's findingsindicate that teachers ask more content questions than form questions, age level affects the typeof questions asked, and students felt that the questions asked about interpretation of style andaffective evaluation were important. Webb (1985) found that over the ten week term of thestudy, the behaviours meant to foster the transactive response to literature declined asexamination time approached. Thus, it appears that the "response to literature is restrictedgreatly by the question-answer instruction and by the constraints of the persuasive essay" (p.281).Student-generated questions have rarely been the focus of formal study. Andre andAnderson (1978-79) conducted two studies to see if students could generate questions aboutmain points in a text, whether this facilitates learning, and whether training in questiongeneration is necessary. They determined that students who generated questions displayedbetter comprehension and spent more time studying the text, than those who did not. In thesecond study, the students who were trained in question generation produced a greaterpercentage of good comprehension questions than did the untrained group. They also foundthat the number of good comprehension question generated was a significant predictor ofachievement. Andre and Anderson's study is informative and thought provoking;unfortunately, it uses non-fiction material and not literature. This would be an interesting studyto replicate using fiction to learn more about student-generated questions and aestheticresponse.Graup (1985) focused on student-generated questions and collaborative discussion tolearn more about the link between cognitive comprehension and response to literature.Consisting of three phases, in each phase the grade six students read a different literary text,generated questions, and wrote essays. Of the four groups generating questions, only theinstructional groups received assistance in constructing questions. As well, the groups variedaccording to whether or not they used the questions for discussions or for writing individual25responses. Chiefly, Graup found that group discussion using questions aided comprehensionbetter than did individual writing in response to questions. Students in discussion groups whogenerated more inferential questions and students who received instruction in question genera-tion but were not in discussion groups produced a greater number of interpretive responses inessays. As in Hillocks and Ludlow's (1984) study, the students were able to respond toquestions which corresponded with their ability levels.It was concluded that comprehension could be facilitated through collaborative learningand the strategy of reader generated questions. Actively engaging students in thecomprehension process led to improved comprehension and broader more interpretiveessays (Graup, 1985, p. 482A-483A).If Graup had used a questioning taxonomy that included an affective component, the study mayhave yielded more information about the strategy of students generating questions as a meansof developing aesthetic response. The fact that the instruction groups received assistance whengenerating questions would also seem to be a confounding factor in the results. Nevertheless,Graup's research conveys the value of student-generated questions as a response technique.As demonstrated by the preceding studies, questioning does not have to be teacher-centred, nor does it have to address only cognitive realms of comprehension. With regards tostudent-generated questions, my personal observation of students in grade nine, who after abrief discussion generated their own questions about a short story, indicated that asking andanswering questions about a literary text may deepen commitment, create active enthusiasm,and encourage exploration of feelings and insights. Thus, questioning strategies which honourand foster the reader's personal involvement with literature are reasonable means of developingaesthetic response.ConclusionWe ask questions to understand and learn. Out of our questions, speculations, andhypotheses, we create narratives to explain our existence, our culture, our environment, andour humanity. Out of the experience of narrative and storytelling has come the literature whichis read and studied in schools today. The evolution of literature is a poignant reminder of whyliterature instruction needs to provide "a living through, not simply knowledge about"(Rosenblatt, 1976, p. 38).Aesthetic response to literature is a process alive with sensuality, emotion, and intellect.Because the literary experience tends to involve both the intellect and the emotions in amanner that parallels life itself, the insights attained through literature may beassimilated into the matrix of attitudes and ideas which constitute character and govern26behavior. Hence the opportunity for the student to develop the habit of reflectivethinking within the context of an emotionally colored situation (Rosenblatt, 1976, p.274).Rosenblatt's statement is crucial with regards to instructional practice. The world of literaturereflects our personal, cultural, social, environmental, and historical experience; it offers the"virtual experience" of life. Thus, we must afford our students opportunities to carry outpersonal explorations of literature so that they may not only read with joyous appreciation andunderstanding, but may also live through the wide array of experiences that literature offers. Ifwe fail to produce students capable of enjoying literature, a vital dimension of humanexperience will be diminished.Therefore, when we think of fostering aesthetic response to literature throughcollaborative student-led discussion groups, research has revealed much that is worthy ofconsideration. For instance, we know that the home plays an important part in thedevelopment of active, capable readers, and that instruction at school has a cumulative effect onstudents' responses to literature. As far as aesthetic response to literature is concerned, wehave learned of the need to honour students' initial responses and to promote reflective thinkingthrough writing and talking. Reading ability and aesthetic response may further bestrengthened by the overt practice of students learning to ask their own questions aboutliterature, instead of relying on the teacher's questions. The knowledge we possess aboutresponse to literature is helpful and informative; yet it also reveals that we still need to learnmore about developing response, response styles, modes of response, effects of group be-haviour, effects of teacher instruction, reading stances, and questioning strategies. Because if"response is best defined as the ongoing interaction between the individual and the work, aninteraction that may continue long after the individual has finished reading" (Purves, 1973,p36), we can never stop asking questions in order to learn more about the nature of response.27Chapter III: MethodologyA. Description of Research MethodologyIn order to learn more about student-led small group response to and discussion ofliterature, I decided to use a case study approach. The case study approach falls within therealm of ethnographic, qualitative research that seeks to describe what happens in a particularsituation and circumstance. The ethnographic methodology also provided me with the ability tolook holistically at how students work to make meaning when discussing short stories. Fromthe small student-led discussion groups, I was able to observe and describe the manyapproaches and strategies that students used, such as analysing, referring to personalexperience, inferring, and questioning.The case study involved four groups of students, sixteen students in total, respondingto short stories during four discussion sessions. Because of possible concerns about thereliability and validity of case study data, I made certain that I gathered data according to themethods of triangulation. Thus in the study, triangulation is ensured by gathering data in threeways: audio-taping the four discussion sessions of each group, writing field notes and aresearcher's journal, and conducting focussed interviews with students after completing thefour sessions.B. Research DesignThe groups in the case study were audio-taped using a slightly modified version ofDias's (1987) small group procedures. Dias used the small groups as a means of encouragingresponse to poetry before conducting responding-aloud-protocols (RAPs) with individuals.During Dias's introductory small group procedure, poems were read aloud twice and students,in turn, gave initial responses round the group without commenting or interrupting any of thespeakers. Once each student had spoken, discussion became open with the express purpose ofmaking meaning for the poem. At the end of discussion time, each group reported back to therest of the class. The groups were not, however, expected to reach consensus as to their senseof the poem. That night, for homework, students were asked to read the poem again and thenwrite a response journal entry about their thoughts and feelings on the poem.The reason for using this procedure is that it works well in the classroom setting forencouraging small group discussion and understanding of poetry. As Dias states, "It is withinthe security of a small group that pupils will be more willing to risk offering their personalinterpretations" (1990, p. 297). I was interested, therefore, in determining if the procedure28would be a successful response strategy for short stories. As well, the procedure allowsstudents to talk together about literature without the influential presence of a teacher. As aresult, small student-led group discussions may encourage greater exploration of feelings,questions, associations, thoughts, analogies, interpretations, and strategies for responding toand making sense of literature. With the preceding items in mind, the overall question of howdo small student-led discussion groups work to make meaning within the context of discussingshort stories takes on even greater significance.PilotTo determine the feasibility of the study, a pilot study was undertaken with threedifferent heterogeneous grade twelve English classes in a middle class, suburban secondaryschool. These classes were unknown to the researcher.On each occasion, students, in groups of three to four, discussed the short storyassigned by the teacher. The groups were chosen by the teacher to make certain that they wereheterogeneous. The stories discussed were taken from a Ministry authorized textbook, Storyand Structure (1966).Not every small group in each class was audio-taped. Because only three cassetteplayers and two electrical outlets were available, the tape recorders were placed randomlyaround the room. At each succeeding session, different groups' discussions were recorded toobtain a wider sense of students' responses.In the first small group session, students discussed "I'm a Fool." Before thediscussions began, students had read the story and written a free response journal entry. Toensure that the student groups used the same procedure, the researcher gave each student ahandout titled "Discussing Short Stories as a Group" (see Appendix). Students read thehandout and then asked the researcher questions based on the information in the handout.Essentially, the handout outlined that each student states an initial response without questionsor comments from the other members of the group. Following that, students may beginspeaking randomly in order to discuss the story further. Students were also informed that theycould at any time re-read portions of the story to clarify meaning and refresh their memories.As well, the researcher made it clear that it was not necessary for the groups to reachconsensus; the purpose was for students to make sense of the short story together. Thediscussions lasted for fifteen to twenty minutes. Afterwards, each group reported back to therest of the class to initiate whole class discussion of the story.The following two sessions were similar to the first except that the groups discussed"The Lost Boy" (Part 1) and "A Special Occasion." Because of other pressing work29commitments, there was a gap of approximately one month between each audio-taped session,which in turn seemed to lead to developmental differences in the students' ability to respond tothe short stories. For instance, in the first session, students were less familiar with theresponse process and more accustomed to looking to the teacher to provide information andideas about the story being discussed. By the third audio-taped session, students had beenusing the response process regularly for approximately three months. This experience with theresponse process encouraged the student-led small groups to have comfortable discussionsamong themselves and be less inclined to look for teacher direction.The pilot provided the following information for the proposed study.1. Dias's small group procedure for responding to poetry seems to be applicable tousing with short stories.2. Discussion sessions of twenty to twenty-five minutes each are sufficient forobtaining response information.3. Students are capable of stating responses and developing an initialunderstanding of the story in the allotted time.4. Audio-taping of the response procedure does not appear to inhibit responses inan appreciable way.5.^The procedure provides information about peer group dynamics whilediscussing short stories.Sample PopulationSixteen grade twelve students from North Surrey Secondary, which is located in amiddle class, suburban community, participated in the study. All students came from oneEnglish class which was heterogeneous in nature.Before the research began, I consulted with the students' English teacher to determine ifwe could select appropriate participants (i.e. did she have students who would be reasonablywilling to read and discuss short stories in small student-led groups?). The teacher selectedone of her three grade twelve English classes to participate in the study. The teacher and I thenchose sixteen students from within the selected class to be the study's subjects.Although the class consisted of twenty students, I did not include them all in the sampleas the case study methodology is more conducive to smaller numbers. As well, the fourstudents not selected as subjects had irregular attendance patterns and the study needed studentswho attended class regularly.The final criterion for selection was the students' academic achievement in Englishaccording to the teacher's professional judgment. I wanted three groups whose academic30achievement was heterogeneous and one group whose academic achievement was average.Even though the study's design consisted of three heterogeneous groups and onehomogeneous group, I was not interested in conducting a statistical study of differencesbetween academically average and academically heterogeneous groups. I was, however,interested in observing whether the academically average, or homogeneous, group approachedthe stories differently. But most of all, I wanted to see if there were similarities and differencesas to how four groups of grade twelve students would make sense of short stories, whetherthey were heterogeneous or homogeneous.BackgroundIt seems appropriate at this point to provide some background information on thestudents' experiences with small group discussions and short stories during the time leading upto the study. For instance, it is important to remember that the research was conducted in May,virtually the end of the students' year in English 12.At the beginning of the school year with the aid of the pilot study's procedures, theteacher initiated the use of small student-led groups to discuss the short stories being studied inStory and Structure. She worked extensively at developing the students' confidence inthemselves as readers and interpreters of short stories; she also worked at developing thestudents' ability to work well in a collaborative group setting. To help students workcollaboratively, she had them do small group exercises on body language, supporting andencouraging each other, and assuming roles. When the students were in their groupsdiscussing short stories, she tried to avoid participating in the groups as much as possible. Forinstance, rather than answer a question about a short story, she might rephrase it and redirect itback to the group. During the reporting back, she invited the students to ask questions of eachother, provided clarification and information, and encouraged the students to elaborate on theirthinking. For each reporting back session, the groups selected a different reporter so that allstudents were familiar with the different roles in a group and participated in the whole classdiscussions. As well, she worked diligently to have the students discuss their interpretationsof the stories among themselves instead of reporting back to her as the teacher. To achieve thisgoal, she avoided talking as much as possible so that the students were in a sense forced to talkto one another rather than to her.In her capacity as facilitator, the teacher had the students review the elements of theshort story within their student-led groups. They read the appropriate chapters in Story andStructure on the elements of the short story and wrote SQ3R notes on the material. The teachermodelled the SQ3R procedure for the first chapter on escape and interpretation. For the31remaining chapters the students worked on their own. After they had completed their notes,the students reviewed the information in their groups. During this time, the students wereresponsible for ascertaining whether each member of the group had completed the note-takingprocess and that each member of the group understood the material. At the end of each chapteron the short story elements, the class wrote a quiz. If everyone in a group achieved at least 80percent, that group received bonus marks.Throughout the school year, even after the unit on short stories was finished, thestudents worked together in small groups to discuss literature and complete other learningactivities. The groups changed every six to eight weeks or unit by unit depending on what wasbeing done in the class. The selection of who would be in each group alternated betweenteacher-choice and student-choice. Thus, by the end of the school year, or by the time theresearch began in May, the students knew each other well and were comfortable workingtogether in small groups.ProcedureThe sixteen subjects, plus the remaining students in the class, were involved in anintroductory session and four data collection sessions that each time involved reading silentlywhile listening to a short story being read aloud and audio-taping small group discussionsessions. Although only sixteen students were actually the subjects of the study, the wholeclass participated in the research process because the teacher felt that the process would bebeneficial for them all. The methodology of the sessions was as follows.For the introductory session, I explained the purpose of the study to the students andreviewed the response process that they would use. Regarding the purpose of the study, Iinformed the students that the research was being undertaken for my Master's thesis at U.B.C.and that I wanted to investigate how students respond to literature when given the opportunityto discuss short stories in small student-led groups. I also talked about wanting to helpteachers learn more about using small group discussions for literature instruction in order toencourage students to be confident about their ability to read, understand, interpret, and enjoyliterature. Finally I told them that I had chosen to study grade 12 students because they were atthe end of their high school careers and would have much to say about short stories.The response process was explained in the introductory session in exactly the samefashion as during the pilot study. Students read the handout titled "Discussing Short Stories asa Group" and then asked the researcher questions based on the handout's information. Thehandout outlined that each student states an initial response without questioning or commentfrom the other members of the group. Following that, students may begin speaking randomly32in order to discuss the story further. Students were also informed that they could at any timere-read portions of the story to clarify meaning and refresh their memories. As well, theresearcher made it clear that it was not necessary for the groups to reach consensus; thepurpose was for students to work together to make sense of the short story. Because thestudents were familiar with working together in small groups to discuss literature, most of thestudents asked questions of clarification, rather than questions indicating initial bewilderment.The format of each of the four reading and response sessions was the same. Thesixteen students listened and read silently as I read the session's story aloud and then workedin groups of four to discuss the short story.For the first session, I read aloud "He Swung and He Missed" by Nelson Algren. Thisshort story, like the other three to follow, was unfamiliar to the students. After the reading,students worked in student-led groups of four to discuss for twenty to twenty-five minutes theshort story. Each group's discussion session was audiotaped by placing a taperecorder in themiddle of the group. The students were responsible for turning on and off the tape recorderswhen I indicated the beginning and end of discussion time. If there was time remaining in theclass, each group's chosen reporter presented the group's discussion to the rest of the class forthe purpose of having a whole class discussion. Any reporting back and whole classdiscussions that occurred were not part of the research data.To begin talking about each short story, students were to share around the group theirinitial responses to the story. These responses could be questions, likes, dislikes,interpretations, analogies, etc. The students were not to comment about each other's responsesuntil each member of the group had an opportunity to speak.Following the initial responses, students could comment freely about the story and eachother's statements. As a means of relating their ideas to the text, they were encouraged toreread aloud portions of the story at any time and could decide to discuss the story page bypage. Toward the end of the session, it was suggested that groups skim the story and reviewtheir discussion to get an overall sense of what they talked about. The review process alsoenabled the reporter to present a complete sense of the group's discussion should there be timeleft in the class for a reporting back session.Sessions two, three, and four followed the same procedure as session one. The onlydifference was that instead of discussing another short story from 75 Short Masterpieces(1983), the students discussed short stories selected from previous English 12 provincialexaminations. The stories selected were "Penny in the Dust" by Ernest Buckler, "Mr. andMrs. Fairbanks" by Morley Callaghan, and "The Friday Everything Changed" by Anne Hart.Each of the stories used in the sessions was chosen because of its length -- it could be readaloud in five to ten minutes. The four stories were also used because each was stylistically33quite different and seemed to be both interesting and challenging for students in grade twelve.For instance, "He Swung and He Missed" is a descriptive story about life's challenges andboxing; "Penny in the Dust" is a retrospective look at a childhood event; "Mr. and Mrs.Fairbanks" is a descriptive vignette of a couple's relationship; and "The Friday EverythingChanged" is an account of an event involving boys and girls at school. Each of the foursessions followed each other according to the scheduled timetable.During the audio-taped discussion sessions, I recorded field observations to capture asense of the classroom setting, the students' attitudes and behaviour, involvement and partic-ipation, body language, and group dynamics. The field notes were also to provide informationabout the general ambience of the classroom. To record the notes, I conducted timedobservations for three to five minutes for each group and sometimes for the class as a whole.The notes consisted of key comments, physical descriptions, and general overview statements.After the four sessions were completed, some of the sixteen students participated in anaudio-taped retrospective interview that took place during one noon hour. Because of thestudents' time commitments (e.g. completing a poetry unit, study sessions, homework,examinations, team sports, jobs), it was not possible to interview all of the sixteen students,nor was it possible to interview them during class time or after school. One complete group ofstudents (the academically average group) and some selected students from the other threegroups composed the two interview groups. Each of the two groups was interviewed forfifteen minutes. Students selected to participate in the retrospective interview demonstrated awillingness to offer ideas and opinions. They were also students who were able to attend theinterview session which took place outside of class time.At the beginning of each interview, I explained why they had been asked to participatein the interview process and that I was not looking for right or wrong answers to myquestions. The interviews consisted of the students in each interview group addressing thefollowing items after I presented each item for consideration.1. General comments about working in small groups to discuss short stories, e.g.likes/dislikes, concerns, questions, etc.2. Thoughts about discussing short stories in small student-led groups incomparison to working individually answering assigned questions.3. Thoughts about the teacher's role when discussing short stories in class, e.g.comments about traditional teacher-led discussions in comparison to smallgroup discussions.4. Thoughts about whether or not the students felt that learning was taking placeduring the small group discussions, e.g. did they pick up ideas and strategiesfrom each other about how to make sense of stories?345. Closing comments, e.g. any questions, comments/ideas about the process, etc.Basically, the interviews gave the students an opportunity to share their thoughts about thestudent-led, small group response procedure as a means of developing response to andunderstanding of literature.After each session, I wrote in my researcher's journal. The purpose of the journal wasto write an overview of what occurred during each session and to capture any thoughts andfeelings that I may have had during the session. As well, writing in the journal enabled me toreflect on how the research was progressing. Essentially, my journal was intended to provideme with time to contemplate through writing and be another source of data about the sessionsthemselves.Analysis of the DataData from the study were analysed inductively. Although specific systems forclassifying levels and patterns of response exist that could be applied, classifications weredetermined from what was present in the students' oral response discussions in conjunctionwith existing analytical rubrics. The primary data for the study were derived from the smallgroup discussion sessions, while the retrospective interviews, field notes, and researcher'sjournal were secondary sources of information.1. Small Group Response AnalysisThe audio-tapes were transcribed so that content could be analysed. The responsecategories were determined from what was apparent in the transcriptions. However, otherresearchers' analytical rubrics were referred to as well. Based on the superficial contentanalysis that was done for the pilot study tapes, certain researchers' classifications seemedmore useful than others. For instance, Dias's (1987) four patterns of response - paraphrasers,allegorizers, thematisers, and problem-solvers - seemed possible to use together with Purvesand Rippere's (1968) four elements of response - engagement-involvement, perception,interpretation, and evaluation. Thomson's (1987) six level developmental model of response:(1) unreflective interest in action, (2) empathizing, (3) analogizing, (4) reflecting on thesignificance of events and behaviour, (5) reviewing the whole work as a construct, and (6)consciously considered relationship with the author, recognition of textual ideology, andunderstanding of self (identity theme) and of one's own reading processes (p. 360), alsoappeared useful. But as stated previously, the method of analysis evolved from the content ofthe discussion sessions.35A further reason the content analysis needed to evolve was my inability to predict howstudents in small student-led groups would discuss short stories. It was crucial that the dataanalysis remain open to unexpected features that might be present. Furthermore, theimposition of another researcher's analysis scheme could result in data pertinent to the studybeing overlooked.Basically, I undertook the following procedures to analyse the content of the discussionsessions' transcripts. I read each line of the 300+ page transcripts carefully. Initially, I wroteanalysis comments for each speaking turn in sessions one to four of Group One, theacademically average group. I read the complete set of transcripts for Group One simply as astarting place. But also in order to familiarize myself with Group One -- the homogeneousgroup -- and to get a sense of how the discussion sessions might progress from beginning toend for any group. Next, I completed the same process for Groups Two, Three, and Four,except that the analysis was not done speaking turn by speaking turn. Instead, I grouped thetranscript's lines according to topic or what was being talked about.The second stage of the analysis involved reading through my initial analysis commentsto determine whether there were any general categories of response and group dynamics.Following the categorizing procedure, I reread all my analysis notes and transcripts again andwrote summary descriptions of each group's four discussion sessions. Finally, I analysed thesummary descriptions in terms of the study's questions and the categories of response andgroup dynamics.Because the study's subjects were grade twelve students, I analysed the content of thedata in terms of how the responses in student-led group discussions began. In relation tostarting levels of response, I also analysed how response in a small group discussion evolvesand whether the choice of short story makes a difference? A range of reading strategies andexperiences were expected because of the students' ages and grade level. Thus, I analysed thecontent of the groups' discussions to determine whether or not they used strategies for makingmeaning, whether or not they referred to personal experience to make sense of the stories, andwhether or not they used their knowledge of literary elements when discussing short stories.Group behavioural dynamics was also a focus for the analysis. Do groups vary in the waysthey approach and respond to short stories? How does the make up of the groups affect theresponse to literature? The areas of analysis stated above, were not only analysed to provideme with information related to the study's questions and future areas of study, but they werealso analysed with the goal of being able to provide teachers with information regardingstudent-led small group discussions of short stories.362. Interview AnalysisThe two retrospective group interviews with different students in the class were ana-lysed to determine their responses to the small group response procedure. The analysisrevealed what they think they learned about literature, their thoughts about working with theirpeers in small student-led groups, and their thoughts in general about responding to literature insmall groups. Furthermore, the interview data provided background information needed tocomplete the information contained in the transcriptions.3. Field Notes AnalysisThe field notes were analysed to complete the picture of the setting in which the studyoccurred. The subjects' attitudes, levels of participation, and group behaviour were moreapparent as a result of the field notes than if only the audio-tapes' transcriptions had been used.Essentially, analysis of the field notes was undertaken to provide supplemental information forthe study.C. Limitations of the StudyThe results of this study will have limited generalizability because of the sample size,the number of sessions, and the skewed population. Because only sixteen grade twelvestudents, who were not selected randomly, participated in the case study, large scalegeneralizations about levels of response, development of response, and influence of peer groupdiscussion is not possible. Other limitations imposed upon the study may be the method ofdata collection (audio-taping) and the influence of being part of a research project. It will,however, be possible to draw conclusions about this group of students, or others who fit thesame description.37Chapter IV: FindingsA. Introduction - Four Stories of Four GroupsIn this chapter, I will tell the four stories of the four groups involved in the study ofhow small student-led discussion groups work to make meaning within the classroom contextof discussing short stories. As outlined in the previous chapter, four groups consisting of fourstudents each participated in four discussion sessions. The discussion sessions,which wereaudiotaped, took place after I read the stories aloud.Initially I used the study's five sub-questions as a heuristic for analysing the data.1. How does response to literature evolve in small student-led groupdiscussions? For instance, is there an initial focus and where does it go fromthere?2. Are there clearly identifiable patterns in students' responses during their smallgroup discussions? For instance, what tends to be discussed; what strategiesdo the students use?3. Which aspects of story do students in groups tend to focus upon?4. What influence does the choice of short story have upon the group discussions?5.