|African American Vernacular English, Code-Switching and the K-12 Inclusive Classroom
Dr. Victoria Deneroff,
Dr. Rebecca C. McMullen, and Nicholas Helfrick
The Third Annual Middle GA Student Diversity Conference, Atlanta GA
Background Information: African American Vernacular English (AAE)
Between 80 and 90 percent of all African-Americans speak what is known as African-American English, also known as African-American Vernacular English, Black English, or Ebonics (Redd and Webb 2005).
AAE manifests itself as a language that, while not always following the norms and rules of Standard English, nonetheless follows a set of rules that are just as complex (Redd and Webb 2005, Craig and Washington 2002).
Rickford (2000) argues that it is no more correct to refer to African-American English as “lazy” or “broken” English than it is to refer to Italian as “lazy Latin”, citing a rule-governed language rich in conventions, such as the use of double negatives, the dropping of the letter r and g at the end of words, and rhetorical devices such as “signifyin’” and exaggerated language (Redd and Webb 2005).
African-American students often go from a home where they hear only AAE to a classroom where they are told by their teachers that the language they speak is incorrect. In an era of high-stakes standardized testing, African-American students take tests that are written in a language with which they are often unfamiliar (Redd and Webb 2005).
Teachers find themselves in the position of balancing an appropriate acknowledgment a student’s culture, while also preparing them for success in school and life after school. It is for this reason that the ability to code-switch is of the utmost importance.
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