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Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms (Cambridge Paperback Library) Paperback – July 7, 1983

ISBN-13: 978-0521273190 ISBN-10: 0521273196

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Paperback Library
  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 7, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521273196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521273190
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'One of the classic texts in educational praxis.' American Scientist

'Deserves to be widely read by all researchers on child language.' Journal of Child Language

'A milestone in understanding the roots of school achievement.' London Review of Books

'Should become a point of reference for all discussions of spontaneous oral story telling.' Harvard Educational Review

' ... captures the elusive nature of effective ethnography: involvement and empathy yield a sound and practical analysis.' Developments in Language Teaching

Book Description

This unique social document records the intricate processes of language learning and language interaction in two working-class communities of the Piedmont Carolinas, one white and one black.

Customer Reviews

This is a fabulous ethnography and should be required reading for anyone who works with young people.
Tara Barnhart
Much of this book reads like a novel, and the ready comes to love the "characters" of these communities.
Jennifer J.
Finally, the patterns of interactions between oral and written uses of language are varied and complex.
Lorena Villarreal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Donna M. Sennett on August 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Language is power. Heath, a reflective practitioner of both human nature and schooling, provides an in-depth view of communities which epitomize the struggle for such power. In her ethnographic study of Trackton and Roadville, Heath lays bare the socializing process of children through words. The discontinuity between home and school is disturbing; a realization that students who do not fit the traditional way of schooling are left behind. Clearly illustrated is the need for teachers and students to bridge the gap which exists in relation to both language and culture, for without this effort some students will never acquire the power needed to take control of their education or pursue opportunities from which they have previously been excluded. This is must reading for student ethnographers, doctoral students, and those dedicated to school reform, particularly those in the areas of diversity in public schools, and language. This extraordinary book compares favorably to "Growing Up Literate: Learning From Inner-City Families" by Denny Taylor & Catherine Dorsey-Gaines.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Wasserman on December 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Shirley Brice Heath's Ways with Words is an immersing ethnography of communication, detailing the language socialization practices of two working-class Piedmont South Carolina communities, Roadville and Trackton, and the effects of these practices on their children's success in school. The peculiar characteristics of these two communities lend themselves particularly well to Heath's presentation of them as gestalts: both are small, geographically limited and centralized, and community members spend most of their non-working time there. Heath's thorough ethnographic description allows her to critique the oversimplifications of other studies of education; in doing so, however, she overcompensates by neglecting issues of class. The greatest contribution that Ways with Words makes to the larger field of linguistic anthropology is its tacit focus on iconicity, which strongly suggests that the emphasis on indexicality to the exclusion of iconicity in contemporary linguistic anthropology is seriously counterproductive.

Language Socialization in Roadville and Trackton
The white working-class families of Roadville have had connections to local textile mills for four generations, their relatives having come from the Appalachian Mountains to work (28) . The black working-class families of Trackton, on the other hand, have only been working in the mills for the two decades since the advent of desegregation (29). Desegregation has had an effect on more than just work: in the 1970s, black and white children started attending the same schools with both black and white teachers, leading to major difficulties for educators
Roadville and Trackton are alike in many ways: both are somewhat isolated working-class communities, neither of which occupy more than a single block, within a larger town.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Vincent D. Pisano on January 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
Shirley Brice Heath's Ways with Words is an ethnographic study of two greatly differing groups, both racially and economically, in the South-Eastern United States during the 1970s, and the difficulties created for teachers, due to language and learning differences, when they come together in the school system. These are, respectively, the black textile-working community of `Trackton', and the white business-owning townspeople of `Roadville'.

The language usage of the Trackton children often causes problems later on in the townspeople's schools. Aside from the difficulty they have with such concepts as time-space scheduling and the function of certain toys for certain purposes, due to their different learning strategies at home, class assignments can become a hindered task. First of all, language barriers exist between the teachers of Roadville and the black students from Trackton. Often times their word usage does not parallel and misunderstandings become regularity, such as the Trackton usage of the word "ain't" for "didn't" and the teacher's misunderstanding of it as "doesn't". This explains the instance of confusion in a conversation between a teacher and young Lem: "A teacher asked one day: `where is Susan? Isn't she here today?' Lem answered: "She ain't ride de bus.' The teacher responded: `She doesn't ride the bus, Lem.' Lem answered: `She do be ridin' de bus.' The teacher frowned at Lem and turned away" (Heath 276). Such miscommunications were commonplace between these two groups.

Trackton children would also have trouble following what to the teacher were simple directions. For example, Trackton children made a distinction between putting toys "away" and putting them "where they belonged" (Heath 280).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lorena Villarreal on July 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
In her seminal work, Heath (1983) paints a portrait of how children of two culturally different communities, only a few miles apart, learn to use language at home and school. The role of language within these two communities is deeply connected to the habits and values shared among its members. Knowledge of children's ways with words enables teachers to bring these ways into the classroom to make learning meaningful.
At the center of this work are Roadville and Trackton, two working-class communities situated in the Piedmont Carolinas. Roadville is a white working-class community with generations tied to the textile mills in the area. Trackton is a black working-class community whose current members work in the mills. Both communities are tied to the interests of the townspeople - mainstream blacks and whites who are school-oriented and hold power in the region. In collaboration with Heath, the townspeople sought to understand the effects of preschool home and community environments on the learning of those language structures and uses that were needed for classroom and job settings.
In the ten years that Heath was immersed in the culture of these communities, her ethnographies of communication which detail the ways with words into which each community socializes their children point to three general findings. The first is that patterns of language use in any community are in agreement with other cultural patterns. These patterns condition the interactional rules for occasions of language use. Second, the factors involved in preparing children for school-oriented, mainstream success are deeper than differences in formal structures of language. The language socialization process is complex and cannot be reduced to single-factor explanations.
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More About the Author

Shirley Brice Heath, linguistic anthropologist, is an eclectic scholar whose writings and documentary films tell the stories of children and adolescents learning on their own time (and in their own way). From fieldwork in South African townships, small towns in England, and families and communities in the US, she reveals the creative explorations of science and art the young undertake as they adapt to changing social and economic circumstances. She has received international awards for her work in Latin American studies, eighteenth-century children's literature, social entrepreneurship, language and literacy development, arts learning,and human development. She is Margery Bailey Professor of English and Dramatic Literature and Professor of English, Emerita, at Stanford University.

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Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms (Cambridge Paperback Library)
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