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Educação & Realidade

versão impressa ISSN 0100-3143versão On-line ISSN 2175-6236

Educ. Real. vol.42 no.1 Porto Alegre jan./mar. 2017 


Childhood and Schooling: entrance of children in elementary school

Vanessa Ferraz Almeida NevesI 

Danusa MunfordI 

Francisco Ângelo CoutinhoI 

Kely Cristina Nogueira SoutoI 

IUniversidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte/MG - Brazil


Grounded on an ethnographic research approach in education, based on participant observation, video recordings, and interviews, we followed a group of six-year-old children in their process of integration into Elementary School. In our study, we sought to characterize aspects of the beginning of this process considering the school culture as something in constant motion, populated by clashes and contradictions, and in close relation with the construction of peer culture. We highlight some essential aspects that characterized the entrance of these children in Elementary School: the routine daily written in the blackboard, the concern with the children's physical well-being, the care with school artifacts, the teacher's low voice tone, the conversation circle, and the practice of children helping one another.

Keywords: Schooling; Entrance; Elementary School; Educational Ethnography


A partir de uma pesquisa de abordagem etnográfica em educação, baseada em observação participante, videogravações e entrevistas, acompanhamos o início do processo de inserção de uma turma de crianças de seis anos no Ensino Fundamental. Em nosso estudo, procuramos caracterizar aspectos do início desse processo considerando a cultura escolar como algo em constante movimento, povoada por embates e contradições, e em íntima relação com a construção da cultura de pares. Destacamos alguns aspectos essenciais que caracterizaram a inserção dessas crianças no Ensino Fundamental: a rotina diariamente escrita no quadro, a preocupação com o bem-estar físico das crianças, o cuidado com os artefatos escolares, o tom de voz baixo da professora, a roda de conversa e a prática de uma criança ajudar a outra.

Palavras-chave: Escolarização; Inserção; Ensino Fundamental; Etnografia em Educação


This article aims to contribute to the debate on childhood education in elementary school. Childhood has been upheld, over time and in different institutions, in a continuous process of construction of representations about schooling and identities of children. Gouvêa (2004, p. 265-268) clarifies:

The emergence of a school time, in Western societies, with the advent of Modernity, is related to the definition of a chronological milestone during the life of the individual, along which he should be inserted in school, the so-called school age. This milestone is not an absolute reference, but a result of a historical construction, along which the parameters of its definition were modified. To analyze this relationship, it is worth understanding the production of representation of childhood as a period of training for the adult life, inside the school institution, according to characteristic pedagogical principles of such institution. These principles are focused in the premise of educability of this period of life. [...] The student's identity is superposed to the generational identity.

We have, then, the construction of representations in which the child-individual takes on the social position of student, at a specific time and institution. The legal definition of the age of entrance and permanence of children at school is a historical process, which focuses on concrete social individuals: the children are at an age of life, in a time to learn (Gouvêa, 2004; Soares, 2006), to be held in school spaces.

In the Brazilian case, this process happens supported, among other aspects, by educational legislation and public policies. From the 19th century on, in Brazil, school attendance begins to be mandatory. Completing 10 years, the Federal Laws No. 11114/2005 (Brasil, 2005) and No. 11274/2006 (Brasil, 2006) established a new organization of Elementary School, to be started at the age of six and with duration of nine years6. To guide this new form of organization, the federal government issued several documents (Brasil, 2004; 2006; 2009), which point out that the school:

[...] needs to reorganize its structure, methods of management, environments, spaces, times, materials, contents, methodologies, goals, planning, and evaluation, so that children feel included and welcome in a pleasant and conducive environment for learning (Brasil, 2004, p. 21).

In this sense, it is worth asking how the entrance and adaptation processes of six-year-old children are happening in our schools. In our study, we sought to characterize the beginning of this process considering the school culture as something in constant motion and transformation, populated by clashes and contradictions. Thus, we are interested in knowing how children participate in this negotiation that occurs at school and, at the same time, how they appropriate new social practices quite distinct from those experienced in their daily lives. With this goal in mind, we investigated the entrance process of a group of children in elementary school. In this article, more specifically, we analyzed the interactions between the participants in their first day at school.

We organized this text into five sections. In the first one, we explore the theoretical-methodological premises that support our analyses. Next, we present and discuss our empirical study. Finally, we draw some conclusions.

The Process of Childhood Education: appropriation of school culture and identity construction

The process of childhood education, whether in Early Childhood Education or Elementary School, puts the social individuals before specific practices pertaining to these institutions, with differentiated times and spaces, positioning them in socially marked places.

Faria Filho et al. help us articulate the concepts of schooling and school culture in a productive field of investigation for the Brazilian educational research. According to them, "[...] the notion of schooling refers to two related directions: the establishment of processes and policies of 'organization' of a network of teaching and the gradual production of social references in which the school becomes an articulating axis of senses and meanings" (Faria Filho et al., 2004, p. 152-153). School cultures are studied, in the field of history of education, in a context that propose thinking "[...] knowledge, wisdom and curricula; spaces, times and educational institutions; and school materiality and teaching methods" (Faria Filho et al., p. 150). Dominique Julia (2001, p. 11), often cited, defines school culture as:

[...] a set of rules that defines knowledge to be taught and conducts to be followed, and a set of practices that enables the transmission of this knowledge and the incorporation of these behaviors; such rules and practices are coordinated to purposes that can vary according to the times [...]. But, beyond the limits of school, one can seek to identify, in a broader sense, ways of thinking and acting widely disseminated within our societies, ways that only conceive the acquisition of knowledge and skills by formal schooling processes. [...] At last, it is also appropriate to understand the school culture, when this is possible, as the children's cultures (in the anthropological sense of the term), which are developed in the playgrounds and are distant from family cultures.

