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Writing Workshop revisited: A look at second grade children's writings and interactions

Paul Alexander Debettencourt Preston, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The focus of this study is to understand how students in one second-grade class utilized the social justice principle that they had been taught, to help them negotiate social tensions during Writing Workshop time. I studied the interactions and the writings of children while they composed and they shared their writing with their peers. Although there may be many types of tension present within an elementary classroom, I studied issues related to gender, culture, and friendship and trust. Theoretical constructs supporting this study were derived from grounded theory and sociolinguistic theory. Data collected during daily writing times throughout the school year included: personal student profiles; participant observer field notes; video and audio taped student conversations and student interviews; photographs of student interactions; and photocopies of students' writing. There were three principal findings about students' writings and social interactions during Writing Workshop times. First, students demonstrated within their writing the inclusion of a social justice principle that they were taught, but not in respect to culture. Although there were no negative cases of cultural stereotyping within the students' writing, there were also no cases of positive cultural images displayed. Second, students did not utilize the social justice principle in their conversations to help them negotiate tensions. Third, students' social status among peers influenced their behaviors and their decisions when they were faced with tensions during Writing Workshop. Norms associated with student social status had a stronger effect on their behavior than those from the social justice principle which they were taught. This study suggests the importance of including a social justice component within the Writing Workshop model. It further suggests that objectives be included that bring to the attention of all members of the community the presence of children's social status. It was the influence of student status within this classroom that affected the ways that children have access to learning and that limited participation for some of the students. Direct teacher instruction in social justice may insure that the Writing Workshop is positive and productive for all members of the classroom.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Curricula|Teaching|Rhetoric|Composition

Recommended Citation

Preston, Paul Alexander Debettencourt, "Writing Workshop revisited: A look at second grade children's writings and interactions" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9988833.