^Do groups appear to vary in the ways they approach and respond to a shortstory?The questions were also to serve as the overall structure for reporting my observations of whathappened during the research process. However, content analysis of the resulting datarevealed that although each group was similar in many respects, each group was also richlyindividualistic. The more I looked at and thought about the data, the more it seemed that thestudent-led discussion groups deserved consideration as unique entities. In other words, itwas important to tell each group's story individually instead of collapsing them under theumbrella of the study's five sub-questions.Before I tell each group's story, I want to give the reader a sense of some of the broadcategories of responses and group behavioural dynamics that were present during the groups'discussions. By no means do these categories and behaviours represent everything thatoccurred; they do, however, serve as a meaningful schema for the groups' stories.In terms of response categories, these four evolved.381 .^literary elements discussion involving character, plot, theme, point of view, setting, mood and tone,symbolism, story titles.2.^personal response discussion involving personal experience and knowledge, analogy, engagement andinvolvement, role play, feeling/expressing empathy, wondering, predicting,speculation about alternatives beyond the text, being aware of one's own readingprocess.3.^interpretation discussion involving analysis/interpretation, inferring, synthesis, questions,reflecting on significance of events/behaviour, expressing confusion, hypothesis,speculation, paraphrasing, referring to the text - reading specific segments or drawingon one's memory of the story.4.^evaluation discussion involving reviewing the whole work as a construct, critiquing quality,expressing like/dislike and explaining why, being aware of author's construction oftext.Group dynamics or individual behaviours seem to fall into four categories.1. expressing agreement and support2. elaborating and clarifying3. contradicting and expressing a different opinion4. directing the discussion either by one individual or collaborativelyas a group.B. Group One's StoryOverviewGroup One consists of three boys (S., J., and A.) and one girl (R.). They are a groupof students whom the teacher considered academically average. Originally I wanted to see if anacademically homogeneous group would respond and make sense of the short storiesdifferently than academically heterogeneous groups. Whether or not Group One actuallydiscussed the four short stories in a manner that was different from the other groups will beseen as their respective stories are told.39R. is Group One's self-elected chairperson or leader. There is never any discussionabout who should chair the group. R. naturally assumes the role of chairperson. She, moreoften than the others, directs the focus of the discussion, checks to see how much time is left,keeps the others on task, and encourages others to offer ideas. "You have to find something.Let S. do his" (Story 2, 1. 124). This is not to say that other members of the group do notdisplay some of the aforementioned behaviours. She does, however, display real leadershipbehaviours and works hard to keep the group on task. "A.! Other than that -- urn -- so, nowwhat do we think of the plot and the characters and the theme?" (Story 1,11. 33-4).R.'s chairperson role may have something to do with stereotypical female behaviourand innate leadership abilities, but it may also be the simple result of the three boys'personalities and attitudes toward discussing literature. For instance, A. displays less interestin the four stories than the others in the group, and he is often more negative about the storiesthan the others. "Well the story's okay um... It's not exciting" (Story 2, 11. 383-5). S. and J.are somewhat positively inclined toward the stories. For instance, S. comments quitedifferently from A. about the second story. "I think it's quite the awesome story" (Story 2,1. 375). J., on the hand, requires encouragement from the other members in the group to offerinterpretations and related personal experiences.A.^What were you going to say. Go on, seriously.J.^No, no.A.^Seriously.J.^No.A.^Just say it. Just say it.(Story 1,11. 143-47)He seems to be a shy student who might not have spoken at all in traditional teacher-leddiscussions of literature.Although every story exerts its unique influence upon the group's discussion process,the group's discussion session did tend to follow a certain pattern. Usually, the discussionsessions opened with the group making statements that were rather general. These statementstended to fall into four categories. First, they might evaluate the story as a whole, or parts ofit. "I thought the story - I didn't think it was that great ..." (Story 3, 1. 31). Secondly, theyexpressed whether or not they felt personally engaged with the story. "I enjoyed the storybecause it was really based on a lot about the sex roles in which we are forced to play ..."(Story 4, 11. 6-8). Thirdly, they often stated what they thought the story's theme or purposewas such as in the above example.What tended to happen next during their discussions was rather interesting. Thediscussions seemed to follow an organizational format similar to a traditional five paragraph40essay. The body of each discussion session focussed on specific details, such as character andplot. The conclusion of each session, to continue the analogy, returned to the general focus ofthe introductions, i.e. theme, evaluation, and/or engagement. For instance, R. evaluates theending in her concluding statement for story one's session. "Okay, my conclusion is I like theending in a way it's kinda cute but urn he lost what he had because he was going to cheat"(Story 1, 11. 236-7). The preceding statements are generalizations based on my analysis of thediscussion sessions for each story, and, like any generalization, there are exceptions andvariations on the theme.From my field observations and discussion transcripts, Group One appeared to beargumentative, unsupportive, and less probing.A.^It's got nothing to do with sports or something.S .^Ahh.R.^No sports eh?S .^Super jock doesn't like -A.^What's that?R.^No sports eh?A.^I don't know it's all right. I didn't say I hated it or nothing like that.R.^No, you said you didn't like it.(Story 2, 11. 407-15)In fact, the teacher and I wondered at the end of the first discussion session whether or not weshould intervene during their future discussions if the group dynamic continued in the samefashion. I decided not to intervene which was fortunate because appearances are deceptive.Upon reviewing the group's transcripts, it became apparent that while the group memberscontradicted each other during their discussions, they were actually engaged in lively andsupportive discussions.R.^We have to say okay urn that what the penny symbolizes. Then we have to sayum how the father interprets it and how the son interprets it and why they'regoing to bury him with the penny.J.^Yeah.S .^Didn't the kid take the penny out too though?R.^No, left it there.A.^He put it back -R.^It's shiny.R .^So if he polished that penny that means everytime he took that penny out of hispocket he thought of him and his son having a good time together.J.^Yeah.(Story 2, 314-21, 325-7)41The example cited above also indicates that even though each student speaks briefly and thelevel of interpretation is somewhat unsophisticated, Group One's peer response discussionsessions displayed insight.At this point, I shall examine the discussions of each of the four stories because asstated previously, while it is possible to generalize about the four discussions, each story'sdiscussion is unique. As well, each story's discussion provides new windows ofunderstanding as to how student-led discussion groups work to understand and make sense ofshort stories.Session OneThe first story read and discussed was "He Swung and He Missed" by Nelson Algren."He Swung and He Missed" is about a young man named Rocco whose boxing career is in itsfinal stages. Although the story opens with reminiscences about Rocco as a student at school,most of the story is a description of Rocco's last fight. In conjunction with being unsuccessfulas a boxer, Rocco's fight is clouded with confusion as to whether or not he will actually takethe dive as previously arranged.His wife, not knowing about Rocco's secret agreement, bets their last dollars on Roccoto win. She loses their money, and Rocco appears to have ended his career on a losing note.The story, set in New York City during the early twentieth century, focusses on people andevents that are not typically within the students' realm of experience. This does not mean thatGroup One is unwilling to discuss the story and express some engagement with it. But in fact,only A., who does not like reading very much, finds the story particularly engaging.R. I know personally I don't like violence and I don't like boxing and that kind ofthing so ...A. I would have tooken him on for a couple rounds.(11. 31-2)J. initiates the group's discussion. He focusses on Rocco's character overall and the thestory's theme. "I think Rocco really did good in his life 'cause he tried hard and he -- he nevergot really KO'd and he -- he tried his hardest to make out the best for him and his wife" (11. 1 -2). A. also focusses on Rocco and indicates an emotional connection with the story. As well,he talks somewhat thematically about the story.A. It sort of seems sad 'cause ah on the first page it's sorta like there's so muchhope and - fighting and get rich or whatever. At the end of his career he's gotnothin really to show for it - sorta thing.(11. 3-5)42The third person to give an initial response is R. She evaluates, positively, the story's endingand tone, and expresses engagement with Rocco's character.R.^I like the ending. I thought it was kinda neat but urn sort of in a bad way andthat he wasn't mad cause he could have been like totally really upset uh that sheblew all the money but he was still pretty cool about it so I like the ending.(11. 6-8)S. speaks last; he contradicts R. He evaluates the story's ending and Rocco's characternegatively.S .^"I don't like the ending because he - he never got any money he lost money.He tried to help his wife an he didn't. She ended up screwing him"(11. 9-10).Group One's initial responses analyse the story and its central character overall andevaluate the story as a construct that conforms or does not conform to their personalperspectives on life. As well, the opening statements reveal a sense of comfort and willingnessto venture personal opinions.The introductory section of the discussion concludes with the group using a variety ofstrategies for making sense of the characters and the story as a whole. The strategies usedrange from attempting to feel empathy to expressing engagement.R .^The characters convey their difference like 'cause I guess like the waywe're all in school like there's not many of us who've been here for the5th time kind of thing. So it's kind of neat that the characters aren'tvery ordinary that they're different sort of but the name Rocco, thename's gotta go. But um the story was good but ...A.^Sort of a pretty cool guy actually.(11. 23-8)R.'s attempt to empathize with the characters is an example of how the members of Group Onetend to make sense of short stories. They seek to find the characters and events that conformwith their outlook and experience.The focus of the discussion changes from the more general nature of an introduction toconsideration of specific literary elements. The group considers character, plot, and theme.Primarily, however, they talk about the central character, Rocco. Comments about Roccoinclude such things as he "tried hard", "never gave up", and it "says he got beat up" (11. 35, 36,40). As they analyse, they readily clarify and elaborate upon each other's comments.A.^Yeah he got beat up there at the end.R.^No, he died; he died.J .^No, he didn't.43S .^No, he never died 'cause ...J.^... woke up in the dressing room right.(11. 41-5)As the dialogue about character, plot, and theme continues, Group One employs themeaning-making strategies of inferring, analysing, and speculating.J.^Trusting that Rocco would make good and he doesn't.R.^He does make good.S .^Oh yeah, he did, yeah.J .^No, he doesn't ...R.^Making good doesn't necessarily mean winning.(11. 55-9)The above segment reveals the group analysing Rocco by referring to a statement from thestory about trusting that Rocco would make good. They also infer from the statement andsynthesize from the story in general as to what making good means. R.'s comment aboutwhat making good means is an insightful thematic statement that develops naturally from thediscourse about Rocco's character. Similarly, as they continue to discuss Rocco's characterand whether or not he achieved success, thematic understanding evolves when they realize thateven if all you have is the love of your wife, you have something significant.J .^I know exactly, what does he have to show for it.R.^A wife.A.^The love of his wife.J .^But that's it.(11. 66-9)The third meaning-making strategy, speculation, is used by the group to move beyond thegiven text. Their engagement and involvement with Rocco leads them to speculate about whatRocco will do beyond the conclusion written by the author.S .^He's never going to fight again.J.^He can't. He shouldn't be doing any fighting anyways.A.^He will 'cause he needs more money right?J.^He's too beat in though he shouldn't fight anymore anyways.(11. 137-40)The concluding moments of Group One's first session represent a return to makinggeneralizations such as might be used in an essay's conclusion. Through discourse aboutcharacter and plot, they demonstrate understanding of the story's themes: doing good, gainingrespect, sense of pride, and possessing love.44J.^Well, my conclusion is he did good in his life but I think in some ways...A.^But he gained the respect eh J.?J.^He gained respect and that he did love his wife. He had the love and but he didnot have the money.S .^And he lost his pride. And he'll never fight again.A. He has the pride. (11. 291-295)The comments also become more evaluative in nature. R. says, "Okay, my conclusion is I likethe ending in a way it's kinda cute but um he lost what he had because he was going to cheat"(11. 286-7).Even though this was Group One's first discussion session, it revealed a great dealabout their behavioural dynamic, their meaning-making strategies, and the shape and flow oftheir discussion. They were energetic and, generally, comfortable with one another.Individually, they did not probe too deeply into the story. They did, however, build upon eachother's statements and disagree with each other quite readily. Chiefly, they made sense of anddeveloped empathy for the central character and through him tried to interpret the plot andtheme. Other literary elements rarely came into the discussion. Overall, they wanted to be ableto relate to the story, and the behaviour of the central character was their central means ofattempting to achieve that.Session TwoThe second story read and discussed was "Penny in the Dust" by Ernest Buckler. Thestory is told from Pete's perspective as an adult on the eve of his Father's funeral. He and hissister reminisce about the past. In particular, they talk about the time when Pete's Father gavehim a shiny penny which he loses as a result of pretending it is buried treasure that will make itpossible for him to buy things for his family. He then disappears and everyone thinks he islost. The family finds Pete in his bedroom and his Father, an uncommunicative man, thinksthat Pete is afraid to tell him what he did with his penny. The next day Pete and his Fathercome to understand one another better as a result of them finding the lost penny together. Atthe conclusion of the story, Pete finds the penny, still shiny, in his deceased Father's suit coatpocket.R., once again acting as the chairperson, begins the discussion by indicating that shelikes the story. "Okay. It is a good story. I liked it" (1. 5). S., the second person to speak,evaluates the story positively. "It's better than the last one" (1. 6). R. agrees with and supportsS.'s comment. A., who speaks next, disagrees with R.'s and S.'s evaluations of the story."No. I didn't like it" (11. 8, 10). The final initial response comes from J. "I thought it was45better. It was alright. I don't know..." (11. 9, 11). He agrees with R. and S. and evaluates thestory positively, comparing it to "He Swung and He Missed". None of the opening statementsis longer than one brief statement, nor do the students provide reasons for their positions. Asin session one, the opening statements are global and, in particular, evaluative. It is intriguingto note that they compare this story to the previous story; they openly state their level ofengagement with the text; and they do not hesitate to state an opinion that differs from theirpeers.Session two moves from the introductory phase to the middle phase or body of thediscussion when R. expresses confusion about the gender of the central character. S.confesses to experiencing a similar confusion. They draw upon their memory to refer back tothe story to clarify the confusion.R.^Okay. Urn. Okay we have our little characters. Actually at the beginning Ididn't know that like it was a guy.S .^Neither did I.R.^Yeah, 'cause...S .^I thought it was a girl.R.^My sister and I. I guess like just the way we think but it wasn't until you knowwhen she said Pete.(11. 22-29)Similar to the discussion of "He Swung and He Missed", Group One focusses primarily oncharacter and secondarily on plot as they work to make sense of "A Penny in the Dust".S .^Okay but he didn't spend that penny because it was so shiny right? He'd neverseen one.R.^Like ...S .^So why was he playing with it in the dust getting it dirty?R.^No ... 'cause like he was thinking like well the penny his father gave it to himright. I think that was more the reason than the fact that it was so shiny and tosay shiny was a good excuse for him because he just didn't want to admit to thefact that it was because it was his father's that he wanted it.S .^Could be.A.^I agree.(11. 78-86)They also draw on many of the same meaning-making strategies used in the first session. Inthe example quoted above, S. and R. ask questions, infer from the story's details, andspeculate about character motivation and behaviour.A most interesting meaning-making strategy that the group uses is telling personalstories. At the instigation of R., they recount childhood stories about when they did somethingstupid.46R.^Well, I remember um like when I like I was babysitting and my brother wasyounger and urn we had this old clock right. Like it was really old like thethings like falling apart and we were running around the house we're notsupposed to run around the house when Mom and Dad aren't there rightespecially ... so we're running around the house and I hit the clock and it felland it smashed it. I took a piece of gum and I tried to put it all back togetheragain. And I put it on the shelf and you know Morn and Dad got home and I goMom I'll set the table Mom and I'll clean everything right and she freaking out- she picks up the clock and like I'm totally freaking out thinking I'm groundedwhen she starts laughing. She goes did you try putting this back together. Ihad like pushed gum sticking out of all the ends.A.^We weren't supposed to play soccer in the back yard 'cause like it wasn't like ahouse here. It was in Greece. And we had these two, these two parrots.S .^You guys had parrots?A.^What's that?S .^Like cement you mean or like live parrots?A.^No live. In a cage. And I kicked the soccer ball and it went csheeeee, hit theparrot cage, the parrot cage fell and opened up and the parrots took off.(11. 99-107, 112-8)By telling their personal stories, they seem to develop empathy and understanding for Pete'scharacter and situation. During the personal story telling sequence, R. works hard toencourage J. to tell a related story from his childhood. Finally, J. tells his story "No there'sanother time when I was throwing my garbage away at Guildford and I threw my five dollarsaway so I got the maintenance person to look into the garbage for me" (11. 144-145). The otherfascinating component of the group's personal stories recounting childhood behaviour is howsimilar they are in theme and content to Buckler's story.S .^When I was a kid I left my red truck on the roadside.A.^And a car hit it.R.^And it rained.S .^No. Somebody came, like a paperboy or something and -A.^Stole it.S .^Stole it. And I thought I'd lost it - I started freaking out. My parents weren'teven mad I was just freaking out.(11. 125-131)As they examine Pete's actions and his relationship with his father more closely, theyalso draw on personal experience with their parents.S .^Your parents, like you were lost and you were a little kid your parents you'dhear your parents calling you right. If you were in your bed hiding you'd get inmore trouble for not answering. You know if you're far away an then, that'sstupid.R.^I think it would be sad that like you're a kid with that you'd be so scared ofbeing slapped like for, you know being slapped around.J.^Especially after losing a penny.(11. 209-14)47J.^Why would his father hit him for losing something?S .^No but -J.^That small.S .^He wouldn't hit him. Just the kid thought he would.R .^No, the kid didn't think he would hit him though.J.^Why did he hide then?R.^Because he's emotional about the fact that he had all his treasure planned and itwasn't the penny that he had lost.(11. 219-23, 225-7)Essentially, the preceding statements show the group trying to decide why Pete hid after losingonly a penny. What is interesting about the statements are the strategies the group uses tointerpret Pete's actions. They not only refer to personal experience, but they also suggestpossibilities, offer alternative interpretations, contradict each other, analyse character and plot,and infer from the text.The exchange focussing on Pete's actions after losing the penny causes them toconsider a third literary element: symbolism. "Yeah, his penny was like symbolic of his dreamof him and his father going to town and having all these treasures and everyone looking atthem" (11. 258-9). As a means of discussing the penny's symbolism, the group looks again atspecific actions of Pete's and his relationship with his Father.R.^Do you think, do you think what he really lost was a penny or do you thinkwhat he really lost was the fact that him and his father did something that didn'trelate to like work or something. The fact that him and his father would go totown and be together and laugh. See he, him and his father never seemed tolaugh so he didn't lose a penny what he lost was this dream 'cause this pennywas like his dream.S .^His dream.R.^So I think what it was is that he didn't lose a penny he just lost the friendship ofhis father and that's what he was scared of losing.S .^He'd lost his dream of friendship with his father.R.^Like he treasures the penny. It's like a treasure. It's not a penny anymore it's,it's a dream and that's why he treasures it so much and he keeps it with himwherever he goes because it was in his favourite suit in the breast pocket. Noone puts change there.(11. 253-7, 264-6, 288-290).While the above examples explicitly illustrate the group working to analyse the penny'ssymbolism by using the strategies of questioning, inferring, speculating, elaborating, andreferring to the text, they also reveal the group's implicit understanding of the story's themes:the power of love, father and son relationships, dreams and reality, and communication.Similar to the discussion in session one, Group One rarely engages in an outright deliberationof theme. They seem to understand theme through looking at other aspects of the story.48Another literary element they discuss is mood. R. talks about the mood the storyevoked for her and links it to a television commercial. "Now you get kind of a neat feeling afterreading it you know. I did. I thought - sort of like the Canadian Tire commercial" (11. 41-2).J. agrees with her analysis of the story's mood, but he does not see the story as being similarto the commercial chiefly because the commercial has a different outcome. "Heartwarming.That's a very heartwarming story. Not like the Canadian Tire commercial" (1. 43). However,A. and S. follow R.'s train of thought because the story elicits a similar mood and similarchildhood memories for them. Although they do not talk about mood for very long, it issignificant because it is another illustration of their level of engagement and involvement withthe story and their desire to relate the story to their own experiences.For the concluding portion of session two, the group returns to generally evaluativestatements about the story. A. seems to have held on to his negative evaluation of the story.The other group members question him to explain "why don't you like it?" (1. 381). S.,contrary to A., wishes the story were turned into a novel. At this, A. hesitatingly endorses thestory as okay. "Well the story's okay urn" (1. 