Negotiating among Multiple Worlds: The Space/Time Dimensions of Young Children’s Composing

Dyson, Anne Haas
Research in The Teaching of English

This article discusses the developmental sense of children’s seemingly disorganized texts. It is based on a two-year study of eight primary-grade children attending an urban magnet school. The study focused on interrelationships between the children’s creation of written, imaginative worlds and their use of other symbolic media (drawing and talk) and other people (particularly peers). Collected data included the children’s drawn and written products, audiotapes of their talk, and handwritten observations. A series of data analyses revealed the multiple worlds within which the children worked: the imaginary worlds formed from varied media, the ongoing peer social world, and the wider experienced world. Tensions among these worlds, with their different space/time dimensions, were evident in both the children’s talk and their texts (e.g., shifts of time frames and points of view). The author thus argues that children’s developmental challenge is not simply to create a unified, “disembedded” text world but to differentiate and coordinate