Developing classroom discourse with young Aboriginal literacy learners

Lee Simpson, Susan Clancy

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Literacy theorists Freire and Macedo (1987) linked literacy success with the ability to 'read the world' before being able to 'read the word'. This ability is critical for young learners to navigate the transitional phase from their home culture into new education based settings. Such transitions are particularly difficult for young Aboriginal learners, who need to adjust to a range of different experiences, demands and expectations relating to their cultural, language and social skills. Research has clearly shown that Aboriginal learners are a group that generally, will not succeed in the area of literacy and who are at greatest risk of not achieving adequate literacy skills to pursue a career of their choice. Before these learners can become adept with school literacy they need an understanding of how oral language works in the classroom. This paper will use examples from the Narang Guudha (Wiradjuri language meaning little child) research project to demonstrate ways in which young Aboriginal learners, when given the time and opportunities to actively explore, discover and engage with classroom language, attempt to do this and in the process become familiar with the expectations of school. It will conclude with a consideration of the implications of this kind of data in the development of classroom discourse that will support such learners.Discourse is about making meanings - i.e. about creating, giving, receiving, and sharing meanings. At the same time discourses are about making meaning (or meaningful activity and interaction) possible. Meaning is absolutely central to human life and human beings, as sociocultural phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Journal of Teacher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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