'Doing Right' By Melissa: An Inquiry Into School Spaces


  • Sarah Vander Zanden University of Northern Iowa




Literacy, Space, Elementary, Urban


This educational ethnographic case study explores Melissa’s literacy experiences in an urban elementary school. Using a modified domain analysis (LeCompte & Schensul, 1999), this paper focuses specifically on what it meant for Melissa to ‘Do the Right Thing’ in various school spaces. Her application of doing the right thing in different spaces complicates what it means to take ‘right action’. Therefore, ‘taking right action’ was divided into three domains: 1) Institutional Domain: Code of Compliance 2) Dominant Literacy Domain: School Code and 3) Personal Domain: Melissa’s Self- Reliance. While Melissa was considered a model fifth grader in her urban elementary school setting by her teachers and peers, her personal code of literacy often subsumed the dominant school discourse of ‘do the right thing’.   Analysis generated prospective inroads for understanding how literacy learning is inextricably intertwined with relationships of space and discourse. Insights from this close analysis point to the need for nuanced recognition of students’ intellectual lives and underscore the plague of low expectations that narrowing curriculum imposes upon students.

Author Biography

Sarah Vander Zanden, University of Northern Iowa

Sarah Vander Zanden is an assistant professor of Literacy Education at the University of N. Iowa.




How to Cite

Vander Zanden, S. (2013). ’Doing Right’ By Melissa: An Inquiry Into School Spaces. Language and Literacy, 15(2), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.20360/G2XS3X