Monday, December 1, 2008

Ethnography One Pager

I. For this case study, I chose to focus on code switching from a perspective I feel does not carry enough emphasis: that of the hindsight of a student who has been through the education in a code switching environment, and as a code switcher themselves. I wanted to understand if the code switching that they faced as they grew up affected them as they continue their education at a university level. I was also curious to know if they even realize that they were code switching, or continue to code switch, and how they feel about its prominence in education.
II. Primary Sources: I contacted three students that I know who attend South Carolina State University , a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Aman, Johnerra, and Shannon all grew up and went to school in diverse neighborhoods and experience code switching everyday. I know these students through an antiracism project sponsored by CSU and SCSU.
III. Through my email interviews with Aman, Johnerra, and Shannon, I was somewhat not surprised to discover that until I had mentioned it, they had never even realized that there was such a thing as code switching, or that they were even doing it. They all asserted that they certainly have the ability to speak “correctly”, and consciously do so when they feel a situation requires it, but had never before considered the “concept” of code switching. It was just something they had always been taught to do.
IV. As I continued my discussions with my primary sources, I wondered if because Aman, Johnerra, and Shannon were not aware that they had been code switching all their lives, were they aware of any affects it has had on their lives, or their confidence in their home codes. I know these individuals fairly well, and they are all strong and capable, and proud of the fact that they are black. But I can’t help but wonder if there is, on some subconscious level, that code switching suppresses and/or undermines their home codes.
V. Secondary Sources:

Fecho, Bob. “Critical Inquiries into Language in an Urban Classroom”. Research in the
Teaching of English 34 2000.

Gee, James Paul. “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction and What Is
Literacy?”. Journal of English 171 1989 52-72.

Delpit, Lisa. “The Politics of Teaching Literate Discourse”. Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom.

Wheeler, Rebecca S. “Teaching in the World: Code-Switch to Teach Standard English”.
English Journal 94.5 2005

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Secondary Research

I am focusing my paper on classroom disourse and how that should look considering both primary and secondary discourses (or power and home codes). Gee argues that students should be taught how to use the primary discourse and not to pay too much attention to their secondary discourse, as we will be in a classroom environment. Delpit defendes and a students home code should never be undermined, but the power code does in fact need to be taught. I feel that there is a gap in their arguments regarding the comfort level of the students themselves, and how they feel the power and home codes should play a role in the classroom. I feel that it is the teacher's job to get to know each student and acknowlege their comfort level in the classroom as well and with code switching and establish a baseline surrounding code switching. I have not done enough outside research (like conducting my interviews) to really form a good strong opinion about this, but I have enough knowledge to have my base ideas.

Friday, October 24, 2008


The idea of having to have alternate reading assingments available for students who's parents object to a book seems like a daunting task. There is already so much preparation that goes into creating the original assingment, but to prep for an alternate one as well?? Good greif. However, I know that it is important to apease what parents do and do not want their students reading in my classroom. To do the work and to keep the student interested in the topic at hand is a lot of work that we will get to do...for no extra benefit on our end might I add. I guess I take that back. The benefit will be knowing that I respect my students and their families enough to generate an entire lesson plan just for them. It has to be hard though, to find pieces that fit well enough together that the students will get the same thing out of it. If a piece is racey enough for a parent to object, then how will I find another one that will cover the same topic? Will creating a different assingment make that student an outsider from the rest of the class? Will it make them resent me or their parents for making them do alternant work? My worst fear is losing a student's interst over a topic that I assign...could this happen just because a parent feels differently than I do? How will I make the grading equal if the assignment is different? There are so many questions that I am beginning to feel like I'll have to fly by the seat of my pants when the time comes...I guess the best way to handle parental objection is to be prepared for the worst.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Response to Gee and Delpit

I am a member of a group called Shades of Promise here at CSU. SOP is in afiliation with South Carolina State University, a Historicaly Black College/University (HBCU). The goal of SOP is to experience one another's cultures (that of a predominatly white school vs an HBCU), and to have open dialogue about racial diversity. Last weekend I was at SCSU, and I brought up language, and how it can be difficult (as a teacher) to teach Standard English without undermining ethnic or regional speech. I was amazed at how this seemed to trigger many SCSU individules. Everyone who addressed the topic said that when they feel it is needed, they can all speak correctly, however, they appriciate the comfort they feel when a teacher or superior allows them to use the slang they are so accustomed to. One SCSU student asserted that she appriciated my point/question because, yes Standard English is important to be successful and respected in America today, but downplaying the cultural diversity of America can only hinder us as a society. After our discusion, I am still unclear as to where the line should be drawn between teaching Standard English and encourageing/allowing ethnic/regional speech to be used in the classroom. I do know, though, that both are very important. Like many aspects of Education, this issue is not black or white.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Language Investigation 3

