Writing place in English: How a school subject constitutes children's relations to the environment

Phillip Cormack, Bill Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper considers the discourses inscribed by children when they write and communicate about the environment, as exemplified in the anthology of students' writing and artwork produced annually by Special Forever. The paper begins by presenting a brief historical accout of primary English teaching, emphasising the legacy of Romanticism, and then outlines our discourse-analytic approach to analysing students' work. The analysis shows that children's representations of place are constituted within a range of often contradictory discourses, including those of Tourism and Recreation, Agriculture, Conservation and Indigenous knowledges. However, the dominant discourse is that of the school-subject English, which tends to emphasise particular genres for representation of places, and certain relations with places and the environment. The paper illustrates how the discursive practices involved in the discourse of subject English serve to constitute children's ways of seeing places, and the kinds of interactions, parctices and ideals that are valorised. It argues that children's responses to, as well as their representations of, place and the environment are dependent on the discourses to which they have access, and further, that there are genuine possibilities in the relationship between English teaching and environmental studies, perhaps especially evident in the primary school context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-101
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Language and Literacy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007

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