384). They continue to push A. to explain hisposition. "Yeah. Why don't you like it? Seriously I want to know why you don't like it" (1.385). Although the others disagree with and challenge A. to elaborate upon or change hisopinion of the story, they ultimately accept his right to express a different opinion about thestory. This a good example of how the group might outwardly appear argumentative.Generally, Group One has the ability to disagree coupled with a willingness to engagein lively and supportive discourse. Their group dynamic is more volatile than we will see inthe other three groups. But whether their behavioural dynamic is a result of their academicbackground or individual personalities, in their discussion of "Penny in the Dust" they drawheavily on personal experience and anecdotes to demonstrate a strong sense of engagement andempathy for the characters.Session ThreeThe third story, "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks" by Morley Callaghan, is quite different from"Penny in the Dust" in that it does not contain any childhood experiences to which the studentsmay relate. It is the story of a young married couple, expecting their first child, who begin tosquabble as they are walking in a park. The tiff occurs because Mrs. Fairbanks does not thinkher husband understands her feelings of apprehension about the baby and their circumstancesin life. The disgruntled feelings increase after Mrs. Fairbanks tries to give a seemingly downand out man money. He rejects her offer. She is disconcerted, while her husband isnonplussed. She calls her husband insensitive and declares that she does not want the baby.49Mr. Fairbanks thinks she is being foolish. His methods of consolation only irritate her more.As they walk home, they pass the man who rejected the money once again. He smiles at Mrs.Fairbanks and she smiles in return. After that, Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks walk home happily.Interestingly, the discussion process begins with the group following one of theresponse process suggestions. They read the first and last paragraphs of the story aloud.Although they have read segments of the story in previous discussions, they did not follow thesuggested response process so precisely before.After reading aloud from the story, the group members give their initial responses.Similar to the other two discussions, the opening comments are more general and evaluate thestory overall.J .^I thought the story - I didn't think it was that great, but because, I don't know,it just didn't seem to be too interesting to me, but, well, it's -A.^I thought the lady was like unreasonable like the husband said some of thethings she said were like dumb, and I liked the story though. It was prettygood.R.^I thought the story was an interesting story, but I don't like the way thehusband just wouldn't consider the woman's idea whether or not she wantedto have the child.S .^I think I agree with the man, just what A. said that she was being a bitch.(11. 31-45)In the preceding comments, the students not only evaluate the story, but they also express theirdegree of engagement with the story, their opinion of the couple's behaviour, and theirpersonal views on gender issues elicited by the story. As in discussion sessions one and two,the opening remarks once again have the broad scope of a typical introduction to an essay.The body of the discussion session focusses primarily on the wife's behaviour andsecondarily on the husband's behaviour. They also talk about the man on the bench.Focussing on character to understand a short story is not a new pattern for Group One.However, what is important about their focus on the literary element of character is that itexcludes obvious discussion of other literary elements. Throughout the session, they workexplicitly to make sense of the characters' motivations and behaviour. They do not expressconfusion about the plot, wonder about the setting, or try to determine the theme. Anyconcerns about plot, theme, or setting occur implicitly within the talk about character. Forinstance, in the middle of the session, A. and R. evaluate the story's ending while discussingthe wife's behaviour.A.^I liked sorta here at the end where she sorta grabs his hands and then makeseverything okay.R .^Okay.A.^That's sorta neat. It's the best part of the story.50R.^Yeah.(11. 115-19)Because character is the only literary element discussed overtly, it is informative to lookat how the group goes about making sense of the story's characters. Their repertoire ofmeaning-making strategies is fairly extensive and reflects the style of interpretation used by thegroup in sessions one and two. The most widely used strategies are analysing, questioning,evaluating, inferring, speculating, referring to personal experience or knowledge, feelingempathy, expressing engagement, and role playing.Of course, the strategies are not used in isolation. For example, during one segment ofthe session as they work to make sense of the wife's and husband's behaviour, they analyse,question, infer, evaluate, empathize, and refer to personal experience.J.^She doesn't have to whine about it.R.^All she wanted to do was give him a quarter, right, and he just sorta gave her alook and she felt really bad and embarrassed.S .^She should feel stupid. Wouldn't you feel stupid?A.^You say I feel dumb and you just don't keep going on and on and on about it.R .^Well, what are they supposed to talk about?A.^They're husband and wife. I'm sure they could find something.S .^The story could have been ended on the second page. They dragged it.R.^I think the husband is very unreasonable in that like she didn't want to have herchild. She is like saying, you know, I don't feel this and this.(11. 61-74)The interest in Mrs. Fairbanks leads the group to speculate about what her first name might be,possible names for the baby, and possible names for the other characters.R.^They didn't mention her first name. I think it would be Lynn, if she had a firstname.J.^Lynn Fairbanks.R .^Yeah.A.^Sure.J.^Okay, what are we going to name the kid?S.^And what about his name?R.^Bill.S .^George.(11. 190-98)This type of speculation indicates engagement with the characters and the story.The group's discussion becomes a little off topic after speculating about characters'names and R., acting as chairperson, brings them back on topic by commenting that she likedhow the man on the bench smiled at Mrs. Fairbanks.51R .^It was kinda neat the way the bum turned around and he smiled at her -J.^Yeah.A.^He knew she felt bad.R.^I guess in a way the reason he smiled was because first of all when they walkedby, right, they were a totally happy little couple, and he was like run- and thenwhen they were like fighting.A.^No, she was like RRRRRRRR.S .^Yeah, he was too though.A.^No, he wasn't.R.^And when they were fighting the bum decides it's kinda funny because noteveryone's life is so perfect, so he decides he's going to grin at it.A.^He smiled because he knew he ruined their day.A.^But he realized -S .^Who did?A.^- that she made an honest mistake. That's why she smiled at him.S .^That's the answer. It's the whole meaning of the story. You just figured it out.(11. 206-22, 228-33, 241-2)By inferring from the few details provided in the story about the bum, they not only interpretthe man's behaviour, but they also interpret the story as a whole. This is another example ofhow they focus on character in their discussion, but through talking about character they oftendiscern other things about the story such as theme.During the general discourse about the Fairbanks, an unusual form of understandingthe couple's behaviour is used briefly by R. and S. when they suggest alternative dialogue forthe characters.S .^So he agrees with her. What's he supposed to do? If he disagrees, then shestarts talking again.R.^No, he's not just disagreeing, he could just say, 'It's okay, honey, it's anhonest mistake'. Would it be so hard for him to be a little sympathetic?A.^NoS .^Then she would have said, 'It's not okay'.(11. 451-457)In a sense, they are role playing and speculating at the same time. The use of alternativedialogue is unusual for Group One, but it does highlight the degree of empathy andengagement that the group has with the story's characters.As session three draws to a close, the group continues to analyse and speculate aboutthe characters. They focus chiefly on Mrs. Fairbanks, but at the same time consider Mr.Fairbanks and the man on the bench as well. They also consider bigger issues raised by thestory such as gender issues, moral dilemmas, and consideration of who has control overgetting and remaining pregnant.R.^But A. are you saying it's her fault - that it's her fault that she's pregnant?A.^Well, I never said - J. said it was her fault.52R .^So if it's her fault -J.^I never said it was her fault.R.^Okay, but -A.^It's obviously both of them's fault.S .^You don't think it was a planned kid?R.^No.J.^Yeah, it was.A.^Yeah.S .^I think it was. I think she changed her mind after.A.^Yeah.R.^No.S .^She's having second thoughts now.J.^Well, I think that sums it up then.R.^Go ahead. What are you going to say? And if you say it's the woman's faultabout this argument, I'm going to bop you.S .^Yeah, but that's not the whole point of the story is whose fault the argumentwas.R.^No, it's just that's the point they made -J .^What is the point of this story?R.^Okay, the point of this story is that they were married and they got through alittle argument which is cool that they got through it, I think it's cool that theygot through it, and that incident about the bum just helped to show how closethey really are and how they got through it.(11. 649-675)The session concludes with them making general statements similar to the discussions ofsessions one and two.As stated previously, throughout the session Group One focussed on the characters,and the relationship of the husband and wife in particular. Group One's energy and comfortwith one another fostered a discussion session that had a lively, argumentative tone. Theirability to be supportive and contrary helped them consider various interpretations of characters'behaviours. Even though they never developed a consciously elaborated theme statement,never fully understood the role of the man on the bench, and paid scant attention to the authorand his construction of the story, Group One was very engaged with making sense of howmen and women, i.e. Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks, behave during arguments and pregnancy.Their overwhelming interest in the characters' motivations, behaviour, and relationships seemsto demonstrate their interest in identifying with characters in stories and having them relate totheir personal experience.Session FourThe last story read and discussed, "The Friday Everything Changed" by Anne Hart, issimilar to "Penny in the Dust" in that many of the characters are children and the plot revolves53around an event from childhood. There is much in the story that students can relate toexperientially.Essentially, the story is about how the girls in a one-room school, with a young firstyear teacher, got to carry the water bucket. Before this change of events, only the boys carriedthe water bucket. The change, of course, does not come about without a struggle. The boysfight the girls blatantly and deviously for a week, but eventually the boys are unsuccessfulbecause Miss Ralston stepped up to bat one lunch hour and hit a magnificent home run. Thatafternoon she announced that Alma Niles and Joyce Shipley would carry the water bucket nextweek.The group begins its discussion with each member of the group giving an initialresponse to the story. Each one of them evaluates the story positively.S .^It's a good story. I liked it.J.^I thought it was a good story also, because, I don't know, it was a conflictbetween boys and girls in elementary school. It seemed like pretty good.R.^I enjoyed the story because it was really based on a lot about the sex roles inwhich we are forced to play with or I guess what I'm saying is, you know,girls are allowed to be tomboys, when guys aren't allowed to be sissy's, but inthis case the girls got to do what was considered to be only a guy's thing.(11. 2-12)J. and R. give reasons as to why they like the story. Their opening comments also delve intothe story's theme and male/female conflict. One of the group, A., draws on personalexperience. He relates the story to the television show, Little House on the Prairie.A.^I thought it was good. It reminded me of those Little House on the Prairiestories. I thought it was funny that the guys beat up the girls though. Well, itwasn't funny, it was sorta mean, but I don't know, it was sorta odd that they'dbeat up the girls when they couldn't get their way.(11. 15-19)As in the three previous sessions, the discussion opens with general statements. Theirpersonal readings of the story are synthesized into brief opening statements. Also like theprevious sessions, the group focusses on evaluating the story, expressing engagement with thestory, referring to personal experience, and analysing theme and character. The final segmentof the introductory comments or initial responses has the group reading the opening andclosing paragraphs of the story as suggested by the response process guidelines. Group One'schairperson, R., directs them to read the paragraphs and they comply with her.Literary elements provide the framework for the body of Group One's discussion of"The Friday Everything Changed". As they talk about the story through the elements ofcharacter, plot, setting, theme, and symbolism, they use a variety of meaning-makingstrategies.54The first literary element Group One discusses is setting. They refer to personalexperience to determine where and when the story took place. In this case personal experiencerefers to their viewing of Little House on the Prairie.S .^- it's not just elementary.J.^Younger kids.A.^It's like Little House on the Prairie.S .^Little House on the Prairie. All in one class.J.^All grades in one class.(11. 78-82)Later in the session, they return to trying to determine what the setting is. Inferring andquestioning are two strategies they use. For instance, J. infers that the story takes place in acity, but asks why they have to walk distances. "It was in the city though. How do they -why do they have to walk a quarter of a mile?" (11. 211-2). J.'s comment and question aboutthe story's setting inspires much discussion among the group about the location and timeperiod. They settle on a country setting after R. says, "No, it was a school in the countrybecause they all had to get their water from the pump by the river" (11. 220-1). Determining thetime period of the story is another matter. For 88 speaking turns, they speculate, infer, anddraw on personal knowledge and experience to reach a sense of when the story occurred.J.^Maybe the twenties then?A.^I think the twenties.R.^No, but see, like -S .^Yeah, but Little House on the Prairie wasn't mentioned then.(11. 242-5)S .^Paragraph 16?A.^And the television came through in the 40s.R.^Yeah, so it's before the television.A.^About seven years before the television.J.^Yeah, you know. Okay.(11. 280-4)Even though the exploration of setting eventually drifts off topic, it is interesting to observe themeaning-making strategies the group uses, particularly the use of personal experience.The primary focus of the session is character. Even their analysis and questions aboutplot, the second most talked about literary element, occur within the character discussions. Forinstance, as part of talking about the boys and girls playing baseball, S. states, "It's a conflictbetween the boys and the girls" (1. 340). The first 36 speaking turns on the topic of characterinvolve only the boys. They analyse and make inferences about characters' behaviour anddraw on personal experience to talk about male/female roles.A.^Yeah, the boys are always trying to outdo the girls.55S .^Yeah, that's how it is in elementary too.A.^Not any more though.J.^Not much, anyway.A.^No, I mean in elementary schools. I don't think that now.J.^Well, no.S.^Why is it?A.^Women's Lib.J.^Yeah, that's what it is.(11. 83-91)The discussion of character focusses on reflecting on the significance of the boys',girls', and teacher's behaviour and analysing the characters' motivations for acting in the waysthey do. For example, R.'s reflective evaluation of the teacher's gesture at the end of the storyreveals the overall significance of the characters' behaviour.R.^Okay. I think the last line is kinda cool. It's like she swept her hand over thetop of her desk, a tiny desk - I guess what had been really building up was likethe girls wanted to carry the water for a long time, and it's been building up justlike dust builds up, and finally, after hitting that ball, and after announcing thatthe girls were going to carry the water, she removed that dust. She sent itflying, so she's the one that actually got the dreams of the girls being equal toguys.(11. 123-30)A.'s subsequent question leads the group to analyse the characters' motivations. "Do youthink they always wanted to carry the water though" (1. 131)? Different opinions are given byA. and R., but, interestingly, R. builds on A.'s interpretation to develop her own analysis.A.^I don't think half of them even thought about it until that one -R.^No, they didn't think about it because it wouldn't be prudent. Like, it wasn'tacceptable for them to think about it.(11. 134-5).Chiefly, however, they discuss the significance of the characters' behaviour. And because thecharacters are not developed individually as much as they are developed as a group of girls anda group of boys, they draw on their knowledge of male/female behaviour and traditional versusnontraditional gender roles to make sense of the characters' actions and attitudes.S .^The boys have their jobs, the girls have their jobs, right?A.^No.R.^No, no, no. Because then you're saying the bigger they are -S .^The smarter they are.R.^No, I don't think size has anything to do with their intellect. But, it has a lot todo with sex type roles. I was just reading an article on Thursday that hadsomething to do with - it's about how when kids are younger and their parentsthink it is okay for little girls to be tomboys and stuff. But little Johnny orwhatever, he's not allowed to play with dolls and stuff. I just think like it'ssimilar to that right here because in those days little girls weren't allowed to56carry the water, but it was okay for, you know, the guys to, and I just don'tthink it's fair at all.(11. 367-81).The outcome of the preceding comments is an evaluation of the story by R. and to some degreean analysis of the story's theme as well.R.^Yeah. But I just think that was great for women's movement and I'm reallyimpressed with the story. It's cute too.(11. 399-400).In the concluding portion of session four, Group One agrees with each other'sevaluations of the story.R.^It's cute too.A.^I thought it was cool.S .^Yeah.J.^I thought it was good.(11. 400-4)They also spend time deciding who will be the group's reporter, synthesizing the story'sdetails to complete their sense of its overall meaning, and referring to personal experience tomake sense of the characters' behaviour.A.^Who's the reporter here, R. or S.? One of you two.S .^R. can do it.A.^Okay, what are we going to say?J.^Fighting for the equality.A.^It's sort of exaggerated though too.R.^What?A.^The story, just to make it long.R.^But what's exaggerated though?A.^Because the guys wouldn't have really beat the girls.R.^Have you seen little kids in a playground?A.^They wouldn't have beat them though.R. Yes, they would. Little kids.(11. 430-32, 440-49)And although they all enjoyed the story, by no means is there consensus within the groupabout its meaning and significance. Yet, they do listen to R.'s analysis of the story'sconclusion.S. Why? You're always the one that is contradicting yourself.A.^I just think it had to like -R.^Okay, let's decide what we should say.A.^I think it depended on her - if the water would have been -57R.^Okay. When we're reporting back, I think we should mention that - okay, weshould mention the last line how she does the dust thing.J.^Okay, what did you say about that?R.^She swept her hand over the top of her desk, the tiny desk -- and so she's likeremoving the dust, and like, so I guess all that was building up, dust built up,just like the girls desire to carry the water.A.^Okay, but what does the dust represent?R.^The little girls desire to carry the water, and it built up, and you don't alwaysnotice it, just like you don't always notice dust until it finally thickens up. Justlike no one noticed that they really wanted to carry the water.S .^Why don't you say that?(11. 539-555)Because "The Friday Everything Changed" is about a male/female conflict at school,Group One was able to understand the story by relating to the characters which is an importantstrategy for them. In general, their repertoire of meaning-making strategies and literaryelements was broader for this story than it was, for example, in their discussion of "Mr. andMrs. Fairbanks", which may be because "The Friday Everything Changed" was easier forthem to interpret. They had more prior experience and knowledge to draw upon.C. Group Two's StoryOverviewGroup Two has three girls (V., P. and C.) and one boy (E.) in it. This group isheterogeneous, academically and personally. While Group Two possesses similarities toGroup One, it does function differently. For instance, there does not seem to be one personwho chairs the discussion sessions. As well, Group Two, in contrast to Group One, does notread passages from the text as a possible way to revisit the story before beginning theirdiscussion sessions.In general, Group Two functioned with less internal controversy and contradiction thanGroup One. They also tended to talk more extensively for each speaking turn.P.^I don't understand what he means, what she believes why he did it, I guess.Well, I guess that he didn't get knocked out, but he didn't accomplish anything,so I don't really understand the point of the story besides the fact that he was afighter and he didn't give up, but he didn't get anything out of it. I mean, hegraduated but he still hasn't done anything with his life really and they're bothpoor. They've got nothing left. And I agree with V. about, and understandhow his wife, why would she put money on there? It didn't seem that she'sthat type tp put the money down. She seems the type to be responsible withmoney and it's sort of ironic that she never, he said he never gambled all his lifeas well.(Story 1, Session 1, 11. 14-26)58Perhaps as a result of each person talking at greater length, the discussions seemed to probemore deeply into the stories. For example, the concluding speaking turns from Session 1reveal the group's interpretation of "He Swung and He Missed".E.^- but still they had each other and they will always be happy whether he quitsboxing or not.C.^I think so because they didn't have the money before he had the hundreddollars, and now he doesn't have it again, so.V.^So it's sorta like it doesn't matter if he wins or loses ...E.^You give your best.V.^Yeah, you've given it your best, and you're satisfied with what you've done.(Story 1, Session 1, 11. 421-29)Group Two, in comparison to Group One, tended to talk about the stories through theframework of the literary elements and use more strategies for comprehending the stories.From my field observations, Group Two functioned well together. As they talkedabout the stories, they leaned toward each other and listened carefully to what each person wassaying. There was also much smiling and laughing.But as I said for Group One, the discussion sessions for each story reveal better thananything the similarities and differences of each group.Session OneGroup Two's discussion of "He Swung and He Missed" begins, in one respect, quitedifferently from Group One's discussion. The obvious difference is in the length of eachstudent's initial response to the story. Group Two's responses include not only personalstatements of engagement and evaluation, but also expressions of confusion, characteranalysis, and considerations of theme.V.^I was kinda confused about if he took the dive or not and I guess, well, E.explained to me that he did and he won by points, ah, the other guy won bypoints. But, ah, the thing I don't understand is why would his wife put all thatmoney on him? I though she would have rather bought something for herself,OrE.^I kinda like the story because, urn, I don't know, I admire people who keep ontrying once they've, like they've been put down a lot and they've never beengiven much to, to start with. After like his graduation and, ah, and ah, just thisfighting period it shows that he's, that he's a true fighter and just keeps ongoing, like he rolls with the punches and doesn't give up.P.^I don't understand what he means, what she believes why he did it, I guess.Well, I guess that he didn't get knocked out, but he didn't accomplish anything,so I don't really understand the point of the story besides the fact that he was afighter and he didn't give up, but he still get anything out of it. I mean, hegraduated but he still hasn't done anything with his life really and they're both59poor. They've got nothing left. and I agree with V. about, and understandhow his wife, why should she put money on there? It didn't seem that she'sthat type to put the money down. She seems the type to be responsible withmoney and it's sort of ironic that she never, he said he never gambled all his lifeas well.C.^I really don't know what to say. I don't really understand the whole story. Idon't know. He - V. said that, um, he had lost by points but I think he gotknocked out and all this but I don't know. We've already talked about that.(11. 2-31)Even though they are confused and ask questions about the story, the group seems to start itsdiscussion at a different level of understanding than Group One. Group Two seems moreaware of not only what they understand, but also what they do not understand. Their firstreading has not left them with a clear understanding of the story's purpose.Groups One and Two consider some of the same literary elements while talking about"He Swung and He Missed": character, plot, and theme. However, Group Two moreconsciously approaches the story through the framework of the literary elements and they useapproximately twice as many meaning-making strategies.Throughout the session, Group Two discusses all the characters in the story: Rocco,his wife, Lili, Uncle Mike, and Miss Donahue. But, Rocco is their central focus. In thefollowing segment, Group Two uses the strategies of analysing, inferring, and referring to thetext to understand Rocco's behaviour and motivations. It also illustrates how they functiontogether as a group. They readily elaborate upon and agree with each other's ideas. However,their willingness to be supportive does not stop them from offering different interpretationssuch as V.'s statement in the following segment.E.^Rocco is kinda like a guy of tradition because at the very end he says like "thatwas young Rocco from graduation day. He always did it the hard way, but hedid it."C.^He always did what he had to do.E.^Yeah. He didn't take any shortcuts or try to do anything any easier than it'ssupposed to be done. He was always did it like that.V.^The way I sort of thought of it was that he sort of did take the shortcut. Hedidn't go to school and he --C.^He did, he graduated.(11. 119-28)They also engage in speculation beyond the confines of the story as they discuss Rocco'sfuture after boxing.C.^I think, personally I think he would sort of end up in a gym or something,being a coach.P.^Like another Uncle Mike in a way.E.^If he went into a gym, it would be kinda cool because he's been through boxing60quite a bit ...V.^I can't see him in boxing anymore because of like the way he sort of let them allgo, like he doesn't want to have to do anything with it anymore.(11. 351-2, 355, 361-2, 373-5)Group Two rarely analyses Lili, Rocco's wife, as a character in her own right. Theylook at her in terms of her relationship with Rocco and wonder what she saw in Rocco. "Shedoesn't see Rocco as, like, he might be an ugly guy, say, but he's a fighter, right, but she'smore into his personality, like, what he's really like under the skin ... " (11. 277-9). As theydiscuss Lili, C. reveals her ability to make inferences from the text and her ability to be awareof the images that she sees in her mind as she reads. "I could picture her being very small andfrail, like a very tiny little girl" (11. 291-2). In addition, Group Two speculates as to why Lilibet all the money on Rocco instead of buying shoes and other necessary things.E.^She might have done it, like, when somebody has a hockey game, and a bunchof friends come and watch, it makes them less self-confident on the ice.E.^She might have just done it to ...C.^For a little bit of support.(11. 300-1, 304-5)As they discuss the story's characters, they not only analyse the characters as humanbeings who have aspirations and relationships, but also consider the characters as typesconstructed by the author.P.^The dynamic central character. She changed him.C.^Yeah.V.^Well, yeah, he changed after.C.^Lili seemed kinda flat. She sorta just seemed like the kind of girl that wouldjust stand by and you know.V.^Uncle Mike is like his manager.C.^His manager.V.^Right.C.^He kinda changed, like, he was kinda weird but he knew what Rocco wanted inlife.(11. 161-63, 166-7, 171-75)The preceding segment is an example of how Group Two is able to use knowledge of theliterary elements as part of their discussion of the characters.While Group Two usually considers plot while discussing character, there are timeswhen they talk directly about a certain event in the story. For instance, C. is bewildered by theoutcome of the boxing match. She reads aloud the end of the fight.C.^It says, right near the end there it says, "Rocco spun half way around and stoodlooking sheepishly out at the the rows. Kid Class saw only his man's back."Therefore obviously, he was knocked out. He was out on his feet. "Hewalked slowly along the ropes, tapping them idly with his glove and smiling61vacantly down at the newspapermen, who smiled back. Solly looked at Ryan.Ryan nodded toward Rocco. Kid Class came up fast behind his man and threwa left under the armpit, flush onto the front of his chin. Rocco went forward onthe ropes and hung there, his chin catching the second strand and hung on andon, like a man decapitated."(11. 44-55).Her confusion about the boxing match is taken up by the rest of the group and there is muchback and forth inferring from the story's details about whether or not Rocco was knocked out.C.^If he went down, so ...E.^And no bell went ring. How far ...C.^It doesn't say. Then after it says he was decapitated. It says he came to in thelocker room under the stands.P.^So we're missing that little scene there, I guess.C.^We don't know exactly.(11. 