Chapter 2: The Role of Language and Story (Understanding Poverty-Ruby Payne)

According to Dr. Payne, one must consider elements of language in order to truly understand the culture of poverty. The 5 registers of language, and characteristics of every language in the world, are: frozen (Lord's Prayer, wedding vows), formal (communication at work and school, grammatically correct and in complete sentences), consultative (formal conversation), casual (incomplete sentences, incorrect grammar, general word choice), and intimate (between lovers or twins). The basic point of this chapter is that students in poverty speak casual register, whereas everything AT school (teachers, standardized tests, etc.) use formal register. That means the kiddos just don't understand what it is we are trying to say, which means they'll never perform at the level we expect. Sad, but it makes sense.
There are several practical ideas the author gives for helping teach students to convert to formal register. They include:
  • Have them write in their casual register, then translate to formal.
  • Establish as part of the discipline plan a way for students to write in formal register what they have done wrong, which will prevent them from being reprimanded.
  • Graphic organizers
  • Tell stories both in formal and casual registers. (I am definitely planning to use this strategy this year!)
  • Make up and use stories in all subject areas, and even in guiding behavior.