To enjoy learning, children often need to understand the applicability and importance of a subject to their daily life. Let us think about teaching English in America – even small children can understand the value of learning this subject because they use this language every day outside of school. But what if some children can’t relate to the English taught at school? What if this English is different from the English they use at home and hear around them? This question creates the foundation for discussing the acceptability of using African American Vernacular English in the classroom.
This issue is a still highly debated topic, starting with the Oakland Ebonics Resolution, dating back to 1996, in which it was suggested to use AAVE in classroom instruction, raising a storm of criticism from the media. This has served as an incentive for scientific inquiry into this topic, leading to many studies on linguistic peculiarities of AAVE.
The party opposing this proposition states the need for the children to learn “proper” English as their main claim. A lot of the critics see integration of Ebonics in classrom as teaching only the vernacular variety of language, or in other words they see children only using slang in the future. This is what a typical lesson in such a classroom looks like in their eyes:
However, the schools employing this approach have discovered that adapting the curriculum to accommodate the variety of language spoken at home and acknowledging the said variety leads to better student involvement and better participation, resulting in better outcomes. This is how a lesson with such approach actually looks like:
I believe that helping children to learn should involve making education relatable for them. This includes raising awareness of the diversity of dialects, and providing adequate academic support to both students and teachers. Usually, you start learning a new language from scratch by using the means of the language you already know. That just doesn’t happen for children with AAVE background, and that is one of the reasons why I firmly believe in integrating special educational practices for children whose first language is Ebonics.