Repository logo

Symmetries and asymmetries in children's peer group reading discussions

Accepted version



Change log


Rojas-Drummond, Sylvia 
Hofmann, Riikka 
Barrera, Maria Jose 


This paper reports a research project exploring children’s peer interactions in group reading discussions where a teacher was not present as an authoritative guide. This context reflects a reality of classroom teaching where most children in the class are completing tasks independently while the teacher is working other groups. In the study, four quartets of ten year-old children in the UK and Mexico were recorded as they discussed different texts together and this paper reports the findings from their engagement with The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan. In the paper, we focus on the symmetries and asymmetries apparent in the children’s peer talk to consider how they engage together to make meaning from the text they are reading. To this end we focus on two strands of analysis related to children’s talk within their groups: a) the function of utterances within their speech turns; and b) the dynamics of the interaction, that is, the organisation of the talk into topical episodes. By considering these two strands of analysis, we are able to illuminate the nuances of a/symmetries in small-group reading contexts as we concentrate on how the children use language and action to influence the direction of, and contribute to, the discussions. The results find children authoritatively shifted the discussion forward into new topics using different means, and displayed evidence of high-level comprehension as they engaged with the ideas of each other. The two strands of analysis complemented each other as they illustrated not only the resources the children drew on to shift the movement of the discussion, but how their language enabled this movement forward. The results also highlighted differences in how the children perceived their goals and responsibilities within the task and groups.



Journal Title

Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Australian Reading Association


All rights reserved
British Academy (SG160738)
British Academy / Leverhulme Small Research Grant scheme (Ref SG160738)