“A problem of versions” : laying down the law in the school playground

Theobald, Maryanne Agnes & Danby, Susan J. (2012) “A problem of versions” : laying down the law in the school playground. In Danby, Susan J. & Theobald, Maryanne Agnes (Eds.) Disputes in Everyday Life : Social and Moral Orders of Children and Young People. American Sociological Association and Emerald, New York, pp. 221-241.

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This chapter investigates an episode where a supervising teacher on playground duty asks two boys to each give an account of their actions over an incident that had just occurred on some climbing equipment in the playground.


This paper employs an ethnomethodological approach using conversation analysis. The data are taken from a corpus of video recorded interactions of children, aged 7-9 years, and the teacher, in school playgrounds during the lunch recess.


The findings show the ways that children work up accounts of their playground practices when asked by the teacher. The teacher initially provided interactional space for each child to give their version of the events. Ultimately, the teacher’s version of how to act in the playground became the sanctioned one. The children and the teacher formulated particular social orders of behavior in the playground through multi-modal devices, direct reported speech and scripts. Such public displays of talk work as socialization practices that frame teacher-sanctioned morally appropriate actions in the playground.

Value of paper

This chapter shows the pervasiveness of the teacher’s social order, as she presented an institutional social order of how to interact in the playground, showing clearly the disjunction of adult-child orders between the teacher and children.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 50797
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Ethnomethodology, children's disputes, accounts, playground interaction, social order, multi-modal, conversation analysis
DOI: 10.1108/S1537-4661(2012)0000015013
ISBN: 9781780528762
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LINGUISTICS (200400) > Discourse and Pragmatics (200403)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Current > Schools > School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Emerald
Deposited On: 07 Jun 2012 23:46
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2015 22:55

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