The continuing failure of our education system to meet the needs of
minority group students who continue to walk through classroom
doors in increasing numbers, provided the initial impetus for this
research project. Researchers, academics, and school practitioners
need to examine carefully 'taken for granted' patterns of talk and
behaviour that occur in schools everyday, because for many
children, these are not effective. This study is situated in a
mainstream primary school classroom where children from diverse
language and cultural backgrounds work and learn together. The
importance of the interaction that occurs between teachers and
children is discussed and numerous studies which focus on the role
of discourse in students' language learning are critiqued. The fact
that students in mainstream primary schools must learn language
while using language for content learning, is considered to be of
paramount importance, and so discourse that occurred during small
group mathematics lessons provided the major source of data for the
project. An aspect of this discourse, language functions of student
initiated interactions, was examined in depth.
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