Friday, December 5, 2008

One Page Handout

Diversity and Discourse Ethnography Paper

Research Questions
For my ethnography paper I decided to research: (1) How do you manage a classroom of culturally and linguistically diverse students? (2) How do you teach a diverse classroom about language and the dominant discourse of society while respecting and staying sensitive to their primary discourse?

Primary Sources:
Anderson, Eric. My own field notes from Cameron Shinn’s 9th grade speech class.
Baker, Megan. Interview

Major Findings
After doing my ethnography paper I found that there are numerous answers to my research questions. Every classroom and teacher is different and there are some answers that might be more effective and appropriate for different classrooms than others depending on numerous aspects such as age, range of diversity and the amount of differences in language backgrounds. But I found some possible answers that might work for teaching diverse classrooms about language while also helping to preserve their identity in regards to their primary discourse. The most important things that I learned are that every student should be given equal opportunities to gain access into the dominant discourse community. It is important to teach students how to access the dominant discourse while also preserving their primary discourse, and the most effective ways that I found to do this were through code-switching, through bringing an awareness to our students about language and how it allows for access to power, and through being patient and accepting with students from different backgrounds and at different levels and asking that they do their best in regards to language use and understanding that every student is unique.

Implications/ Future Questions
This case study raised numerous future questions for me. After completing it, I would now like to know how the students feel about the methods teachers use and whether they are effectively able to use the tools that are given to them. I would also like to know how these kinds of questions differ and how language and discourse differ in more homogenous schools as opposed to those that are more diverse.

Secondary Sources
Delpit, Lisa. “The Politics of Teaching Literate Discourse.” Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: New Press, 1995.
Fecho, Bob. “Critical Inquiries into Language in an Urban Classroom.” Research in the Teaching of English. Volume 34 (2000): 368-395.
Gee, James Paul. “Literace, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction and What is Literacy.” Journal of Education. Volume 171.1 (1989): 5-25.
Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Having My Say

My secondary sources that I am using for my research into managing language and identity in a diverse classroom present numerous opinions and topics. Gee for example, talks about primary discourses and about the factors that inhibit students from learning the dominant discourse if it differs from their primary one. Delpit responds to Gee, remarking about how students can learn the dominant discourse, and Fecho gives insight into how we can go about helping students to learn that dominant discourse through their own investigations into language. They all have some opinion or possible solutions about language and discourse impact certain students which will all be important when working with a diverse classroom. I want to know about some concrete examples of how students have broken into the dominant discourse and how they went about doing so, not merely whether or not they can. Hopefully through interviews with teachers and students about this topic I might find out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

How can a teacher manage a multitude of discourse and dialects in increasingly diverse classrooms?

When it comes to the current 'typical' classroom setting, diversity is becoming much more common and pronounced, meaning that schools, and by proxy, their classrooms, are exhibiting a much wider range of diversity than ever before. This range of student diversity is only going to increase in the coming years so how exactly do we deal with the numerous discourses and dialects of English that we will be seeing in our classrooms? I think that it will be crucial to stress the importance and need for diversity and difference among our students. As teachers, we need to embrace the many dialects and discourses that come through our doors and help the kids to realize that there is nothing wrong with any one discourse. But the matter of how to teach our students standard English, and code switching between it and their primary discourse if it differs from standard English, becomes a time consuming and difficult task. When numerous discourses and dialects are represented it is important to help the students to preserve their primary discourse while also giving them the tools necessary to participate in the dominant discourse. To do this we might allow the students to investigate language and inquire into the notions of code switching through their own means. For example, Fecho describes in his article that allowing students to make questions for themselves brings them a metacognitive way of thinking about language and allows them to be aware of the need for code switching between the language of their community and the dominant language.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gee and Delpit Response

Both Gee and Delpit are writing about Discourse, particularly about learning the dominant discourse and literacy, and the application to the classroom. The two organize their writings in quite a different way though. Gee tends to be more dense in his language use, using a lot of complex and specialized terminology and he presents the problem of certain people having troubles learning the dominate Discourse of society in addition to their primary discourse. Delpit, however, disagrees with Gee on the notion that only certain people are able to learn this, saying that with help everyone can break through and become literate in more than just their primary discourse, they just have to be taught. Delpit uses much more accessible language in her argument and she also provides some possible solutions to the issue which Gee doesn't seem to do.
I agree more so with Delpit's views about discourse and teaching children to be literate in the dominant discourse than I do with Gee's views on discourse being impossible for some people to learn. Delpit seems much more in tune with teachers and how we can help our students to utilize the dominant discourse that is the key to power in society while preserving their primary discourse as being important and useful. She says that it is important for teachers to help children know how to use different discourses depending upon their contexts and she provides examples of how people have successfully done so and how teachers might be able to do this.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Language Investigation #3

Throughout my pre-college school years I remember learning to read and write in a most objective and technical manner. Starting from the early days in elementary school and throughout most of high school rules and regulations for writing were jammed into my head quarter after quarter and year after year. It started fairly simple, learning the major parts of sentences like nouns and verbs and adjectives. I don't explicitly remember the major details of reading and writing that I learned through elementary school, but I remember broader concepts like learning how to write summaries in forms of book reports and letters and other basic forms of writing. We learned how to construct proper paragraphs using an introduction sentence, three or four details and a concluding sentence.

