Was I unclear about teaching reading to students who speak Ebonics?
I am asking if we should teach standard American English and reading to students who already speak Ebonics as if standard English is their second language or second dialect(whichever you choose).
If the students are already speaking Ebonics, should we teach standard American English to them in order to enhance their reading skills?
What other suggestions do you have for overcoming the Ebonics language challenge in order to produce an outstanding reading student?
Yes, I agree with all who say that language is appropriate depending on the context and situation.
To the question if standard english should be taught as a second language; I’m not sure most people who speak ebonics know the academic research that has gone into it, so I would suggest letting students who speak this dialect to be taught that they have a dialect (it’s not just un-educated slang without a basis), that it’s been researched and a subject of debate for years; Then teach them “standard” english so they can know the differences. This way their dialect, and all the history of their family and home, neighborhood, and strata of society are all validated, as should any student’s background be.
Finally, for literature, Iceberg Slim is an interesting look into the life of a black man during and before the WWII era. See “Pimp”
Reading skills come from repeated practice of reading the word correctly. So we need to teach our children how to spell correctly in order to have them read correctly.
Ebonics is nothing more than slang. If the page in not written in slang then the child must read it in standard American English. But the comprehension comes from the skills of sequencing, being able to read words at a certain level, and recognizing correct sentences.
By all means teach standard American English. Will teaching them English make then better readers? Probably not since we really don’t put much emphasis on spelling or writing correctly.
If there are students who can’t read Shakespeare, Dumas, Hemingway or Tolkein, they should be given all the help they need until they can. I think “Ebonics” has arisen mainly from an aversion to education within certain subcultures, social classes and/or families. I don’t believe this to be a racial issue, after all there are rednecks in this country who speak worse english than any off-the-boat immigrant in Brooklyn. It is a social issue that affects us all and should be dealt with accordingly. If only we could make parents more responsible for thier childrens’ education!
Anyone who believes that dialect or accents are indicative of intelligence is pretty much ignorant and judgemental. However, when you have students who speak heavy dialect, it is usually an indicator of the parents educational level and the child’s exposure to “rich” language. That is why test scores tend to be low. And often times, using strategies for second language speakers can be effective for students who speak in any type of dialect.
I agree that there is a time and place for informal language. I suggest you read Rubye Payne’s (spelling?) book on the Framework of Poverty on language registers.
Teaching Ebonics is like lowering the educational bar. I recognize that there are kids that cannot speak proper English. All attempts should be made to educate these kids to learn the English language.
Is it coincidental that the kids that cannot speak proper English are frequent drop outs? Those that do graduate from High School have trouble in college. Those that Graduate college have problems with job interviews. As an executive in a consulting company, I could not hire an employee that could not speak and write proper English. My clients would never contract with me for somebody with communication issues.
It is paramount that our society stops embracing ghetto talk (at home, school, or anywhere).
Imagine a world where you could talk on the phone to a person (from the U.S.), and not tell if the speaker were black or white. Let’s stop providing the bigots of the world fodder for their cause.
As you say, it’s obvious that Ebonics shouldn’t be taught in schools because that would be beating a dead horse. I also do not necessarily think it should be taught as a second language. Actually, almost all children and adults have different dialects that they will use in different situations. The problem is that students who speak Ebonics at home might have a further stretch to make between their home dialect and their formal school dialect. It is good to point this out to students, let them know that language is power, and knowing the appropriate language to use in any given situation is necessary in order to gain power. These students shouldn’t use standard English at home any more than they should use Ebonics in a formal situation. The key is knowing where and when a certain type of language is appropriate and when it is not. Just like you wouldn’t swear in front of your mother, you should not say “ain’t” at school. One teacher I talked to who teaches in an urban area would refer to standard English as the “money language,” since if you ever want to make it anywhere in this country you have to know it well. If you point things out to them in this way, it seems less like you are simply correcting them for the sake of correcting them (thus making them feel stupid) and more like you are trying to help them.
Also, in general, even if you DID view standard English as a second language/dialect, teaching it explicitly through grammar drills, sentence diagrams, and vocabulary exercises, is not very effective even though many schools love to see that sort of thing. Instead, the best way to improve reading comprehension as well as speaking skills would be to have them read, read, read (in standard English). A sustained silent reading time, where students can read whatever they want for a specified period of time, is the most effective at helping students read better. The key is to get them hooked on the joys of reading so that they will continue to read and improve on their own.
I also wouldn’t cut out Ebonics from the classroom completely. When students are answering complex questions, for example, and the thought process is more important than speaking correctly, it could do more harm than good to correct them when they stray from standard English while taking risks and thinking outside of the box. Instead, expose them to how standard English looks and sounds as much as possible, and teach them that language is power and sounds different depending on the situation. Eventually, students who are brought up in a rich learning environment with appropriate encouragement from their teachers will make strides on their own.
You should do your best to teach them basic english. If they want to be colorful with their language, have them increase their vocabulary by studying a thesaurus.
Yes, they will experience conflict because they will think you are trying to take away their culture. You will put them in odds with their friends and relatives. You will have to get the parents on your side, (they might be the ones that taught ebonics to them).
You have to explain to them what kinds of jobs they will have if they continue to limit themselves.
Immersion is the answer and the problem.
They are immersed in ebonics and will continue the nonsense talk, and if they are immersed in standard english, that will help them, only after they go through the struggle and realize it for themselves.
Since I know of none (correct me if I am wrong), you must teach all students a common language – standard received English.
Or as the Brits say “Ta!”
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