Is bruv standard English?

After marking some less than inspiring SPAG tests last week I decided to try and modify my teaching this week to not only incorporate more opportunities to address gaps but also to cover them in different way. In order to make the learning purposeful, all of the work was related to our current English text High Rise Mystery. On Thursday we looked at the books use of non-standard English especially in regards to the character George. The class grasped the idea fairly well but for many it was not a concept they were as familiar with as they should be. After being asked by one pupil if ‘bruv’ and ‘oi’ were considered standard forms it dawned on me that one lesson wasn’t going to be enough. Friday was a good chance to consolidate learning rather than leaping forward onto something else.

Thursday’s lesson used text from High Rise Mystery but I wanted to try and vary their interaction with non standard forms so I turned to a few graphic novels for Friday. Looking forward in my planning allowed me to see using speech was looming on the horizon so I decided to get a little head start on that as well.

We started off with a quick task to see how confident they were with standard English after Thursday’s lesson. Using a page from New Kid by Jerry Craft, they had to identify where the non-standard forms where and then change them into standard form. This was more of a warm up exercise than anything else but it did present a few misconceptions that I was able to correct early. The easiest example was how some mistook Jordan’s use of the word ‘kay for a name and not a shortened form of okay or who’s meaning who was not who is.

A page from New Kid by Jerry Craft used to start the lesson. This task highlighted several misconceptions and also required a reminder for some that capital letters should still be applied, too many followed the pattern of this example and thought a less formal task meant capitals didn’t matter.

After refreshing their brains and reminding them of the need for correct punctuation we moved on to looking at a page from Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron. The name alone should tell you this isn’t a book for younger readers but just in case it doesn’t please don’t buy this for your class unless you want a lot of parents at your door. That being said it is a brilliant read for adults.

Southern Bastards is set in the south of America so it’s full of non-standard English throughout, the only challenge was finding a page that didn’t have swearwords littered throughout. I settled on a page that featured Jad, a young boy who uses ain’t repeatedly. Perfect.

Before turning the words of Jad and protagonist Earl into a standard form, we covered the rules of punctuating speech. This time rather than simply annotating the panels the children would turn them into written speech between the two characters. This would provide a further opportunity to reinforce the rules of standard English and after being out of school for so long it would give a lot of the class a chance to recap writing speech again.

Although it wasn’t always perfect the majority of the class were able to convert the pages into standard English and by the end they were starting to punctuate the conversation correctly. Using graphic novels rather than the plain text from High Rise Mystery made the speech punctation easier for many to pick up again after a while away. It allowed them to see clearly which words were said by the character and who said them. This should prepare them well for their upcoming work where they will be using High Rise Mystery to inspire their own writing and they will be expected to use dialogue in it to progress the story. Thankfully by the end of the lesson everyone agreed that bruv was non-standard.

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