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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Classroom communication : a case study of Native Indian adolescents Nakonechny, Carole


Language arts curriculum researchers are placing increasing emphasis on the role of students talk in classroom learning, both in terms of cognitive development and as a preparation for literacy. A limited body of literature pertaining to the classroom language of Native Indian students suggests that it would be difficult to implement these guidelines with this population. The purpose of this study was to investigate the inherent potential of "talking to learn" methodology for a population of Native Indian students with varying socio-cultural backgrounds. The communication patterns of teachers and students were analyzed to determine basic levels of fluency during student transactional turns in relation to variables of turn content and taachers' verbal strategies. The study was designed as a micro-ethnography of communication patterns during classroom lessons at Outreach, an alternative school for Native Indian students of varying backgrounds. A series of transcripts of ninety hours of classroom lessons performed the original body of data. One thousand two hundred and forty-nine (1,249) turns were categorized, coded and analyzed according to length, content and function. Teacher turns were also coded for instructional .strategies. The relationship among the variables were tested for significance with SPSS:X using chi-square. The empirical results were interpreted in the context of naturally occurring verbatim excerpts from the transcripts through which classroom attitudes and communicative strategies could be inferred. The findings of the study demonstrate that the students displayed a marked preference for unelaborated language. Instances of sociolinguistic interference may have collectively influenced the abbreviated turn lengths. Student transactional long turn production (3 or more clausal chunks) was significantly related to turn content: 60% of student turns with private content fell within the over 3 clausal chunk range, while only 28% of student turns with public content reached this length. The effect of specific teacher strategy on turn length was largely undermined although closed questions emerged as a particularly ineffective strategy in the elicitation of long turns. The findings of the study indicate that a successful oracy component within the language arts program would be dependent upon modifications of both the standard classroom discourse structure and curriculum content.

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