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Charleston teachers to train in identifying Gullah, Geechee

Posted May 12

— The Charleston County School District is planning to train teachers to identify the patterns of Gullah and Geechee language, as part of an effort to better serve student speakers.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports (http://bit.ly/2pDXUHX) that the professional development courses will take place before the start of the 2017-2018 school year. The school district began looking at ways to address language needs after school board member Michael Miller heard concerns that some teachers had no familiarity with the dialects, whose pre-Revolutionary War linguistic origins trace back to the west coast of Africa via the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Interim arts and world language coordinator Catherine Hines-McCormack says instructors will teach students to code-switch— intentionally moving between ways of speaking depending on the context, like standardized testing.

"We see it as a positive, but we know that historically it has not been viewed as a positive," Hines-McCormack said.

The goal is to help teachers understand and appreciate their students' home language.

Working with Gullah and Geechee-speaking students is not just a concern on the Sea Islands or in other rural areas, where the Gullah culture took root. School district staff in the past year have learned that a Spanish-speaking Latina student who come to Stall High in North Charleston had learned a form of Geechee from the students there.

Miller said the goal is to give every student an equal opportunity in the classroom.

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This story has been corrected to show the full name of the newspaper, The Post and Courier of Charleston.

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