Julia turns to the daily practices and their many possibilities, both in the perspective of the school and of the individuals. Therefore, at the same time that individuals produce social practices, these practices also produce the individuals, articulating non-proper positions in a game of resistance, tactics, and strategies (Certeau, 1998). The individuals actively negotiate ways of belonging in culture, (re)building their social identities in this process. On the other hand, the culture that characterizes the educational institutions is projected out of them, dialoguing with other social institutions, such as family (Thin, 2006; Vincent; Lahire; Thin, 2001).

Thus, school culture is understood from the interactions established within the school: among students, among teachers, and among students and teachers. We argue that the forms of participation and the process of becoming a member of a particular group, as well as the peer cultures of these groups, relate to the school culture and the educational system, which is also present in an incisive form inside schools, contributing so that some interactions occur or not. These interactions have been the topic of studies in the field of the new Sociology of Childhood.

Such field was created over the last two decades of the last century, in contrast to the perception of the child as a passive object of the socialization process and toward the analysis of childhood as a sociological category of generational type (Montandon, 2001; Sirota, 2001; Corsaro, 2005; Sarmento, 2008). The new Sociology of Childhood, although in various trends, has as focus the consideration that children participate collectively and actively in the society to which they belong (Corsaro, 2005; Sarmento, 2008). It seeks to understand children as active and creative social agents that produce and reproduce culture, and childhood as a structural category, understood as the social and historically built period in which children live their lives, being exposed to the same social pressures from the stage of adulthood (Corsaro, 2005). In this sense, the two main topics of the new Sociology of Childhood (childhood as a structural category and children as social actors) are analyzed in relation to the broader context of society (Qvortrup; Corsaro; Honig, 2009).

William Corsaro, one of the main authors of Sociology of Childhood, elaborated two closely related concepts in search of an understanding about the child's processes of socialization. The first concept, peer culture, is related, in our view, to the concept of child culture proposed by the Brazilian sociologist Florestan Fernandes (1947). According to Corsaro, children collectively negotiate, share, and create culture with adults and with each other in order to understand and be inserted in the social context to which they belong, at the same time in which they meet the curiosities and demands of their own peer group. Peer culture is understood as the activities, routines, artifacts, values, and interests constructed and shared by the generational group in social interactions.

The second concept coined by Corsaro, interpretive reproduction, refers to the movement of children in the culture, in a collective process that occurs in public or social space and that is not restricted to adaptation and internalization, but that involves appropriation, reinvention, and reproduction (Corsaro, 1988). The entrance in educational institutions marks an important change in the social development of children, as they begin to realize their own abilities to produce a shared world, the peer culture, without direct dependency of adults (Corsaro, 1992).

Thus, children, in their interactions with other children and also with adults, seek to interpret the culture to which they belong. Children not only acquire the meanings of the world, in internalizing values and cultural norms, but also contribute to produce and change them. Integrating into culture, therefore, means (re)producing and (re)creating it in individual and collective ways.

We highlight that, in order to consider the specificities of peer cultures, it is necessary to analyze the social context in which such cultures are inserted. Corsaro emphasizes that children participate and are part of two cultures simultaneously: the adult and the peer culture, being these two cultures intertwined. Peer cultures are built along the interactions between children, considering the role of adults as mediators of the broader culture.

Packer and Goicoechea (2000, p. 234) argue that "[...] human beings are formed and transformed in relationship with others, in the desire for recognition, in the practices of a particular community, and in a manner that will split and initiate a struggle for identity". The human being is positioned by the community of which he participates and, also, positions himself in relation to the forms of belonging placed. Therefore, the construction of subjectivities involves belonging to a community that, in the case of schools, involves diversified learning processes, such as the appropriation of school culture, the insertion in peer culture, and the appropriation of reading and writing.

We agree with the above mentioned authors, in understanding that not only entering into school, but belonging to a particular group as a member, implies a process of differentiations and approximations in relation to previous experiences in other social contexts as, for example, the family (Romanelli; Nogueira; Zago, 2013). The experience of childhood in the school context is transformed and children forge their identities as students and seek to be recognized in this process. Therefore, being in school goes beyond a merely cognitive process.

The theoretical elaborations of the new Sociology of Childhood, as well as the contributions of Packer and Goigochea (2000), were essential to this study, allowing us to highlight the actions of the children in the process of creation of senses and meanings, inserting themselves in the social context and meeting their demands and curiosities, often transforming and expanding the information and activities proposed by the teacher. The investigation followed the trajectories of children in their movement of interpretive reproduction of the educational practices of the school toward the construction of their identities as students. In this article, we have as main focuses, from the analysis of the first day of school: I) the predictability and constancy of cultural routines that allow the construction of a stable reference framework for the children and for the teacher; and II) the contradiction/incoherence of the educational practices among the different individuals present in the school, which reflect the movement, the instability, the negotiation, and the clashes that children start to participate while trying to make sense of what happens in school, what they have to do etc. We emphasized, throughout our analyses, the events from the first day of school, but we also started dialogues with other moments, as well as introduced materials from the interviews conducted with the children. In the following section, we will present our methodological approach.

Theoretical-Methodological Assumptions

We developed this project from an ethnographic research approach in education (Bloome, 2012; Bloome et al., 2005; Green; Dixon; Zaharlick, 2005). Green et al. (2005) advocate ethnography not as a technique, but as a logical investigation of the study, seeking an understanding of the community from the point of view of its members and a description of the interpretations that they give to the events that surround them. In this sense, the authors emphasize the importance of understanding the process of becoming a member of a particular community in an ethnographic study. Based on Spradley (1980), Green et al. argue that "[...] the ethnographer assesses what members need to know, produce, understand, and predict, to participate as a member of this group" (Green; Dixon; Zaharlick, 2005, p. 28). We organized our study with this focus.

