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This naturalistic study examines the literary discourse which occurred in a sixth-grade language arts classroom within a departmentalized, a multidisciplinary, and then an interdisciplinary context. Audio tapes and accompanying field notes of all literature discussions surrounding three novels served as the primary data source. Secondary data sources included informal and formal interviews with the participants. Using a constant-comparative approach we identified elements of discourse and organized these elements into the following broad themes: 1) the text and the story world; 2) the reader and the story world; and 3) discipline knowledge and the story world. The literary discussions within the three contexts differed in terms of the overall approaches used, the elements which were emphasized, and the students' processes of constructing meaning. In particular the findings raised new questions regarding the use of literature within interdisciplinary units. Integration across the curriculum has often been seen as crucial in helping students overcome the fragmentation that is pervasive in schooling. However, we saw that when the unit topic becomes the force of attention, the literary experience itself can become fragmented. Thus as teachers move to interdisciplinary perspectives, they may wish to monitor their own use of literature and the role literature is to play in the unit.

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