The traditional Initiate-Respond-Evaluate (Cazden, 2001) interactional sequence or pattern of classroom interaction is a particular speech genre with historical precedents and instructional trajectories. This discourse pattern is closely associated with transmission approach to teaching, placing the control of classroom interactions squarely in the hands of the teacher. In these interactions, teachers take turns at will, pose questions, decide on the direction of the discussion, decide who talks and for how long, what subjects are worthy of being discussed and serves as the arbiter of meaning and correct interpretations.
Bakhtin delineates between monologic or authoritarian discourse as described previously as a transmission approach, and dialogic or a more democratic discourse (Holmquist, XX). From this perspective, dialogic interactions offers a counter-narrative to the traditional initiate-respond-evaluate (IRE) pattern of interaction or recitation script (Gutierrez, 1994; Mehan, 1979). During dialogic interactions, interpretive spaces are created where students occasionally offer responses that go beyond the literal level of meaning called for by the questions asked during traditional classroom interactions. These spaces are critical junctures (Serafini, 2009) or critical moments (Myhill & Warren, 2005); times when teachers need to recognize the potential during classroom discussions and take advantage of the opportunities provided by students’ inferential and interpretive responses.
Critical junctures are “spaces of possibility”, where openings in the discussion allow students freedom to offer their ideas, control the topics of discussion, and move from literal recall of textual elements to interpretation and critique. When students offer text-based inferences that include evidence of “interpretive merit” there arise opportunities for teachers to capitalize on these “teachable moments” to develop students interpretive repertoires. These interpretive moves by students appear in literary discussions in response to both, open-ended or literal-level questions.