The field research was carried out based on participant observation, by an engagement in the daily practices of the surveyed classroom. These observations were recorded in video, allowing a microanalysis of the verbal language use and associated non-verbal elements.

Ethnographic data built by video recordings have been explored by some researchers in the field of education (Castanheira; Crawford; Dixon; Green, 2000; Baker; Green, 2007; Baker; Green; Skukauskaite, 2008; Dicks; Soyinka; Coffey, 2006, among others). These studies have been valuable in showing that the video recording process is not a neutral process or merely a way to show what happens in a classroom. On the contrary, video recording makes it possible to explore different ways of interpreting and contrasting the observed events. In particular, video recording allows building a database that can be constantly resumed from new questions proposed by researchers.

The data built along the field research were organized and analyzed in Interactional Events Maps, representing what, when, and where the individuals developed their activities (Green; Dixon; Zaharlick, 2005). Such events are delimited, in retrospect, by a number of aspects - including the analysis of the semantic relationship between topics of conversation among participants and of the reorganization of interactive spaces (Heras, 1993). In addition to video recording the daily life of the classroom, we carried out interviews with the children. We conducted these interviews in small groups of three or four children. The script of these interviews was very flexible, including general questions about how it was to enter this school, what was done in that environment, what the children liked the most and what they liked the least, and who they played with.

The surveyed Elementary School belongs to the federal education network and is located in a University campus situated in the southeast of Brazil, with 600 students selected by a public lottery. It is, therefore, a self-managed federal public institution, with power relations more disputed and less defined, showing accountability processes in permanent negotiation. Approximately 50% of these students belong to families whose socioeconomic level is low. The opening hours of the school are from 7:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. for all students since 2011. The school time places major challenges for the teachers, coordination, and management of the school. One of them refers to the limited experience on the organization of full-time education, both in this particular school and in the Brazilian educational system (Leite, 2012; Cavaliére, 2009; Carvalho, 2013). Another challenge relates to the construction of a coherent and shared educational practice among educators, including teachers, monitors, and scholars present in the school routine, as we will analyze in the next section.

The research project to which this study belongs started in a class of children, aging six years old, that entered the first grade of elementary school in 2012 and was followed until the end of 2014. In 2012, we observed 113 school days, with a total of approximately 300 hours of video recording. In the classroom, we observed the work of the reference teacher, Karina, along the 14 weekly hours that she remained with the group. Her work was related to the areas of Portuguese (Alphabetization and Literacy) and Integrated Topics (title given by the school to the work with the fields of History, Geography, Philosophy, and Natural Sciences). During the other timetables, which were not observed by us, the children developed various activities with other teachers and monitors. The class was composed by 25 children (13 boys and 12 girls) who attended different Early Childhood Education schools until 2011.

In the next section, we will briefly present the parent-teacher meeting that took place before the start of classes, because it was essential to the process of integration and adaptation of the children in the surveyed school. Next, we will look at some aspects of the entering process of the children in this class from a more refined analysis of the first day of school, since the focus of our article is the beginning of that process. This choice is justified if we consider that, when meeting for the first time, the participants indicate various important aspects to the understanding of the relationships that will be established between them (Castanheira, 2004). Besides, with this analysis, we could give visibility to some elements considered essential by the children in talking about the school.

Parent-Teacher Meeting

The families were invited to attend a meeting scheduled for the day before the start of classes. On that day the teacher introduced herself, as well as explained the rules of the school. We stress that meeting the teacher and school rules are essential aspects so that the process of transition to a new school can occur more articulated with previous experiences in the family and early childhood education (Brasil, 2004). Thus, we can see the beginning of the establishment of a dialogue between the various individuals involved in the educational process of the children. Throughout the year, we noted the presence of several families in the daily life of the classroom, talking with the teacher, participating in children's lunch times and various other meetings (parties, meetings, excursions), as well as considering the teacher's requests7.

In this first meeting, some children accompanied their families. Thus, already on the first day of school (February 7, 2012) some of them demonstrated knowing a little of the school and of other children and, consequently, they already had some elements of school culture for their entrance in the school context. The entrance process in the school was marked by the beginning of the establishment of that class' peer culture. This is evident in the speech of Breno, one of the children, when asked if he already knew someone of the school at the beginning of the year:

[...] yes/ in the first meeting I met Vinícius/ 'cause we were there/we came out of the meeting room and/ um/ what's your name?/ and he/ my name is 'Vinícius'/ I said/ my name is Breno/ then we ran away like this/ then/ the guard [the school janitor]/ what y'all doing here?/ then we/ ran away like this/ then/ let's get outta here man/ so we ran out/ and then we met/ then on the first day of school I already knew him (Collective interview with Breno, Júlio, and Paulo, July 3, 2012).

To our surprise, Breno reports that he already knew Vinícius before the first day of school, or rather, one day before the classes started. Six months later, Breno recollects this event when describing his entrance into a new school. This fact allows us to affirm that the parent-teacher meeting proved to be important also for the children, helping them establish their first friendships. We highlight that the two children were observed talking and playing together at the beginning of the year in several moments. Over the course of 2012, this friendship was not consolidated. We observed that Vinícius was more interested in soccer, while Breno started playing with beyblades8. However, the fact that this encounter was mentioned at that time reveals its importance for the children. Breno recognizes the other boy as a peer and positions himself and the other as members of the same group/community. Such recognition is important and reflects the view of the children that their entrance into a new school space did not involve only appropriation of aspects of an adult culture of the institution, but also experiences that allowed/subsidized the construction of a peer culture.