65-70)Interestingly, as they talk about the fight and Rocco's character, they also consider the authorand his role as the constructor of the story when P. mentions that they are missing a scene. Itseems that to some degree they are aware that authors make decisions to include certain eventsand to exclude other events.The other literary element that Group Two discusses is theme. They do not ask eachother directly about the theme. Consideration of the story's theme arises as a result of talkingabout other components of the story. For instance, P. evaluates the story positively. "I likedthe story" (1. 73). E. also evaluates the story and its characters. And from his consideration ofthe characters' behaviour, he analyzes the story's theme.E.^I don't know, it's just kinda cool how they don't have much but they've goteach other.(11. 88-9)After E.'s statement, C. and P. praise him for being so profound which is an example of thegroup's supportive and agreeable dynamic.C.^Oow, that's profound.P.^Yeah, I like that. I like that thought.(11. 90-1)Later in the session, E. offers another interpretation of story's theme after the group has beenanalysing Rocco's character at great length.E.^"I guess it kinda has to do with how money affects our lives. .. we start tocherish the things that wouldn't normally mean much to people"(11. 150-4).62Once again the other group members support his thematic analysis.One literary element that Group Two discusses that Group One does not is symbolism.Symbolic interpretations are suggested by E. and C. as a means of building a clearer picture ofRocco's character.E.^His wife can be like a symbol of hope because that's his main inspiration. Thereason why he wants to win, to try to get some money so he can please hiswife.C.^Yeah. The boxing can symbolize his struggle with life.(11. 191-4)These statements may represent students taking the search for symbolic meaning too far.Nevertheless, C. and E.'s statements are examples of how Group Two uses their knowledgeof literary elements to help them understand Rocco's characterAt the conclusion of the session, the group considers ideas and analyses of a moregeneral nature which reflects the prevailing shape of the groups' discussion sessions: begingenerally, become specific, and end generally. They use the meaning-making strategies ofanalysis and synthesis to make global pronouncements about the characters' attitudes and tosuggest possible themes for the story.C.^They lost it. They lost everything, but that's what Lili wanted, and I thinkthat's why he wasn't that upset because it was for Lili that he got the money.V.^So it's sorta like it doesn't matter if he wins or loses ...E.^You give it your best.V.^Yeah, you've given it your best, and you're satisfied with what you've done.C.^Yeah. This is all.(11. 417-9, 425-30)Generally, Group Two built and elaborated upon each other's ideas; they supported andagreed with each other; and they demonstrated problem solving behaviour in their approach tomaking meaning. In contrast to Group One, they rarely referred to personal experience as astrategy for understanding the story. This may be because of how they worked as a group tointerpret the story or it may be because the group consisted of three girls and only one boy.The three girls may have found it difficult to relate personally to a story about a boxer's lastfight. One of the most interesting things about Group Two's discussion of "He Swung and HeMissed" was the number of meaning-making strategies they used in contrast to group one.Group One had a repertoire of about seven meaning-making strategies; whereas, Group Twohad a repertoire of about eleven meaning-making strategies. The shape of their first discussionsession was also less obviously general to specific to general, or essay shape, than GroupOne's. The interesting question is whether these differences will become more or less apparentin the subsequent sessions.63Session TwoGroup Two begins discussing Ernest Buckler's, "Penny in the Dust" by askingquestions and expressing confusion.C.^So, okay, well the obvious question is did he find the penny, like after, likewhen he was older, or like right after he was a kid?P.^I think he found it when he was a kid. I'm not sure.V.^I don't know. It's just -- this guy is seven right?(11. 3-8)The opening questions lead to more questions about Pete, the penny, and the setting.V.^Yeah, and that's really confusing in a sense because if he's talking like the lastpart, he's talking about finding the penny again yesterday, meaning yesterdayafter the day he was like lost, or was it yesterday meaning another timeyesterday, or like a different year yesterday?E.^Does this just mean like he found the penny again yesterday, is this just simplylike a couple of days later when they had the special occasions thing, or I don'tknow?(11. 12-16, 22-4)Group Two's initial responses for "A Penny in the Dust" do not follow the typical pattern ofmaking general statements of evaluation, engagement, and theme. Instead, they focus on whatis causing them to feel confused about the story. As well, they do not follow the suggestedprocess of each person giving an initial response about the story without receiving anycomments or questions or answers from other members in the group. Between each student'sinitial response other members of the group reply to or elaborate upon what was said.Nevertheless, the students' questions, answers, and comments create a tone of interestedinquiry.In a sense the introductory section to the session is not only different in content, butalso in length because the aforementioned questions and expressions of confusion are more likethe first half of the session's introductory segment. The second half of the introductorysegment begins with E. saying "I don't understand this story very well" (1. 28). After E.expresses his confusion about the story, the girls offer analyses of the penny's symbolism thatare also analyses of the story's theme.P.^Well, I have that same question, if he's still young or not. I guess the onlyother thing I got out of it was the penny just symbolized all the father's dreamsor whatever, so he kept those dreams polished.C.^I kinda thought the penny represented the bond between the two. The first timethey actually really related and vocalized their -- like in some kind of a way toeach other, rather than just know that they love each other, but couldn't say it.That's what I thought it symbolized.64V.^Yeah, and the penny helped us to see through that, like an object. I mean, it'snot like true feelings, but it helped us to see that there is love between them, andit's not like a cold -- he's not a cold man, he just has a hard time showing it.(11. 30-3, 35-40, 44-7)The preceding speculative interpretations illustrate how the group functions generally. Theybuild and elaborate on each other's ideas and they support and agree with one another.Usually Group Two, like Group One, discuss plot within the context of character;nevertheless, at times it is addressed directly. For instance, E. evaluates the story's endingpositively. "I liked it near the end of the story like where the kid found the penny and then hejust leaves it in his pocket because he knows that everytime that his father sees it, he'll reflectback upon the memories of what it really means" (11. 71-4). The others in the group supportand build on E.'s evaluation. In fact, V. analyses what type of ending the story has. "Yeah,it's a sentimental ending" (1. 79). Other than the above comments, the group rarely questions,analyses, or speculates overtly about the plot of "A Penny in the Dust".Setting is another literary element that is seldom a topic of discussion. However, whenthe group does talk about setting, it is usually considered in its own right.V.^Okay. What else can we discuss?E.^This must be like a pretty old story, right?V.^Yeah.E.^Like a penny meant a lot?C.^Yeah.(11.126-30)As they work together to determine the story's setting they use a variety of strategies. Theyask questions; they infer from the story's details; they draw upon personal knowledge ofhistory; and they speculate.C.^It's probably 1930s because there were cars, there was machinery, so it was1930 something.P.^And like having a car must have been something like --C.^It would probably be just before the depression, so it would be 1920s.P.^So I guess having a car was like a big deal.(11. 136-41)The segment above also illustrates just how much the students use personal knowledge todetermine a story's setting. Group Two discusses possible time periods for the story longenough to decide that "it would probably be just before the depression, so it would be 1920s"(11. 139-40).Similar to Group One, Group Two talks most of all about character, in particular, Pete,the central character, and his relationship with his father. For example, V. expresses confusionabout the central character's gender. "I thought Pete was a girl" (1. 81). The discussion about65Pete's gender and character continues for the next 32 speaking turns, and it becomes clear thateveryone in the group thinks that Pete is simply a nickname for a female character. They seemto be taken by surprise when "the mother came in and said Peter ..." (1. 89). In order todetermine why they were confused about Pete's gender, they refer to clues in the text such aswhere it says "My sister and I" (1. 92). However, the most important reason for the confusionrests with Pete's behaviour.V.^It's just that he showed his emotion ...V.^It showed emotions, so I know it's not fair to say that the guy, with Eric here,but you kinda think it's just like the girl who always shows.C.^A lot of the stories (inaudible) guys tend to be the masculine and don't sayanything, and the female is the ...P.^... I just got the impression that it was a girl for like the first two pages of it ...(11. 95, 98-101, 109)The preceding comments reveal interesting inferences from the text's details, interestingperceptions about male and female characters' behaviours, and interesting references to otherstories read. As well, the supportive and exploratory atmosphere of the group allows them toconsider a wide range of topics without concern for being wrong.As they discuss Pete as an individual character, they also discuss Pete's relationshipwith his father. The group considers Pete's and his father's dreams, behaviour, andmotivation by inferring, analysing, and speculating. For instance, the following exchange isconcerned with analysing Pete and his father's characters. In addition, P.'s comment about"he always wanted the best" is speculation about the character and the final comment from C.about the father is based on both inferring and speculating.V.^Because he was always fantasizing -- not fantasize, but like always kind ofdreamt of having a better life.C.^Always had it in his head that something better could come.P.^You know, when he says of buying him a (inaudible). This has always been adream, and he always wanted the best for not only himself, but his family.C. But that's what I think his father wanted too, because his father was upset aboutthis because if the son loved him or because like the son realized about what hewanted, right? Maybe the father kinda wanted it to.(11. 217-8, 221, 224-6, 229-32).In addition, they reflect on the significance of the penny as it connects to Pete's behaviour andPete's relationship with his father.P.^I think it's more the ...C.^The bond.P.^... the bond, the love between the son and the father.(11. 234-6).66Although they seldom refer outright to their own relationships and experiences as children inorder to interpret the story, their predominant interest in the characters of the story reveals theirfascination for looking at what is revealed about human behaviour in short stories.Group Two's second session comes to an abrupt end because they seem to run out oftime. Thus, unlike Group One, they do not conclude by making general statements thatevaluate, express engagement, or interpret theme. In a sense, the group's session moved in acircular fashion. It began with confusion about Pete and consideration of the penny'ssymbolism as it linked to the story's theme. Next, they considered specific details in the story,especially areas of confusion and interest regarding Pete, the father, and the penny. Andeventually they returned to discussing Pete's age and what ultimately happened to the penny.Overall, there were two features of Group Two's second session that were interestingto look at in relation to group one's second session. First, they considered similar literaryelements, but they had a larger repertoire of meaning-making strategies upon which to draw.Secondly, they referred to personal experience and knowledge very differently than GroupOne. When Group One discussed "A Penny in the Dust", they talked for quite awhile aboutsilly things they had done as children; whereas, Group Two never told any stories fromchildhood as a means of understanding and empathizing with character. In this regard, GroupTwo seems to have less need than Group One to have stories confirm their experiences with theworld.Session ThreeSimilar to the discussion of "He Swung and He Missed", the discussion of "Mr. andMrs. Fairbanks" opens with each member of the group giving quite lengthy initial responses.They build and elaborate on what the previous speaker says. For instance, E., speaking first,evaluates the story and expresses a lack of understanding; while, V., who gives the last initialresponse, offers an analysis of Mrs. Fairbanks's character, as well as evaluating the story andcomparing it to the last story they read.E.^I didn't really like this story that much. I didn't really understand this treaty, Iguess, and I wasn't that really that happy doing it.C.^I sorta know how E. feels, but the only thing I got out of it was that this womanwas scared because she was pregnant, and because she wasn't sure how herhusband felt towards her and how she felt towards the baby. I don't know.P.^I sort of thought this lady was totally like a little girl, and because she(inaudible), I don't understand the way at the end of the story, but I thought itsorta had to do with something about the guy being happy when they wereupset, and him being sad when they were happy. Like, when two peoplecompare their lives to others just to see how happy they are, sort of, but itdidn't really end the way I thought it would.67V.^... she is like a very childish person and she only thinks of herself, like, she'svery self-centred like children are when they're at that age of whatever. Shejust seems to be like me, and me, and me, and never like - - she's not willing togrow up yet, but I guess at the end she kinda did, and I don't like the storyeither, as much as the one we did last day.(11. 3-5, 21-7)The initial responses for session three conform to the typical discussion shape - begingenerally, be specific in the middle, and end generally - more than the initial responses forsession two did. The students evaluate the story, express engagement with it, and analysecharacter and theme to some degree. In addition, P. reveals the ability to use a strategy thatgenerally is not seen in the initial responses. Her comment about the story ending differentlyfrom her expectations indicate that she is aware of her personal reading process to the extentthat she knows she makes predictions about stories' outcomes.The body of Group Two's discussion of "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks" is considerablydifferent from Group One's. The only literary element that Group One considered directly wascharacter; whereas, Group Two considers six different literary elements. Nevertheless, thechief topic of interest is character, and some of the other literary elements are discussed withinthe context of character. Group Two also uses more meaning-making strategies in sessionthree than group one used when discussing the same story. As we will see, Group Twoemploys an array of strategies ranging from analysing and questioning to speculating and beingaware of how authors construct texts.Almost immediately the discussion focusses on character. P. asks a question about theman on the bench. "Does anybody know what that guy meant?" (1. 28). C. and V. offerspeculative, and somewhat symbolic, responses to her question. But, E. goes beyond theman on the bench and offers direct analysis of Mrs. Fairbanks. "I thought the lady was kindachildish because she's trying to avoid the fact that she's getting old, and it's gonna happen toanybody, no matter what happens in life ..." (11. 34-6). V. builds on E.'s rather criticalanalysis of Mrs. Fairbanks. She is, however, as are the other girls in the group, feelingempathy for Mrs. Fairbanks's character because of her pregnancy.C. Yeah, you can understand she's feeling a little apprehensive and scared, butstill, I think she's kinda going - - she's over dramatizing it.V. Yeah.(11. 56-9)The analysis of Mrs. Fairbanks's character continues for the following sixteen speaking turns.They refer to the text, demonstrate awareness of their reading processes, and offer inferencesas a means of building a window of understanding into her character. For instance, C. says,"And in the very first paragraph he calls her a very small girl with bobbed hair, and I just got a68picture of a very young person" (11. 63-65). Group Two is quite interested in the motivationbehind Mrs. Fairbanks's behaviour. For instance, V. asks, "Why does she resent him somuch? Her husband?" (1. 274). The rest of the group readily considers her question, offeringpossible answers. E., for example, looks at it from the perspective of insecurity.E.^It might be because of her insecurity, like, he's just the type of guy who iseasy-going. Whatever happens, happens, right. But it says right here in linenumber ten, it says, "but I'm scared though". Like people are usually scared ifthey don't know, like, what's to come or like what's going on ...(11. 280-4)As the group pursues its consideration of Mrs. Fairbanks, the students refer to the old man onthe bench again. He is analysed symbolically by C., and then she role plays, very briefly,Mrs. Fairbanks as a means of getting inside her character.And I think the old man is kinda like a sense of the reality, a symbol of reality. Like,she has to look - - she looked at him and then she thinks "oh my God, I don't want tobe like that" (11. 73-5).The preceding statement by C. demonstrates how Group Two considers the relationshipsamong characters and what the relationships mean in terms of developing an individualcharacter in the story. Group Two also refers to their personal experience to make sense ofMrs. Fairbanks.V.^She could have given him a nickel or a dollar and he would have felt the same Ithink ...C.^Because people in the street, like, even in Vancouver, when they want moneythey just take anything they can get.(11. 129-30, 141-2)However, they do not draw upon their previous experience and knowledge nearly as often asGroup One. This may be because they interact with the story through both their feelings andthoughts. Whereas, Group One tended to engage with the story more emotionally thanintellectually.At an impasse in their discussion C. asks, "So what else can we talk about? (1. 157).V. counters with, "What's the theme? (1. 158). Group Two is obviously comfortable askingquestions, suggesting new ideas, and elaborating upon and supporting each other's ideas. Aswell, V.'s suggestion, i.e. question, to discuss the theme displays the group's experience withusing literary elements as a means of talking about short stories.C.^It's a cliche, so you can't really say it's a theme, but ...C.^Like money can't buy everything for people ...V.^She thinks money is going to get her everything.(11. 170, 172, 176)69Even though the group obviously begins to discuss the story's theme, the topic shifts back tothe characters rather quickly. For them, the means of understanding this story is through thecharacters, in particular the central character.E., who has not spoken much during the discussion, suggests a new focus. "Do youthink that the last name might mean anything though, like Fairbanks? (1. 201-2). Thesignificance of the last name is considered peripherally, as part of the continuing analysis ofMrs. Fairbanks's and the others' characters. But what they do say about the title indicatessome awareness of the author's process of constructing a story and the significance the title hasfor a story.V.^It's sorta - - it gives the - - it's the title and it's their names that's gotta meansomething...P.^Okay. Fairbanks. That could mean like fair banks, banks meaning money.Fair - - they're ...(11. 216-7, 243-4)This, in turn, leads to an interesting comment from E. about authors and stories.I think it's kinda weird though because whenever somebody makes a story, I guessthey always feel that they have to take somebody's last name and make a symbol ormeaning out of it or something. ... We see how they just - - every story we read nowthere's always a last name that means something or some part of somebody's namemeans something.^ (11. 322-5, 329-32)Group Two is definitely aware of authors, and, to some degree, is aware of how theyapproach understanding stories. They are able to read like writers.V.^Yeah, symbolism. It seems like everybody's name has some family symbol toit.P.^Yeah.C.^Then it's all like the writers, like the authors and stuff.(11. 334-7)Further on in the group's discourse, V. says, "Yeah, like some of the things I look at are thename and the title ... Like here, yeah, it's gotta be important because it's the name and the title,so there's something important there, I think" (11. 364-7). Group Two's perception of the textis quite sophisticated or developmentally mature. In fact, being able to talk about the text as anauthor's creation and being able to understand one's own reading processes are at levels fiveand six respectively in Thomson's (1987) developmental model of responding to literature.In the concluding segment of the group's session, they evaluate the story and assert thatalthough they discussed the story, they still do not understand it fully. For example, C. says,"Yeah, and the thing I don't like is I don't understand it ..." (1. 409). Nor, do they find it easy70to relate to because they lack the personal experience of the characters. As C. states, "I justdon't think about raising a family at this point. That's what I see, because kinda they don'tthink about the family aspect or the money ... " (11. 435-7). Or as V. says at the close of thediscussion, "... most think about the immediate future, not the long term future. So we can'trelate to the story, basically" (11. 455-7). The strategies used and statements made in thesession's conclusion conform to the typical shape of the student-led discussions. Theyevaluate, express their level of engagement, and try to present an interpretation of the storyoverall.Group Two did not discuss "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks" in the same way as Group One.Group One, in contrast to Group Two, was never as evidently concerned with interpreting thestory as a literary construct. They were far more interested in the behaviour and relationship ofthe husband and wife, and what that meant in terms of male/female behaviour. Group Two, onthe other hand, did not discuss the story from the perspective of gender behaviour andattitudes. Their interest in the story as a literary entity led them to consider the story with lesscertainty and more confusion. Indeed, as a group, they tended to behave similarly to what Dias(1987) describes as problem solvers. Nevertheless, despite Group Two's ability to considerthe story as a literary entity, they were unable to fully understand the story because they couldnot relate to the experiences of the characters. Thus, they could not be described as highlysophisticated readers.Session FourGroup Two's discussion of "The Friday Everything Changed" opens with V. askingabout the Red Cross in the story.V.^Is it like the Red Cross that I'm thinking about or is this the school Red Cross?Stuff like that. That's one thing that I was worrying about -- that I'mwondering about. I like the story because obviously I'm a girl and I like theending of it. But there was a lot of things that confused me in this story.(11. 2-5)The next student to speak, C., says she likes the story, but she asks "... why she waited untilthe end of the week to show up the boys. Like why didn't she start something earlier?" (11. 8-9). P., also a girl, says she likes the "story too because I'm a girl too. And I don't know, Iwould like to know what the Red Cross is too" (11. 11-12). E., the boy, is the last to give hisinitial response.E.^I liked the story but I can't say because I'm a girl because I'm not. It was apretty good story. It was well written and I think it's cool that the girls wereallowed to participate in every activity that everybody else does. I think -- Ithought it was cool because the girls like want to get involved with the activities71of the school, and do like things that the guys do ... I just thought it was a neatstory.(11. 13-18)The group's initial responses cover the range of typical strategies and topics for the openingsegment of a discussion session. The express confusion and engagement with the text; theyanalyse theme and character; they ask questions about character and plot; and they evaluate thetext as a literary construct. They do not, however, present only generalizations in their initialresponses. V.'s opening question about the Red Cross leads the discussion into consideringspecific details much sooner than is characteristic for both Group One and Group Two.During this session, the students not only evaluate the story at the beginning and theend, but they also evaluate "The Friday Everything Changed" in the body of the discussion.For instance, P. abruptly changes the topic of discussion by stating that "this is definitely oneof the better stories, right?" (1. 148). The girls, not E., compare this story to other stories theyhave read.C.^I liked that dust one better, but, yeah, this one was better than that first one.V.^The "Penny in the Dust"?C.^Yeah.V.^I liked that one.P.^Yeah, that's my favourite, but this one was better than that last one we had,whatever it was.(11. 150, 153, 156-59)While they vary in their opinions about which story they like the best, they agree that they likethis story because "at least you can sort of relate to this in a way" (11. 160). Personal responseis much stronger for this story than previous ones.Character is the topic of greatest interest for Group Two as they discuss "The FridayEverything Changed". Nevertheless, while talking about the story's characters they alsoconsider other literary elements. For instance, they infer that some of the characters' behaviouris because of the story's time period. P. says, "Well, it's probably because of the time period,too, right" (1. 62)? As they try to infer the setting from the details provided in the story, theyrefer to what they visualized as they read the story.C.^I kinda got the impression it was like Little House on the Prairie kinda thing.V.^That's what I thought. I could picture them in the little school room...(11. 65-8)Similar to the previous sessions, Group Two is quite aware of their reading processes, inparticular the images they create in their minds as they read. In order to establish the story'ssetting, they also venture opinions and refer to the text, but they never reach a conclusiveanswer.72E.^Where do you think this thing took place?C.^Well, it's in Canada, I think because of the mentioning of the Toronto MapleLeafs.V.^Yeah, probably in like Ontario or something like that.C.^Yeah, somewhere down east.V.^A little farming community.(11. 115-19)V.^I think probably 1930s because it was later on --C.^Okay, so 1930s. It was 30s,40s.(11. 130-1)Group Two seems quite comfortable with some degree of ambiguity as they work together tomake sense of not only the setting, but also the story.Group Two does not discuss the story's theme directly. Their understanding of thetheme is revealed through referring to personal experience to discuss gender differences andfemales' experiences today.C.^We're girls still going -- we're going through this, well, not that we are, but --V.^We're still trying to prove ourselvesP.^Yeah. We still are no matter what. At least now we're considered part of theteam. It's like we're one of the last ones to get picked on the teams.C.^We still have to like work for a place.V.^We have to prove everything we do.P.^That's like 1930s and we're like in the 90s now.V.^Yeah.P.^And it's like still it's happening after like sixty years.(11. 161-65, 171-72, 175-77)Even E., the group's only male, draws on personal experience to illustrate the point of howhard girls have to work to establish themselves and how they have fewer role models. "Plusyou don't see professional ladies playing hockey or soccer or football or anything like this" (11.182-3). The group discusses gender attitudes and behaviours for over 73 speaking turns. Bydrawing on analogous experience, they make sense of their own experiences as well thecharacters' experiences in the story. For instance:V.^It's our society builds us; like it's the way we are raised.P.^I think that's been a lot of the influence like what we were brought upwith our parents.C.^He has to make all the money and you just sit home and raise the kids.V.^I mean, after work, my dad like comes home, my mom would serve him ...V.^... Like she could go out and get the job, but she doesn't want to.She wants to stay at home, and so, you know, it's like a trade off.P.^It's like the girls in the story are probably like that too.(11. 190, 210, 215, 244, 275-7, 278)73Gender based issues continually surface as the group analyses the characters' behaviour andmotivations. In particular, they talk about how children are raised by their parents and howboys and girls behave differently at school.E.^Look at the world today. It's just - - it seems like a kid starts like just whenthey're young it's already like they're put into a stereotype role, like, when youget a band when you're born at the hospital. Girls get pink; guys get blue.Girls get dolls; guys get cars, you know, stuff like this.V.