Over the last fifty years, sociolinguists have described the structure and debated the origins of African American Language (AAL), and much of this work has been applied to factors related to the education of African American students, but also more broadly to the study of language variation in the classroom context. On this page, we gather together several resources for educators on the study of AAL (and other non-mainstream varieties of English) in the classroom, including links to videos, books, websites, and podcasts. We focus first on setting the context of AAL, by providing some videos that offer brief introductions to AAL as well as speakers providing firsthand experiences in the classroom and workplace. Next, we provide some resources pertaining to Dialects in the Classroom, including an excerpt from Talking Black in America and videos from sociolinguists and authors Dr. Anne Charity Hudley and Dr. Christine Mallinson. A handful of relevant books are included for reference. Finally, we include a broader Sociolinguistics in the Classroom section, which includes links to resources that can be used in the classroom.
This website is not exhaustive and will be updated regularly. If you have any videos or resources you would like to see on this page, please contact us at OnlineResourcesAAL@gmail.com.
There are several videos that discuss aspects of AAL for a general audience.
- African American English - features Dr. Mary Zeigler from Georgia State University
- The Linguistics of AAVE - short video highlighting the sociohistorical context and linguistic features of AAVE
- AAL Skills - Excerpt from Talking Black in America produced by the Language and Life Project
- Don't Judge My African American English - African Americans sharing perceptions of language skills
- African American English in North Carolina - Excerpt from Voices of North Carolina produced by the Language and Life Project
- African American English in the Classroom - Excerpt from "Do you speak American?"
- AAL Code Switching - Excerpt from Talking Black in America produced by the Language and Life Project
- 3 ways to speak English - TED talk by Jamila Lyiscott
- The Cost of Code Switching - TEDx Talk by Chandra Arthur
- Lucy Laney Elementary: African American Vernacular English - A KARE 11 news story looking at the use of AAVE in an elementary school in Minneapolis, MN
- Why Do People Say "AX" Instead of "ASK"? - MTV Decoded video explaining the use and history of 'ax' and 'ask' in varieties of English
The following excerpt comes from the 2017 documentary Talking Black in America, which is a general introduction to the use of AAL in the classroom.
Dr. Anne H. Charity Hudley and Dr. Christine Mallinson have written two books (discussed below). This first clip features Dr. Charity Hudley in an interview from 2017 with The Ling Space, where she discusses language variation and education.
The next clip features Dr. Mallinson discussing Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools.
Several recent books have been written by sociolinguists about dialect diversity primary and secondary educational classroom contexts. Each of the books listed below have companion websites that can be accessed for free.
Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools (2011)
Anne H. Charity Hudley and Christine Mallinson
"In today’s classrooms, students possess and use many culturally, ethnically, and regionally diverse English language varieties that may differ from standardized English. This book helps classroom teachers become attuned to these differences and offers practical strategies to support student achievement while fostering positive language attitudes in classrooms and beyond. The text contrasts standardized varieties of English with Southern, Appalachian, and African American English varieties, focusing on issues that are of everyday concern to those who are assessing the linguistic competence of students." (From tcpress.com)
Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools has an accompanying free mobile app, called Valuable Voices, which contains exercises and resources for educators and students. "The app provides 12 ready-to-implement exercises for students and educators — one a month, for a year’s worth of teaching — to build awareness of language and culture. The teaching exercises are geared toward secondary English but can easily be adapted for various grades and content areas."
We Do Language: English Language Variation in the Secondary Classroom (2014)
Anne H. Charity Hudley and Christine Mallinson
"Building on the authors’ highly acclaimed first collaboration, Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools, this book examines the need to integrate linguistically informed teaching into the secondary English classroom. We Do Language features concrete strategies, models, and vignettes, as well as classroom materials developed by English educators for English educators. It is essential reading for anyone interested in learning about the role that language plays in the experiences of students, both in secondary and postsecondary environments." (From tcpress.com)
The authors' accompanying website includes several exercises and links for each chapter!
Dialects at School: Educating Linguistically Diverse Students (2017)
Jeffrey Reaser, Carolyn Temple Adger, Walt Wolfram, and Donna Christian
"Comprehensive and authoritative, Dialects at School reflects both the relevant research bases in linguistics and education and educational practices concerning language variation. The problems and examples included are authentic, coming from the authors’ own research, observations and interactions in public school classrooms, and feedback in workshops. Highlights include chapters on oral language, reading and writing in dialectally diverse classrooms, as well as a chapter on language awareness for students, offering a clear and compelling overview of how teachers can inspire students to learn more about language variation, including their own community language patterns."
The companion website for Dialects at School contains a wealth of information, including discussion questions, links of interest, as well as activities and resources. (https://routledgetextbooks.com/textbooks/9781138777453/default.php)
Other People's English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy (2019)
Vershawn Ashanti Young, Rusty Barrett, Y'Shanda Young-Rivera, and Kim Brian Lovejoy
"Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy presents an empirically grounded argument for a new approach to teaching writing to diverse students in the English language arts classroom. Responding to advocates of the “code-switching” approach, four uniquely qualified authors make the case for “code-meshing”—allowing students to use standard English, African American English, and other Englishes in formal academic writing and classroom discussions. This practical resource translates theory into a concrete road map for pre- and inservice teachers who wish to use code-meshing in the classroom to extend students’ abilities as writers and thinkers and to foster inclusiveness and creativity. The text provides activities and examples from middle and high school as well as college and addresses the question of how to advocate for code-meshing with skeptical administrators, parents, and students. Other People’s English provides a rationale for the social and educational value of code-meshing, including answers to frequently asked questions about language variation. It also includes teaching tips and action plans for professional development workshops that address cultural prejudices." (From Parlor Press).