In short, even before the start of classes, the students' experiences indicate the interweaving between peer culture and adult culture in school, as well as between school culture and family cultures. To understand how this process happened within the classroom and everyday school activities, we will focus on the events of the first day of class in the group.

Building Forms of Participation: first day of school as a starting point

Seeking to build an overview of what happened on the first day of school, we show two representations below. First, Graph 1 summarizes the use and distribution of time throughout this day.

Source: Developed by the authors.

Graph 1: Use and Distribution of Time: first day of school 

Graph 1 allows us to see, for example, the great attention given to the conversation circle in which the teacher coordinated the introduction of the children in the class. We also highlight the time devoted to transitions between activities, when the teacher guided the children after the completion of an activity, for example, reorganizing the group spatially, explaining relations between the activity that came to an end and the one that began, as well as the dislocation between one space and another. This total time (41 minutes) indicates that the teacher set a rhythm to the activities of the day in which she considered the initiation of the children into school culture practices with which they were unfamiliar, making a clear distinction between different activities.

The second representation below - Box 1 - describes the events of the first day of class. The first column on the left contains the markup of time and the second refers to the events of the day. In the third column, we made some comments and traced possible consequences for the process of peer culture construction in dialogue with the school culture.

Box 1: Interactive Events Map: First Day of School  

7:19 a.m. Welcoming the children and their families: The children arrived, Karina welcomes them, and talks to the parents in the classroom. Karina speaks with Júlio, who is with his head down on the desk. The chairs are arranged in groups and there are toys and games available in the desks for the children (dominos, wooden blocks etc.), two features of early childhood education. These two elements provided a point of educational continuity between the experiences of the children. Karina is attentive to the child that, apparently, does not want to play. Over the first weeks of school, Júlio was very shy, refusing to play and participate in the activities proposed by the teacher.
7:54 a.m. Transition: Karina tells that it is time to put the toys away and that the group will make a circle. She suggests that one child helps another. The teacher, in alerting the children, provides an opportunity for the group to prepare quietly to start a new activity. The practice of one child helping another has its beginning here.
7:42 a.m. Talking to the class: Karina introduces the researcher to the class and explains about the video recording. Karina mentions that she will make a circle. A child asks to drink water. Karina, then, takes the children to fill their water bottles. The teacher, in this moment, recognizes the demands of children and cares about their physical well-being. Throughout the first week of school, most children were already bringing their own water bottle to the class.
7:52 a.m. Drinking water: Karina teaches the children how to use the drinking fountain and explains how to fill the bottles with water. The teacher shows that the rules and procedures of the school, even the simpler ones, will be explained.
8:11 a.m. Conversation circle: This is the moment of introduction of the class members and children. Karina writes their names on badges and delivers them to each child. The teacher talks to the students and makes a presentation of the physical space of the room. Introducing the concept of Routine, the teacher writes on the blackboard the activities planned for the day. Some children can read what the teacher wrote. The teacher talks about the schedules of activities, about the school and its staff. At this point, the class has a chance to view itself as a whole. The children begin to know the names of their colleagues, as mentioned in the interview with Nina. The Routine makes visible to the class what are the teacher's goals that day: meet the children, the school, and some of the rules of the new space. The teacher wrote the Routine in the blackboard in every observed day of class.
8:52 a.m. Transition: The children wash their hands for snacking. Some children deliver the school materials to the teacher. Breno and Vinícius talk to each other and show their backpacks. The classroom has a bathroom that is shared with the other class that is starting elementary school. This fact provided great comfort and safety for the group, since there are 600 children aged between 6 and 15 years in this school.
9:12 a.m. Snack time: Bread with creamy cheese and milk is offered to the children. Karina guides the children to leave the cafeteria clean and organized for the other classes. She indicates to the children that the school has other classes that also use its different spaces, suggesting the importance of good use of collective space.
9:34 a.m. Recess: Karina: You're crazy to go to the playground, right? Girl: Children like to play! Karina: Adults also do... The children indicate to the teacher the importance of playing for the group. The teacher welcomes the girl's speech and mentions that she, even as an adult, also likes and appreciates this activity.
10:00 a.m. Transition: Karina calls the children to drink water and come back to the classroom. The teacher shows, again, a care with the children's physical well-being.
10:04 a.m. Sticking notes: The teacher talks about the notes that must be delivered to the parents and the children stick them in their notebooks. Eduardo asks if they will take the note home because they made a mess, to which the teacher answers: "No. This class makes no mess". Some children ask to write in the notebook. The textual genre "note" is introduced and the children are positioned as responsible for delivering the note to their families. Eduardo's question signals that this textual genre represents something that the class did wrong. We can infer that this was a form used in the preschool in which Eduardo attended. The teacher emphasizes the expected behavior of the class: "this class makes no mess". The children, when asking to write, reveal the expectation that this school would be the privileged space of writing. Unlike the children, the teacher considers that the most important thing at this moment is not writing, but the adaptation of the children to school, the interaction with colleagues, and the recognition of the physical space.
10:20 a.m. Transition: The children put the notebooks away in their backpacks. The form of organization of individual and collective materials is highlighted.
10:24 a.m. Knowing the school: The teacher takes the children to walk through the first floor of the school, showing the other classrooms and their teachers. The teacher demonstrates to understand that that space is unknown to most children.
10:49 a.m. Transition: Karina goes back to the classroom. Some children go to the bathroom and drink water. The teacher asks the children to sit in the circle. The teacher shows, once again, care with the children's physical well-being.
10:54 a.m. Reading circle: The teacher shows the children two literature books. They choose the book "My tooth fell out". In choosing this book, the teacher and children demonstrate to realize the importance of tooth loss in this phase of life.
11:10 a.m. Leaving the school: Karina ends the circle. Some children comment that they did not write anything. The teacher takes the children to the school gate, where their families are waiting. Again the children indicate the expectation that the school would be the place of learning how to write. In the first days of school, the children left at 11:10 a.m. This provided them a gradual adaptation to the new environment.

