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Making Room for One Another

Dynamic and Designed Dialogicality in a Kindergarten Classroom


Gerri August

Quoting an abolitionist preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. once said, «The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice». This is true, but the moral arc doesn’t bend on its own. We must lean into the task. Making Room for One Another is the story of how one kindergarten teacher did just that. This critical ethnography lies at the intersection of democratic, transformative pedagogy and differences that impact an urban kindergarten. Drawing largely on discourse analysis, the book explores the interplay between Zeke, the classroom teacher, and his students. The participation, resistance, and discourse patterns of one particular student exemplify the complex nature of social systems in general and emancipatory pedagogy in particular. All educators recognize their responsibility to hone students’ cognitive abilities, to teach students to read and to write and to reason. Making Room for One Another is written for educators who dare ask themselves the question, «Read and write and reason about what? To what end must students read and write and reason?»
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1. Equal Opportunity Adventure?


← 4 | 5 → Chapter One

“No room, no room!” they cried out when they saw Alice coming. “There’s plenty of room,” said Alice indignantly.

Snippet from a Mad Tea PartyCarroll, Alice in Wonderland

Each day school age children enact a familiar motif from the world of children’s literature: They leave home, have an adventure, and return home. The adventure, of course, is school. Equipped with their renderings of the folkways and natural environments in which they have been immersed, young members of society gather in our nation’s classrooms each September. Most come ready to share their stories, eager to make connections. Some narrate their family experiences with abandon, painting their stories with broad brush strokes and vivid colors; others offer up only tentative sketches, smudged with erasures. All children, however, return home from the adventure changed in some way. Such is the nature of adventure.

Educators guide this adventure, and they do so with varying degrees of sensitivity and skill. Most at least recognize the pedagogical and social value of family chronicles and institute some version of what is commonly called “circle time” in their morning routine, during which students are encouraged to share accounts of celebrations, traditions, vacations, and other notable family experiences. Using the stuff of their out-of-school lives, students create oral texts, thus practicing a ← 5 | 6 → discourse that is valued in school (Cazden, 2001). A circle time ritual, then, serves as a bridge from home to school and creates...

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