^It's slowly changing. The schools are getting better, but kids notice it. Thegoals are still - - the teachers look at the girls, like the girls are mainly teacher'spet. It's not too often you see a guy as the teacher's pet.C.^It's like Arnold. He was even embarrassed that, you know, he was like totallyembarrassed that the guys ...(11. 391-4, 410-2, 441-2)They also compare this story to movies they have seen such as Mr. Mom.E.^But once they get to try it, right, like I mean, I don't know, you see a lot ofmovies nowadays like where men and women switch roles, like the man willstay at home and do all the ironing and washing and stuff.P.^Mr. Mom.(11. 508-11)Group Two has a strong level of engagement with this story in contrast to the previous story.During session three, they rarely referred to personal experience. Whereas, in session fourreferring to personal experience is the meaning-making strategy used most often by GroupTwo. Underlying their gender-based discussions, whether they refer specifically to the storyor to their own experiences, there is a sense of Group Two moving toward a deeperunderstanding of the story.Character is the topic of choice for Group Two as they discuss "The Friday EverythingChanged". They talk about character because they are interested in understanding thebehaviour and motivations of the teacher, the girls, and the boys. But most of all the charactersare intriguing for them because everyone in the group has personal experience with teachersand being children at school. Group Two discusses the teacher's motivation for waiting aweek before making her decision about whether or not the girls could carry the water. Theymake inferences from the story's details to develop their interpretation of the motivationsbehind Miss Ralston's behaviour. For instance, C. says, "I think she probably just waited justto see what would happen in the school to see what everybody's response [would be]" (11. 23-4). While V. infers and analyses when she says, "I think like she wanted to have like theguys, the boys, to have their like moment in glory and then just totally deflate their egos rightafter, like I think it was strategy, like she worked it up and then it was just kinda like the finalkind of low blow" (11. 25-7).74They analyse Miss Ralston's personality traits and physical traits. P. says, "It was alsolike a character and she was always like relaxed and take things one at a time" (11. 28-9). Todetermine her physical traits they refer to their mental images of her and to the text itself.V.^And I kinda pictured her like she'd be like one of those tall -- like broadshoulders, and well built but just ...C.^I thought at times it contradicted, like, sometimes they made her sound likereally pretty, and then like big, like I couldn't picture her at all.P.^-- but then again she was strapping these people, right, so -- so she must havebeen relatively big if she was strapping these --(11. 88-91, 95-6)They are also fascinated by the fact that she is their age and teaching. V. says, "she only gotgrade eleven and she was teaching" (11. 37). In contrast to "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks", almosteverything in this story is something to which they are able to relate personally.As Group Two talks about Miss Ralston, it is evident that they possess someunderstanding of how characters change and develop in stories. E. uses the strategies ofspeculation and analysis to present his understanding of the teacher's character.E.^I think the teacher also changed on Friday also because it's just beensomething she's been letting the guys do all along, right, and then the first timethere was any opposition was when Alma, I think it was, right, she put up herhand?V.^Yeah.E.^Yeah. And then when she was actually challenged. I think the reason may bewhy she said that she wanted to tell them on Friday was because she neededthat time to say, like, change, right, to realize that, you know ...V.^Yeah.(11. 330-4, 340-42)Furthermore, prior to E.'s comment about Miss Ralston, the group was analysing and inferringfrom the text the motivation behind the girls wanting to carry the water bucket and themotivation behind the boys not wanting the girls to carry the water bucket. They also drawupon personal experience to determine the validity of the boys' actions.C.^They're not your every day little boys, that's for sure.P.^Maybe they are.C.^Well, when we were that age we all used to play together.V.^They used to chase little girls when we were young.P.^Well, it's probably because of the time period, too, right?(11. 52-3, 56, 58, 63)Analysing the characters' motivations and referring to personal experience helps the groupunderstand the dynamic nature of the story's characters. It also helps them interpret thepurpose of the story. They work together to understand why the girls want to carry the waterbucket, why the teacher acts as she does before allowing the girls to carry the water bucket,75and why the boys react so negatively to the girls' desire to perform a task that had beenexclusively theirs.There are no concluding statements as they seem to run out of time before finishingtheir discussion. This is not the first time that one of Group Two's sessions ended without asense of drawing to a close by making general statements about the story. Perhaps GroupTwo's discussions just do not always conform to the typical shape seen in each of GroupOne's discussion sessions. This may be because they become more engrossed in theirdiscussions and lose track of the time. On the other hand because Group One watches the timemore carefully than Group Two, they may not have as much to say or be as absorbed indiscussing the stories.In general, Group Two was often inconclusive in its interpretation of "The FridayEverything Changed". However, they were highly engaged personally with the story. Theyalso demonstrated greater awareness of themselves as readers and referred more often topersonal experience than Group One did during their discussion of the same story.D. Group Three's StoryOverviewGroup Three consists of three girls (L., A., and T.) and one boy (K.). Like GroupTwo, Group Three is heterogeneous, behaviourally and academically. Unlike Group Two, thethree girls do not dominate the group. K. not only participates well in the group's discussions,but he also acts as the group's unofficial chairperson. As the unofficial chairperson, K. tendsto initiate the discussions of the stories. Quite often he asks questions and expressesconfusion.This story was quite puzzling to me at the beginning because I didn't know what shewas, like, what they were going through at the beginning until it kinda came to the endwhere they mention that she was pregnant or something, and I'm still not too surewhether she was pregnant or whether, you know, they were -- I don't know, planningon, you know, having a kid or not, and I don't know. ^(Story 3, 11. 5-11)The other members of the group then offer suggestions and possible analyses of their own inresponse to his or others' questions and confusion.Based on my field observations and audio transcripts of the discussions, Group Threeworks well together, building on each other's ideas to make sense of the stories. More thaneither Group One or Group Two, Group Three talks about the stories through the literaryelements and author's techniques, rather than their own personal experiences. For instance,76they will talk about a character's role in a story, or the author's use of description, or thesignificance of a title.K.^Title.A.^Title?K.^"A Penny in the Dust"T.^Well, that --K.^What was the dust for?A.^His father.(Story 2, 11. 174-9)As with Groups One and Two, Group Three has its own personality and behaviour as willbecome clear by the observations of each story's discussion.Session OneThe discussion of "He Swung and He Missed" begins with K. comparing the story tothe Rocky movies. "This is kinda almost kinda like a Rocky movie..." (1. 3). He alsoexpresses confusion about why the story opens by focussing on Rocco's graduation fromschool. Similar to K., L.'s initial response focusses on Rocco the central character. She doesnot "understand the part about why he wanted to give up the fight in the first place" (11. 10-11).A.'s initial response is similar to K.'s and L.'s in that she, too, is interested in Rocco and thestory's overall meaning. She wonders, like the others, what "the school year and hisgraduation have to do with his urn boxing, his fighting now" (1. 22). The last member of thegroup to give her initial response, T., builds on the questions and confusion of the others togive a more personally definitive analysis of Rocco's character. She says, "I just think ... thatat first he wanted to win it for himself, but in the end he realized that he had other things toworry about" (11. 25-6).Each member's initial response reveals that Group Three reveals a willingness toexpress confusion about the stories they read. I think that this, in part, is because they arecomfortable with one another and there is a degree of engagement with the story. Theengagement derives from Rocco's character as they all talk about Rocco's behaviour andmotivation. In fact, after the initial responses they discuss the characters, in general, andRocco, in particular.As Group Three talks about Rocco's character and his relationship with his wife,teacher, and Uncle Mike, they use certain strategies repeatedly. For instance, they analyseRocco's character throughout the discussion by talking specifically about him or about him inrelation to the other characters.77K.^That's kinda an indication that he'll be successful but it probably won't be todo with like scholarly stuff...(11. 76-7)K .^Yeah. It said he wanted to, um, at the very end; it says where's Donahue, andDonahue would have been impressed and the whole way through he was alsotrying to show to her.Prove to his teacher that he could do something 'cause probably he thoughtwhen he went to school she thought I'm going to be a bum kinda thing youknow. But she actually did have faith in him and now he can prove that. Hecan make something of his life.(11. 243-47)(? = new speaker whose identity is unclear)The preceding and following comments are also examples of Group's Three's ability to makeinferences about the characters' behaviour and relationships and the story's events.?.^Wasn't she the one that brought him back into thinking that winning wasn't allthat mattered? That when he thought about her and when he was boxing andstuff and then when she came in and said that to him it was kinda like ...Yeah it seemed she was mad about it.Yeah.?.^'Cause it , she was mad and then Rocco didn't get mad and then it kinda justlike they came to an understanding.Like not talking, but they both kinda went separate ways, sat there, and thenthey came to their senses and finally realized but not by talking to each other.?.^It proves they're probably closer now.(11. 283-294)The previously cited statements also reveal how Group Three speculates and reflects about thebehaviour of characters and events in the story. Indeed, during the session, it is rare for themto use one meaning-making strategy in isolation from another.Group Three uses the strategy of referring to personal experience less often than GroupOne. This is not to say that they do not refer to personal experience. For example, they referdirectly to a commonly held experience to understand how it could be that the teacher knewRocco for so many years.K .^Like the teacher watched him grow whatever since grade 6 or grade 5??.^Yeah he had the same teacher too.?.^Maybe. You know how like you watch like "Little House on the Prairie" andthey have one teacher all their life.(11. 155-6, 160-1)Perhaps one reason why Group Three draws less obviously on personal experience is theyfocus on certain literary elements to make sense of "He Swung and He Missed". It seems thatthey are more developmentally mature readers than the students in Group One. The story maybe considered as an entity unto itself rather than having to conform to the students' sense of the78world. For example, they try to determine the setting in order to figure out the value of themoney earned and bet.?.^She didn't really complain at all but at the end she seemed to complain that hehad lost like 'cause she had bet money on him.K .^[Maybe we should] establish a setting ... Way, way back about 40, 50 yearsago.(11. 114-6)They also ask each other about the moral of the story. For example, K. says, "So what do youthink the moral behind this story is for us? Is there a moral or is it just keep trying. Don't loseyour pride" (11. 180-1). Nevertheless, despite being able to discuss the story as a literaryconstruct, Group Three expresses personal engagement with and evaluation of the story as ameans of concluding their discussion. K. summarizes the group's feelings toward the storywhen he says, "Yeah the moral of the story is quite weird. I don't know. Not like Rocky atall. I don't like it" (11. 353-4).In general, Group Three's discussion of "He Swung and He Missed" focusses onmaking sense of Rocco, the central character. They ask questions, speculate, analyse, infer,compare, and refer to personal experience to understand the significance of Rocco's behaviourand the story's events. It is also not surprising that they discuss Rocco most of all as he is theprimary focus of "He Swung and He Missed". Even when the group is considering what thetitle means, they talk about Rocco.I think the title kinda is uh trying to hold on kinda thing of to what he had so.Yeah.He tried to hold onto the fight. He wanted to go out with a bang, be really goodand he tried but he couldn't do it kinda thing.?.^I don't think he really well; he wasn't planning to end it the way is happened. Ithink he wanted to end his career 'cause he knew it was over but he kindawanted to do his best and go on.(11. 321-2, 325-6, 332-5)Even though Group Three asserted some personal engagement with the story, it waschiefly through the literary elements, in particular character, that they discussed "He Swungand He Missed".Session TwoGroup Three's initial responses to "Penny in the Dust" by Ernest Buckler are fairlylengthy. In response to "He Swung and He Missed", they asked questions and expressedconfusion about the central character and the story's construction. In response to "Penny in the79Dust", they talk about liking the story, relating to it, enjoying its sentimental tone, the penny'ssymbolism, and Pete and his father's relationship.For instance, K, who is the first to speak, says, "I liked the story. I really do. It's a --it's got a sentimental part to it at the end, you know. It was so beautiful, and the penny plays amajor role in this as a symbol, as he says, it's like digging out a treasure, you know, bury it,get it back" (11. 3-6). T. builds on K's response. "Well, I agree with you with the sentimentalthing. It is kinda like he was unbaring his dream, and his dad carried around the dream in hispocket, even thought he knew that he probably would never have it" (11. 13-16). A. begins bysaying "I thought the story was better than the boxer one because it was more interesting. Thepenny one was like something more you can relate to" (11. 20-22).A. moves the discussion beyond the level of initial responses by asking a question. "Itmakes me wonder why the dad didn't give the penny back to the kid after he found the penny.Why do you think that is?" (11. 36-7, 39). Asking questions and expressing confusion seemsto be a common strategy for Group Three. As well, their use of this discussion strategyindicates a level of comfort with one another, i.e. they are not unwilling to ask questions forfear of looking foolish in front of their peers.Group Three's most commonly used strategy for discussing "Penny in the Dust" is thatof analysis. This is similar to their approach to the previously discussed story. In particular,they analyse the penny's significance and the boy's and father's behaviour.K .^Like I think it has -- now it has more sentimental value to the dad, and itbrought the son and the father closer together, and I think that's something.T.^^Yeah, but even if it wasn't from his father, he still really liked it because it wasreally shiny.(11. 44-6, 55-6)K .^Yeah, it was in his old suit in the upper vest pocket where no one ever carrieschange, so the dad kept the penny closer to his heart kinda deal.(11. 113-4)A.^So like the penny was like his dream, like the treasure, the penny, like he didin the relationship he had with his father.(11. 205-6)Group Three not only analyses and questions, they also infer, refer to personalexperience, and speculate from details in the story. They infer from the details given them bythe author that the father's behaviour is not unusual given the story's setting.K.^Did you find the role of the dad kinda unusual, like being the [macho] kind ofguy, not too involved with his emotions with his kid kinda deal?T.^He's quiet.K.^I don't know. Given the times, I don't find it that hard to believe.T.^They didn't really talk to their kids unless they really had to do chores and stuffwith them.(11. 71-6, 79-80)80The last comment by T. draws specifically on details given in the story about the father notbeing a talkative man, who when he talks with his son usually does it while doing chores.While Group Three makes inferences from the story's details quite often, they rarely refer tothe text specifically, i.e. they seldom look up passages of the story to read. The lack ofreference to the text beyond what they remember may account for the fact that their discussionof "A Penny in the Dust" remains on two topics: the penny's symbolism and Pete and hisfather's relationship.In contrast to Groups One and Two, Group Three, as mentioned in session one, drawsless on personal experience as a means of making meaning. Nevertheless, while they may usethis strategy less often, they still use it as a strategy for gaining understanding and empathy.K. relates his relationship with his step-dad to Pete and his father's relationship.K .^Well, there's me and my real dad, we're not really that close. I'm closer to mystep-dad than to my real dad because I live with my step-dad. I don't knowHe's a cool guy.K.^Yeah. And him, in my case, would be cars instead of having a penny becausehe's into cars and I'm into cars, and I don't know.K .^Like, we talk about cars, but then we deal with other things too, and heunderstands me, I understand him, like, you know, that's the kind of thingsthat bring us together, and in this story brings this father and son together.(11. 340-4, 345-6, 354-7)In this instance, K. refers to personal experience quite extensively. However, throughout therest of the discussion, there are no other similar recountings of relevant analogous experienceby either K., T., or A.Group Three's use of speculation is linked to inferences they make from the story'sdetails. For example, they discuss where and when the penny was found, and then speculatethat Pete probably never knew that his father cared about him and the penny until he found it inthe vest pocket.T.^So I guess it's after he died when he finds it.A.^Then he found it in his pocket.T.^And he probably never knew that his dad really cared about the penny.(11. 109-10, 117)While Group Three uses meaning-making strategies to discuss the story, thesestrategies are not the primary focus. Their discussion of "Penny in the Dust", like theirdiscussion of "He Swung and He Missed", develops under the umbrella of the elements of theshort story. In particular, they discuss character, plot events, and symbolism. They alsodiscuss setting, theme, mood and tone, and title of the story, but not to the same degree as theformerly mentioned elements. The reason that they discuss character primarily is, again, a81function of the literary material being discussed. Short stories tend to have a strong focus oncharacter. Group Three is interested in Pete's character, his father's character, and therelationship of the two.K .^Yeah, and the kid speaks highly of the dad. He's got -- like he can fix things,and he's knowledgeable in his field, and he knows what he's doing.T.^He looks up to the dad a lot.K^Yeah. But the thing is I don't think none of them show it to each other because,I don't know, they're not close. They haven't really established any closerelationship with each other.(11. 215-21)When they talk about the plot it is usually within the context of what a character is like,what is happening, or what the penny symbolizes. For instance, K. says, "I didn't know whathe was doing in the dust, like at the beginning, he would just say well he's burying it and nowhe's just finding it, burying it and finding it again" (11. 233-5). Comments such as the latter,not only serve to explain what is happening in the story, but they also help the group reflect onthe significance of the event.Group Three is interested in the penny's symbolism throughout their discussion. It isreferred to over and over again.K .^And the penny he's lost, it's like he got -- like, when they recovered the pennytogether, has also recovered kinda like feelings or --T.^Their relationship.K .^In their relationship, yeah. He became closer, and the dust symbolizes that thedark -- like, the distance that they were apart --T.^Yeah.K .^-- and now they are getting closer, so the dust finally settles.(11. 316-24)The above segment reveals how the group is interested in analysing the penny as a symbol forunderstanding the story as a whole.The concluding segment of their discussion did not involve making generalizedstatements about the story or discussion. Instead, the story evokes a lengthy personal responsefrom K. Thus, at the end of the discussion the group is listening to K. talk about hisrelationship with his stepdad.In general, Group Three's discussion of "Penny in the Dust" followed a similar patternto their discussion of "He Swung and He Missed". What was different, however, was theirinterest in symbolic understanding, their level of engagement and involvement, and theirpositive evaluation of the story. As K. said, "I mean, we all liked the story. I say it is wellwritten ..." (11. 265-6).82Session ThreeThe initial responses for "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks" are more akin to the ones given forthe first story discussed. However, for "He Swung and He Missed" the group expressedsome positive evaluation of and engagement with the story. Whereas for "Mr. and Mrs.Fairbanks", they talk about what was confusing for them with regards to the story as a whole,and, in particular, Mrs. Fairbanks's character.As before, K. opens the round of initial responses. He is rather puzzled by the storyand compares it negatively to the other stories they have read.K .^This story was quite puzzling to me at the beginning because I didn't knowwhat she was, like, what they were going through at the beginning until it kindacame to the end where they mention that she was pregnant or something ... Ididn't get too much out of this story than like I did from the other ones.(11. 5-9, 15)Typically, the rest of the group elaborates on K's initial response.L.^At the very beginning I kinda figured out that she was pregnant. I don't reallyremember when I figured it out ... But I didn't understand how after she sawthe guy the second time, I didn't understand why she decided to change hermind and she was -- all of a sudden -- she felt good about herself again.(11. 16-18, 19-21)T.'s initial response is similar to L.'s, but she offers a tentative analysis of Mrs. Fairbanks'sbehaviour.T.^Basically, yeah, I figured out the same as L. did that she was pregnant in thebeginning, but I didn't understand -- like, I kinda understood why in the endshe was happier because she felt like she made someone else happy, and thenthat made her feel better inside.(11. 25-29)A.'s initial response goes even further in its elaboration of the others' ideas. First, shesuggests a general understanding of the story, but then she too returns to the group's particulararea of confusion regarding the wife's behaviour towards the man on the bench.A.^This story is just about two people, like the husband never understands and thewife is always fighting about how you don't understand ... I didn't reallyunderstand, like why she was sorta -- like about the man on the bench. Like Ididn't understand like why he -- she felt more better when he smiled at her.(11. 39-41, 50-2)The body of the discussion evolves from the initial responses as in the previous twodiscussions. L. poses the question of "how did she make the man happy? Like T. said -- T.83said that she felt good because she made him happy, but how did she make him happy? I don'treally understand that" (11. 55-8). The supportive, comfortable atmosphere in the group makesit easy for them to ask each other questions and to build on each other's ideas. They are alsocomfortable with speculative answers and analyses. This, perhaps, is because they do notrefer to the text as much as some of the other groups in their discussions. Although, for thisdiscussion they refer to the text more than before, which may be because they find "Mr. andMrs. Fairbanks" a more complex, or perplexing, story. The crux of the group's enigma seemsto rest with the question asked by L. "How did she make the man happy?" (1. 55). The groupnever really comes up with a definitive answer to the question. Yet it is illuminating that as anoutgrowth from L's question, Mrs. Fairbanks's character and how and why does the storyresolve itself as it does are the group's two main topics for discussion.In this discussion, as in the previous two discussions, Group Three uses a range ofstrategies for enhancing their understanding of the story. They analyse, reflect, speculate,question, infer, refer to personal experience, and evaluate. For instance, A., in response toT.'s question about making the man happy, speculates and infers from the story about Mrs.Fairbanks's and the old man's emotional states; she also analyses their attitudes towards life.A.^Maybe also I think she maybe felt happier afterwards because she realized hewas out of money, he was poor, but he was still happy ... And then after hesmiled at her, it kinda showed that he really was happy, even though he waspoor. He still had life in him and he was happy, and that made her realize thateven though they're poor they still have love and they can have the kid.(11. 65-67, 71-75)However, literary elements and personal interest provide the framework for the group'sdiscussion. For although A. uses many strategies for developing her understanding, sheessentially is talking about Mrs. Fairbanks's character.As Group Three talks about Mrs. Fairbanks's character, the couple's relationship, andthe old man on the bench, they refer to personal experience and knowledge less often thanGroups One and Two. They tend to focus on the story as a story and not as something that issimilar to their own lives in some way. This may be because they do not like the story verymuch or that they are confused by it. They never talk about liking the story or identifying withit. The only time they obviously use personal knowledge to make sense of the story is whenthe girls in the group explain to K. how the author describes Mrs. Fairbanks's in certain waysthat indicate that she is pregnant.L.^Yeah, well, there's some here that -- these quotes here. "Your face is soft andplump and kinda glowing all over, and your neck and shoulders are rounderthan ever." When you're pregnant you get chubbier, and you get a kinda glow.(11. 78-81)84The group's use of a variety of strategies and seeming lack of concern about reaching aconclusive analysis of the story and its characters indicates, to some degree, problem solvingbehaviour. Well into the discussion they still are willing to express confusion and seekalternatives.K.^I don't know. This whole story is kinda mumble-jumble to me.A.^Yeah. I still don't understand why she was happy after she saw him. Like, Idon't think my reason was right.(11. 119-122)In fact, most of the discussion involves trying to figure out Mrs. Fairbanks's attitude towardbeing pregnant, her attitude toward her husband, and her attitude toward the man on the bench.K. But towards the end she's saying "I don't want to have the kid, I don't want tohave the kid."(11. 174-5)T.^She just didn't want to have the responsibility of giving up her job because sheknew she didn't want to be poor, she wanted, like, a pretty good lifestyle, itseemed like.(11. 183-5)T.^Then she's like saying 'you're being so inconsiderate', but it was really her. Itwas like she was thinking 'me, me, me' all the time all the way through.(11. 201-3)A.^She didn't care about making him happy at all.(1. 313)L. I think he's just kinda fed up with the things that she's saying. She's kinda likegreedy, like.(11. 351-2)Interestingly, Group Three considers some of the descriptive detail provided by Callaghan forthe setting as being significant for their comprehension of the story. Although they do notdiscuss the description at great length, this was not a topic of discussion for either Group Oneor Two.K .^The setting of the story explained like, you know, like, in detail. Like the sunbeing shining when they were walking away, and when they come back the sunwas kinda dull.T.^Yeah.K .^That kinda introduced to me that, you know, things weren't as good as theycould be, like, before they were. Like, when they were walking by the bumand everything -- or the guy on the bench, the sun was really nice and, I don'tknow, everything looked like it was a nice picture, but then they decided to turnaround ... they walk back. The sun is all dull, and you know, it's not a prettypicture.(11. 325-335, 338-9)85The above segment emphasizes an important feature of Group Three's discussion behaviour:their ability to look at stories as literary constructs.As a means of concluding their discussion, K. asks, "How do you like the story? Likeelaborate on it" (1. 507). This brings the level of discussion back to overall generalizations.Chiefly, the group evaluates the quality of the story and their level of engagement with it.Group Three does not give "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks" a high rating. They evaluate the story asmediocre.T.^It's okay.A.^I don't like the story.T.