Inner City Life Through Drama: Imagining the Language Classroom



    1. Stanford University
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    • Shirley Brice Heath, Professor of English and Linguistics at Stanford University, has done fieldwork focusing on language and culture in communities of subordinated populations in the United States, Latin America, and the Pacific. She is the author of several books and numerous articles exploring the cultural contexts of language learning.

  • This is a slightly revised version of a plenary address delivered at the 1992 TESOL Convention, Vancouver, Canada, March 1992; many of the oral features of the text have been preserved.


Both language learning theorists and practitioners of teaching English as a second language or dialect have argued that role playing moves language learners beyond their usual performance in ordinary classroom presentations. This paper tells the story of how inner city youth organizations use dramas that young people write, cast, and direct to enable them to retain their first language or dialect while gaining standard English and preparing for job entry. The story ends with implications for the language classroom.