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LaShaundra Tyler December 4, 2013

The Fence:
An African American Vernacular English vs. Standard English Codeswitching Game

Committee Members Dr. Joseph Williams, Chair Dr. Heidi Skurat-Harris Dr. Michael Kleine

Growing up, I thought the only language that was correct was Standard American English. I was led to believe through the educational system that anyone who spoke outside of the standard needed to be corrected and that they were not considered smart. I deemed it necessary to correct anyone who spoke outside of Standard English, including my own parents. I didnt understand that all forms of language could be appreciated until I got to graduate school.

Language is a part of ones identity and their connection to community. This seems to be especially important to African American students. African American students feel stripped of their identity when they are overly corrected in the classroom without acknowledgement that their language should be appreciated. It strips them of their confidence and self-esteem in the classroom as well as on standardized language arts tests. Since 1970, African American students have scored below 75% of American whites on most standardized tests. As Smitherman, Greene and Walker, and Harper have studied, African American parents who are actively involved in their childs education at home only allow their children to speak Standard English because of these notions as well. African American parents who dont allow their children to speak their language of origin are inadvertently advocating that African American Vernacular English

(AAVE) is not an acceptable language and are disconnecting them from their community. Parents are very influential in their childrens education and with this one-sided view of language; they could unknowingly be a part of their childrens failure with language. Parents often lack awareness that the childs original language needs to be embraced and appreciated while learning Standard English.

One way that children can learn to appreciate and embrace their language is through codeswitching. Codeswitching is the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation. The purpose of my project is to create a game using the theories associated with African American Vernacular English and code-switching to improve African American elementary and middle school students skills with Standard English. There is an achievement gap between African American students and their counterparts. Research conducted by Geneva Smitherman, Lisa Delpit, William Labov, Daniel DoBell, and Rebecca Wheeler to name a few have consistently indicated that African American students continue to score low on standardized tests as a result of the struggle between AAVE and SE. Despite pedagogies which attempt to address this struggle, creating a game using AAVE and codeswitching theories and pedagogies can help students with grasping Standard English. The game is being created to make a statement to students that AAVE is okay and to address their educational challenges learning Standard English.

Literature Review
AAVE has a bad reputation which stems back to slavery. Those who spoke this language were viewed as unintelligent and were deemed unable to succeed in life. (Labov, DoBell, Gates) Because of this view, even today African American children are not allowed to speak AAVE in the classroom or at home. Geneva Smitherman, in Talkin and Testifyin, states that AAVE does not indicate intelligence nor does it guarantee that one will not be successful. She does this by showing that those who are masters of SE are not always successful. Smitherman goes on to say that AAVE has its roots in African language and should be appreciated as such.

Lisa Delpit, Rebecca Wheeler, Geneva Smitherman, Rachel Swords, Peter Elbow, Amanda Godley et al, Deric Greene and Felicia R. Walker, Dara Hill, and Frederick Harper et al are among many who offer insight on how to deal with AAVE in the classroom. Children should be able to express themselves in their natural language while learning SE. Speaking in AAVE does not indicate that they are cognitively deficient.

Simply correcting a student does not allow them to learn the language but it can cause them to shut down in the classroom if they are constantly corrected. In order to curve this, teachers can use books such as Flossie and the Fox to show that its okay to speak in AAVE and show them SE in the process.

Games in the New World, Education, and Language

Bogost and Squire are advocates that video games should be used in the classroom because they can help students learn a subject that they are not interested in or alienated from. Squire uses a game called Civilization to demonstrate this point. Civilization invoked fantasies and personal goals for students while teaching world history. In other words, players saw the game as a fun way to learn world history. It also helped students to socialize. Video games can help students learn any subject if they are able to engage and somehow cocreate with them. Games can change their outlook on life and help them to dream. I am becoming more convinced that video games should be embraced and supported in the classroom and at home. Gee argues that games help us acquire language and skills quicker than writing and print. They help us to be proactive in our learning and producers of our own knowledge. Just as language has rules so do games. As Juul claims in his book Half-Real, games have real rules that can be followed in a fictional world. Although my game The Fence will contain a fictional world with fictional characters, it will involve the language rules of AAVE and SE as well as rules that will be used to complete the game.