^It's not exciting. It's just kinda a slow paced, not much action.L.^It wasn't too much thinking.A.^It wasn't difficult though.(11. 510-514)In general, because of their supportive group dynamic, the nature of this session wassimilar to Group Three's discussions of the previous two stories. They were friendly andhelpful towards each other, but not particularly energetic or argumentative which made theirdiscussion rather low key.N.B. There is no Session Four for Group Three as it was lost during transcription.E. Group Four's StoryOverviewGroup Four consists of three girls (R., B., and M.) and one boy (C.). Unlike GroupThree where K. (a boy) was dominant, C. is usually reserved during Group Four's sessions.In this group, the three girls tend to dominate. Group Four is an effective, insightfuldiscussion group. My field notes made during the four sessions reveal that Group Four workswell together; they agree, support, speculate, and clarify each other's ideas. They smile at eachother, lean toward each other, and laugh with each other.Like Group Two, some of the students in Group Four are somewhat aware of theirown reading processes. For example, they are able to recall what they envision as they read.As well, they are, to some degree, aware of authors and how and why stories are constructed.Unlike Groups One and Three, who rarely commented about a particular detail included by anauthor, Group Four seems aware of how an author's construction of a text may affect or directunderstanding.86Group Four, as a rule, follows the same discussion pattern used by the other threegroups. They begin with comments about engagement, evaluation, theme, and confusion.Then they move on to consider character and narrative details. Towards the end, they reviewthe story again in terms of evaluation, engagement, and theme. Nevertheless, Group Four isnot identical to the other groups. As with the others, Group Four possesses a distinctdiscussion style and behavioural dynamic. For instance, they are the only group to useimpromptu role play quite regularly as a strategy for making sense of stories. The followingobservational analyses of Group Four's sessions will reveal more obviously what happens asthey work to make sense of short stories.Session OneR. opens Group Four's discussion of "He Swung and He Missed" with a strongstatement of engagement and evaluation. "I really enjoyed this story. I found it really slow atthe beginning" (11. 1-2). B., the second person in the group to give an initial response, reviewsthe story's purpose and construction. "I thought the story was, urn, sort of a repetition of hischildhood in that all through his childhood years he was a scrapper and that and he never hadanything else to do, and then throughout his adult years he fought again" (11. 4-6). M.'s initialresponse is negative as she says, "I'm not really much of a boxing fan" (1. 7). The final initialresponse comes from C., the only boy in the group. He evaluates the story's construction andexpresses his engagement with it. "I think it went into maybe too much detail, but it was agood story overall" (1. 8).Group Four's initial responses are very brief, which is similar to Group One and quitedifferent from Groups Two and Three. This does not mean, however, that Group One andGroup Four are alike in every respect. Group Four's discussion, while displaying personalengagement and involvement, goes beyond wanting the story to conform to their perspective oflife.M. I thought the story was okay. I didn't like the gory details. I don't think thatwas necessary like.B. I know but it needed it.(11. 274-5)Because the opening responses are so brief, there is little room for development of individualinterpretations of theme or character. But the general nature of their initial comments do leaveroom for many other topics to be considered in detail in the future.One thing unusual about Group Four's initial responses is the fact that the students donot build on each other's ideas. Each member of the group gives an individual opinion without87seeming to use what the previous speaker has said. As the discussion continues, it becomesapparent that the group members possess strong opinions and insights about short stories. In asense they may be making their individuality known to the other members of the group.Group Four uses their knowledge of literary elements to make sense of "He Swung andHe Missed". Immediately following the initial responses, they talk about Miss Donahue andRocco.R.^Oh, that was a teacher.B .^The mother figure.R.^Yeah.B. So she was a stereotype. Boring.R.^Well all the characters are basically simple.B .^Yeah. What about Rocco?R.^Um.C. He's proud of himself.(11. 12, 16-8, 20-3)They challenge and elaborate on each other's ideas about Rocco. Not content to accept R.'sclassification of Rocco as being the same as the other characters, B. asks a question ofclarification and C. suggests one character trait of Rocco's. As with the other groups, GroupFour's discussion of "He Swung and He Missed" concentrates on character. Even though theyconsider other literary elements such as theme, setting, plot events, and symbolism, Rocco,either alone or in relation to the other characters, is the focus. For example, early in thediscussion session, they talk about theme indirectly as a result of trying to decide whether ornot Uncle Mike likes Rocco and what that has to do with Rocco deciding to go through withthe dive. The following statements about learning it the hard way, not giving up, and love foreach other not only demonstrate understanding of Rocco, but also demonstrate thematicunderstanding of "He Swung and He Missed".B .^He wanted him to take the easy way out but he didn't.R.^Oh. Urn. Well it sorta has to do sorta with the end part where it says the factthat um "He always did everything even though he did it the hard way" likehe sort of --B.^No matter what he did he learned it the hard way.R.^Yeah, at least he did it though he didn't give up even though he didn't exactlytake the right way or route to go about the right way.M.^But like their love for each other I think sorta saw them through everything.(11. 46, 51-7)At other times during the group's discussion, analysis of Rocco leads them to considerother literary elements such as the symbolic significance of Rocco's face being described "asimpassive as a catcher's mitt" (1. 117).88M.^But how would his face look like a catcher's mitt? It didn't make any sense tome. Catcher's mitt. Like it must symbolize something with the shoes.R.^^Because it's, I don't know it's sort of it's sitting there; it's waiting to be hit. Idon't know. Stand there and let me hit you in the face.B .^I don't think that's good. I don't know. That's weird.M.^[Maybe there is some connection] to a ballgame.R.^Mmm, hum, there must be some connection.M.^Well how [is] a catcher's mitt like [Rocco].R.^The fact that it goes through so much in a game.(11. 120-1, 124-9, 133-5)Akin to the other groups, Group Four uses various meaning-making strategies formaking sense of the literary elements of the story which they are discussing. Chiefly theyanalyse the story's characters and contents. But they also employ other strategies such asreflecting, questioning, empathizing, referring to personal experience, inferring, andsynthesizing. While other groups also use the previously stated strategies, Group Four usesthem to a greater degree or, perhaps I should say, in a more well rounded way. They do notseem to rely on one or two strategies exclusively.As the discussion progresses, they analyse details and accumulate understanding aboutRocco's behaviour and motivation.M.^Why did he box?C.^He's a good fighter.M.^Was he a --C.^Probably a --M.^Bully sort of or one of those --C.^Well he probably wasn't very smart either.R.^It doesn't say he was a bully. Maybe he just sort of maybe stuck up for otherkids you know.M.^Did it ever say anything about his parents; you sort of gather he was without amother?(11. 92-100)The above discussion comments also reveal how they build on each other's ideas to developunderstanding. As well, the comments indicate the group's willingness to ask questions whichinvites further discussion, investigation, and speculation.A further example of Group Four's varied repertoire of strategies is their ability tosynthesize and empathize. For instance, as they discuss Rocco's graduation day, M.synthesizes information provided by the author at the beginning, middle, and end of the story."But right at the beginning and the middle and the end they both stated that graduation day thatwas the happiest day" (11. 152-3). Empathy for Rocco is apparent when M.says, "I wouldn'tget in there and get them to beat me up on purpose" (1. 166). Later in the discussion, M., onceagain, draws on her empathy for Rocco to understand him better.89He had that feeling like when he was walking into the ring he had that sorta that heavyfeeling, that hate. And then it went away and then it came back. And it was if he wassaying, 'Well I shouldn't actually be doing it but I have to do it.'(11. 248-250)In the above segment, M. is also using a strategy that is basically unique to GroupFour. She enhances her interpretation of Rocco's character by, in a sense, becoming him, orrole playing him, when she says, "Well I shouldn't actually be doing it but I have to do it" (I.250). This is not a line of dialogue from the story; this is the dialogue, or rationale, that shespeculates may be behind Rocco's actions. M. uses this same strategy earlier in the group'sdiscussion. There she adopts the roles of both Rocco and his wife.M.^And then she comes in 'Oh honey, I put 8-1 on you and you lost you idiot.'M.^An then he sorta says, 'well that's okay dear.' You know most men would be`You stupid idiot what were you doing that for?'(11. 64, 67-8)Interestingly, the rest of the group willingly work with her role play strategy as simply anothermeans of making sense. This may be because they are comfortable with each other or it maybe because it is simply another way to infer from text in order to develop a complete picture ofa character. Certainly it does not seem possible to role play a character if empathy andunderstanding are lacking.As the discussion of "He Swung and He Missed" draws to a close, they speculateabout Rocco's future.R.^Maybe he'll hang around the boxing ring or something.B .^Be a coach or something.(11.267-8)Then they begin to review and evaluate the story as a complete entity.M.^I kinda liked it. It's not my favourite story.B .^The beginning though I thought was kinda slow.B.^That's right yeah. And with the fight going on it's long too.M.^But the beginning could have [been shorter], but I guess that was sortaimportant, that graduation --(11. 280-1, 285-6)R. also suggests that they "figure out the title", but the rest of the group does not follow hersuggestion (1. 310). Essentially, Group Four's discussion ends with a general evaluation ofthe story and the couple's relationship which complements the beginning and middle sectionsof the discussion.Group Four's first session revealed a group who was comfortable working togetherand who was able to draw upon literary elements and various meaning-making strategies in90order to make sense of "He Swung and He Missed".Session TwoB.'s initial response to Ernest Buckler's, "Penny in the Dust" is quite general. "Thisstory to me symbolized the pride about the man who could [not express] himself to his son,and I thought it was pretty interesting" (11. 1-3). She offers an interpretation of theme andsymbolism by synthesizing the story as a whole in her one statement about the father's pride.As well, she gives her personal evaluation of and sense of engagement with the story.M., the second member of the group to give her initial opinion, begins with a positiveevaluation of the story. From there, she analyses the father and son's relationship and how itrelates to the story's theme. Different from B., she describes the mood engendered by thestory for her. "I found it really touching how they got over that and were able to show theirlove for each other" (11. 6-8).C. also begins with a positive evaluation of the story. "I liked the story" (1. 9). Hissecond comment is about the use of detail in the story which indicates some awareness of thestory as an artistic creation of an author. "I think it went into lots of detail again" (1. 9). Heconcludes by speculating about the value of the penny and what that might mean with regardsto the story's setting.Similar to the others, R. opens by saying, "I really enjoyed this story" (1. 14). Herinitial response is the longest which allows her to comment on a variety of things such astheme, characters, events, and symbolism.I like the part that ... penny could bring a father and son together. Their relationshipwas really -- I liked their relationship, even though they couldn't show their feelings foreach other, but you could tell they deeply loved each other, ... and that was really niceat the end how this penny brought them to be able to express their feelings for eachother.^ (11. 14-21)Contrary to the opening statements for the previous story, each student's responsepossesses some similarities. They evaluate the story positively; their positive evaluations alsoindicate a strong sense of engagement with the story. However, despite the aforementionedsimilarities, they also find something unique to present in their initial responses which issimilar to the initial responses in the first session.The initial responses for "A Penny in the Dust" follow the pattern of many of thegroups' discussion sessions, broad overview comments such as the type of statementstypically written at the beginning of five paragraph themes. The middle section of thediscussion, like an essay, delves more closely into specific items in the story.91They pursue their discussion of "Penny in the Dust" through the framework of theelements of the short story. R. suggests the setting as a possible topic and the rest of the groupimmediately begins talking about it.R.^Okay, setting?B.^Setting?R.^Go ahead.M.^Something like a farm, right.B.^Yeah.M.^They were country people.(11. 24-29)By inferring from the story's details, they decide that it must be set on a farm in the 1930s.Immediately following that, they agree to discuss the story's theme. It is as if theproblem of the setting is solved so it is now time to analyse another literary element.M.^Do you want to tackle the big one now, theme?B.^Sure, go ahead.(11. 47-8)M. and R. offer two possibilities for the theme; both are more like broad topics than themesspecifically related to the story.M.^Well, what do you think? Love?R.^Love, what about love?M.^It's like family.R.^Family relationships.(11. 50-3)After talking briefly about these superficial, yet accurate analyses of theme, Group Four turnsto analysing the father and son's relationship.Throughout the discussion, character, in particular the father and son's relationship, isdiscussed most frequently. The following segment reveals their use of the strategies ofinferring, analysing, and referring to text to develop their picture of the relationship.M.^But the little boy worshipped his father.R.^Yeah.M.^He was his hero, like 'dad could do everything. I had a broken wheelbarrow,he brought it back and the handle was perfect.'B. He was always sorta rescuing him kinda thing, you know --M.^But when he said that he was going to find the penny and his dad -- and henever took his hand.R.^Mm-hmm. Like when his father said that he probably felt that he hurt hisfather, maybe, to think that he would --C. Well, he felt like he's struck him.(11. 294-7, 300, 303-4, 313-5)92They use the story's details to obtain specific information, but they also fill in the gaps amongthe details by inferring such things as the boy's attitude toward his father. With theinformation gleaned from inferring and referring to the text, they analyse the characters'behaviour. They also infer from the story's details to offer a speculative analysis of Pete andhis father's relationship.B. It sounds like they had no communication between one another at all, and theydidn't dream; they just dealt with reality, like what you have is what you have,and don't think of anything else. You just accept what you have for the best.(11. 196-203)More than Groups Two and Three, Group Four draws on personal experience to makesense of Pete and his father's actions surrounding the penny. For example, M. says, "If I likeyou, I'll tell you so or give you a pat on the shoulder or something, and I don't find it hard totell my father how I feel about him" (11. 94-6). While referring to personal experience, GroupFour often simultaneously uses other strategies. In the forthcoming excerpts from thediscussion they not only analyse the father and son's relationship and draw on personalknowledge, but they also speculate beyond the text, make predictions, and infer from storydetails. For instance, the B. and R.'s comments about whether or not Pete and his father gotalong in the future are the result of inferring, speculating, and predicting.C. Well, I was just wondering if, like, they got -- after this happened if they gotalong.B .^I don't think so.R.^I don't think anything changed. They just sorta had a little understandingbetween each other and that was it. That one special moment.B.^Some men. Maybe they just can't -- it's unmanly to do certain things and tofeel certain things and yet they do --R.^Aren't they even close?M.^I've never seen my father angry.R.^The only thing --M.^He just won't express it.B.^Also my dad gets sad but he never, like, never like cries.(11. 416-421, 429-30, 436-40)Another literary element Group Four considers is symbolism. They synthesize fromthe recurring importance of the penny for Pete and his father that it must be a symbol.B.^What did the penny symbolize?M.^Probably how small things can make a big difference.R.^Yeah, the smallest thing is treasure --(11. 155-7)93As they pursue their discussion of the penny's symbolism, they use a variety of strategies.Both M. and R. reflect, analyse, and infer in the following comments what the penny'ssymbolic significance might be.R.^Well it was such a small thing -- and you were able to express your love oversomething. It just brings them together, something so small and simple.M.^^Like, how he kept on saying it was shiny though, and it was brand new. Tome that sorta symbolizes a new start.(11. 165-7, 170-1)Group Four does not arrive at a definitive analysis of the penny's symbolism, but that does notseem to concern them. They seem content simply talking about what the penny might representin relation to Pete and his father's relationship.Group Four also discuss the story's title. R. suggests the topic when she says, "Title?`Penny in the Dust' (1. 272). In response, B. suggests that it signifies "finding a buriedtreasure" and M. suggests that it signifies "lost treasure" (11. 274, 276). B. and R. aresimultaneously analysing the words in the title and synthesizing the story's events in order tointerpret the title as they have. They do not discuss the title, itself, for very long, perhapsbecause of its inextricable connection to everything else in the story. But by choosing to talkabout the title, Group Four also indicates an awareness that stories are conscious constructionsby authors. In the concluding portion of the discussion, Group Four changes fromconsidering details about the story to reviewing the story as a whole and their discussion of it.R.^So what do you think of it now? Do you think the same thing?B .^Yeah, I think it was a really good story, now that I've totally analyzed it, now itseems it's even better than I thought it would be.(11. 496-499)R's questions invite a variety of comments from the rest of the group such as B's evaluation ofits quality. Other comments express engagement and involvement with the story, connectionsto personal experience, comparisons to other stories, and speculation.R.^I really liked it. I think I liked it better than the other one.B. Oh, I think this one is a bit better.C. I just wish that--B. Because this sorta touches home more because if you think of your father andthings like that.C. I just wish I knew what happened, like, if it changed about how they didn't -- itprobably didn't, but --(11. 504-10)Overall, Group Four recognizes that "A Penny in the Dust" is about a special moment in Pete'slife that he and his sister reminisce about because of their father's death.94M.^I think that was more his moment, you know. Your own special highlight inyour life, especially since that's your's and you don't want anybody else toknow about it.(11. 515-7)And through R.'s final comment, they reaffirm their analysis of how important the love is thatPete and his father feel for one another.R.^But the thing that stuck out most in my mind was right at the end when hisfather never [was able] to say well, you know, it's in my suit pocket, wouldyou cherish it and I love you and things like that. He just died and he found it.(11. 501-3)In contrast to the other groups, Group Four focussed more on Pete and his father'srelationship and less on the penny's symbolism. In general, their discussion of "A Penny inthe Dust" was most like Group One's. However, there was a significant difference betweenthe two groups in that Group Four was less concerned that the story align with their views oflife and human behaviour. Their combined use of literary elements, meaning-makingstrategies, and sense of ease with not reaching definitive answers seemed to indicate that as agroup they functioned comfortably as problem solvers.Session ThreeGroup Four's initial responses for "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks" chiefly expressconfusion, especially with regards to the theme.B .^I'm kinda confused about what this story is about. I don't quite understand thegist of it. It's -- I understand that there's a couple and they had a quarrel, but Idon't see the whole thing behind it.(11. 1-4)They are not as confused about the characters and even attempt to analyse them. C. says that"she just seemed paranoid about growing old. Like, overly paranoid, and the husband is justso passive that he's 'Oh, yeah, okay, whatever', and he just -- just a typical guy, I guess" (11.6-9). In contrast to their initial responses for "A Penny in the Dust", the opening comments forthis session do not display strong positive engagement with the story. The following statementby R. typifies the group's initial responses.R.^I was very confused about this story too. She doesn't seem to be so worriedabout the baby, just the fact that it makes her look older because now she'sgoing to have a baby to look after, and the old man on the bench seemed tobring this out more and more ... And that's about it. I don't know.(11. 10-14, 17)95Similar to the last session, after the initial comments they begin analysing the storyusing literary elements as the frame for their discourse. Their first consideration is character.B .^Mr. Fairbanks. What did you think of him? Stereotypical of a male?(11. 20-1)B's questions encourage the group to use personal experience to make sense of character. Thegroup does not, however, talk about Mr. Fairbanks beyond a brief answer to B.'s questions.They are more interested in Mrs. Fairbanks's behaviour and speculating about the couple'sresponse towards having a baby.C.^But if you think about it, like, she was kinda babbling on about kinda stupidthings like -- not to be mean to her, but --B .^I wouldn't say it was stupid of her --C.^-- they must have talked about having the baby before, and now that she'spregnant and she's --B. Is she pregnant?(11. 24-6, 29-31)B.'s question highlights the degree of confusion surrounding this story. She still does notunderstand that Mrs. Fairbanks is pregnant even though C. talked about her pregnancy in hisinitial response. Her question also indicates the level of comfort that the members of the groupfeel toward each other. She does not hesitate to ask her peers as she knows that her questionwill be treated seriously. In fact, the others respond by providing evidence from the story todemonstrate to her that Mrs. Fairbanks is indeed pregnant.C. -- because she's getting plump and all that.B .^Ah. I thought she was --R.^That's why he's so concerned and tells her not to think of bad thoughts andeverything because he's so worried about her health now. It's not healthy forthe baby.(11. 34-38)The next literary element proposed as a topic of discussion is the theme. B., who inher initial response to the story wonders what the point behind the whole thing is, returns tothis question.B .^What was the whole main thing in the story? Like, what was it -- what was thepurpose of it? Marriage? Decisions? No, what's the old man on the benchhave to do with it? There's gotta be something.(11. 99-102)In a sense B. answers her own questions with more questions when she suggests marriage anddecisions. Group Four follows her line of questioning about the old man and ignores thepossible themes of marriage and decisions.96R.^He sorta seems like a father figure, doesn't he?B .^He's a bum. He's got --R.^But he's not -- we don't know if he's a bum or what. Maybe he was just out ofwork or something.B .^Yeah, but he had red-rimmed eyes. Like, if he worked a lot or if he drank, youknow, bums have red-rimmed eyes.R.^Yeah.B .^And he seemed to smooth it over. You know, like how fathers always do that,like, 'Oh, it's okay dear', you know, ' Nothing is gonna be wrong'. And it'slike, 'Oh, shut up'. But he -- I'd say he was the key character in the thing.R.^^Because, I mean, he's the one who brings out the fact that she's so scared ofgetting old now.(11. 103-115)The preceding segment of discourse illustrates the group's interest in character and theiruse of strategies such as analysing, drawing on personal experience, and role playing for thepurposes of illuminating a point or figuring out characters' behaviour. It also illustrates theimportance and appeal of character as a topic of discussion for short stories. Discussingcharacter, rather than theme, seems to be for Group Four, and the other groups, a moresatisfying and sensible route to understanding story overall. Eventually the discussion aboutthe role of the man on the bench reaches a conclusion that provides insight into not only thecharacter, but also the story's theme.C.^Probably had that attitude like "I don't want your sympathy, leave me alone".R.^That could be too.C.^Just because you think you're better than me, cuz then -- cuz then, later whenthey were leaving and they had been in a quarrel he smiled and said, "Youknow, you're just like me, you got problems too", right.(11. 144-150)Here again, various meaning-making strategies are at work. C., in particular, infers, analyses,and role plays in order to understand the man on the bench and his role or purpose in therelation to the story's overall meaning.The next item for discussion is raised by R. when she asks, "What was the -- thequarrel was about the baby and not having enough money, wasn't it" (11. 152-3)? Thisquestion integrates character and plot because the quarrel comprises a significant portion of thestory. But the group focusses on character with plot acting as a subtle underpinning for thediscussion. Mrs. Fairbanks is the character around which the discussion revolves.C.^It started off about she saying how they went to the park, and he's walkingalong and he's just worrying about himself, not her. What is he supposed todo? 'Oh, are you all right?', you know, every couple of ...B .^Yeah, but she --97R.^I got -- yeah, I got the thing that she wanted to be babied, like looked after.B. But she didn't want to be.(11. 154-61)As they build their analysis of Mrs. Fairbanks's together, many of the familiar meaning-making strategies come into play such as inferring from details and role playing. The abovecomments by C., B., and R. also reveal information about their group's behavioural dynamic.They listen to each other; they elaborate and support one another; and they contradict eachother.Setting becomes an item for consideration when C. states that "You can't even tellwhen the story happened, like, the other stories we could" (11. 215-6). In response, B.recognizes the universality of the story by saying, "Actually, this could happen any time" (1.217). Group Four is quite ambivalent about analysing the time period of the story until B.begins to press her point about it occurring in the past by referring to textual details providedby the author about Mrs. Fairbanks.B .^I mean, I don't know, I was thinking back. I don't know why. It just --B .^-- that's what sorta stuck out in my head because of her -- she's like she'ssmall, and she -- I don't know, the bobbed hair and tilted felt hat.B .^He portrayed her -- whoever portrayed her as a little girl with bobbed hair --(11. 227, 230-2, 236)B. also infers a location. "I got, for the setting, I had a feeling it was New York in CentralPark" (1. 377-8).After a silly comment about pregnant women that causes the group to laugh, R.abruptly asks, "Okay, what is the theme" (1. 353). C.'s response to her question is similar tothe response most English teachers hear when they ask the question: "I haven't got a clue" (1.354). But immediately after C.'s reply, the group offers a variety of theme statements.B .^Just look at what you have before you look at what you don't have.C. Yeah. Sometimes your problems aren't as bad as they seem.B .^Blow things kinda out of proportion or just look at others before youdowngrade yourself. That's what I thought.R.^Because there's always somebody in a worse position than you are?(11. 355-62)The preceding statements are rather cliched, but nevertheless they demonstrate the group'sability to analyse and then synthesize the story's events and the characters' behaviour togenerate possible themes. Group Four also refers to personal experience to help them thinkabout theme.98B .^Just remember that when you fell down. Your parents said, "Look atsomebody that's handicapped." It's just like, "Oh, no, here we go again."R.^You're not as bad off as you think you are.(11. 364-66)The conclusion of their discussion session is more general in its focus. They reviewtheir sense of the story as a whole and evaluate it as a piece of literature.C.