Summons Turns: The Business of Securing a Turn in Busy Classrooms

  • Rod Gardner
Part of the International Perspectives on English Language Teaching book series (INPELT)


In order to engage in talk it is necessary for all participants to be oriented to the talk as an event. One of the achievements of an exchange of greetings is the establishment of joint agreement that the encounter is the possible start of a conversation. If there is no visual contact through gaze, the establishment of joint attention may require a summons, such as calling out the intended recipient’s name. Gaze is important in the establishment of engagement frameworks, as it indicates current attention and availability for participation in an interaction and helps identify an intended recipient (Robinson 1998), and the success of summonses in face-to-face interactions requires co-presence and gaze contact through ‘facing formations’ (Goodwin 2006). Whereas greetings only occur at the beginning of conversations, summonses, with their attendant answers or responses, can occur once a conversation is underway, typically when there has been a hiatus in the talk between the summoner and the targeted recipient. Thus, summonses can occur regularly where there are large numbers of potential participants, such as in open-plan offices or other workplaces where people may be focused on a work task (Filliettaz 2011), at large social gatherings or parties (Good and Beach 2005), or in classrooms (Cekaite 2008).


Classroom Interaction Conversation Analysis Teacher Assistant Answer Sequence Language Classroom 
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  1. 1.
    Teacher control of turn-taking occurs when the whole class is working together. During group work, the turn-taking reverts to something more akin to conversational turn-taking.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Other alternatives used as summonses include terms of endearment or categorial terms (Lerner 2003). ‘Miss’ might be understood as a categorial term in the context of classrooms.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lerner (2003: 199) uses the term’ summons–answer’ to refer to those sequences in which the response consists of a verbal answer (as in answering the telephone), and he uses’ summons–response’ for summoning sequences, whether verbal or visible, as in gaze engagement.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Note that Schegloff (1968) calls summonses ‘attention-getting devices’.Google Scholar

Further reading

  1. This book provides a comprehensive treatment of how Conversation Analysis can be used to help us understand classroom interaction.Google Scholar
  2. Hall, J, Hellermann, J., and Pekarek Doehler, S. (2010). L2 Interactional Competence and Development. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  3. This edited collection uses Conversation Analysis and Vygotskyan socioculture theory to explore the development of competence in a second language through social–or interactional–learning.Google Scholar
  4. Hellermann, J. (2008). Social Actions for Classroom Language Learning. Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  5. This volume is based on a large-scale study of adult migrant second-language learners of English in the US.Google Scholar
  6. Markee, N. and Kasper, G. (2004). The special issue: Classroom talks. The Modern Language Journal, 88(4): 489–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. This special issue contains different theoretical perspectives on how Conversation Analysis might be used to understand learning, and in particular learning a second language.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Rod Gardner 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rod Gardner

There are no affiliations available

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