Term of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

John Weaver

Committee Member 1

Marla Morris

Committee Member 2

Michael Moore

Committee Member 3

Michael McKenna

Abstract

This study examined the ways in which reading works of fiction affects the formation of student’s opinions and attitudes by using literature circles discussions and journal writing. It uses Louise Rosenblatt’s (1938) Reader Response Theory supported by Lev Vygotsky’s (1962) writings about the social dynamics of language development. Methodologically I followed the example of literature circles set forth by Janice Almasi and Linda Gambrell (1994, 1995).

Participants were fifth grade students in a rural South Georgia elementary school who participated during the 2010-2011 school year. The students participated in small peer-led discussion groups. The students chose the books they would read and held weekly literature circles to discuss those books. Before reading began, the students’ knowledge and opinions of certain key words, “Nazi”, “German” and “Jew” were assessed. After completion of the first novel their thoughts on those same texts were assessed again. Then the groups switched books and the process was repeated until all participants had read all books. In the second phase of the study, the students were given free reign to choose books on any subject and the process was repeated.

Each time the children met, their conversations were recorded. Those comments showed a consistent shift in attitude from their initial reactions. The students’ attitudes which began as largely neutral toward all three key terms had shifted toward the negative for the terms “Nazi” and “German”, and toward the positive for the term “Jew” by the end of the study. Other findings showed that, while the students may have been hesitant to accept the characterization of people groups based on the information in the novels, they blindly accepted other information presented within.

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