Challenge to Christie in school instruction

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Thu Sep 09 2004 - 05:20:47 PDT

Problem-poster David Kellog asked me to forward this response to the
list. Not sure I agree that there aren't others who are interested in
intersections of Halliday and Vygotsky (and of course, Bernstein).

Any takers?

Dear Phil:
(Can't seem to get it on XCMA--but I'm not sure anybody besides you
would be interested as Vygotsky vs. Halliday is a somewhat specialized
One of Christie's concrete recommendations is that classroom genres
like the "morning news" or "show and tell" should be eliminated, and
instead children should be given more "structured" genres. She would
like the "instructional register" to be projected by the "regulative
register". (Christie [2003], Classroom Discourse Analysis, London:
When Hallidayans say things like this, they mean, basically, that
registers can "project" each other rather the way that a reporting
clause like "She said" serves to project the reported one "that she had
a stomachache". 
It's true that when a teacher says something like "Listen and repeat"
we have precisely that kind of projection. It's also true on a larger
scale: on my desk I have a transcript of a science class in which a
teacher basically lays out the procedure and the children follow it
(but the kids do not achieve the desired result and they will have to
do the "experiment" all over again this Friday!).
It's a highly monologic idea, isn't it? In Bakhtin, even when you are
using indirect speech there is two way traffic--the projected also
projects itself onto the projector, as when Dickens describes a
character in the sort of language that character would have used to
describe himself.
What bothers Christie about the "morning news" and "show and tell"
classroom genres is that they allow this kind of two way traffic.
Instead, she thinks that primary school teaching should be much more
like secondary school teaching.
I don't know about secondary teaching; at my uni we do primary and
nothing else. But doesn't this directly infringe Vygotsky's firm belief
that at different stages of learning there are very different kinds of
relationships between similar elements (viz. subject and object)?
Doesn't it even go against the criticism that Mike cites, viz, that
there have to be different classrooms genres at different levels?
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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