Constructions of gender and literacy practices in a primary school.
This study sets out to examine the process through which gender is constituted in the English classroom in relation to the teaching of one comprehension lesson at Springfield Model Primary School in KwaZulu-Natal. The study looks at one lesson in-depth and delves into the representations of gender in the lesson. Using qualitative methods and drawing from a comprehension passage entitled, "Shining moon and his toy canoe" (Appendix 1) the study examines the ways in which boys and girls in a grade 7 classroom made sense of the comprehension passage and how that sense-making relates to their understanding of what it means to be male and female. The study shows how resource materials (like the prescribed comprehension, for instance) used in the English classroom articulate young children's knowledge about gender and how they position themselves in the discourses of gender. An analysis and examination of how the learners understood the passage is undertaken, to see how gendered messages were generated within the English lesson. An interview with the teacher was conducted to examine how gender is constructed in the teaching of the comprehensions lesson. Two important findings are highlighted in this study. The text is an important tool through which gender is elaborated. The boys and girls in this study positioned themselves in contradictory ways to dominant perceptions about gender. However, largely they draw on dominant ideas about gender and maintain the status quo. The research also demonstrates further the ways in which the teacher reinforces notions of 'masculinity' and 'femininity', despite her best intentions.