The Way You Speak Depends on the Situation (Teaching Tip)

Common Releasing One Day It'll All Make Sense ...
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I got the idea for today’s Teaching Tip as I read the memoir by rapper, actor, and songwriter, Common. His book is entitled “One Day  It’ll All Make Sense”

There are a few passages in the memoir that were written by his mother. When I read this one, I immediately thought of how it could be used as a discussion point for the classroom.

“I remember one time when Rashid was maybe eight years old, he overheard me on the telephone talking to a professor . . . When I got off the phone, Rashid was giving me a funny look.

“Mama, how come you talking white?”

It took all of my composure not to bust out laughing. He was giving me that little-boy serious look, like he was deeply concerned.

“I’m not ‘talking white,’ honey. I’m talking with someone from the university, and when I do that I change up my vocabulary.”

He still looked confused.

“Look, Rashid, do you talk to me the same way you talk to your cousin?”

He shook his head.

“Do you talk to your cousin the same way you talk to God when you pray?”

He shook his head again.

“Well, see, that’s what I’m talking about.l You change the way you speak depending on whom you’re addressing.”

Since he’s been grown, he’s mentioned that moment to me several times.

“Now I understand,” he says. “The words you choose matter.”

 I couldn’t help but read that passage and think about using it in a classroom discussion.

Part of the English program requires us to teach students how to communicate orally. You can check the curriculum document to see how you could apply this quotation to your specific grade.

One of the Grade 7 expectations from the Oral Communication strand states that students need to be able to “demonstrate an understanding of appropriate speaking behaviour in most situations, adapting contributions and responses to suit the purpose and audience.”

After reading the above passage, you could brainstorm a variety of situations or people that the students would have to interact with and how they would speak differently for each. You could have them role-play discussions with friends at the park, a police officer, a store clerk, a judge, their grandmother, etc.

I hope you enjoy my Teaching Tip Tuesday series. There are over 100 useful tips, tricks, and lessons that you can access at any time. See you here next week for a new one.