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Examining Children's Language Experiences Across Pre-K Classroom Activity Settings


This two-part dissertation study examined children's language experiences across activity settings (i.e. whole group, small group, free choice, etc.) that are typically found in Pre-K classrooms. Study 1 involved quantitative secondary analysis of a large corpus of time-sampled observations in Pre-K classrooms. Study 2 involved micro-level analyses of videotaped teacher-child interactions and teacher interviews in two Pre-K classrooms. The findings of Study 1 suggest that children's language experiences vary as a function of activity setting. Children are most likely to experience teacher-child interactions that support their oral language development during whole group activity settings. However, conversations occurring within the context of whole group activity settings are characterized by lower levels of teacher-child joint attentional engagement than conversations that occur during small group or free choice. Study 2 found that patterns of teacher talk varied in subtle ways across activity settings in the two classrooms studied and these differences reflected teachers' overarching pedagogical goals as well as specific instructional goals for particular activity settings. Taken together, findings from the two studies in this dissertation help to paint a nuanced picture of how and why children's language experiences vary across activity settings in Pre-K classrooms.

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