Teaching in a Diverse Classroom (Blog Post #5: 2 of 3 choices, 250 word comment due 2/14/12)

In Lisa Delpit’s book Other People’s Children, she gives future educators many ideas on how to “celebrate, not merely tolerate, diversity in our classrooms” (67). Specifically, she encourages role playing as a means to allow her students to feel more comfortable speaking Standard English while playing the part of someone else. How is her method allowing students to engage in the English language? What are the implications for involving students in this type of activity?

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8 Responses to Teaching in a Diverse Classroom (Blog Post #5: 2 of 3 choices, 250 word comment due 2/14/12)

  1. DrSeuss says:

    I found Delpit’s article to be extremely interesting because she pointed out many factors that hinder children’s ability to learn that I didn’t even realize existed. I am a firm believer in the fact that a person’s dialect is a huge part of their identity and to ask someone to change that is wrong. However, this becomes extremely problematic for teachers. Even though the way children speak isn’t “wrong” it still isn’t Standard, so how do you go about changing that without forcing them to change their identity?

    First and foremost, I think it is extremely important for a teacher to emphasize the fact that all dialects should be respected. It is always embarrassing when someone criticizes the way you talk even today at our age. By coming to terms with the fact that everyone speaks differently, learning the more formal way will be a much smoother process for the entire class. I like Delpit’s idea to, “give them the opportunity to use the new code in a nonthreatening, real communicative context” (53). I think that “acting out” Standard English is such a great way to practice. The students don’t have to worry about their thoughts coming out wrong because they aren’t their thoughts. The entire point is to get the feel for speaking a dialect of English that is different from their own. I’m sure once they become comfortable with this type of role-playing, students would be able to improvise what their “character” might say without feeling dumb. This method really allows the students to fully engage in Standard English without being criticized, and I think it would be a great method to use in a classroom full of different dialects.

  2. shmannybumbah says:

    I agree with DrSeuss’s statement above. I was surprised by the “many factors that hinder children’s ability to learn that I didn’t even realize existed.” (DrSeuss) Delpit did a fantastic job of outlining the diverse student minds, then suggesting ways that she has seen in use that allow students to become interested in the material. I think the idea of role-playing is so successful because it allows children to step back from their own selves and observe. “Play” is a very important part of learning. When these children are allowed to engage their minds with the English language, it permits them to become creative and open to the structure of English. My favorite was the “rules for writing rap” section near the end. A teacher named Amanda Brascombe “sometimes has her middle school students listen to rap songs in order to develop a rule base for their creation.” (67) By allowing these students to listen to a familiar genre of music, then further instigate its formation, she teaches them not only cultural relativism but also rules to the English language. These types of role-playing and engaging students directly in the material at hand embeds linguistic structure in an enjoyable manner. They learn how language is diverse by dealing with it in different settings. Interactive learning is always a great way to teach, because students are enjoying it and simultaneously learning. Delpit did a beautiful job with diversity and culture of the classroom in this article.

  3. Osprey says:

    Like Delpit and DrSeuss, I too believe the dialect (including accent, style and verbal patterns) that children are native to holds a particular significance to not only the individual, but culture and family. The native style of a child is “Intimately connected with loved ones, community, and personal identity,” (Delpit 53) and this style of speech is very much a component of their being.

    In an example of children’s connection to their dialect, a study of Pima Indian language natives learning English in school was done. In the first three grades, the children had a solid grasp on the standard dialect that the instructors taught with. However, in fourth grade, the students reverted back to their local dialect – not because they couldn’t continue to learn and acquire the Standard dialect, but because their native style was a factor in the sum of their welfare, which they chose to associate with (52).

    Another illustration includes teacher Gerald Mohatt, who was working at a Sioux reservation whose staff largely thought the students incapable of learning Standard English. Delprit told how Mohatt looked undetected into a classroom; inside, the children were impersonating him perfectly, Standard English included.

    Delprit discusses the use of role-play to implement the “new code” of the language in a “nonthreatening, real communicative context” and “not under the threat of correction” (53). While I do not doubt this method and support its use for the reason of non-intimidation and for the avoidance of suggesting inferiority, I believe there is another reason to use role-play – it is the point I brought up above: children’s language is closely related to their life. By allowing a student to put a hat on that is not his own, the child can more freely express his understanding of Standard English because he is in a character that has no affiliation with his true culture, so he is not diluting his customs by abandoning the original dialect. Role-playing expands the application of English to students, as it is story-based which calls for more creativity and a broad scope of comprehension. Like Shmannybumbah mentioned, this also plays into Delpit’s explanation of the many, often disregarded aspects that actually go into learning.

  4. TwentyThree says:

    In a modern day American classroom you are likely to experience multiple dialects or different ways of speaking. Delpit believes “all teachers must revel in the diversity of their students and that of the world outside the classroom community.”(67) She encourages teachers to participate in activities within the classroom to show their support and appreciation for linguistic diversity. She discusses how some teachers use role-playing activities to achieve this. By having students speak in Standard English while playing the part of someone else allows them to have the experience of being a Standard English speaker without actually being one. They are able to use language that may seem foreign or uncomfortable to them without feeling self-conscious because it is not actually them saying it. Speaking another language, or in this case just speaking a language differently, can be intimidating especially in front of native speaker. This exercise allows the student to speak different and not have to worry about being corrected or criticized.

