Speaking is one of the four key language skills focused in the teaching of English Language in Singapore’s primary education. As specified in the English Language syllabus (2010: 46), developing a repertoire of speaking skills will “enable pupils to convey and express their thoughts and opinions with accuracy, fluency, appropriateness and succinctness”. Indeed, speaking is viewed as an essential skill in both scholastic and work arenas. However, teachers often perceive teaching speaking as less important than teaching reading and writing. In a study conducted by Goh et al (2005), only 41% of the respondents recognised the need to teach speaking at the primary level in terms of the time allocated for oral activities in the classroom. Such a shared perception among teachers will influence the manner in which speaking is taught to the pupils.
The language skill of speaking at the lower primary levels is taught implicitly through the use of big books used in the STELLAR (Strategies of English Language Learning and Reading) programme. Pupils learn to demonstrate their speaking skills as highlighted in the guidelines of the STELLAR specific units, when they predict using titles and visuals as cues, respond to teachers’ questions on the big book, use the targeted structures of language and contribute their ideas for the class dictated writing. Given the above situation that could have implications on speaking instruction, the purpose of this study is to analyse the features in an interaction between a teacher and a group of six Primary One pupils in an English Language writing lesson. The discourse organisation in terms of generic structure and discourse features of the interaction will be lucidly examined. Hence, this analysis would be significant in highlighting key insights on the extent to which the type and quality of teacher-directed classroom interaction stimulate thinking and learning in the pupils.
According to Edwards and Westgate (1987), one’s life depends mostly on one’s speaking skills and interpreting what others speak. Theorists such as Vygotsky and Bruner advocated the sociocultural approach that children acquire language through talking (Kempe and Holroyd, 2004). In this case, language is used a tool for scaffolding and creating learning opportunities for pupils as they advance in the zone of proximal development (ZPD). As such, communication is essential in the education context as well as Farrell (2002) emphasises, classroom communication affects the pupils’ perception and engagement in the lesson activities. Furthermore, Mercer (2004) cites the quality of classroom dialogue as an important factor that contributes to pupils’ academic achievement. Over the decades, an extensive body of research has been conducted on teacher talk as one of the primary components of classroom interaction.
In general, teachers talk for various purposes which determine the type of talk they use. It has been observed in...