Anne Haas Dyson analyzes primary students' spontaneous, unsanctioned talk in the classroom and argues that these interactions — often regarded as "time off task" — can become occasions for engaging in intellectually demanding tasks. Drawing upon research conducted over a two-year period in an urban elementary school, the author presents an overview of the accomplishments of children who, without explicit directions from their teacher, collaborated with one another to create extended stories and critique the logic of those stories. Dyson maintains that these examples of spontaneous talk supported the intellectual development of these beginning writers, thereby extending conventional definitions of students' "on" and "off" task behavior.

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