Linguistics at school

Linguistics at school: Language awareness in primary and secondary education. Ed. by Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xv, 311. ISBN 9780521887014. $99 (Hb).

Reviewed by Lynn D. Sims, Austin Peay State University

This book successfully demonstrates how collaboration between linguists and educators helps shift the teaching of language in primary and secondary (K-12) classrooms from a traditional to a linguistically informed approach. The projects discussed are informative and, as a linguist who teaches linguistics to English education majors, I consider this book a must-read.

The book contains twenty-three chapters divided into three parts. Part 1, ‘Linguistics from the top down: Encouraging institutional change’, includes eight chapters highlighting projects that have integrated linguistics into K-12 education through changes to curricula and standards, teacher education, and linguist-teacher collaboration. Chs. 3, 4, and 5 address projects in England, Scotland, and Australia, respectively. The remaining chapters address projects in the United States. Each chapter is useful, three of them in particular. In his chapter, Wayne O’Neil summarizes the different outcomes of three separate linguistics integration projects, demonstrating why continued collaboration between linguists and teachers is crucial to curricular change. Richard Hudson outlines the process of integrating linguistics into the national curriculum and explains the successful outcomes of connecting knowledge about language to the teaching of literature, creative writing, and foreign languages. Jeffrey Reaser details the development of a high-school curriculum based around Do you speak American?, a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) series, and an eighth-grade social studies curriculum based on sociocultural and dialect patterns in North Carolina.

Part 2, ‘Linguistics from the bottom up: Encouraging classroom change’, contains seven chapters that include the insights gained by linguists working directly with K-12 students and teachers. One theme that emerges is the importance of connecting linguistics to the scientific method of discovery when working inside the K-12 classroom. Rebecca S. Wheeler discusses the use of contrastive analysis, the scientific method, and code-switching as metacognition when teaching academic writing. Maya Honda, Wayne O’Neil, and David Pippin provide a detailed explanation of how one fifth-grade English class approaches and solves morphophonological problem sets. Kristin Denham discusses the importance of integrating linguistics at the primary school level, of working closely with primary teachers and students, and of teaching future K-12 teachers how to incorporate their linguistics knowledge into their classrooms.

Part 3, ‘Vignettes: Voices from the classroom’, is an excellent conclusion to this text, containing eight chapters that relate strategies used by K-12 teachers to bring linguistics into their classrooms. Topics include using dialect/register and grammar/stylistic choice to analyze literature (Angela Roh), using code-switching to teach formal writing (Karren Mayer and Kirstin New), and using contrastive analysis to teach grammar (Deidre Carlson). Caroline Thomas and Sara Wawer discuss the integration of linguistics into an Australian curriculum, and Athena McNulty discusses collaborating with a linguist to produce successful, linguistically informed lessons. David Pippin explains the use of a unique literary text to illustrate the rhetorical effects of grammatical choices. Leatha Fields-Carey and Suzanne Sweat discuss the use of the Voices of North Carolina curriculum to teach dialect awareness. Dan Clayton discusses innovative ways to use slang as a springboard for teaching grammar, variation, and change.