Role-taking in small book-discussion groups by first -grade boys in a single-gender school

Sudarshana Das, Fordham University


Gender and achievement is controversial. Social and cultural concerns about who boys are and who they should become is tied closely to how both coeducational and single-gender schools function, and how they approach literacy issues. Currently, there is little understanding of social and cultural influences on students' experiences with discourse in single-gender schools. As there has been a growing interest in boyhood and masculinity issues in both popular and academic arenas, much research already exist on older boys literacy development in small group learning contexts in mixed-gender schools. This study explored three questions: (a) Do first-grade boys in a single-gender school have common identities/roles as they meet in small groups to discuss books, and if so, is one of them gender-related; (b) Do these boys have unique identities/roles, and if so, how are they negotiated? and (c) Under what conditions do they change their roles? Qualitative methods of data collection like videotaped observations, field notes, boys' informal interviews, and boys' journals for 10 sessions were used to answer the questions. A 5-week research plan was set up toward the end of the school year, where the researcher-participant (classroom teacher) used five texts from the Magic Tree House adventure series, choosing themes around knights, ninjas, wizards, and dragons. As patterns began to emerge, they fitted into some of Gee's (2005) Discourse framework. Critical discourse analysis of the videotaped transcriptions was done. Two themes emerged which were used to construct four case studies: (a) all four boys shared a common identity of a competitive game player and winner, ascertained by five themes: notion of power, being a boy, identifying with male characters, idea of violence, and game playing; (b) the boys negotiated and renegotiated their unique roles, with changing conditions that were interrelated. The conditions changed due to a shift in each participant's interests, and knowledge on topics. Masculine hegemony and gendered crossings were visible across all sessions. The implications for teaching (among others) were: young children like to begin book-discussions by reading their journal writings, and young boys interests flourish when they are allowed to bring their out-of-school interests to school-sanctioned book-talk venues as was evident by their creation of individual, board/card games, and text ratings, among several others. Other recommendations pertained to the teaching and learning of primary boys in single-gender schools.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Educational psychology|Literacy|Reading instruction|Developmental psychology|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Das, Sudarshana, "Role-taking in small book-discussion groups by first -grade boys in a single-gender school" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3407461.