^Now that we've discussed the story as a whole, I still don't see it in any betterlight. I still am confused.B .^I still am -- I don't know. I didn't think -- it wasn't that good at first. I don'tknow. It was different.R.^Confusing.B .^Yeah. I didn't -- you have to totally analyse it to get anything out of it.R.^To me there wasn't any purpose. It just sort of -- the story from a soap operascene.C.^Like what makes people write stories like this?R.^Maybe so that others can see their mistakes before actually making them, butlike the only way you'd learn is to make your mistake and learn from it. Youcan't -- someone else can't tell you. I didn't like the story. I still don't like thestory.C.^I really -- I don't like it either.(11. 522-38)Once again, as a group, they tended to behave as problem solvers. Despite feelingsomewhat confused about "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks", they persisted in discussing and trying tomake sense of the story. More than in Group Four's previous discussions, this discussionused literary elements as the framework. It was also more essay-like in structure than any ofthe others. But perhaps the most intriguing thing about Group Four was their use of role playto understand characters.Session FourM. begins the round of initial responses for "The Friday Everything Changed". Sheimmediately refers to her personal experience to compare the story to other stories she has read.She recognizes that its theme is similar, but evaluates the story positively because of itsdifferent point of view.M.^I've read stories similar to this before, like a woman's lib movement, but it'sthe first time that I've read something that has it from the point of view of kids,so that makes it sorta interesting, I guess.(11. 1-4)99C., the next one to speak, evaluates the story globally and like M. finds it similar to otherstories he has read.C.^The story is pretty -- seems pretty simple. What? I've read stories like thisbefore too, and it just seems like, I don't know ...(11. 5-6)R.'s initial perspective is akin to M.'s; she essentially restates what M. said without addinganything new.R.^I thought the story was pretty [simple], but it made a strong point about thewomen's lib, and I thought it was kinda different to see it through kids insteadof always adults.(11.8-10)The final member of the group to give her initial response is B. She evaluates the storypositively and also mentions women's lib.B.^I thought the story was kinda neat in that they compared baseball as to amovement of why girls can't do the same thing as boys, and the baseball matchjust sorta had women's lib involved in that.(11. 11-13)For "The Friday Everything Changed" each member's initial response is very similar, incontrast to sessions one and two. They evaluate the story positively, refer to personalexperience, and analyse the basic point. As well, they do not elaborate much upon theirthinking, perhaps because they think it is a simple story.After the initial responses, M. proposes discussing the story's setting. "Setting. Whydon't we start with setting" (1. 14). The rest of the group follow her suggestion and offervarious thoughts and details about the story. Like the other groups, they refer to theirexperience watching Little House on the Prairie.M.^I thought it was like a country school, like Little House on the Prairie wherethey have all grades in one room.B.^What time is Little House on the Prairie about?M.^I don't know.R.^What setting is that?M.^1900s, middle 1900s or so, I think. 1920s, 1930s.(11. 17-18, 30-3)They are also confused about the references to the Red Cross; their school experiences do notinclude the Junior Red Cross.M.^What did they mean by Junior Red Cross? Why did they call it Junior RedCross?B.^Isn't Red Cross blood, right?100R.^Yeah.B .^Well, what's the connection with the water?(11. 45, 46-50)They never resolve the time period of the story, nor do they determine what the Junior RedCross is. However, by referring to their personal experience, they do decide that the JuniorRed Cross was "probably their version of silent reading" (11. 62).M. is obviously the group's unofficial chairperson. She suggests the discussiontopics for the session. In the previous sessions, one member of the group was not clearly thechairperson. Nevertheless, the group does not always follow M.'s suggestions. In responseto M.'s question about character, the group proceeds instead to evaluate the quality of thestory. R. says, "Well, the story is basically stereotypical" (1. 81). Other members of the groupdo not agree with R.; they analyse the story differently. For instance, B. says, "I found it hada unique twist in it that involved kids" (1. 83). The preceding comment by B. alsodemonstrates her awareness of point of view and that authors make conscious decisions whenconstructing texts.Another literary element the group considers is theme. M. asks, "What do you thinkthe moral of the story was or the theme" (1. 106)? Immediately three, somewhat cliched, themestatements are offered.R.^Anything boys can do, girls can do better.M.^You can do anything you want to if you set your mind to it?B .^Don't be afraid to challenge things that are not the norm.(11. 107, 109-110)But in conjunction with the theme analyses, they provide details from the text for support.B .^Yeah, she was strong enough to say, "Yes, why can't a girl do it?"R.^Well, even when her cousin came and said -- you know, she's always listenedto him before, and he said, well, you should, you know.R.^And she stood her ground the whole time. (11. 115-8)As they talk about events from the story which demonstrate the theme, Group Four alsoanalyses the boys and girls' behaviour. Because characterization is dealt with differently in thisstory, the group discusses character less in this session. The teacher is one of the fewcharacters discussed specifically. For example, they work to develop a picture of the teacher'scharacter by questioning, inferring, analysing, and referring to personal experience.M.^What about this teacher?C.^When she was in school, she probably wanted to change things too.101R.^But like when she did, everybody stuck up for her almost to say they idoledher, like she was sorta the -- what do you call people like that? Like a Christfigure, you know.M.^It was in that stupid story about Pigshead, Lord of the Flies, too. They had aChrist figure, right?(11. 407, 441, 445-49)The rest of the characters tend to be talked about as groups of boys and girls.M.^They just don't know that it's guys against girls, but they -- just carrying thewater bucket.B .^Until it came that the guys thought they were being threatened and the girlsthought, 'well, phooey on you, you know, we're gonna get our way'.M.^^But also it shows that it occurs even when you're little, not just like when youstart to get out working kinda thing.B .^That it's happening all the time, no matter what age.(11. 165-170)The group uses similar strategies for making sense of this story as for the previous stories.For example, in the preceding segment, they refer to personal experience, analyse theme andcharacter, empathize and understand through role play, and infer from textual details.What is different about the discussion of "The Friday Everything Changed" is the decreasedfocus on specific characters, the wider range of literary elements considered, and the increaseduse of evaluation and personal experience.M., once again, takes charge of the discussion when she suggests talking about thetitle. "What about the title? We didn't do the title last time" (1. 232). Very quickly the groupanalyses the words of the title, "The Friday Everything Changed", and synthesizes the story'sevents to make sense of the title's significance.R.^It's self-explanatory. It happened on a Friday.M.^So, a new beginning.R.^Yeah, a new added change.B.^A change, yeah, or a step in a different direction.(11. 232, 234-6)Because discussion of the title is resolved so quickly, M. offers another literary elementfor consideration. "Any symbols" (1. 238)? R. answers her question by saying, "Carrying thewater is a symbol" (1. 239). This prompts M. to ask, "A symbol of what" (1. 240)? R. repliesthat it is a "symbol of what women fight for in women's lib, whatever that is" (11. 242-3). M.synthesizes and elaborates upon R.'s suggestion by saying, "Independence" (1. 244). M.continues to display interest in finding symbolic meaning in the story.M.^What else? What about the baseball game? Isn't that sort of a symbol because,you know, it started with boys and girls, and then as soon as the girls spokeup, and then it was only boys, and then at the end she -- the teacher walked in102there and being a teacher I guess she had the authority or the right or whateverto go in there and say, 'well, to heck with you, it's going to be a girl game'.(11. 246-50)M. uses an interesting array of strategies in developing and presenting her interpretation of thebaseball game's symbolic significance. She presents her analysis initially as a question, but asshe reviews and synthesizes the story's events in relation to the game she becomes increasinglyconfident. By the end of the above segment, she engages in an impromptu role play of theteacher in order to illustrate her analysis of the teacher's behaviour and motivation. B. offersan alternative analysis of the baseball game's symbolism. "But the game sorta symbolizedequality in a way. You know, fairness, that everyone had a turn" (11. 269-70). She also refersto personal experience to state that the ball game represents women's lib.M. has one other item in the story that she wants the group to consider symbolically.M.^Well, about the last sentence when she swept her hand over the top of her desk,and tiny dust ...R .^Probably the norms, you know like how she changed. I think the dustsymbolizes that.B .^A new beginning kinda thing.M.^Yeah.B.^And you notice how it danced in the sunlight? Now she could have just saidshe swept it off and it made her cough or sneeze, whatever --R.^Yeah.B .^-- but dancing in the sun was as if there was hope --M.^Hope.R.^It's lingering there, kinda.(11. 278-291)The group's discussion of the symbolic significance of the dust motes being swept off theteacher's desk at the end of the story displays many things about how they make sense of thestories and how they work together as a group. They are willing to speculate and offertentative ideas to one another which indicates a strong sense of comfort with each other. Theyoffer each other support and encouragement by saying things like "yeah" or repeating animportant word said by another person. They are also quite adept at analysing stories throughthe framework of the literary elements.M. initiates the concluding portion of the discussion by asking a question. "Well, whatdo you guys think of the story now? Different, same" (1. 473). They proceed to evaluate thestory as a whole, express engagement with the story, ask questions about the story, and drawon personal experience to support their concluding comments about the story.R .^It's actually a pretty good story now. The first time you read it, it's kinda like,yeah, okay, yeah, okay. I want the girls to play (inaudible) game. We'veheard this before.103M.^It was kinda -- I thought it was really unique that they used little kids in abaseball game so they could explain something so complex, instead of usingkids our age or our parents' age because we wouldn't really understand.B .^Yeah.R.^What I'm wondering is like if you let a little kid be -- well, not -- someone whois young who has read enough who will actually sit down and read the wholestory, would they get it?B .^Probably not because it's, you know -- it would have to be written by someoneour age.M.^But you'd have to be old to understand it because all the little kid would see is abunch of kids playing baseball.(11. 474-80, 482-88)The last three comments from R., B., and M. are interesting not only from the perspective ofhow they make sense of this story, but also from the perspective of what they know about howless experienced readers would make sense of the story. The review process at the end of thediscussion also enables them to reflect on what the discussion process does for them asreaders. It helps them re-look and re-consider the text.In general, Group Four's discussion of "The Friday Everything Changed" was similaryet different from previous discussions. The organizational shape of the discussion was essay-like. They used literary elements and a variety of meaning-making strategies, and they werecomfortable and supportive of one another. What was different was the decreased focus onone central character which is likely because the story does not have one central character. Aswell, their use of the literary elements was more wide ranging than in previous discussions andthey seemed to jump from topic to topic more. But the most significant difference was M.'sassumption of the role of chairperson. Without a doubt, she directed the discussion frombeginning to end. It is also important to note that the group did not react negatively to herleadership; they worked together as comfortably in this session as they had in previoussessions.104Chapter V: Conclusions and RecommendationsA. IntroductionIn this chapter, I intend to review briefly the main ideas of chapters one to three, weavetogether the threads of the four stories of the four groups in chapter four, and presentconclusions and recommendations based on my research.As we know, the theory, research, and practice of response to literature is attempting tofind ways to produce independent and thoughtful readers. Traditionally, there has been toomuch teacher talk and influence, and insufficient meaningful opportunities for students tointeract independently with literature. In order to provide these opportunities, we need to learnmore about developing response to literature, response styles, meaning-making strategies, andeffects of group behaviour. Thus, in my research I have investigated how students respond toliterature when given the opportunity to discuss short stories in small student-led groups.The foundation for my research rested upon my review of the literature related to readerresponse to literature. In particular, I reviewed three areas of response to literature research:written response to literature, oral response to literature, and response to literature throughquestioning. Research into written response to literature has found that when students writeresponses to a text the transaction between the reader and the text may be enhanced. Oralresponse to literature studies have revealed that small group discussions about literaturebroaden students' perspectives of texts and contribute to the reader's active re-creation of text.Studies of responding to literature through questioning have shown that questioning does nothave to be teacher-centred, nor address only cognitive realms. Questioning strategies thathonour and foster the reader's personal involvement with literature are reasonable means ofdeveloping reading strategies, comprehension, and aesthetic response.As a result of my review of the literature and my research focus, I undertook tocomplete a qualitative, ethnographic case study of sixteen grade 12 students responding to fourshort stories in four student-led small group discussion sessions. I collected data on the fourgroups by audio-taping and transcribing the discussion sessions, writing field notes and aresearcher's journal, and conducting retrospective interviews with selected students. Then Ianalysed the data inductively through content analysis in order to learn more about developingresponse, response strategies, and small group interaction.105B. Weaving Together the Four Groups' StoriesDespite the fact that Group One was purposefully created to be academically averageand the other three groups were purposefully created to be academically heterogeneous, therewere more similarities among the four groups than there were differences. As a consequence, Ibecame less concerned during the analysis about distinguishing between the two types ofgroups and focussed instead on how each group worked to make sense of short stories instudent-led discussions. In order to report most effectively on the groups' similarities, I willpresent them within the context of the study's five sub-questions.Question OneThe first question dealt with how response to literature evolves in small student-ledgroup discussions. With this question I wanted to determine what the groups tended to talkabout in their initial responses and what shape, if any, the discussion followed after that. Withthe initial responses each group, in some form or another, expressed engagement with thestory, evaluated the story, and analysed theme. Sometimes they also analysed character andstated confusion about something in a story, usually plot, theme, or character. The initialresponses were usually of a general nature rather than specific in focus. After the initialresponses the discussions focussed on specific details in the story. For instance, they mightdiscuss a character's personality or relationship with another character. During the middlesegment of the discussion sessions, the groups tended to use various meaning-makingstrategies within a literary elements framework as a means of interpreting the story. Theconcluding segments of the discussion sessions were general in nature, similar to the openingsegments. The students tended to comment once again on whether or not they liked the story(engagement), whether or not they thought it was a good story (evaluation), and what thestory's theme was or what the story was about (analysis). Thus it seems that the groups'discussions tended to have the shape of a typical five paragraph essay. The discussions mayhave taken on this shape for a variety of reasons: first, the length of time given to the studentsto discuss the short stories; second, the simple need for a way to initiate the discussion; third,the suggested response process procedure; fourth, the possibility of having to report back torest of the class, and fifth, the previous class experiences.106Question TwoThe second question asked if there were clearly identifiable patterns in students'responses during their small group discussions. For this question, I was interested indetermining if the students' responses could be categorized or would be entirely random. Ialso wanted to see what meaning-making strategies were most prevalent. From the contentanalysis I found four broad categories: literary elements, personal response, interpretation, andevaluation. Mostly these categories provided me with a useful way to describe how thestudents made sense of the stories. The categories were also interesting because of theirsimilarity to other researchers' categorization schemes. In general, the categories that becameevident revealed much about how students in a peer-led discussion group interpret and respondto literature, in particular short stories. The first category -- literary elements -- demonstrated the explicit knowledgelearned during twelve years of literature instruction, especially in secondary Englishclasses. The second category -- personal response -- revealed the students' need to bepersonally and emotionally engaged with the literature they read and study. The third category -- interpretation -- reflected the students' desire to understandthe short stories, to make the stories mean something to them. The fourth category -- evaluation -- indicated the students' inclination to beperceptive critics and to state opinions.For me the most fascinating component of the research involved the meaning-makingstrategies used by the students to make sense of the short stories. Within the context of thesmall group, the students used a wide range of strategies, the most common being analysing,referring to personal experience, inferring, questioning, evaluating, expressingengagement, and speculating. These strategies fall within three of the four broadcategories of response, but in a sense the categories became unimportant when I looked at howthe students used the strategies to make meaning. For example, the most commonly usedstrategies for "He Swung and He Missed", a descriptive and complex story about a boxer,were analysing and questioning. Other strategies such as referring to personal experience,inferring, evaluating, expressing engagement, and synthesizing were used less frequently. For"A Penny in the Dust", a symbolic and emotional story about a childhood experience, the mostcommonly used strategies were analysing, inferring, referring to personal experience, andquestioning. Other strategies such as expressing engagement and evaluating were used but notas often. For the third story, "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks", a descriptive, low action, highdialogue story about a young married couple, the most commonly used strategies were107analysing, inferring, referring to personal knowledge, questioning, and speculating. Otherstrategies such as expressing engagement, evaluating, synthesizing, and role playing were usedbut not as often. The most commonly used strategies for "The Friday Everything Changed", achild's perspective of a significant event at school, were analysing, referring to personalexperience, inferring, questioning, expressing engagement, and evaluating. Other strategiessuch as speculating and synthesizing were used but again not as often. No matter whichcomponent of a short story the students were discussing, they used one or more strategies tomake sense of it. The students rarely used a meaning-making strategy in isolation; they seemedto layer the strategies almost like an onion has layers. For instance, a question might lead toboth analysing and referring to personal experience.Working in a group also influenced the students' use of strategies. They were willingto be tentative and exploratory; they rarely demonstrated a strong need to find a definitiveanswer or interpretation during the small group discussions. If they had been workingindividually, they might not have been so inclined towards behaving like Dias's (1987)problem solvers.Overall, the most commonly used meaning-making strategy was analysis. This doesnot mean, however, that the groups worked to pick apart or extract meaning from the stories.Rather, their small group discussions provided them with the chance to analyse by re-creatingthe text, i.e. re-telling, re-visioning, re-thinking, and questioning, which is a fundamentalreason for putting into practice response to literature theory (Barnes et al., 1971; Christenbury& Kelly, 1983; Fillion, 1981; Jackson, 1982; Rosenblatt, 1976; Stratta et al., 1973). Thus,while the groups' discussion sessions revealed certain categories of response and recurring useof many of the same meaning-making strategies, there was no obvious pattern to theresponses. The lack of patterns in the groups' responses seemed to confirm the complex,contextual nature of response, rather than to simplify it.Question ThreeThe third question asked which aspects of story do students in groups tend to focusupon. The literary elements response category was relevant to this question as it subsumeddiscussion involving character, plot, theme, point of view, setting, mood and tone,symbolism, and story titles. But once again the category was most useful as a means ofdescribing what the students did. It did not provide hard and fast answers.The aspect of story that students focussed upon most was character. Because characteris such an important ingredient in any short story, it is understandable that they chose todiscuss character more than any other short story element. The groups tended to make sense of108virtually every aspect of the short story by discussing character, which was something I hadnot expected to see to such a degree. For instance, while talking about a character they oftendiscerned a story's theme or analysed another character or clarified an area of confusionregarding the plot. But in particular, they discussed the characters in order to determine theirmotivation and behaviour.While the students were quite capable at discussing character, theme, setting, plot, andsymbolism, they demonstrated limited awareness of tone and mood, point of view, and style.The reason for this may be threefold. They may have received less instruction on the latterelements; the students may not have perceived these elements in the stories being discussed;and the students may not be developmentally ready as readers to interpret tone and mood, pointof view, and style.The students were most comfortable using the literary elements as the frame for theirdiscussions. For instance, one student might ask the others why they thought the character putthe penny back in the pocket? Usually the whole group not only responded to the question, butalso used the question as impetus for further discussion about the character's motivation,relationships, behaviour, and significance.Question FourThe fourth question addressed the influence the choice of short story has upon thegroup discussions. The nature of the short story was an important influence upon thediscussions. In particular, the story's content shaped what the students talked about. Forinstance, if the story was about a young boy losing a penny that his father had given him, thestudents talked about the penny, the young boy, and the boy's relationship with his father.They also made connections between their lives and the story by talking about similar situationsthey had experienced as young children. In the case of "He Swung and He Missed", thestudents talked about Rocco's career as a boxer. Because theme is integral to content, it wasnot surprising that the stories' themes seemed to subtly influence the groups' discussions.Although they rarely discussed theme outright, they did talk about theme as part of theircharacter discussions. For example, in "Penny in the Dust" the theme of love and relationshipswas a significant part of the discussion of Pete's and his father's characters. Even for "TheFriday Everything Changed" where the theme seemed quite obvious to the students, they usedthe groups of characters as the means by which they made sense of the story and its theme.The style in which the story was written also influenced the discussions. They found itmore difficult to become engaged with stories that contained much description or a low level ofaction and a high level of dialogue. For example, "Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks" elicited more109statements of confusion and disenchantment than any of the other stories. This was becausethe story contained little action and portrayed a situation that very few of the students wouldhave experienced in their own lives. As a result, the three academically heterogeneous groupstended to discuss the story as an exercise in literary analysis. The academically average groupdiscussed the story in terms of gender roles; they brought something they had experienced tothe story in order to make sense of it. Nevertheless, in both cases it was the style and contentof the story that influenced the groups' discussions.Characterization in each of the short stories was the strongest influence upon thestudents' discussions. For instance, "He Swung and He Missed" was about Rocco, the youngman whose career as a boxer was ending. When the students discussed "He Swung and HeMissed", they talked about Rocco more than anything else. However, if a story's characterswere not developed as individuals, the students' responses also reflected that difference instyle. For instance, the boys and girls in "The Friday Everything Changed" were not portrayedso much as individuals as part of a group. There were the boys and there were the girls. Thismethod of portraying character seemed to encourage the students to discuss the boys and girlsin the story in terms of group behaviour instead of individual behaviour. In the other threestories, they talked a great deal about individual characters as individual human beings.Question FiveThe fifth question asked whether groups vary in the ways they approach and respond toa short story. One factor that accounted for much of the variety among the groups waspersonality. Or to be more precise, each student's personality and the combination of thesepersonalities to form a group personality strongly shaped how each group functioned. Thestudents were comfortable enough with one another to feel at ease discussing the short storieswithout seeming to require teacher intervention or cooperative learning structures. Eachstudent's personality played a part in how each group functioned. For instance, some studentswere quietly supportive; some students shared leading the group; other students askedquestions or elaborated on previous statements. The individual personalities influenced the ebband flow of the the discussion sessions.It is interesting to note that Groups Two, Three, and Four consisted of three girls andone boy and Group One consisted of one girl and three boys. This did not, however, result inthree female dominated groups and one male dominated group. Each of the groups seemed tofunction in its own way at quite a developmentally mature level.The students' sense of comfort with one another and experience working in smallgroups has a strong influence upon how the groups approached the response process. Perhaps110if the students had not been so familiar with working in student-led small groups, they mighthave had more need to make direct use of the cooperative structures suggested in the handouttitled "Discussing Short Stories as a Group". As it was, other than Group One, the studentspaid little attention to the suggested procedures. They simply got down to the business ofmaking sense of the stories together. In this study, the students' personalities and experiencewith small groups influenced how each group approached and responded to the short stories.The following section in which I outline distinguishing features of each group, bestaddresses the question dealing with group variations and best illustrates the four categories ofgroup behavioural dynamics that my analysis