Source: Developed by the authors.

The analysis of Box 1 and Graph 1 allows us to highlight some characteristic aspects of the form of organization established in the context of the investigated group. We will explain some of these aspects below. Our intention is to highlight important elements both on the first day of school and over the time in which we followed the class. We established the first day of school as representative of how the class was introduced to ways of organizing themselves that were being established throughout the three years they were together. Evertson and Emmer (1982) emphasize the importance of the first days of a class. These authors argue that an effective class management should be established by the teacher in these first contacts. However, we understand that this is not just a class management, but mainly the construction of forms of participation that intertwine the peer cultures, the culture of that particular classroom, and the school culture.

One important aspect of the classroom organization refers to the conversation circle. The circle took place often, guiding the participation and including the children in class activities. That is what we can see in the speech of Nina, a child of the class:

[...] then I not even met my colleagues then the teacher/ the teacher said /folks/ let's make a circle/ then I sat down/ then they said like this/ then they/ then the teacher passed one by one/ one by one/ to see who/ to see/ one by one to see what was our name (Collective interview with Nina, Pedro, and Rodrigo, July 3, 2012).

In Nina's speech, the repetition of the words one by one reveals the importance given to the moment of introduction of the children, to see what our name was, which is an essential element in the construction of the identities of each of the children. In other words, one by one, the children were seen and saw themselves in that group. The visibility given to the differences and similarities between the children, in different conversation circles throughout the year, provided the inclusion of all children as members of that class.

On that first day, the circles occupied 22% of the total time and gave visibility to the personal experiences of the children in other social spaces. For example, in this first circle, Miguel associated the name routine, presented by the teacher in the circle, to the parades and routines of the samba schools that he watched on television. In the second circle, the story My tooth fell out refers the children at the loss of their own teeth throughout early childhood. Thus, what was started in the first conversation circle has remained over the three years, and the experiences of children within and outside school were intertwined, forming the culture of that classroom. In this class, and also in all other classes, literary projects have been developed, involving the reading of books, comic books, and poems. Among them, we highlight the projects Sacola de Leitura (Reading Bag), Mala de Leitura (Reading Case), and Saquinho de Poemas (Little Bag of Poems). These projects allowed the children to interact with the narratives of their own age group, with the goal of including diverse topics of the children's universe in their school routine. Thus, the literary project promoted, besides the taste in literature, different possibilities of experiences of expression, of imagination and fantasy, elements that are strongly present in childhood. The make-believe, the representation from the stories read, as well as the re-telling, writing, and creating new stories are highlighted amidst a playful context that is associated with the literacy practices (Soares, 1999).

The interweaving between the experiences of children within and outside school was shown, similarly, in several events involving the teaching of science by investigation (Munford; Lima, 2007) and that were analyzed by us (Meirelles et al., 2014; Munford; Souto; Coutinho, 2014; Capelle; Munford, 2015; Fogaça et al., 2014; Silveira et al., 2014). One of these events, for example, starts from the intervention of student Tina, telling about her participation in a magic show. This story occurred spontaneously and it was not in the teacher's planning. Karina not only heard the child, but related this story with a visit made by the class to the Museum of Natural History. From then on, there was the effective involvement of the class and the differences and similarities between science and magic were discussed (França et al., 2014).

Another important aspect to be highlighted on the first day of school refers to the desks organized in groups, since they suggest the importance of interactions among the children, as well as point to an educational continuity between the previous experiences of the children in Early Childhood Education Schools and the beginning of Elementary School. On other days, the desks were kept in groups or were arranged in rows with a couple of desks. Few moments were observed, over the course of 2012, in which the children sat in individual rows.

Therefore, the interactions between the children were allowed and encouraged by the teacher in many activities, assuming the features of a practice of helping the classmate (teacher's recurring speech). It became apparent that a child could contribute with the other in the process of teaching and learning, sharing knowledge, curiosities, experiences, and world views. In the excerpt below, the teacher asked a child to explain to Nara, who had missed the first day of school, the deal of bringing water bottles to the class.

Karina: Look people/ now I'm going to speak I need you to listen to me/ yesterday we agreed/ and Nara doesn't know this/ who will tell her for me/ will be Tina/ ((the teacher walks towards the child))/ what did we agree on about the bottle yesterday?/ ((Tina looks at the teacher)) no/ look at Nara/ come here in front/ ((the teacher gives her hand to the student and takes her to the front of the class))/ tell her how it works here in our classroom/ in each classroom is different/ tell how it works here in our classroom/ how does it have to be?

Tina: We have to bring the bottle/ to fill.

Karina: To fill here at school or at the time we arrive?

Tina: At the time we arrive.

Karina: Yes/ when it comes from the house the bottle must come with?

Children: Water.

Karina: If here at school/ during the time of class, the water ends/ we agree of going there to fill/ but/ sometimes we can wait/ to fill after we come back from the recess/ we enter the classroom get the bottle/ go to the drinking fountain/ fill it up/ and let it already full/ because Nara, it's very hot/ and it's very good for your health/ later Miriam [training teacher] will teach it, right Miriam?/ why we should drink water/ what's the importance of it (Transcript of the second day of school, February 8, 2012).

