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Ellis says, "The key to achievement is how well children master Standard English the language of commerce." EBONICS is about respecting the home language children speak when they enter school. Ellis has developed a teaching system that will build a bridge from Ebonics to Standard English. Ellis started work on DOMINO while teaching second and fourth grades in St. Croix. Part of her assignment was to teach reading and writing in Standard English, in spite of the fact that her students spoke in dialect and in all cases spoke Standard English as a second language (ESL). "The material for Domino was collected in my classroom during my lunch time strictly for my own pleasure," says Ellis. "The play of the children, and their unabashed joyfulness, affected and delighted me. I felt that the children and their songs were like gems I had discovered in my own backyard. In return the children were very motivated to teach me!" Ellis developed a reading curriculum that incorporated the children's own poetry and culture into their daily lessons, and therein lies the real treasure; in only a few short months the children had raised their previous reading levels one to three years. Over 60 songs, clap patterns, jump rope chants, jokes and elimination games comprise this charming compendium. Domino is accompanied by a live sound field recording on cassette straight from the playgrounds and backyards of St. Croix. It is designed for ages 4 through 12. DOMINO will delight parents as well as teachers. The cassette's syncopated rhythms make the games fun and easy to learn especially since the movements and hand motions are depicted in photographs. There are easy to read rhythmic charts that outline the correct timing for each movement. Every school and local library should make Domino available. Kids will love this book because, as Ellis points out, they can teach the teachers and help them learn something for a change! Ellis shows how teachers can use the home language of another culture to build a bridge to Standard English. Domino should be used as a complete teaching package for all the language arts, music, social studies, American history, Afro-American studies, or simply for fun, DOMINO is truly an excellent tool with proven results. Children will recognize words and rhythms from their own playgrounds and sidewalks within the unique live sound field recording from of the U.S. Virgin Islands.From the Author:
One of the difficulties I had as a teacher was in understanding the dialect, and one of the difficulties the children had as students was in understanding my dialect. Now, these children were required to learn to read by using books that were written in standard English. Yet the children don't speak standard English. Standard English is a second language for them. A person must first speak the language before they can read and write in it. Look at babies, first you learn to talk then everything else will follow. Speech is the root of all language learning. That is why the poetry of children's music is a perfect tool to use as a bridge from the home language to Standard English. Some people who speak in a patois, or a dialect of standard English, can experience a barrier that may keep them separate from the mainstream of society. Standard English is the language of financial success. In order for people to join in the American dream they are required to speak the language of currency.Dialects which differ from the standard spoken and written language have come to be considered inferior to the standard language. Since the dialect is considered inferior, it is easy to embarrass children when we ask them not to speak that way, or tell them they are wrong. In embarrassing them, we cause them to feel shame about who they are and what they are speaking. Unfortunately, their whole family may speak this way and an even bigger conflict erupts. It is very difficult to carry a burden of shame about the people you love. Children are not psychologically sophisticated enough to handle this kind of dilemma, most adults can't handle it either. Their shame makes them feel alienated from and disrespected by the society they wish to join. It should seem obvious that when you shame and alienate someone, you don't give them any reason to respect you or join you. Like it or not, this is how children feel. The exact opposite of motivation! It takes more than phonics to teach reading in this situation, there must be a more humanistic approach that involves the whole child.It is very important for all peoples to have their language respected. If it can be communicated that their language is colorful and descriptive and eloquent in its own way, (which it is) then we can give their language the respect it deserves, and can then respect the people who speak it. People will then feel more inclined to respect us in return, and will be more inclined to join in with mainstream culture. Motivation is the key to learning anything.
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