Girls Literacy Experiences In and Out of School: Learning and Composing Gendered Identities

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Her courses address the complex issues of teaching English in American society. O'Quinn's research interests include critical literacy, the sociopolitical dynamics of reading and writing, gender in the English classroom, and democracy and literacy. O'Quinn's donation of vintage books for girls:. O'Quinn Girls' Studies Collection consists primarily of popular literature intended for early to mid-twentieth century adolescent girl readers.

The collection also includes a selection of series books for boys, reference works, early comic books featuring girls and women, and ephemeral periodicals. When complete, the collection will include the first 56 books in the Nancy Drew series in various editions. The collection contains many first editions and examples of book jacket and cover art.

O'Quinn, who researches, writes and teaches about the literature and literacy of girls. The collection forms a significant theme within the Children's Literature Collection and complements similar books already part of the collection. Currently there are over titles. Skip to main content. These personal experiences inspired me to help further discussions about gender development within the early childhood field so that, one day, young children might grow up feeling less encumbered by unfair social expectations and rules.

Teaching preschooI for six years at a progressive school, I was able to engage in ongoing learning opportunities, including observation and reflection. The school's emergent curriculum approach required me to pay close attention to the children's play in order to build the curriculum and create environments based on their evolving interests. Early one semester, while on a nature field trip, I noticed great enthusiasm coming from a small group that consisted mostly of girls.

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They attempted to "make a campfire" using sticks and logs. After observing several other similar play scenarios and listening to their discussions, I began building a curriculum based on the children's evolving interests. I started by offering opportunities to encourage this inquiry—for example, through drawing activities and providing tools to more closely explore the properties of wood. Several weeks later, I was gratified to see that among those most deeply engaged in our emerging curricular focus on wood, fire, and camping, the majority continued to be girls.

The girls' behavior and interests involved characteristics historically categorized as masculine: These exciting observations prompted me to investigate how a particular curriculum might encourage and support children to behave outside of society's gender constructs. My understanding of gender influences built over time; each year I noticed the power and presence of these influences in the classroom.

The following study highlights excerpts not only from our major emergent project on camping and firemaking, but also from examples drawn from all of my teaching experiences that spring semester. Young children are continually making sense of their world, assimilating novel information and modifying their theories along the way. Most influences in the lives of young children—both human and environmental—reinforce existing stereotypes Ramsey Without prominent caring adults helping them consider perspectives that challenge the status quo, children, left to their own devices, tend to develop notions that conform with stereotypes Ramsey Thus, educators of young children should offer their student different perspectives, including those that counter society's confined constructs, to allow children access to a range of roles, expressions, and identities Valente Without such efforts, we stymie young children's development, keeping them from realizing the extent of their potential.

During this teacher research project, I found many examples of girls crossing traditional gender role boundaries but only a few examples involving boys. Some researchers believe this phenomenon, a common finding in gender studies, results from our male-dominated culture, in which being male or having male characteristics is associated with power, opportunity, and prestige Daitsman Many young boys demonstrate awareness of these desirable qualities and perhaps worry about losing such advantages if they were to cross gender lines. Accordingly, educators must take an active role in providing both boys and girls counternarratives, and helping children question the status quo.

Forman and Fyfe show faith in our human capacity to evolve, describing our understandings of the world as malleable. They write, "We hold that knowledge is gradually constructed by becoming each other's student, by taking an inquiry stance toward each other's constructs, and by sincere attempts to assimilate or reconcile each other's initial perspective" My goal is that this research will prompt educators to work on softening the system of gender rules that surrounds and governs our children.

As Brown and Jones explain, "Changes in attitudes will not be achieved until certain fundamental dichotomies, which currently regulate aspects of classroom life, have been shifted" I conducted the study in my classroom of twenty-one 4- and 5-year-olds. The children were from diverse backgrounds racially, culturally, and socioeconomically and represented a wide range of family compositions. While all 21 children in my class were observed during the research process, particular children and groups of children became more visible in the data for various reasons.

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Some children stood out to me as particularly conforming or nonconforming to traditional gender roles, as compared to their peers. Alternatively, I also focused on cases where I felt I had witnessed a child break from their typical role or gender expression. I was the lead teacher and worked alongside and collaborated with two coteachers. During the spring semester when this study was conducted, the children spent most of the morning hours in unstructured play time with the choice of working indoors or outdoors.

We also spent at least one hour of every morning engaged in more structured activities, including circle time. The afternoons also included choices for indoor and outdoor play.

Weekly field trips had long been integral to the school's program, so my class left the campus each Wednesday to embark on a local adventure together. Beginning this study in the Spring, I benefited from having established relationships with the children over the first five months of the school year. By the time I began this teacher research, I had met with their parents during fall conferences and spent countless hours observing the children, connecting with them, learning their idiosyncrasies, and building trust.

In fact, I had already come to know many of these children the year prior when preschoolers from various classrooms intermingled while playing in our shared yard. The field notes generally consisted of my observations, which were recorded during natural discussions and spontaneous events. After leaving the classroom I revisited the field notes to fill in contextual holes or other missing information. Fully detailed, my field notes offered vivid samples that I could use to effectively recall experiences for analysis.

I believe in many cases I reproduced conversations accurately. At other times, I captured more of the flow of an event. Excerpts from my field notes, in the upcoming Findings section, reflect this range of detail. My analysis uses a theoretical lens suggested by Rogoff , which holds that human thinking and behavior should be understood within its particular sociocultural context, that is to say an environment greatly influences those who live and learn within it and vice versa. My analysis also includes self-reflection, as I continually questioned my views on gender, knowing that my data had been gathered through my personal feminist lens.

After first organizing my data chronologically, I proceeded to go through it, jotting down one to five words to describe each data sample. Moving slowly, I regularly returned to previous samples, making comparisons between records and reevaluating the descriptions I was making. Thus, the process continued, moving forward and backward to compare, reevaluate, confirm new patterns, and then review.

Next, I studied my list of codes and pulled those that seemed most encompassing to serve as overarching themes.

Girls' Literacy Experiences in and Out of School: Learning and Composing - Google Книги

In the following section I explore these themes, illustrating each with supporting data excerpts and my analysis of them. I primarily focus on the props and tools that I, the teacher, provided the children, the intention behind the materials offered, and my expectations on how they might be used.

Of course other compounding factors should be considered here as well. Such factors combine to create a stage upon which the children and teachers act. Data collected on two different days revealed contrasting behavior among the children.


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The first excerpt focuses on two girls exploring new materials inspired by our emergent unit on wood, camping, and fire. During this play they assume less conventional female roles. In the second sample, the subjects of my observation include three boys whom I observed handling baby dolls—props available throughout the year in our classroom—in a manner congruent with stereotypical gender norms. Also included in this excerpt is a girl who was seeking to interact with me while I watched the boys.