Karina, using a low tone of voice, in resuming the agreed with the help of Tina and the class as a whole, ensures the inclusion of Nara in the shared construction of a routine of that class. In the context of these interactions, the children produce and appropriate the cultural routines that are essential, since "[...] they provide all social actors the safety and shared understanding of belonging to a social group" (Corsaro, 2005, p. 19). It is the predictability of such routines that enables the construction of a set of references from which the cultural knowledge can be produced, evidenced, and interpreted. At the same time, the cultural routines makes possible to confront the ambiguities of social life in search of a shared understanding with other social actors. On the other hand, the repetition of such routines provides opportunities for changes in the forms of participation of children, enabling development and enrichment opportunities, or even transformation, of the activities (Corsaro, 1992).

The cultural routine of one child helping another enables the construction of children and group autonomy. This is evidenced in the moment Karina passes the control of going to the bathroom to the class, with the mediation of an object. At the conversation circle, in the second day of school, Karina explained that there were two rubber stars. When the children wanted to go to the bathroom, they should get a star and place it on top of their own desk. In this way, the entire class, and not just the teacher, would know that the bathroom was busy. Karina, with the help of the children, simulated going to the bathroom with the mediation of the stars. During this first week of school, Karina resumed this agreement with the class, always calling some child to explain to everyone how the use of the stars would be, repeating the procedure that had been done with Tina.

The organization of the water bottles and going to the bathroom are essential elements for the children's physical well-being. The teacher, in her educational practice, not only recognizes the importance of this organization, but also turns these moments into moments of teaching and learning in which the interaction and participation of the children are essential. Such attitudes evidence the teacher's professional career with children in early childhood education. Thus, what apparently would be something of minor importance is essential, especially when contrasted with other research. In this way, Neves (2010) analyzed a class at the beginning of elementary school in which the children's physical well-being was not considered and, therefore, they were thirsty and unable to go to the toilet for long periods of time. This was one of the elements that led, in the school analyzed by the author, to the construction of a class of children regarded as immature and undisciplined.

The practice of helping the classmate, as mentioned, became a cultural routine of this classroom - whether when the colleague had not yet finished the activity, whether when a child was not yet literate. In our observations, as already mentioned, the teacher rarely organized the children to do activities alone. In the first writing in their notebooks, on February 13, 2012, Karina explained how a child would help another:

Karina: Now we're going to put the year/ Mariana is standing and is helping Plínio [...] Mariana you can go back to your seat/ when we help our colleague we won't write for them/ only help him figure out if he's touching on the line up there (Transcript, February 13, 2012).

It is important to mention that, in the collective interviews, when questioned about the school, several children reported that they did not like to do activities individually, because it is "easier [to do them together]" (Breno, collective interview, July 3, 2012), to which Jonathas agrees:

Let's pretend/ let's pretend/ I'm not done/ Breno had finished/ I say/ Breno/ help me/ and then he helps me [...] it's/ like/ it's/ let's see/ like this/ like/ we go to the playground/ then/ you want to play with a colleague/ then he lets it/ just like when you do the activity (Collective interview with Breno, Jonathas, and Paulo, July 3, 2012).

In this sense, peer culture, closely related to the interactions among children and the establishment of friendship groups, creates the possibility of establishing connections between school activities and games, as Jonathas argues in his speech. These two forms of participation, playing and doing the activities, are crucial in building the culture of that classroom and help the construction/appropriation of the student's identity.

In addition to the predictability of the practices that are recognized and that play an important role in the construction of peer culture and belonging to the school culture, several contradictions, tensions, and clashes involve the social practices of which children participate in this school. A first evidence of this aspect refers to the low voice tone that the teacher kept in talking to the children and their families during all three years. This fact is emphasized by the children at the time we ask "And is there something here at school that you don't like?":

Nina: We don't like when Miriam (training teacher) yells...

Researcher: Oh... The yelling?

Nina: That's because Miriam/ yell so loud/ so loud... Like my teacher... Like my... Like my math teacher.

Paco: Miriam yell, yell!


Researcher: Is it? And why do they yell?

Nina: Miriam yells more... Because Miriam... The school even explodes!

Paco: WHAT?

Researcher: Is it? Why does she yell? What do you mean?

Nina: It's because everyone... We keep... They keep bothering... Because when they are talking/ they won't stop talking/ everybody's talking/ and she stands there/ then she speaks: "you're not going to let me speak to you?" Then nobody talks... Everybody says like this: "yes, we are".


Nina: Karina doesn't yell, no.

(Collective interview with Nina, Ricardo, and Paco. July 3, 2012).

From the children's perspective, two elements stand out in relation to the yelling in the school environment. The first of them relates to the physical discomfort that the high tone of voice causes and that makes the school explode. Surely, the discomfort becomes particularly visible if we consider that, during 2012, some teachers of the school, besides yelling at their classes, began to use whistles (instrument that produces sharp sound, used by guards and in most sports to direct the activities and apply penalties) to reprimand the children. We witnessed the children covering their ears and cowering when hearing the sound of these whistles.

Secondly, the children's parallel conversation is an important element in the interaction between them, often being built, as already pointed out, from the practice of one child helping another. However, the conversation was also perceived as an affront to the discipline imposed by some teachers. That is, the yells can be analyzed as something that prevents - or even forbidden - the construction of peer culture. Thus, the children, when talking about the school, mention the interactions with each other as something important to them. In this sense, the voice tone of teacher Karina, allied to the negotiated way of interacting with the class, highlight the construction of discipline in the classroom as a condition for the operation of the learning group, and not as imposition of rules and body control over the children.

