The role of elementary classroom discourse in the initial construction of student identities


  • Michael A. Shepherd University of Southern California
  • Julia Wang University of Southern California



Despite considerable sociolinguistic research on correlates of social identity in secondary schools, the initial discursive construction of social categories remains underexplored. A discourse analysis of third-grade lessons suggests teachers discursively position some students as weaker than others by framing their participation as tentative or reluctant, and are less likely to acknowledge such students' summonses and called-out contributions. Ultimately, we argue, students whose academic identity development is thus not nurtured and who are denied access to the discursive power to advance ideas may instead seek empowerment through resistance, developing oppositional relationships toward school and forming another generation of 'burnouts.'