    Like DrSuess, I believe that a person’s dialect and way of speaking is a huge part of their identity. We should not try to change how someone speaks or make them feel as though their language is inadequate. As we talked about in class, there is not one “right-way” to speak the English language. At no point is the role playing exercise pushing “Standard English” on the student. This activity allows the student to understand that there are other ways of speaking. It can also help teach when it is appropriate to use certain styles of English depending on the specific circumstance.

  5. lauren16 says:

    Lisa Delpit’s statement that teachers should “celebrate, not merely tolerate, diversity in our classrooms” (67) is a piece of advice that every teacher or aspiring teacher should take into account. I agree with DrSuess in the fact that dialect is an extremely important part of a child’s personality, but that Standard English is also important for that child to learn. The question a teacher must face is how to teach a child about Standard English without offending or giving them the misconception that the way in which they speak is wrong.

    Delpit’s method of role playing is a method that not only teaches students more about Standard English, but it also provides them with the context of where it is appropriate to speak or write in Standard English. Delpit uses the example of students who “take on the persona of some famous newscaster, keeping in character, as they develop and read their news reports” (53). By becoming newscasters, these students learn that this type of English is appropriate in a professional setting. Through acting out different situations in which Standard English is required, the students learn the types of situations where they should speak more formally and when it is okay to speak the way they do at home. They are not criticized for their dialect, but rather taught to understand that everyone speaks differently and Standard English helps us all to understand one another. Overall, I believe that Delpit’s method allows the students to learn about the similarities and differences within the English Language and it would be a good method to use in a classroom.

  6. KateG says:

    Delpit’s idea of role playing is a great idea for teachers to use. Role playing is a fun way for students to speak and hear what Standard English is in a comfortable setting. Delpit notes that, “Forcing speakers to monitor their language for rules while speaking, typically produces silence” (51). When this occurs she says the “affective filter” (50) has been raised. Her idea of role playing however, ensures that this will not occur. Role playing is a way for student’s to learn while having fun! Especially in the younger years, children really begin to engage in make believe play, so role playing is a great way to build on this aspect of a child’s development.

    Other ideas presented by Delpit like forming a rap or teaching the teacher are also other great ideas in which students can hear and celebrate different dialects. Similarly to lauren16, drseuss and the others who posted, I agree that a child’s dialect contributes to their identity. Language is what reminds you of home like we discussed in class, and it is important to foster this idea while incorporating Standard English into instruction. Utilizing a child’s dialect is a great tool for teachers because many children have already learned the basic rules of language so they can build off of those when learning Standard English.

  7. Numeroff says:

    Lisa Delpit’s emphasis on play in the classroom at a higher level is something that is rarely seen. For some reason our culture feels that once a person hits a certain age, play is no longer acceptable in the learning environment.
    However, contrary to societies beliefs the play technique used in the case of learning English language styles seems to have been very effective. According to Delpit, “learning to orally produce an alternate form is not principally a function of cognitive analysis”(Delpit 49). She goes on to discuss that constant correction and nagging is not normally the best way for a person to learn an alternate form of a language and that exposure and comfort is what helps a person to learn a new form of language. By allowing her students to try each style out themselves, they are becoming more comfortable with the language style and learning how to speak as a native to this style would. Even though some may say that Delpit’s techniques are not meant for students of this age group, by allowing her students to participate freely in this type of activity she is probably teaching them more than they would have gotten out of a written assignment from a text book.
    Like Lauren 16, I agree “that Delpit’s method allows students to learn about the many similarities and differences within the English Language”. Through this activity, the children are able to embrace the cultural differences and take on many roles, and will hopefully come to realize that there are many different ways of speaking in not only different towns or states, but also in different scenarios, such as job interviews or casual phone conversations with a friend. By spending even just a brief period of time in another person’s shoes and speaking their style of language, a student becomes able to better understand what scenarios call for what language. I believe that this method seems perfect for introducing people, who may be hesitant, to other unfamiliar styles of language. After all, Delpit states that “acquiring additional codes” can actually be beneficial when attempting to speak in the “mainstream” American language(Delpit 69).

  8. darkknight5 says:

    As ‘shmannybumbah’ mentions, “play is a very important part of learning.” In my opinion, play is THE most important part of the development and learning of a child. In my “Introduction to Early Childhood Education” class last semester, we looked deeper into the importance of play on a child’s learning, as our teacher believed play was the key for a child to successfully learn to the best of their ability. This finally gave me the perspective of other students (and our teacher) who also saw how big of a role play is in the development of a child. Play not only allows children to interact with others in a social context, but it also allows you to have fun and enjoy what you are doing. In my eyes, learning occurs best when you enjoy what you are doing, which comes in no better way than through play. Through play, children are also put into “real-life” situations, in which they can (in a way) ‘practice’ for similar situations in their futures. Delpit discusses play and role-playing for students, allowing the reader to see how children are able to learn and appreciate the different dialects of the English language. As Delpit states, “Inevitably, each speaker will make his or her own decision about the appropriate form to use in any context” (54), meaning that for different situations we must learn different ways to speak. For example, we speak differently within our own friend group than we would during a business meeting. The best way to prepare children for these different situations is to “allow them the opportunity to practice that form in contexts that are nonthreatening, have a real purpose, and are intrinsically enjoyable” (Delpit 54). When children are given the opportunity to practice as characters other than themselves, they are able to use different forms of the English language than they may be accustomed to (the standard form) without those around them judging or thinking differently of them. The student also doesn’t associate the “character” with him/herself, and therefore is not held back by their own cultural and community language techniques. This goes along with ‘TwentyThree’s idea that children are able to learn how to talk depending on the circumstances of the situation they are in.