“Don’t be dissing my language, dawg” or the debate over AAVE in the classroom.

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.

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3 thoughts on ““Don’t be dissing my language, dawg” or the debate over AAVE in the classroom.

  1. Dear Soothsayer, your post gives new insights into teaching and a fresh view for formulating new, adapted subject for specific students. Of course the point to involve making education engaging for specific students is an important issue. This includes raising awareness of the diversity of dialects in a classroom. But are there only certain diversities in a classroom? Are not the various ethnicities are mixed in a classroom especially if we speak about the US? Then would not AAVE in the classroom affect negatively other students who speak “proper” English?

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    1. Dear Dumankhan,
      I believe that diversity should be supported in all of its varieties. This post only talks about one example of such differences and discusses the opinions and ways of approaching them in the classroom. Drawing from this particular example, we could justify the importance of using native languages of all students in the classrom to demonstrate grammatical similarities and differences from English on which the students could start building their repertoire of used language. Drawing from aviable resources, foundation, to build a stronger understanding of things being learned.
      This particular topic interested me after learning about the backlash from the society and media after the Oakland Ebonics Resolution, and the ways schools in which the students are predominantly from AAVE linguistic background could accomodate their students without denigrating their cultural and linguistic differences.

      Best regards,
      Sagida

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  2. Creative and original post, Sagida (5/5). I think your post touches on a very important aspect of the trend toward student-centered teaching. If you truly want to reach students and make learning/schooling meaningful for them, you have to meet them where they are, socially, culturally, and linguistically. Are there analogous situations in Kazakhstan or other places you have experienced?

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