Current views of independent writing, in early literacy programs, focus on the individual activity of students. Independent writing is considered to result from systematic instruction that provides the necessary support, or scaffolding, for students to write without help. The provision of instruction and independent activity is frequently referred to as a balanced approach. This study investigates the social organisation of independent writing. It takes independent writing to be a socially accomplished classroom event, rather than the activity of individuals. The aim of the study is to contribute understandings of the knowledge and skills used to accomplish independent writing through social interaction. It was informed by ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. These related research approaches seek to understand social order through descriptions of the organisation of everyday activities.
The study site was a Grade Prep and Grade One classroom where the approach to literacy instruction was based on the Early Years Literacy Program. This program incorporates a balanced approach to writing and is mandated in Victorian schools. Data collection comprised audio and video recording often writing lessons. On the basis of repeated viewing of recordings the research focus was narrowed to independent writing in one of those lessons. A transcript of the lesson was developed using Jefferson Notation, and then sequences of talk were analysed using conversation analysis. Sequences were selected according to activity made salient by participants.
The analysis explicates conversational resources used by students and their teacher. These are found to differ from those of ordinary conversation and contribute to the institutional setting of independent writing since they complete institutional activity. The study concludes that descriptions of independent writing in early literacy programs need to encompass its social accomplishment, not just the individual activity of students.