Mike Laser shared this article, which discusses dialect and ideas of correctness in speech and writing.
No, that isn’t “Bad English.”
The article is subtitled, “The obligatory lecture that needs to start every English class.” While I wouldn’t quite go that far, I do tend to spend a class on things like accent, dialect, and the arbitrariness of language at the start of the semester, especially in 105.
To be precise, I actually don’t use the term dialect much and prefer to use the term “code,” which I think is easier for students to grasp (and leads neatly into the issue of code-switching). A second, larger reason for using “code” is that I also want students to think of non-verbal codes. I usually lead into the discussion by drawing things on the board, such as a house or the sun, and asking how they know what these are. I also will often draw a disassembled stick figure, which they immediately recognize when put together, and which they will tend to gender as male or female with slight additions. These activities and such discussion lay the groundwork for getting students to think about the shared codes they possess; how they access (or lack access to) such codes; how these codes affect their thinking and reading and writing; what sort of codes are being emphasized (or deemphasized) in the writing and reading they do in my class and in their other work in the university; cultural codes they work with and how these affect them; and so on.
In my experience, such explicit discussion of codes (or, in the article, dialects) has been extremely productive for my classes.
What about you? How do you touch upon dialects, correctness, codes, and related matters? And, of course, what did you think of the article?
The above link is to a 2015 interview of Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy (authors of The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education), discussing the issue of politics in the classroom and how teachers can/should introduce and discuss the subject.
Personally, I regularly connect the work we do in class to the wider world beyond it, since I find that to be a key element in teaching critical thinking. Additionally, considering events over the last few months and especially the last fortnight, I think I would be remiss in not touching upon politics, since it directly pertains to the lives of my students and the world they (will) inhabit. Simultaneously, I am aware of the potential pitfalls of explicitly introducing politics into the discussions (I would argue that any classroom, by definition, implicitly engages with politics) and want the subject to add to and enhance the functioning of the classroom. To that end, the following are some of the strategies I utilize: Continue reading
Catching up with a friend last night whilst enjoying some delicious fare from Taco Truck, I complained about burn out. It’s that point in the semester when we all feel drained: papers keep coming in and lesson plans still need to be made; we grade paper two with one hand and plan module three with another. Ah the joys of mid-term! Most of us probably haven’t had a real day off since September.
An article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed last night (shout out to Nikki Bosca) reminding me of the reason for such fatigue—as if I need reminding: “A study…from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that…across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector” (Wiggins). Although this study isn’t directly related to higher ed, the overtime required of teaching isn’t news to any of us. Continue reading
A message from Mike Laser:
“I put together this list of essays from the textbook for my students, for Module 3. I figured they have enough to do for their other subjects without having to skim every piece in the book. I didn’t summarize every piece in the book — only the ones I thought might be good starting points for Module 3 projects. Other teachers may have different choices, and they could post their suggestions in the Comments section.”
Hope this is helpful for some people.
Essays from Everyone’s an Author:
At the beginning of the semester, in my 105 classes (and sometimes, to a lesser degree, in 106), I make sure to emphasize that the writing expected from students at university level will be substantially different from what they likely were asked to produce in high school. Rather than giving them a long list, I usually introduce the differences piecemeal, in a hopefully organic manner that arises from the subject matter that we are dealing with in class.
However, I have been looking for such a list, to bolster what I mention in class and to serve as a handy reminder. I just came across one on the University of Toronto website here, which hits on virtually everything that I would want it to. It’s also available as a printable PDF and free to print and distribute, according to their Fair-Use policy.
Hopefully other people will find it useful too.
Michael Laser recently emailed me the following:
“A student pointed out to me that “they” is now considered acceptable as a singular pronoun. (“Someone left their glove in my car.”) I was skeptical, so I checked it out, and found the attached article. My guess is, my generation will have to die off before this is universally accepted.
If you think people would benefit from reading the article, please either email to FYW teachers or post via the blog.
“Sorry, grammar nerds. The singular ‘they’ has been declared Word of the Year.” – The Washington Post”
So, here’s the question – do you allow students to use the singular “they” in your classes?
Personally, I do, primarily because it is more gender-inclusive and provides more options. Plus I’m just not that picky and have a lot of larger issues to focus on.
By Kathy Curto
It’s the morning rush hour and I’m on the 6 train heading to Union Square. A young woman pushes her way through the doors of the subway car and plops into the seat across from me. I’m charmed instantly—gold metallic eye shadow, velvet burgundy bellbottoms and a black wool beret that has not one speck of lint on it. She takes out a little book with turquoise swirls and stars that speckle the outside cover which is also gold and shiny. I think it’s Rumi but I’m not sure. Either Rumi or Neruda.
I smile and my thoughts move in two distinct but parallel directions: to the power of patience as a tool for learning and to Kate, a classmate of mine back in graduate school.
Kate was also someone who could pull off metallic eye shadow and who I could count on to walk into class wearing outfits that sang songs of freedom, risk and liveliness, somehow making me feel nostalgic, refreshed and proud to have grown up in the 70s all at the same time. I suppose this is what happens when you go back to earn an MFA at forty- three years old while holding down a teaching job and answering to four people who call you Mom. I was exhausted and my “Small Coffee: Black” habit and drinking in of Kate’s whimsical combinations of textures, prints and solids was all I had to stay afloat on some days.
Kate’s creativity, her charisma and her good instincts extended way beyond mustard-colored cardigans and matte lipstick that might make Bardot jealous. She was a gifted writer and a classmate who took her time: in her writing, her speaking and her critical analysis. Her style and approach to the work were mature beyond her years and I marveled at what her smooth, unaccelerated pace seemed to produce: clear, deep, searing feedback about the readings. Continue reading