When I was in the second grade, I was put in an advanced reading and writing group. I didn’t leave the “advanced” category until I left high school and entered the level playing field of college. I always wondered what they did in the other language arts classes that could possibly be so different than what we were doing in my A.L.A (Advanced Language Arts) classes. It seemed like we were taught the same thing, we just read different material and I had a heavier work load. To this day, I’m still not really sure that anything was fundamental difference.
I learned (along with everyone else) about nouns, verbs, accordion paragraphs, thesis statements, sentence clauses, five paragraph essays, MLA bibliographies, alliteration, personification…the list goes on and on. It’s funny how when you walk into class and the teacher has MLA citation written on the board for the first time, you have no clue what their talking about. But year after year of MLA being the standard when it comes to formatting a research paper, it becomes second nature. We read Lee, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hesse, Hurston, Angelou. The books were daunting at first, but as soon as the unit was over, it seemed like a small feat to have overcome.
None of the lessons I endured during primary and secondary school have hurt me during my time in college. I also can’t say that there are specific lessons that I truly draw on to help me. It was the stuff that was drilled into my head from early on that I find I rely on the most. Those things that at first I thought I would never use, and now they’re my basic instinct. My teachers made me practice them until they were second nature to me. I’m not saying that practice makes perfect, but it certainly makes reading and writing a little bit easier.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Warm Up Chapter 6

Rose chose unique assingments to give the Veterans, like taking a poem or a song lyric, or a sentence from a book and merely anylyzing and talking about the language. The veterans really responded to studying language, as Rose says, mostly because linguistic play was a part of their culture, or they merely liked to get Rose worked up over what they were saying. He would always try to sneak word play into a lesson.
I think that Rose chose to make linguistic play a part of his lessons because he knew that the veterans had experience with it outside of the classroom. They needed a connection to the type of language that they were used to in order to be able to connect the content of the classroom to their outside lives. These play-on-words discussions allowed some vets who may not have considered themselves intellectuals to become more comfortable as "insiders" in classroom discussions. They were all able to understand the language and draw their own conclusions from it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Language Investigation #2

“I need a DD for my life car”. – I said this to my two best friends one night after a very bad day. My two best friends happen to be a couple, so we joke that I am their adopted child. I was under a lot of stress at this point and I felt like I just needed something to give. My friends were patiently listening to me vent, and when I stopped to take a breath, this thought just came to me. I was not presently fit to drive on the road of life. So I told them “I need a DD for my life car”. They assured me that they had my back, and from then on, when anyone of us feels a little overwhelmed, we simply ask for a DD for our life cars for a while. You wouldn’t trust just anyone to be your DD, so of course you ask your best friends. Now it’s sort of a joke, but we know that in all seriousness, we are always willing to take the wheel for a little while.

“Really?” – Now I know that this seems like a very basic thing to say, but for my friends and me, it carries a lot of implied meaning. It’s typically said with a cocked head and raised eyebrows, and in a sarcastic tone. I have no idea how this got started, but it gets said very very frequently. It doesn’t simply mean “really?” but more like “seriously?” or “shut up you’re full of it”. It usually results in whoever received the “really?” trying to explain themselves and everyone else laughing at them. All in good fun of course. It is a good sign in my group of friends if we make fun of you. It means that we like you and that we feel comfortable around you. The “really?” is a perfect example of that.

Abbrevs—Abbrevs is short for abbreviations. My friends and I speak in abbreviations most of the time. For example, we will say “whatev” for whatever, “jeal” for jealous, or “ridic” for ridiculous. There are many more, but I think the point is across. It isn’t that we’re lazy, but we actually think that it is very funny. We get a good laugh when someone pops out a new, creative abbrev that no one has said before, such as “ev” for everyone. That one definitely stuck. I don’t think that people don’t understand what we’re talking about so much as they don’t understand why we think it’s so funny. We don’t really either. But it is a running joke that gets put into nearly every “convo” that we have.