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Constructing word/world knowledge together : young children’s emerging understandings of/with informational texts Filipenko, Margot Jessica

Abstract

Although young children's developing understandings of the concept of story have been thoroughly researched, children's informational literacy development has gone largely unexamined. This descriptive, naturalistic study in an emergent-literacy preschool classroom investigated what young children's talk revealed about their understandings of informational texts and the ways in which their teacher enabled and scaffolded those understandings. Over a 3-month period children's responses were videotaped in five contexts: full and small group readalouds, full and small group activities incorporating informational texts and child-to-child informational text sharing. Other data included observational field notes and an interview with the focus teacher. Data (observational field notes and selective transcriptions or complete transcriptions) were collected on a total of 45 episodes of children engaging with informational texts. From this data set, 19 transcripts (2 full group readalouds, 6 small group readalouds, 5 full group activities incorporating informational texts, 3 small group activities incorporating informational texts, and 3 child-to-child sharing of informational texts) were chosen for coding and in-depth analysis. The other data were used in a supplementary way. Six broad conceptual categories of children's talk emerged from the data analysis: informational text knowledge; world knowledge; representing meaning; building connections; reflective talk, and relational talk. These categories represented the various facets of children's engagement with informational texts and revealed the ways in which these children constructed meaning about and with informational texts. The teacher scaffolded the children's emerging understandings of informational texts by taking the roles of: recruiter (orienting and recruiting the children to the text); director (directing the children's attention to particular features of the text); model (modelling the reading process); elaborator (providing elaborative feedback); connector (making life-to-text and text-to-life connections); provocateur (prodding children to think more deeply about a topic); and conductor (facilitating the day-to-day routines of a classroom community). Individual styles of engagement with informational texts were identified and explored for two of the children. A grounded theory of young children's informational literacy development was developed that proposes: Young children's informational literacy development consists of six aspects: informational text knowledge, world knowledge, representation, reflection, connections and relational talk. During an informational literacy event these six aspects dynamically engage and blur as the child works to construct meaning. Informational literacy development is the dynamic process whereby this engagement results in a transformational moment.

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