Teaching Students with SLI about Dialect and Code-Switching

Because I work at a fairly diverse district, I hear a lot of different dialects being spoken by my students.  I do not write goals around it because obviously students are entitled to their culture and speaking style; however, I do like to at least teach students that they speak a different dialect that may vary from what they hear from teachers.  I think it’s particularly important for our students to be taught that academic language is generally in a different dialect, that their home dialect is not incorrect or inferior (given the likelihood that some teachers will be prescriptivists and attempt to correct dialectal differences), and that they have the choice to code-switch or not to do so.  I always wanted to emphasize that writing is, at least currently, using Standard American English and it would benefit them to follow those conventions for school assignments, state tests, and job applications.

I realize this is a hot-button issue so I have tried hard to make an educational resource that presents the subject in a neutral manner and is not prescriptivist.  Mostly, it educates students on what dialect is, three common dialects, and their choices when it comes to code-switching.  Additionally, vocabulary that may be new is in bold throughout so you can identify their meaning through various means (context clues, finding the definition, looking it up, etc.).  Given that this is Black History Month, it seems as good a time as any to acknowledge dialect (particularly African American English) and present it in a fair and educated manner.

Enjoy this resource and modify what you like (after making a copy for yourself, of course)!

Here are some other resources and groups to learn about dialect if you wish:

Respect the Dialect

Ventris Learning

Chicano English (Hispanic Vernacular English)-Portland State University

An Informed Lens on African American English by Megan-Brette Hamilton


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