Ways with Words-Chapter 3 and 4

Ways With Words—Heath
Trackton=black working class Roadville=white working class

Chapter 3: Learning how to talk in Trackton

From birth, Trackton babies are in midst of constant communication; they are never excluded from verbal interactions; they are listeners and observers to communication around them; they are talked about, never talked to. Adults pay no attention to babble and even first mutterings; wait for baby to speak; adults are knowing participants, babies/children only “come to know” (76). Babies never alone; toys one-dimensional-never have moving parts, no puzzles, books, blocks, manipulative toys. During first six months, babies not addressed by adults. Babies names are multiple from beginning based on their personality.

Boys: 12-14 months, boys become players in public arena of Trackton; Learn to perform based on audience reaction and response to their performances and adjust behavior in accordance with need for audience participation and approval. Also model others (79).

Females: never are actors on stage; always part of audience

Boys have interactive life with adults from young age. They are teased and challenged verbally and nonverbally. Verbal performance under challenge comes to be seen as verbal intelligence (80). In early stage of verbal performance, single utterances are common and also short sentence with variety of semantic values and contexts for interpretations. Teasing is literacy opportunity. They learn variety of context-based meanings for several words and come to understand how intonation, tone, and voice quality come into play (81).

Children become aware of audience’s mood and contextual cues of both nonverbal postures and gestures and verbal gestures from early age (82). Adults never hide moods, feelings, etc from babies; therefore, children always exposed to multiple rhetorical situations.

“Learning language is critical part of ‘getting’ on in this world” (84). Language = agency from early on. Learn language through process of feedback.

Children not expected to be information-givers; they are expected to be information-knowers (86).

Children move through three types of participation:
1. Repetition stage
2. Repetition with variation
3. Participation—try to intervene with adult conversations—ask question; comment on current topic; ask for clarification; get in face of person; call out name of person they want to speak to; out shout others.
Adults constantly correct or scold baby talk.

Girl talk: girls enter participation stage later than boys; often excluded from conversations; consequently, girls set up own interactive sessions-talk to mirrors, dolls, etc. Also, later, “fussing” and playsong games become means of agency at young age. Fussing takes part between girls of same age; activity is encouraged because it is a literacy event. Playsongs—sing while jump rope, cheerlead, washing dishes, sitting around, etc. Playsongs are literacy events because they provide opportunities for children to learn about numbers, body parts, and everyday realities. Playsongs become teaching moments among young girls since adults generally don’t take time to teach lessons learned through playsongs.

Types of questions asked of preschoolers:
Analogy questions, which call for open-ended answer that draws from child’s experiences.

Metaphors and similes are common among preschoolers and reflect preschooler’s ways of seeing the world about them in terms of comparisons in order to make sense of world around them. Comparisons and contrasts of situations, scenes, personalities, and objects also common then.

Why questions are hardly presented to children. Also, they don’t ask questions, which evoke correct responses “color? Name? etc.” Children don’t have to demonstrate knowledge.

Story starter questions also common—did you hear bout so and so? Listener says no, so recounting of narrative is necessary.

Accusation questions also common—What did you do with my shoes?? Children learn to respond with narrative that draws adult attention away from child’s’ misdeeds; these stories in a way challenge adults’ authority. Once children get to school, these playful narratives stop. No just bow head, say nothing, and take scolding.

Questions, which ask for specific information from children, are rare. If they are asked, children aren’t expected to respond with literal answers; instead, answer supposed to be appropriate and acknowledge special relationship.

Flexibility and adaptability are most important characteristics of learning to be and to talk in Trackton (111). Children learn to shift roles, to adapt their language, and to interpret different meanings of language according to specific situations. Shifting necessary for protection for one’s own status and for maintenance of status relations within the closed community (112).

Chapter 4: Teaching how to talk in Roadville

Children spend beginning of lives within world of colorful, mechanical, musical, and literacy-based stimuli.

Baby talk directed to child. Not constantly held. Babies have to learn to be independent. When babies speak, their word is acknowledged, praised, repeated back to them, reinforced with positive gestures, and baby’s word is incorporated into adult language.

Children’s’ language play alone or with siblings is encouraged. Monologue encouraged. Children play with language together. Adults respond to children’s first sentences by answering and correcting at same time. Adults also interpret and expand utterance.

Roadville adults believe if children learn to pay attention, listen and behave, they will learn how to talk and how to learn. First, they must learn to communicate own needs and desires. Second, children must learn communicative partners in a certain mold. Envision ideal stages when certain types of literacy should be learned.

Types of questions:

Question-statements: you are too warm, aren’t you? —Adults speaking for child—model ability to communicate needs and desires.

Questions in which questioner knows answers—what’s that? Initiates rote performances.

Questions directive—don’t you know I just cleaned that??? –Realigns behavior

Questions about state of affairs or feelings—do you want chocolate or vanilla—questioner doesn’t know answer but answerer does.

Toys and Games:

Gender driven. Educational TV. Peek a boo, pat a cake, knee-riding games. Games with props. Mobile games-hide and seek. Once children learn game, adults make it more difficult for them—teach mastery. Encouragement of playing alone.

Baby’s toys have own place. Clean up is a game. Teach values and needs. Parents must be strict and raise children the right way. Influenced by Christianity.

Children asked to perform for other adults.

Children taught what is appropriate to say and not say in particular contexts. There is fixed set of roles and view of world.

Contrasts between learning and teaching

Summary: differences in social and linguistic environments:

Boundaries of physical and social communities in which communication to and by children is possible; limits and features of the situations in which talk occurs; the what, how, and why of patterns of choice which children can exercise in their uses of language; the values of these choices of language have for children in their communities and beyond

Trackton: less spatial and time barriers imposed. Two different concepts of childhood. Each has own vision of how children should be taught to talk, read, write, and listen.

Both: children learn how language is used in their communities and learn to mimic it to achieve social goals. Children acquire knowledge community thinks they should learn at specific times. Church reinforces home rules.

Roadville families train children to use language. Time and space delineated.

Trackton community exposes children to language and expects children to learn by self. Less time and space constraints. Less direct role of parent as teacher.




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2 responses to “Ways with Words-Chapter 3 and 4

  1. Eileen E. Schell

    Just stopping by–great to see you blogging away. I’m inspired to get busy on my blog, which has been languishing this month even as the snow piles up.


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