revealed. Essentially, each group, in its ownway, demonstrated the following categories of behaviour:• agreeing and providing support for each other;• elaborating or clarifying upon a statement;• contradicting or offering a different opinion; and• directing the discussion either by one individual or collaboratively as agroup.Group OneGroup One was obviously different because of its original composition. The groupwas formed on the basis of the four students being considered academically average by theirteacher. The composition of the group did not hinder its ability to have lively discussionsabout the short stories. However, they did seem to be less developmentally mature readers andresponders in that they wanted the stories to conform to their views of life; they wanted thestories to engage them emotionally, especially the characters; and they drew heavily uponpersonal experience as a means of interpreting the stories. While they used more than onestrategy for making meaning, they had a slightly more limited repertoire of strategies than theother groups. Another characteristic of Group One was that its discussions were obviously ledby one member of the group and perhaps as a result they were more conscious of time andbeing prepared to report back to the others at the end of the session. Generally each of theirdiscussions followed the suggested directions for group response and evolved in the shape ofa typical essay. Lastly, Group One was different because in the classroom they appeared to bea dysfunctional group who argued a great deal. However, after reading the transcripts of theirdiscussions, it was obvious that being argumentative and lively was simply their discussionstyle. They were usually very much engaged with the task of making sense of the shortstories.111Group TwoGroup Two was distinctive because of its quite lengthy initial responses, especiallywhen compared with those of Group One. Their opening statements often went beyondmaking statements of engagement, evaluation, and theme. It was common for their initialresponses to deal with areas of confusion. As a group they functioned agreeably andsupportively, while at the same time each member of the group possessed enough confidenceand comfort to express individual opinions about the stories. Group Two did not have anobvious group leader; they simply worked well together. As a means of making sense of theshort stories, they used more meaning-making strategies and literary elements than Group One.For example, during their discussion of "He Swung and He Missed", Group Two used elevenmeaning-making strategies; Group One used seven. They also referred less often to personalexperience than did the other groups, although the last short story did affect them verypersonally. A final distinguishing feature of Group Two was the shape of its discussions. Thediscussions did not always conform to typical essay structure. Sometimes their discussionsseemed to end without reviewing or summing up because they were still busy discussing thedetails of the story.Group ThreeGroup Three did not have as many noteworthy characteristics as the other groups. K.,the only male in the group, usually, but not always, acted as the group's unofficialchairperson. Of the four groups, this was the only group to have a boy take on a leadershiprole. Group Three used the framework of the literary elements more overtly than Groups Oneand Two. But Group Three's most distinguishing feature was its group dynamic. It was farmore low key and quiet than the other groups. Their discussions were supportive, friendly,and definitely not argumentative.Group FourGroup Four was special in many ways. Consisting of three girls and one boy, thethree girls were quite equally strong and usually shared the leadership of the discussionsessions; however, in session four, M., one of the girls, led the discussion by askingquestions from start to finish. They were an enthusiastic and energetic group who in thisrespect closely resembled Group One. But unlike Group One, they usually were not concernedabout the stories conforming to their personal views. More than the other groups they used a112broad repertoire of meaning-making strategies and a strong emphasis upon the literary elementsin their discussions. In terms of strategies, they were unique in their level of awareness oftheir personal reading processes, awareness of the author's role in constructing a text, and theirregular use of role play as a means of developing understanding of characters. There wasdefinitely a mix between literary awareness and emotional involvement in their discussions.In conclusion, while each of the four groups possessed distinguishing features, theywere not strikingly different from one another. Indeed, the heterogeneous composition ofGroups Two, Three, and Four seemed to make them unique from Group One in only onerespect. Groups Two, Three, and Four were less concerned about having the stories andstories' characters conform to their personal perspectives. Thus, each group's responseprocess was perhaps as much the random result of bringing together different personalities andabilities with different stories as anything else.C. Research ConclusionsMany conclusions may be drawn from my study of how small student-led discussiongroups work to make meaning within the context of discussing short stories.Small Student-Led GroupsThe first set of conclusions addresses the use of small student-led groups. First, thestudy revealed the importance of the small group discussion as a starting place for response toliterature. Because the groups were small and consisted of the students' peers, they felt free totake risks, be tentative, ask questions, and explore possible avenues of interpretation all ofwhich are vital for aesthetic response. It is not uncommon for students to be unwilling to askquestions in literature discussions because of not wishing to look unintelligent in front of theteacher and the whole class; however, in the small group setting the fear of speaking in front oflarge numbers of people was removed. The comfortable small group environment encouragedall students to participate in the discussions. During the retrospective interviews, the studentswere adamant about their degree of participation in student-led small group discussions versusteacher-led whole class discussions.The interviews also revealed support for another conclusion about the value ofdiscussing literature in small student-led groups. Students shared that they learned more bydiscussing in small groups than by discussing as a whole class. The group setting allowedthem to ask more questions, offer more analyses, relate personal experiences, and hear howother students made sense of the short stories. Basically, each student had more time to talk113and make meaning, almost in the manner traditionally adopted by the teacher in whole classteacher-led discussions (Roberts & Langer, 1991).The study also demonstrated the value of students working together to interpretliterature in groups of mixed abilities and personalities. The academically heterogeneousgroups were more capable of blending personal response with interpretation in order toperceive the stories as literary entities. The students' individual and group personalitiesprovided another interesting insight. The students in my study confirmed that, with experienceand practice at working together to discuss literature, the mix of personalities and abilities in agroup was beneficial because of the emotional and intellectual vitality that it provided. Thesetting made it possible for each student to use his or her strategies for making meaning whileat the same time they saw their peers using different strategies or similar strategies in differentways. For instance, while less sophisticated readers may have used mostly personal responsestrategies, they were able to listen to fellow students who used a wider range of meaning-making strategies. Thus, experience at working collaboratively in heterogeneous small groupsseems vital for students' development as readers and responders. Interestingly enough, thestudents were quick to recognize the important role the teacher plays in providing them withknowledge that they themselves do not possess. However, they also strongly believed that thesmall group discussions enabled them to explore and expand upon their knowledge and todevelop their own understanding of the short stories rather than that of the teacher.In general, discussing short stories in small student-led groups fostered both individualand social construction of knowledge. The students worked together to make sense of thestories while at the same time developing their individual responses and interpretations. Thegroup experience did not seem to hinder each student's perspective; in fact, it seemed toenhance their active re-creation of text far more than a teacher-led discussion might (Eeds &Wells, 1989; Fisher, 1985; Golden, 1986; Johnston, 1987; Otto, 1987; Roberts & Langer,1991; Strickland et al., 1989; Wilson, 1975). It also seemed that the small group discussionssupported the developmental view of response to literature and reading (Protherough, 1983;Thomson, 1987). Thomson's (1987) developmental model of response to literature isparticularly interesting: (1) unreflective interest in action, (2) empathizing, (3) analogizing, (4)reflecting on the significance of events and behaviour, (5) reviewing the whole work as aconstruct, and (6) consciously considered relationship with the author, recognition of textualideology, and understanding of self (identity theme) and of one's own reading processes (p.360). If we think in terms of this model, the process of discussing the short stories in smallgroups seemed to enable more students to respond at a higher level of response than if perhapsthey had been responding to the literature on an individual basis or in a different type of groupsetting. For instance, the heterogeneous groups moved among all six stages of response114identified by Thomson, while Group One, the academically average group, usually used stagesone through five. Furthermore, from my perception of the students as individuals, I am willingto speculate that if they had been responding to the short stories separately some of them mightnot have demonstrated the ability to use stages four, five, or six. Thus, my study seems tocorroborate the notion that response to literature is developmental and the value of usingstudent-led small group discussions as a means of fostering response to literature.Students Making MeaningThe second set of conclusions looks more closely at what the students actually did inorder to make sense of the short stories. The four general categories of response that weremost prevalent were literary elements, personal response, interpretation, and evaluation. Foreach of the four stories, the groups used meaning-making strategies as they talked about theliterary elements. Within the response category for literary elements, the students talked chieflyabout character. Second to character was plot, and then sometimes theme, symbolism, andsetting. Within the other three response categories there are many different sub-categories ofresponse, but certain meaning-making strategies were used by the students more oftenthan others. For the sixteen students in my study, analysis, inferring, referring topersonal experience, asking questions, evaluating, expressing engagement,and speculating were the favourites. Usually the students employed more than one strategysimultaneously or one strategy immediately after the other in order to discuss a topic. Eachstory's content and style also influenced what the students did to make sense of it. Thus, itseems that the grade twelve students were able to draw upon quite an extensive repertoire ofmeaning-making strategies. Certain meaning-making strategies, such as analysing, inferring,and referring to personal experience, were used extensively while others, such as synthesis,were seldom used. Therefore, the student-led small group discussion process for respondingto literature was beneficial as a means of broadening the students' repertoire of strategies forinterpreting stories but, as the students indicated in the retrospective interviews, teachers arestill very important in order to teach them how to consciously use an increasing number ofmeaning-making strategies.The study also revealed the need to balance the affective and cognitive realms whenresponding to literature. The students usually started and ended their discussion sessions withstatements of engagement and evaluation. As well, throughout the discussions, they regularlyreferred to personal experience and prior knowledge as a way of confirming their ownexperience and developing understanding of the short story being discussed. Personalexperience and prior knowledge often involved referring to other stories and novels they had115read or movies and television shows they had watched (Beach et al., 1990). They also drewon situations they had been involved in themselves. For instance, two stories elicited muchdiscussion from their own lives of gender issues. The link between thought and feeling wasalso apparent in the predictable essay shape of the small group discussions. As statedpreviously, the discussion sessions began with general statements of engagement, evaluation,and analysis. The middle sections of the discussions dealt with details of the story, and theconcluding sections often returned to being general statements of engagement, evaluation, andanalysis. Although personal experience and analysis were used throughout the discussions,the students seemed to need to draw upon their feelings initially before they could venturefurther into interpretation (Britton, 1971; Wilson, 1966). Therefore, Rosenblatt's (1985)statement about interpretation being the effort to report on the nature of the thought and feelingcalled forth during the transaction with text appeared to be confirmed by the students' approachto discussing short stories.Perhaps not surprising the grade twelve students used their knowledge of the literaryelements as part of their approach and response to the short stories. Chiefly, the literaryelements served as the frame for their discussions, sometimes explicitly and sometimesimplicitly. For instance, a student might ask a question about a story's setting and the resultingdiscussion would involve many different meaning-making strategies. Certain literary elementswere used more often than others which indicated a connection to the developmental nature ofresponse to literature. Although the students were in their final year at high school, character,theme, plot, setting, and symbolism were the literary elements most often discussed. Thus,elements such as mood and tone, style, irony, and point of view were rarely considered whichsuggests that the students may not have had much experience with these literary elements andmay not yet be completely sophisticated readers. The literary element discussed the most wascharacter. The reason for the interest in character seemed to rest with the type of literaturebeing discussed. The short story genre tends to focus on character. As well, character isgenerally more interesting to talk about because stories' characters are representations of ourhuman experience, and less developmentally mature readers seem to want characters andstories that conform or connect to their personal experience. Nevertheless, whether thestudents were sophisticated or unsophisticated readers, they discussed the motivation andbehaviour of the characters. This was the small student-led groups' main approach to makingsense of the stories. Content and style also affected how the students responded to the shortstories. If a story had an unusual plot or was written in a slow-paced descriptive style, thestudents' discussions revealed more confusion and less personal satisfaction with it.Ultimately, how the students used the literary elements to make sense of the short stories116indicates the importance of teachers being instructional coaches to assist students in developingtheir knowledge and experience with literature.Value of Small Group DiscussionMy final conclusion refers directly to the study's main question of how small student-led discussion groups work to make meaning within the context of discussing short stories.The small student-led discussion groups confirmed the value of giving students the opportunityto develop their own responses to literature. During the retrospective interviews, the studentsrecognized that their own interpretations were often not as insightful or sophisticated as theteacher's, but they also recognized that it was imperative for them to work together to maketheir own meaning, especially initially, if they were ever to feel confident and capable at beingable to understand and enjoy literature.D. RecommendationsAs with any study there are pedagogical recommendations and recommendations forfurther research in order to confirm and expand our understanding of the topic .Future ResearchIn terms of future research, we need to investigate how response develops in smallgroups. Because my research was a case study, it is not generalizable to a large population.The response styles and strategies used by the students in the study provided interestinginformation, but also many questions. Why did they respond as they did? What can we do toexpand and develop students' abilities to use meaning-making strategies? How can we assistthem in becoming more sophisticated readers and responders? As well, we need to learn moreabout the levels of response in small groups as compared to the levels of response whenstudents work individually. Although the small groups seemed to be quite capable atinterpreting short stories, they generally could have asked more probing questions about thestories. For instance, they rarely considered the short stories as literary constructions byauthors. We need to find ways of getting small groups of students to be less superficial in theirresponses. For example, how might student-generated questioning strategies assist thedevelopmental nature of response to literature? Another area of future research might be howdoes the literary selection, i.e. content, style, and genre, influence the response to literature?Also, how much direction should teachers give groups when discussing literature? Finally, we117need to learn more about the influence of group dynamics and behaviour upon response toliterature. Is it entirely beneficial or can it hinder individual thinking? What role does genderbalance play in a group? The recommendations for future research are not necessarily new, butthey have evolved from this study and are important to consider if we wish to enrich ourunderstanding of response to literature.Literature InstructionMy study also has some interesting implications for literature instruction. First,teachers need to consider how they teach students about the literary elements. Obviously,students want to learn more about the technical side of literature, but teachers need to thinkabout how to connect the study of literary elements to the context of the literature being read bythe students. Maybe we should not teach students about literary elements until they have beenable to formulate their own responses to the literature. Or maybe teachers should combine minilessons that occur at the beginning of each lesson with incidental instruction. As well, teachersneed to consider whether certain literary elements such as plot, theme, setting, and character areoveremphasized in their instructional practices (Purves, 1973). In conjunction with the literaryelements, the students obviously used different strategies to make sense of the short storiesduring their small group discussions. It is, therefore, apparent that teachers need to learn moreabout different meaning-making strategies so they may provide students with the opportunity toexpand their repertoires. And because genre, content, and style were so influential, it seemsimportant that teachers consider these components carefully when choosing literature for classinstruction so that students will learn to respond in a variety of ways to a variety of literature.As a means of developing personal response to literature, teachers need to providestudents with more opportunities to discuss in small student-led groups. Teachers shouldconsider how much and what type of direction students may require when discussing literaturein small groups. Teachers also need to be judicious about when and how they provide literaryinstruction and interpretation. Tape recording the students' discussion sessions provided mewith much rich information about how the students were interacting with the literature and eachother. The presence of the tape recorder kept the students incredibly focussed on the task ofdiscussing the short story. To use tape recorders with every discussion would be excessive,but audio taping does seem to be a valuable means of doing observational assessment. Aswell, the students would benefit from listening to the audio-taped discussions. It mightencourage self-reflection and self-evaluation. In conclusion, small group discussions arevaluable because we learn not only through reading, writing, viewing and representing, butalso through talking and listening.118E. ConclusionIn my study I hoped to learn more about how students respond to short stories in smallstudent-led discussion groups. In conjunction with my central question, I wanted to learnmore about response to short stories, oral discourse in small groups, and literature learning ingeneral. The case-study methodology was particularly suited to my purpose as I was able tofocus closely on four groups of students. Even though each group's story was distinctive,taken together the four stories of the four groups offer rich insights into response to literature.For example, I learned much about how students in small groups weave together variousapproaches and meaning-making strategies, such as analysing, inferring, referring to personalexperience, questioning, and evaluating, to make sense of short stories. The use of the casestudy methodology to observe and describe small student-led discussion groups is especiallyimportant when we consider that the process of reading literature in school needs to aidstudents in making the "discovery of the relationship of one's own `storying' and the story ofthe book" (Sawyer, 1987, p. 36). Small group discussions seemed to provide students with asetting conducive to discovering one's own storying as well as the text's story. In a sense,when students have the opportunity to discuss literature in small student-led groups, they bothtransform and are transformed by the literature (Beach & Hynds, 1991). They engage inaesthetic or dialogic response to their particular evoked "poem", rather than simply searchingfor information (Rosenblatt, 1976, 1978; Vipond et al., 1990).The study also highlighted for me the complexity of the response process. On anindividual basis, response is idiosyncratic, but when the individual is making sense of shortstories as part of a group, the process becomes even more complex and random. It alsobecomes difficult to separate the parts being played by the reader, the text, and the context.Despite the complexity of the response process, the small group process made it possible tolearn more about the use of meaning-making strategies. There are, despite each small group'sdistinctiveness, some modes of response that are used repeatedly. It is clear, therefore, that weneed to provide students with the opportunity to learn how to move freely among modes ofresponse and develop a sophisticated repertoire of response strategies (Beach & Hynds, 1991).Discussing short stories in small student-led groups is a necessary starting place forresponse if we want students to learn to read with insight, confidence, and pleasure. Withoutthe ability to read aesthetically, literature as an art form and territory for exploration willdisappear. Thus the basic tenets of reader response theory, the transaction between reader andtext, and the need to honour the reader's initial response were supported by my study ofresponding to literature through small student-led discussion groups.119BibliographyAnderson, P. M. & Rubano, G. (1991). Enhancing Aesthetic Reading and Response.Urbana, IL: NCTE.Andre, M. E. D. A. & Anderson, T. H. (1978-79). The development and evaluation of aself-questioning study technique. 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In-Depth Book Discussions of Selected Sixth Graders: Response toLiterature. Dissertation Abstracts International, 36, 7195A.127Appendix 1DISCUSSING SHORT STORIES AS A GROUPRoles & Expectations1.^Face-to-Face Interaction:^- look at each other- quiet voices- speak clearly- stay with your own group2.^Individual Accountability:^each person is responsible for giving an initial responseto the story, asking questions and elaborating on what other people in the group havesaid, making notes on what is being developed in the the group's discussion, andencouraging and supporting everyone's efforts to develop an insightful and probinginterpretation of the story.3.^Designate the following roles:^encourager, reporter, reader(s), timekeeper.Procedures1. One person reads aloud the first page of the story.2. A second person reads aloud the last page of the story.-(If the story is very short, the two people could share reading the whole story to thegroup.)3. Each student states an initial response to the story - thoughts, feelings, questions, areasof confusion, similar personal experiences, etc.4. Random speaking order discussion of story begins after each person has expressed aninitial response.5. At any time, the group may re-read portions of the story to clarify meaning and refreshthe memory.6. After approximately 20 minutes of discussion, the group should re-read significantsections of the story again.7. The group formulates a discussion report to present to the whole class.8. The groups report to the whole class and are responsible for asking questions andexplanations of the other groups. Whole class discussion follows.Lynn ArcherEnglish Helping TeacherSurrey (#36)128Appendix 2Introductory SessionMaterials- name tags- 5 tape recorders- 3 extension cords- 24 cassette tapes- copies of short stories- handout on response process- clipboard- field observation forms- introductory notesResearcher's Overview'Purpose of Study: what, who, why-research undertaken for Master's thesis at U.B.C.-investigate how students respond to literature when given the opportunity to discussshort stories in small student-led groups-help teachers learn more about using small group discussions for literature instruction-encourage students to be confident about their ability to read, understand, interpret,and enjoy literature-want to look at grade 12 students because you are at the end of your high schoolcareers and will have a lot to say about short stories, i.e. insight, feelings,understanding'Process to be Used-four sessions of audio-taped small group discussions-working in small groups of four-groups chosen by teacher and researcher-groups meant to encourage different people to work together so that we don't seetypical response behaviour that may have been established throughout the year-vital that everyone participate fully by exploring their own responses to the shortstories and by building on what others in the group have to say about the story-consider your thoughts, feelings, personal experiences similar to the story, makepredictions, generate hypotheses, ask questions, analyze, etc.-refer back to the text-read first and last page or sections again or read portions of pages or read sentences orlook back at the text to confirm or alter opinions or facts-do not start until I indicate that all is ready-the first part of the response process must be followed; each person states his or hername and then gives an initial response, reaction to the story; this is vital as it allowseveryone equal opportunity to speak-before each of you give your initial response, please state your name-delve as deeply and thoroughly as possible into your individual and group's sense ofthe story-try not to end discussion of a story until I indicate time is up-teachers will not be involved in discussions so you are responsible for resolvingdilemmas or issues or searching for answers-at times their may not be an easy answer or even an answer-group does not have to reach consensus on its understanding of the story129-before the end of the twenty-five minute discussion period, re-read some importantsections of the story again and review what the group discussed so that a reporter mayreport to the rest of the class your discussion-researcher will be conducting field observations, i.e. taking notes of the groups eachday so that I get to know you better and gather another element of information abouthow students' discuss short stories in small groups-will also be asking some of you (one complete group and some random students) toparticipate in a retrospective interview at the end of the taping sessions as a further, andnecessary, source of information•Involvement and behaviour-at all times speak clearly and stay closely involved in your group-the tape recorders are not very high tech and clear, clean recordings are crucial for thesuccess of my research-do not tap, knock, or play with the tape recorders in any way other than to turn themon and off when I say-pay attention to the different perspectives within your group and try to build on eachperson's approach to the story-also pay attention to the similarities among yourselves-your participation is greatly appreciated130Appendix 3Field ObservationsFOCUS-one target group, but always observe all groups-setting-appearances, body language & positions throughout-eye contact-involvement/participation-attitude-behaviour-use of short story textMETHODOLOGY-describe setting/environment, placement of participants-describe each subject-describe behaviour-random, sweeping observations of whole group/individualsOBSERVATION FORM^ DATE:Time^Behaviour


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