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Becca Cohoon Language in the Classroom ED258

The articles by Linda Christensen and Enid Lee are strong in the area of building equity in

learning and understanding language. But not just building equity, they are also strong in

reinforcing that ones home language, if other than Standard English, is valuable as they, too, are.

They both give examples and encouragements on how to make this happen in the classroom.

Linda Christensen speaks about her own negative experience with language in the classroom as a

9th grader. She is ridiculed in front of the class because of the way she pronounced certain words

and her verbal sentence structures. That experience affected her for many, many years. A good

thing that came of this experience though is that she is now a voice for those students whose

home languages are not that of the cash language of Standard English. She believes it is

important that students be taught their voice is sacred: (meaning what they have to say is

important, not how they say it).

Along with affirming the students home language and thereby affirming them, Christensen also

knows it is important for her students to learn Standard English because that is where the power

lies. She is up front about the realities of home language vs Standard English in the business

world. Her intention is not to demean or make her students feel their home language is inferior

but to give them tools to be successful in life after school. Strategies she uses to teach are non-

traditional methods. Through reading articles, stories and poems written in home language and

Standard English. Watching video tapes of people talking and having discussions about why

learning Standard English might be necessary. Another strategy that can be employed for

teaching standard English and affirming home language could be through role play such as used

by Bill Bigelow.

Enid Lees article focused more on equity and literacy. The kind of literacy program she

encourages all teachers to strive for is one that is multilingual, multiracial and anti-racist. She
Becca Cohoon Language in the Classroom ED258

encourages teachers to see the value of literacy in more than one language. How can there be

equity in education if there is not a representation of the various languages in the class. When

literature does not represent the various languages present in the class room it can inhibit the

growth of the student. Ms. Lee includes thoughts from Lisa Delpit that certainly agrees with

the philosophy of Ms. Christensen that teachers need to recognize the language students

bring to school is intimately connected to loved ones, community and personal identity. To

suggest that it is wrong is to say they are wrong. Equity, literacy and language need to be

woven together in the classroom.

What this means to us as teachers is that we need to be mindful of who our students are. We are

not there to simply feed students information that they then regurgitate to meet standards. It

means to be a true equity-focused teacher we will understand that our students are not coming in

empty headed. That they have words in their heads in the language used at home. A vital

question we need to ask ourselves is what structures and/or strategies can I use that empower

students to not only utilize but also to manipulate the English language to transform themselves

and the world they live in? It is a vital question if you truly believe in the principles of equity

and want to give your students the very best our educational system has to offer that is high

quality, engaging and empowering curriculum - regardless of their background.