Tools of Language and Culture: Transforms the Dialectically Diverse Classroom

  • Vernacular dialect children bring to school has been a concern for many years.
  • English teachers have a responsibility to students who speak what is considered "nonstandard" English.
  • Children who speak in a vernacular dialect are not making language errors; they are speaking in the language of their home discourse community.

Traditional Language Arts Methods Fail Many African American Students

  • African American students were performing lower than white students
  • African American students scored 36 points lower than white children on average
  • Many African American students speak a language variety - African American Vernacular English (AAVE)
  • Results of various studies area inconclusive on whether contrast of dialect structures itself hampers language-minority children in reading standard English.
  • Teachers are likely to consider a child speaking AAVE as lower, less able,and less intelligent that the child who speaks standard English.
Code Switching: Language Acquisition

Traditional Responses to Language Varieties: Correction Does Not Work

  • Generations of Black English speakers have been subjected to "correction" programs that have not worked.
  • Telling or teaching students that their language is wrong or bad is not only damaging, but false (Christenbury 2000 p. 203) .
  • A different response to language becomes possible once we recognize that language comes in different varieties and styles.

Key Notions From Applied Linguistics

How to work with language in the classroom: dialect, language variety, style, and register.

  • Language is structured
  • Language avers by circumstance of use
  • difference is distinct from deficiency
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Discovering a New Vantage on Language in the Classroom

Study of performance across two kinds of college writing classrooms:

  1. Traditional English techniques
  2. Explicit discovery by contrasting the grammatical patterns of AAVE and SE
By contrasting the language varieties, students were able to learn the detailed differences between the two.

Moving from correction to contrast:

  • A third-grade classrom
  • Formal and informal
  • Differentiation between AAVE and SE
  • Comparing and contrasting the languages
  • Language varieties by region

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