Kindergarten Connections: A Study of Intertextuality and Its Links with Literacy in the Kindergarten Classroom

Article excerpt

Introduction

Intertextuality is the human phenomenon of making connections between texts. It has been studied from many academic perspectives (Worton & Still, 1990). Increased understanding and learning can result from intertextual processes (Bloome, 1992; Bloome & Egan-Robertson, 1993; Cairney, 1990b, 1992; Cairney & Langbien, 1989; Harris & Trezise, 1997; Hartman, 1990; Oyler & Barry, 1996; Short, 1992a/b).

Whilst a number of researchers have explored intertextuality in individual readers (Cairney, 1988; Hartman, 1990), Short (1992a) suggested the need to examine intertextuality in collaborative learning environments to allow researchers to understand more about student learning and effective learning environments. This study responded to Short's suggestion and examined intertextuality in a collaborative kindergarten environment. The data from this year-long study of literacy sessions in a kindergarten classroom revealed evidence of frequent intertextual connections by the students. This paper describes the types of intertextual connections in this classroom and concludes with implications for using intertextuality to enhance collaborative learning in the classroom.

The daily classroom teaching and learning practices were framed by the significance of the social construction of literacy (Vygotsky, 1978) and emphasis was placed on planning collaborative teaching and learning contexts (Short, 1992a), empowering students in their 'meaning-making' (Wells, 1986), and incorporating characteristics of a 'learning community' (NSW Department of School Education, 1995). Recognition of the importance of scaffolding (Bruner, 1986, Cairney, 1995) and guided participation (Rogoff, 1990) to build bridges between current and new understandings was also influential in the design and implementation of classroom interaction.

Intertextuality

Intertextuality describes the human phenomenon of making connections between texts. Historically, the concept of intertextuality has woven a complex path through many academic disciplines (Worton & Still, 1990). Literary criticism, however, is the home of intertextuality. Poststructuralist scholar, Julie Kristeva (1967, translated in 1980) was the first to attempt an explanation for the notion of intertextuality: 'any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another'. Intertextuality has been studied from various scholarly perspectives including structuralism, poststructuralism, semiotics, cognitive psychology, critical discourse and social constructivism and continues to be studied in contemporary classrooms.

Intertextuality can be simply defined as 'the process of interpreting one text by means of a previously composed text' (Cairney, 1992). Following extensive classroom research of intertextuality, Cairney (1988, 1990a, 1990b, 1992, 1996) found that students link texts in diverse ways, and while intertextuality has idiosyncratic elements, it is also a rich, social phenomenon. He concluded that intertextuality is dependent on factors as diverse as text characteristics, reading purpose, and contextual influences; familiar to most readers and writers irrespective of age and ability; linked with many text features including genre, plot, characterisation, and content; frequently primed by specific elements of content and plot; and socially constructed as extensions of human relationships.

Central to any study of intertextuality is the definition of text. The notion of text, like intertextuality, has evolved with increasing complexity from being a 'written text' (de Beaugrande, 1980) to 'any chunk of meaning that has unity and can be shared with others--a song, dance, poem, oral story, mathematical equation, or sculpture are all texts from which learners can draw connections as they construct their understandings about a current evolving text' (Short, 1992a). Thus, linguistic and non-linguistic signs can constitute text. …