Surely, the different ways in which adults act in the school were perceived by the children and will be analyzed from two events that took place on the third day of class, (I) Ruining nature and (II) Dating. On that day, the children were exploring every corner of the courtyard where the recess was taking place:

During the interval, at approximately 9:50 a.m., some children begin watching a tree full of flowers: continuous act, they pull out some flowers and give them to the teacher of the class, who gets them and thanks with a smile. The children run, take more flowers and deliver them to the researcher, who also accepts and thanks with a smile. 'Let's get more?!', says one of the girls. Another onrush in search for flowers and, this time, the children deliver them to Miriam, training teacher, who also accepts and comments: 'This way you're ruining nature'. The children look at her and remain silent. The recess is already at the end and the class returns to the classroom (Field notes, February 9, 2012).

From this event (Ruining nature) we can ask ourselves what would be the perspective of the individuals involved in relation to the plucked flowers. The children, on the one hand, initiate a collective activity: they take flowers and offer them to the adults responsible for their care and education. It is the beginning of the construction of a group based on meanings, interests, and activities shared in the interaction among peers.

On the other hand, the teacher and the researcher, both educators, receive and welcome the flowers that the children offered. The flowers are interpreted, thus, as a way to establish a relationship of affection with the group. From another perspective, Miriam, attending the last period in the Biological Sciences Graduation, also receives the flowers and interprets the act of children, not as a loving action, but as something that ruins nature. In other words, the plucked flowers are taken in their biological sense. Miriam produces her discourse supported on attitudinal contents of Science/Biology (relationship of human beings with nature, role of nature, love nature, protect life etc.).

Miriam's attitude was focused on the relationships established with the knowledge arising from her graduation course, i.e., from her initial training. We stress the importance of training teachers and potential teachers who work with children in the early years of elementary school. In particular, this school is constituted as a space for teacher training that receives undergraduates from different courses and that show, in the selection process, their expectations and great interest to know the development and learning processes of children from six to eight years old. One of the gaps identified during the training actions that the school offers relates to teaching young children. Thus, the way of acting of Miriam is, to some extent, a conflict in relation to the teacher's attitudes regarding the knowledge from the initial training and also regarding her concepts about childhood.

We have to ask, when we take as premise the training in Biological Sciences: what interventions would be possible/necessary for the construction of a loving relationship among adults and children? And, further, how to build up a dialogue with the childhood universe, considering this specialty? It is in the dialogue between the pedagogical practice developed in the classroom, in the dialogue with mentor teachers, and in the relationship with the children, as well as in the study of theoretical references on education and childhood, that the processes of future teachers training are constituted. We highlight that these processes are coherent with the studies of Nóvoa (2008) regarding the need for teachers' training built within the profession. The emphasis given by the author to learning with the most experienced teachers in the school and in the classroom is an element that deserves special attention. Thus, a look at the ideas and actions of teachers tells us about a need to deepen the relations between teaching, learning, and loving relationships that often can be arbitrary or contradictory when we consider only the reference of a particular field of knowledge.

A second event, Dating, still related to the flowers, illustrates another type of contradiction experienced by the children in their entrance into school, related to differences among the children themselves. In that same day, shortly after the recess:

The whole class comes back to the classroom, where the teacher continues the process of introducing the school and its teachers to them. However, Raul and Ester come late in class. Upon arrival, the two children bring with them more flowers. Seeing the scene, some children in the class start to hum: 'They're dating! They're dating!' Raul speaks crying: 'She is my friend. I was just helping her.' Ester looks at the other children and remains silent. The teacher tries to comfort Raul, who slowly calms down, and says to the class: 'Raul is saying that they are only friends' (Field notes, February 9, 2012).

In this moment, Karina, in face of the weeping of Raul, seeks to remove the focus from the loving relationship between flowers and adults, evident in our culture, for example, on Valentine's Day. The teacher's speech rests in the speech of Raul (she is my friend), in an attempt to minimize the embarrassing and conflictive situation between the two children and the class. We resumed this event in the collective interview with Raul.

Raul: That's because/ FIRST/ Ester asked me to get flowers/ flowers for her for me/ to give to her mother/ because it was high/ then the boys was saying that I am/ that I was her boyfriend.

Researcher: Is it?/ and then? How did you solve this?

Lara: Children don't date/ girls don't get pregnant/ children cannot kiss on the mouth/ and that/ and they knew that he only took the flower to give to Ester's mother/ and they spoke it again/ it's not his fault/ nor of the people/ because he/ he's not dating Ester/ because Ester said like this/ take a flower for my mom/ it's for her mom/ if the others think the two are dating/ they cannot date/ because children cannot date/ they can only date when they are adults (Collective interview with Raul, Lara, and Jonas, July 3, 2012).

It is noticeable that, for children, the flowers acquire other meanings concerning the relationships that start to happen among them. In the context of peer culture of that class, the flowers signify the establishment of a dating relationship between Raul and Ester. However, Raul refuses such interpretation and cries. In the days that followed, he cries again wanting to stay home because he is not dating anyone. The teacher talks to Raul's father and also with the class and seeks to clarify again that Raul and Ester were friends. It is interesting to point out that Ester showed no apparent annoyance with the fact of being called Raul's girlfriend. On the other hand, supporting the cultural rules of our society, Lara says vehemently that children cannot date. The children produce different perspectives about the same situation.

Therefore, it is at the confluence/contradiction between the different frameworks (between adults, between adults and children, between children) that peer culture and the classroom culture are constructed and appropriated.

Final Remarks

Several Brazilian studies have shown very tense entrance processes in Elementary School for children, their families, and teachers (Castanheira, 1991; Motta, 2010; Neves, 2010; Neves; Gouvêa; Castanheira, 2011; Nogueira, 2011; among others). Such studies highlighted, in general, practices relating to a greater body control of children, as well as repetitive, fragmented, and individualized activities that took the centrality in the classroom routines. The predominance of a transmission-based pedagogy in working with the children was identified, with long waiting times and activities that did not stimulate the reflexive capacity of children. Besides, there was an absence of toys and games in the everyday life of Elementary School. There was, thus, a great mismatch between the expectations of children and their families and what was proposed by the schools. In the cited research, the difficulties found in the process of teaching and learning of children were produced within the school institution from the interactions between teachers and children. The data from research reveal a wide gap between the practices of Elementary Schools and Early Childhood Education schools, an educational stage that cannot be ignored in the process of education of contemporary childhood.