As I moved into middle school the proper paragraph routine became a proper essay. Usually with a very specific structure to it, I learned how to write in a rather technical manner. We started out learning how to write a good introduction paragraph with an "attention grabber" and then one to three main paragraphs that served to provide more details than the sentences in earlier writing, finally capping off the paper with a nice and simple conclusion that basically was the same as the introduction, just worded differently.

Through much of high school my teachers focused on the same types of things, but each year became increasingly more detailed and difficult. Introduction paragraphs were soon expected to contain a thesis statement that went in a very specific spot, as the last sentence of the first paragraph. The middle of the paper, now moving into much more than just three supporting paragraphs was expected to be an elementary style paragraph all in its own. Then there was supposed to be a conclusion that as ever, restated the purpose of the paper and reinforced the thesis statement from the introduction.

As I look back on learning to write I notice that each successive step built upon the last. The foundations that we learned in elementary school writing were expounded upon in middle school and then again in high school. From writing a five sentence paragraph, to a five paragraph essay, to a five page paper, each year relied on the skills from the last, and each year moving closer and closer to becoming a solid writer. In high school I began to create my own form of writing within the structures and guidelines that were set by my teachers. I found ways to tweak the format just ever so slightly so that I could make it my own, but not enough that I was stepping out of line with my writing. I also began to write and read about more ambiguous and subjective topics, learning to use arguments and details that I saw as opposed to the facts and figures of technical essays, and I learned about the ways that writing style changes based upon audience and purpose and that there were numerous "right" ways of writing. By learning in such a way and through the steps taken to teach me to write, I feel like I came into college with a firm base for my writing and I have tried to use the rules that I learned throughout school (when the audience asks for it).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Warm Up: Rose Ch. 6

Throughout chapter 6 I noticed that Rose was having the veterans do a variety of reading and writing assignments. Particularly with the veterans he focused on summarizing, classifying, comparing, and analyzing. He would assign short readings for them to summarize, and would bring in different forms of art for them to classify and compare. He also brought in numerous quotes for them to compare and analyze. He chose these types of assignments because according to Rose, "[his] students needed to be immersed in talking, reading, and writing, they needed to further develop their ability to think critically, and they needed to gain confidence in themselves as systematic inquirers" (Rose, pg 141).

The school classified most of the veterans as remedial, which marked the students as being outsiders of the school and the academic community. The tag of remedial would make the students feel as though they weren't competent enough in their literacy skills, and that everybody knew. This could affect them in many ways, but Rose tries to overcome those tags and help his students break into the "academic club" through developing their skills in writing and reading, and using the assignments mentioned above.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Language Investigation #2

There are a number of communities that I would say that I belong to and that have a specific type of language, sports, my friends, and even more specific still my roommates. The community that I feel has the most specialized language however, is a community of my friends, but it is the setting that makes it interesting. The world of online gaming, which for me is limited to my Xbox 360, has a language all its own. For starters, me and my friends have formed a clan online, meaning that we all chose gamertags, which is sort of like your screen name, that are similar. For example, my gamertag is wholegrainwhite, my friend Mike is wholegrainwheat, and my friend Nick is wholegraindough. While the choice of names may seem odd, we chose them because we thought they were funny and we call ourselves wholegrains online. Other people form their own clans, which means they have similar names as well and they play together online as a team which gives you an advantage.

Aside from clans and gamertags, there are many other words that are used in the online gaming community. When you are playing a game such as Gears of War, Halo, or Call of Duty 4, there is usually someone that ends up on your team or the other team that just isn't very good. Seeing as part of the game is trash talking, at least for my friends and I, you have to let these people know that they aren't all that great. So the word we use to refer to those people is newbs. This is supposed to be like newbies, or players that are new to the game, but it has come to describe people that are not only new to the game, but that have played for a long time and still aren't any good. This may seem a little mean, but that's just the way of the game. For the longest time everyone that I played against called me a newb until I got better with practice and now I get the chance to say it to other people.

Another part of the language that stems from this community comes from glitching. This is a favorite of my friend Mike's. He loves to find glitches in all of the games we play and use them against people. Glitches are errors in the game that you can find to give you an advantage and they are rather controversial because some say that they are a way of cheating, which they kind of are because not everyone can do them. One such glitch is called crabwalking. This is done by pushing the right buttons with the right timing at certain spots in the game and it makes your character move faster and slide around the screen instead of running like everyone else. There is also a glitch called kung fu flipping which is when you make your guy jump outside of the map you are playing on. The advantage to this is that nobody on the other team can find you to kill you because you are outside of the map, but you can still see and shoot at them.