Yellow title on blue background image -Language Varieties


other descriptions



  • Use literature written in the variety: short stories, poems, dialogue. Some activities for students: read passages out loud compare ways people talk with ways it's written, suggest ways of making the writing more authentic discuss the spelling system.
  • Play music with lyrics in the variety (or have students bring in examples to play). Activities: write out the lyrics, compare spelling systems, discuss the language used (its authenticity, etc.).
  • Accommodation: Let students use their home variety in various classroom activities: classroom discussions,
    role-playing writing in journals, or in literature (short stories, poetry, drama), acting out plays with dialogue in the variety.
  • Have students discover the grammatical rules of their home variety. Some activities for students: trying to translate passages (poems, instructions, etc.) into the variety, creating lessons for teaching someone the variety, making up a test in the variety (e.g. with acceptable and unacceptable sentences).

  Here are some tips sent in by readers of this site:

  • from Lee Fagan in Michigan

    Use the poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1905) who wrote beautifully in both the dialect of his parents, who had been slaves, and in classical English, and whose biography also provides plenty of stimulii for discussion.

  • from Virginia Ravenscroft-Scott in Madison, Wisconsin:

    Two books to recommend:

    "The Real Ebonics Debate" - Lisa Delpit & Theresa Perry, eds.

    "The Skin That We Speak" - Lisa Delpit & Joanne Kilgour Dowdy, eds.

    Both include many academic articles but also examples of classroom practices. See especially the interview with Carrie Secret in "The Real Ebonics Debate."

  • from Jody Rickard in California:

    Plays are helpful in the classroom. Students do research and write a play while talking their own variety then redo the play in standard English.

  • from Yolanda Taylor in Buffalo, New York:

    Have students collect language data from the speech community, transcribe it, and have students use it to answer questions about grammatical patterns, for example.

    Encourage students to be reflective about language and its context. Regularly have them examine their own attitudes towards the variety and what influences their attitudes. Over the course of a semester of year as students are taught overtly about their language and its worth and beauty, also have them monitor changes in their attitudes.

    Keep the issue of contextual use of a given language variety at the forefront. Help students feel comfortable with the idea of style-shifting and have them think of situations in their own lives in which it would be more appropriate to choose one variety over another.

Do you have any other classroom activities which you've found useful? Or any comments?
If so, please share them with other readers of this site by emailing them to
jsiegel at