Scope and Methodology

The scope of this project will consist of a narrative of my personal experience with AAVE and SE tied to a study of the linguistic theory behind African American Vernacular from historical and current standpoints. I will use this theory to build a model for a game that parents can use to teach their children to appreciate all language while learning Standard English, which is still essential to success in school and in their careers. I will study game pedagogy and how it can be useful in developing a game for young children that will involve code-switching between AAVE and SE. I want the game to be based on cultural norms while: a. teaching an appreciation of AAVE b. teaching children to code-switch for their success in future careers, on standardized tests, and future educational endeavors c. giving parents a tool to help themselves and their children with code-switching d. taking the traditional practices of code-switching in the classroom and translating it into current video game technology

e. continuing the social integration of language in an educational game via an app involving AAVE and SE. However, I will first develop a physical game that will simulate the video game. I will keep a game design journal that will assist me in developing and improving the codeswitching game. I will also conduct usability tests to obtain feedback on how to improve the game.

Thesis Chapters
Introduction African American Vernacular English vs. Standard American English Code-switching Pedagogies in the Classroom Language in Games Game Theory and Design The Fence Conclusion

Projected Timeline
December 9- Submit my exemption request to IRB December 13- Complete my proposal defense by this date February 1 Conduct the first usability test of the game by this date

February 15- Submit the first draft by this date March 1March15April 1April 15 May 1Conduct the second usability test of the game by this date Submit the second draft by this date Conduct the third usability test by this date Submit final draft by this date Defend by this date **The project may carry over into the summer months. The

defense date may be changed to August 1st.

Working Bibliography
African American Vernacular English vs. Standard American English
Delpit, Lisa. The Politics of Literate Discourse. (1993): 285-95.Rpt. in Norton Book in Compostion Studies. Ed. Susan Miller. New York: Norton, 2009. 1311-1320. Print. DoBell, Daniel. "Thirty Years of Influence: A Look Back at Geneva Smitherman's Talkin and Testifyin." The Journal of Negro Education 77.2 (2008): 157-167. Print. <> Gates, Henry Louis. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 1989. Print. Labov, William. Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, 1972. Print. Smitherman, Geneva. Language Diversity in the Classroom: From Intention to Practice. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Univ., 2003. Print. Smitherman, Geneva. Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1986. Print. Smitherman, Geneva. Word from the Mother: Language and African Americans. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print. Speicher, Barbara L. and Seane M. McMahon. "Some African-American Perspectives on Black English Vernacular." Language in Society 21.3 (1992): 383-407. Print. <>.

Code-Switching Practices in the Classroom

Elbow, Peter. "Inviting the Mother Tongue: Beyond "Mistakes", "Bad English, and Wrong Language"." Journal of Advanced Composition (1999): 359-388. Godley, Amanda, Julie Sweetland, Rebecca S. Wheeler, Angela Minnici, and Brian D. Carpenter. "Preparing Teachers for Dialectally Diverse Classrooms." Educational Researcher 35.8 (2006): 30-37. Print. <>. Greene, Deric M. and Felicia R. Walker. "Recommendations to Public Speaking Instructors for the Negotiation of Code-Switiching Practices among Black English-Speaking African American Students." The Journal of Negro Education 73.4 (2004): 435-442. Print. <>.

Harper, Frederick, Kisha Braithwaite, and Ricardo D. LaGrange. "Ebonics and Academic Achievement: The Role of the Counselor." The Journal of Negro Education 67.1 (1998): 25-34. Print. <>. Hill, Dara K. "Code Switching Pedagogies and African American Student Voices: Acceptance and Resistance." Journal of Adolescent adn Adult Literacy 53.2 (2009): 120-131. Print. <>. Wheeler, Rebecca and Rachel Swords. "Codeswitching: Tools of Language and Culture Transform the Dialectally Diverse Classroom." Language Arts 81.6 (2001): 470-480. Print. <>. Wheeler, Rebecca. "Teaching English in the World: Code-Switch to Teach Standard English." The English Journal 94.5 (2005): 108-112. Print. <>. Whitney, Jessica. "Five Easy Pieces: Steps toward Integrating AAVE into the Classroom." The English Journal 94.5 (2005): 64-69. Print. <>.

Game Theory and Game Design

Bogost, Ian. The Rhetoric of Video Games. The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games and Learning. Ed. Katie Salen. Massachussetts Institute of Technology, 2008. 117-140. Print. Gee, James Paul., and Hayes Elizabeth. Language in a Digital Age. Routledge, 2011. Print. Gee, James Paul. What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave. Macmillan, 2003. Print. Juul, Jesper. Half-real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2005. Print. Squire, Kurt. The Rhetoric of Video Games. The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth Games, and Learning. Ed. Katie Salen. Massachussetts Institute of Technology, 2008. 167-198. Print. Vlieghe, Joachim, Jeroen Bourgonjon, Kris Rutten, and Ronald Soetaert. n.d. Web. October 2013 < Rutten-and-Soetaert-What-Happens-off-the-Field.pdf&gt.