Code-Switching: Power or Oppression

got.my.dog.back.codeswitchThe majority of our students speak with southern dialects at home and with their friends (some academics refer to our students’ dialect as African American Language or AAL).  Based upon the power-structures of language in our country, our students might be unfairly judged if they speak and write with this dialect in college.  How equipped are our students to switch their style of communication based on their audience?

Consider these resources to help you structure discussion and writing opportunities for your students to grapple with questions of code-switching:

  1. Here’s a teacher blog where a Teacher Blog- on code switching on if, why, how he should teach his students to code-switch.
  2. NPR has a whole website dedicated to exploring issues of race and ethnicity!  There are so many great articles and memoirs here that I personally would love to teach;  hope you’re interested too!  http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/
  3. 3 Mentor Texts for Code-Switching Pedagogies about how to use texts to help students think about authors’ intentions when writing with different dialects.  This article encourages teachers to teach the following texts:  Seedfolks, The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, and Peace Locomotion.  The above texts are all appropriate for middle school.  Consider reading this blog post about Their Eyes Were Watching God to consider how to employ these strategies with high school text.
  4. Here’s a relevant current event pertaining to the power/ oppression of language: Rachel Jeantel’s Language is English– It’s Just Not Your English.  What do you think about the additional comments at the end of the article?  What would your students think if they read this?!   Let them!  This is a great debate.
  5. I’ve attached a Power and Language Texts for a Unit about language and language-power.  You could even structure an entire unit based on the question of how should we speak and communicate?
    Here’s what you’ll find in this Word doc.:

    • “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin
    • “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell
    • from “Authority and American Usage” by David Foster Wallace
    • from “The Burning of Paper Instead of Children” by Adrienne Rich
    • “The Language of Power” by bell hooks
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