The authors have prepared an online appendix (available here) that includes mini-units on code-meshing.
Over the past several years, the Linguistics Program at North Carolina State University, in conjunction with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, has been at the forefront of research related to dialect education and awareness for both teachers and primary/secondary school students. The materials developed by these researchers include continuing education webinars, videos, lesson plans, and workbooks for K-12 educators. Each of these resources include lesson plans that directly address AAL, but were developed to address the roles of language variation in the classroom more broadly.
Voices of North Carolina Curriculum for 8th graders (developed by Jeffrey Reaser and Walt Wolfram)
- The multimedia Voices of North Carolina dialect awareness curriculum was developed by NC State faculty members Jeffrey Reaser and Walt Wolfram in 2005 and updated in 2007. The culmination of Wolfram’s work in the public schools over the past twenty years, Voices of North Carolina is the first state-based curriculum on language variation in the country. It is designed to help teachers better meet the standard course of study for 8th grade social studies and it is endorsed by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The curriculum is designed to be teachable by teachers without any background in linguistics. The curriculum was proven to be highly successful in pilot runs in Johnston County, NC, and in Ocracoke, NC.
Linguistic Applications in the Classroom (developed by Nicolette Filson)
- Designed in 2011 by Nicolette Filson at NC State, this curriculum corresponds to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for 9th Grade English Language Arts. It is designed to provide students with the necessary tools to describe the English language through understanding its evolution and critically thinking about the consequences of that change. Language can be a challenging aspect of the English education curriculum to teach; however, this material is designed particularly so teachers who may have minimal or no linguistic background can still be successful teaching this material. Each day of the curriculum is prefaced with basic information about the material for that day, the key concepts, and, if needed, the historical or social background of the topic.
- Between February and April 2011, Jeffrey Reaser and Walt Wolfram hosted three hour-long webinars investigating dialect and language diversity in North Carolina, including "The Reality of Dialects", "Regional Dialects of NC", and "Social Dialects". These were designed for 8th grade social studies teachers, but were open to all teachers.
For a complete list of resources from NC State Linguistics, please visit their website.
Do You Speak American? For Educators - Do You Speak American? was a 2005 documentary series produced by PBS. On their companion website, there is plenty of information for educators, focused mainly on high school and college levels (available here), including specific curricula for the study of African American English in the classroom.
Several other resources have been developed by linguists for use in the classroom. These are more general resources, not about AAL specifically.
The Sociolinguistic Artifacts website was developed by Kara Becker at Reed College as a way to collect and curate sociolinguistically relevant media content. The website is frequently updated with contributions by students and other users. Each artifact submission comes with a description of the content and several tags to make searching easier. The screenshot below is the front page for artifacts tagged with African American English (also available here)
Podcasts and Radio
Podcasts and radio programs can be a great introduction to different kinds of academic topics, and can be great tools to use in the classroom setting. Below, we list several linguistically relevant podcasts, with some episode recommendations that focus on topics related to AAL.
Code Switch - Code Switch, a NPR podcast hosted by a team of journalists, including Gene Demby, Shereen Marisol Meraji, and Karen Grigsby Bates, discuss the overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture. Several of their episodes touch on language in the African American community directly or indirectly, including clips such as "Why Chaucer Said 'Ax' instead of 'Ask' and why some still do", "Challenging the whiteness of public radio", and articles like "The Journey from 'Colored' to 'Minorities' to 'People Of Color'".
Lingthusiasm - Popular linguistics podcast hosted by Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne. A wide range of topics are covered from episode to episode, but include things like etymologies, sign languages, kinship terms, and more. They also provide useful information about incorporating their podcasts in the classroom context (Using Lingthusiasm in the classroom). Episode 13, "What does it mean to sound Black? Intonation and Identity" features Dr. Nicole Holliday.
Vocal Fries - Vocal Fries is a podcast about linguistic discrimination. In February, hosts Dr. Megan Figueroa and Dr. Carrie Gillon talked to Dr. Nicole Holliday on "Beyoncé, Hoodies and Obama Linguistics", and Kelly Wright, a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, about housing discrimination via dialect discrimination on "On the Basis of Voice".
A Way with Words - A public radio program about language examined through history, culture and family.
Lexicon Valley - Lexicon Valley is a Slate podcast hosted by John McWhorter, a professor at Columbia University. Episode 84, "The Blaccent: What does it mean to sound black?" discusses some subtle differences between black and white speech.
Word. The Online Journal on African American English - Word is a blog created in 2009 by Niki Hossack, a linguistics student at New York University, and includes posts primarily by Dr. Renée Blake and several graduate students between 2009 and 2016.
John R. Rickford, Julie Sweetland, Angela E. Rickford, and Thomas Grano
"More than 50 years of scholarly attention to the intersection of language and education have resulted in a rich body of literature on the role of vernacular language varieties in the classroom. This field of work can be bewildering in its size and variety, drawing as it does on the diverse methods, theories, and research paradigms of fields such as sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, psychology, and education. Compiling most of the publications from the past half century that deal with this critical topic, this volume includes more than 1600 references (books, articles in journals or books, and web-accessible dissertations and other works) on education in relation to African American Vernacular English [AAVE], English-based pidgins and creoles, Latina/o English, Native American English, and other English vernaculars such as Appalachian English in the United States and Aboriginal English in Australia), with accompanying abstracts for approximately a third of them. This comprehensive bibliography provides a tool useful for those interested in the complex issue of how knowledge about language variation can be used to more effectively teach students who speak a nonstandard or stigmatized language variety." (From Taylor & Francis)