Literacy on the edge : three to eight year-olds make meaning

Hattingh, L (2014) Literacy on the edge : three to eight year-olds make meaning. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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Three to eight-year-old children’s spontaneous and creative actions provide them with opportunities to call on their own stories and life experiences in their symbolic representations. Their symbolic representations offer a window onto their identities and their meanings, while providing the adults around them with an insight into their world by constructing meaning from the children’s activities. These representations are frequently composed in the unofficial spaces that children inhabit, on the edges of the main literacy teaching and learning activities of the classroom, nursery playroom and home, and are indicative of the children’s social worlds and literacy practices, made visible in their artefacts as they draw, model, make marks and role play. The study takes place in a small nursery and primary school, and consists of ethnographic case studies which allow for the scrutiny and analysis of the artefacts made by the children at home and at school. The data comprise images of fifteen children's representations, supported by field notes and conversational interviews. The analysis of the data recognises the need for a respectful and ethical approach to the interpretation of children's meaningmaking strategies. Role play, drawings, cut-outs and selected artefacts and found objects are some of the methods and contexts children employ to express their voices and to build theories of action through reflection and representation of their thoughts, experiences and feelings. The children's meanings provide opportunities for exploration, experimentation and critical thinking. The approach, which is taken in the interpretation of the children's attempts to communicate meaning through their symbolic representations, reflects an ethical pedagogy where the child is listened to and their meaningmaking is interpreted on their own terms. The thesis argues that literacy is predicated on making meaning, and that this should be supported by recognising the need for children to communicate and make their meanings visible in their artefacts and symbolic behaviour. The findings support the thesis and suggest that there is a need to acknowledge that young children are literate in the way in which they use their symbolic representations to say what they mean, and that the richness of children’s meaning-making practices is particularly evident when they are engaged on the periphery, or edges, of the main literacy activities in their homes and educational settings.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: School of Education
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Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2015 17:31
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2023 15:52
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