Constancy and variability: Dialogic literacy events as sites for improvisation in two 3rd-grade classrooms

Michelle Jordan, Diane Santori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This multisite study investigates dialogic literacy events that revolved around narrative and informational texts in two 3rd-grade classrooms. The authors offer a metaphor of musical improvisation to contemplate dialogic literacy events as part of the repertoire of teaching and learning experiences. In literacy learning, where there is much structure and also many degrees of freedom, an improvisation metaphor is helpful for considering attentive listening, contingent responding, and creative interplay in the classroom. This study contributes to literature on dialogic literacy events by explicating how teachers and students are interdependent coparticipants who collaboratively construct meaning as they improvise during text-based discussions. The authors analyze discourse from multiple instances of two focal dialogic literacy events: discussions of fables and folktales in a low-socioeconomic-status school in the northeastern United States and discussions of newspaper articles in a middle-class school in the southwestern United States. In both classrooms, moderately open structures, shared repertoires of predictable talk moves, and precomposed material facilitated improvisation in three forms: teacher soloing, student soloing, and group improvisation. Teachers used constancy and variability to facilitate productive dialogic discussions. Such discussions may help teachers address the Common Core State Standards by providing children opportunities to participate in academic discussions related to diverse texts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-243
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Research in Childhood Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015


  • discourse analysis
  • early literacy learning
  • elementary education
  • informational texts
  • literacy instruction
  • literature discussion
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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