A study9 that, like ours, followed a class from the beginning of Elementary School was coordinated by Gomes (in press). In this research, Gomes et al. analyzed inclusive educational practices, which supported the construction of a cohesive group that included the teacher and the children. The aspects considered essential for the researchers are: writing the routine daily in the blackboard (Gomes, 2008) and the negotiated manner in which the teacher interact with the class.

In the context of the classroom investigated by us, the collective construction of norms and expectations, roles and relationships, rights and duties established the principles of participation in that space (Castanheira; Green; Dixon, 2007). The way the new group was formed, by the forms of participation of each of its members, shows what it meant to be a student and a teacher in that context. Consequently, analyzing the first day of school was essential to understanding this process (Castanheira, 2004).

We gave visibility to some aspects that were started on the first day of school and remained over the three years that we followed the class, as, for example, the routine daily written in the blackboard, the concern with the children's physical well-being, the care with school artifacts (including toys), the low voice tone of the teacher, the conversation circle, and the practice of one child helping another. Such aspects were essential for a calm entrance of these children in Elementary School. At first, such elements could simply be considered as something routinely and that would occupy a common place in the classrooms of the early years of elementary school. However, as already pointed out, several studies have shown that this care is not always present (Neves, 2010; Motta, 2010). The intense argument about the inseparability of caring/educating on early childhood education (Brasil, 2009) begins to integrate the national documents about the early years of elementary school (Brasil, 2007). This means, among other aspects, the recognition of the importance of physical care and affection in education of children of all ages and in all educational stages.

In addition to the formal structure of organization of pedagogical practice, there was a close relationship between the peer culture, the classroom culture, and the children's daily life outside of school. Over the course of our analyses, we showed that, even with such relationships, conflicts in the classroom were still present. The continuity of the process of education implies that the identities of students and teacher are in constant transformation, requiring a continuous planning that provides the collaboration and co-responsibility of all members of the class. There was, because of this close relationship, the recognition of children and of their specificities toward the social construction of competent students - at the end of 2012, 88% of the children were literate. At the end of the 1st Cycle, in December 2014, all children were literate. In general, when we look at school success, we focus on the final results, and rarely include the process. In our article, we focused on the initial moment and on the possibilities raised for the group, and, from the opportunities offered, the building of competent readers.

Finally, we stress that the forms of participation are locally defined in the context of the classroom, but are also influenced by other contexts, such as the school structure and the decisions of the various management bodies, as well as by the various actors who educate and care for those children. In this sense, we highlight that children come into a complex space and into a time of great political and institutional transformations, as well as individual transformations. Thus, we understand that our investigation points to possible principles, and not a recipe, for the entrance of children in Elementary School, considering them as individuals who are historical, social, cultural, and have rights10.

Translation Proofreader: Ananyr Porto Fajardo


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1At the international level, the UNESCO Report (2007) points out that several countries have already included children of six years old in elementary school long time ago. Just as an example, we can mention that the compulsory schooling in several countries is thirteen years (Belgium, Germany, Holland, among others), twelve years (Barbados, England, USA, among others), eleven years (Armenia, Guatemala, Peru, among others), ten years (Denmark, Puerto Rico, Togo, among others), nine years (Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, among others), or less. Angola is the country that requires the least number of years (four) of compulsory education.

2The teacher developed a project called My family is present at the school. By the end of 2014, this project was incorporated in the planning of all classes of the 1st Cycle of the school.

3Toy similar to a top, based on a cartoon that is popular among the children in the class.

4Research called Including different students in the literacy classroom of children and adults: similarities and differences (Gomes et al., in press).

5The authors wish to thank the financial support by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG) through the grant APQ02093-13.

Received: May 05, 2015; Accepted: September 01, 2015

Vanessa Ferraz Almeida Neves is assistant professor of the Faculty of Education - UFMG and Professor of the Graduate Program in Education at the same institution. She has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology by Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG/1993), a Master's degree in Social Psychology by the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities/UFMG (2005), and a PhD in Education by the Faculty of Education/UFMG, with sandwich doctorate scholarship at Indiana University under the supervision of Prof. William Corsaro (2010). E-mail:

Danusa Munford has a Bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences by Universidade de São Paulo (1993), a Teacher's Training degree in Biological Sciences by Universidade de São Paulo (1996), a Master's degree in Biological Sciences (Genetic Biology) by Universidade de São Paulo (1999), a PhD in Education (in Curriculum and Instruction) by Pennsylvania State University (2002), and postdoctoral research at the Ohio State University (Teaching and Learning). E-mail:

Francisco Ângelo Coutinho has a Teacher's Training degree in Biological Sciences by Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (1990), a Master's degree in Philosophy by Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (1996) with emphasis on Logic and Philosophy of Science, and a PhD in Education by Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (2005). He is Professor of the Faculty of Education of Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, where he works in the undergraduate and graduate school in Education. E-mail:

Kely Cristina Nogueira Souto has a postdoctoral research in Education at University of Lisbon, has a PhD in Education by the Faculty of Education of UFMG (2009), a Master's degree in Linguistic Studies by the Faculty of Languages and Literature/UFMG (1998). She has a Bachelor's degree in Pedagogy by UFMG (1990) and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology by Newton Paiva University Center (1989). She is a teacher at the School of Basic and Professional Education of Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais - Pedagogical Center. E-mail:

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