The beginning of formal schooling (age 5 in Australia) is seen as a time of transition from the institution of the family to the institution of the school. While it is acknowledged that this is a time of induction into the culture of formal schooling, the process has traditionally been conceived of as gender neutral. It would appear, however, that part of the institutional work is to position children differently as male and female students. This study examines closely how the language practices of schooling operate in this initiation process to construct gender. The project directly addresses two areas of immediate needs outlined by DEET's Gender Equity in Curriculum Reform Project. These are issues relating to primary school girls and the role that language plays in the construction of gender. At the same time, it also has direct relevance to wider issues of curriculum at the primary level, insofar as the gendered nature of student-learners will impact on both possible and potential curricular reforms and innovations.