Children's meaning making in classroom role-play at 4-5 years: a systemic functional linguistic investigation

Mukherjee, Sarah Jane (2016). Children's meaning making in classroom role-play at 4-5 years: a systemic functional linguistic investigation. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ef26

Abstract

This thesis explores meaning-making in children's peer-led classroom role-play and considers its contribution to learning during the first year of school. The aims of the research are to understand, firstly, how children of 4-5 years through their lexicogrammatical choices enact social roles and construe role-play scenarios that are reminiscent of real life, and secondly, what opportunities in these peer-led collaborative dialogues there may be for learning language, learning through language and learning about language.

The methodological and analytical approach draws on Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and the Vygotskian construct of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). I focus on linguistic and other semiotic data collected from children's interactions in fifteen video- recorded small group classroom role-plays, and ten audio recorded teacher role-play introductions with the whole class.

Classroom role-play is reconceptualised theoretically as a genre (as defined within SFL) enabling a deeper understanding of children's meaning-making in this context. The findings show that the construal of the social scenario is based on the children's dialogic interaction and ability to eo-create individual genre stages. Offering insights into these stages, I show evidence of the children's sophisticated and creative linguistic and other semiotic choices.

Through an interactional analytic framework, I consider how the children are able to extend their ZPD in six learning areas that have been linked to longer term social and academic learning. Findings show that the teacher introductions prime the children's learning which is then consolidated further in serendipitous opportunities forged by the particular nature of the child-led extended dialogic interaction of classroom role-play.

My study emphasises and reinforces the value of considering classroom role-play as a unique pedagogic resource for extending children's meaning-making and learning in their first year at school. As a result, the outcomes of this research have implications for future educational practice in this area.

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