Looking for evidence of social construction in classroom talk

Below is an example that illustrates the kind of interaction that typically takes place between teacher and pupils during moments of social construction in a whole class discussion. It is not necessarily perfect practice, but it serves to highlight what can maximise and what can restrict the potential of talk for the construction of joint meaning. This four-minute extract comes from a Year 3 classroom working on the Let’s Think through Science! activity, ‘Are they seeds?’. In this particular session, the groups have been given a selection of objects that includes a runner bean, raisin, pea, flower seed, rice grain, and linseed. As a group, they have to decide whether each object is a seed or not. The following whole-class discussion comes towards the end of the lesson where the pupils are sharing their decisions and their reasons behind these.

Teacher No. 4, can you identify no. 4 on your table? Hold it up. OK. No. 4. Is there anybody who would like to share what they think about that item no. 4? Katrina? Ravel [Looks uncertain.]
Katrina Ibrahim don’t think it is a seed. Teacher He said that it is a raisin didn’t he? And that made you think again, did it? So what did you think? Do you think it was a seed or not?
Teacher You don’t think it is a seed? What do you think? What do you think it is? Do you know what it is? Ravel Maybe a little bit.
Katrina Raisin. Teacher Maybe a little bit of a seed. OK so that is interesting. Right.
Teacher You think it is a raisin.

[General murmur from the class. ‘Yeah’. Ibrahim shouts out, ‘It might have a seed inside it’.]

Shh. Right. Shh. So Katrina thinks it is a raisin. I heard a few of you saying you thought it was a raisin. And, so Katrina is saying she doesn’t think it is a seed. Ibrahim I could hear, saying maybe there is a seed inside it. So a seed inside the raisin. And I … yes Katrina?

Lauren We thought that the raisin was not a seed

because, urn, raisins, I think that raisins are made from grapes.

Katrina I’ve tried a raisin before and there isn’t a seed. Teacher Ah-ha. Does anyone know about raisins and grapes? Does anyone know what raisins are made from?

[General murmur of ‘Raisins are made from dried up grapes’.]

Raisins are made from dried up grapes. They are dried out. So what does that tell us? Is a raisin a seed or not?

[General murmur, ‘Yes’.]

Teacher You’ve tried… Teacher Is it?

[General murmur, ‘No’.]

Right. Shh. OK, that’s something to think about. You think it was a date do you? [to a pupil in the class] Patel?

Katrina A raisin before and there isn’t a seed Patel Some, urn, grapes have seeds inside them

so that when, maybe you can …

Teacher And there isn’t a seed. Very interesting conversation that I heard over here. Shh. [Waits for a few seconds.] Ravel and Christian, could you explain the conversation you had about raisins and seeds to the rest of the class. Shh. Right, everyone can listen to Ravel and Christian. Ravel, everyone, Rourke, Clara this way. What was the conversation, do you remember when I was over with you and Ravel said it is interesting because … Teacher Do you know that is really interesting. Some grapes have got seeds inside them. So Patel is saying, if raisins are made from grapes and some grapes have got seeds inside of them …
Ravel A raisin goes into a fridge and then,

because that’s what my uncle said he said that it was a raisin, it grows into a grape.

Ibrahim All grapes have seeds inside them.
Teacher Don’t know if you heard that or not, because there is a lot of noise going on in here. Toby. Stop. Ravel said a raisin grows into a grape and then it sounds like somebody in your group helped you to change your thinking a bit, because Christian said that a grape is a raisin. Teacher Right we will have to buy some grapes then to find out.

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