Classroom Conversations: African-American English in On-Task Class Activities
Most high school teachers and students agree that Standard American English (SAE), or "formal" English, is the expected language of the classroom (Godley, Carpenter, & Werner, 2007); however, many students do not use exclusively SAE while engaged in class discussions. In this study, I examine when and how African American high school students in Pittsburgh use African American English (AAE) during focused, on task discussions in the classroom. I show that a teacher’s role in a conversation affects how students use language, and that as teachers involve themselves more in a conversation or position themselves as an authority relative to their students, their students use less AAE. I also show that students’ stances relative to various aspects of the classroom affect what varieties of language they use, and that students may be using features of AAE as a resource to communicate more than just the answer to a question.