WRITING FOR CHILDREN: HISTORY TEXTBOOKS AND TEACHING TEXTS
Jon Nichol, University of Exeter, England and Jacqui Dean, Leeds Metropolitan University, University of Exeter
Ref: International J ournal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research Volume 3 Number 1 January 2003
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Abstract: Writing for children is a relatively obscure corner in the secret garden of the curriculum. Yet it is in many ways of the greatest significance: learning predominantly occurs either through the spoken word or through other media, usually of a printed kind. In the 21st century media used in writing for, or more accurately, communicating with children, can take many forms, resulting in a wide range of teaching-texts. Teaching-texts are texts that teachers use for teaching and learning. They usually take the form of textbooks that have continued to permeate all aspects of teaching. Textbooks are still universally used, usually as an element in a lesson that dominated by teacher discourse. This paper analyses history textbooks as a genre in history teaching from their introduction at the start of the 20th century, using for analytical purposes the Australian genre school’s systemic functional model of language (Wyatt-Smith, 1997). Four elements combine to give each textbook its distinct form or micro-genre: the overall cultural factors that influence the other three: the field or content; the tenor, the author’s perception of the audience that produces the text’s voice or register; and the mode, the physical form which the textbook takes. Genre theory is applied to three different consecutive and overlapping styles of history textbook from the early to the late 20th century. The paper looks at recent writing for children that breaks away from the established history textbook genre. We now attempt to engage children directly with the evidence from the past in creating their own historical understanding. In this we provide teacher support that builds on pupils’ interests, enthusiasm, existing knowledge, understanding and expertise.
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