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We Do Language: English Language Variation in the Secondary English Classroom


Anne H. Charity Hudley 


Christine Mallinson

Hi Res Cover

Available in hardback and paperback on

Teachers College Press, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Also available digitally on Kindle and on Nook!

Click here to view the table of contents

and click here to follow our book page on Facebook!

Secondary English Educators

Click here to view resources that accompany each book chapter!

You can also download our new free iPhone app, “Valuable Voices“! The app provides 12 ready-to-implement exercises for students and educators — one a month, for a year’s worth of teaching — to build awareness of language and culture. The teaching exercises are geared toward secondary English but can easily be adapted for various grades and content areas. Please download it, use it, and let us know what you liked — and didn’t! To download the app, go to the App Store on your iPhone and type in “Valuable Voices”. To our knowledge this is the only sociolinguistics app of its kind. We couldn’t have done it without our team of assistants and our teacher consultants – thank you all!


Leave a comment and let us know how you have used these resources in your own teaching.  You can also check out our general “Resources for Educators” page, which provides information about language variation and education relevant to educators across grade levels and content areas.


“In We Do Language: English Language Variation in the Secondary Classroom, [the authors] have penned a volume that lays out in an accessible, pragmatic, and adaptable way the thorny problem space that secondary English/language arts professionals face as they do their jobs, with intentionality and dedication, in classrooms that are multiply defined—by socio-economic status, culture, gender, sexuality, ideology, and other vectors of the human condition and experience. Drawing together a richly articulated and manageable array of theoretical principles and pedagogical frameworks about language, literacy, and culture, Charity Hudley and Mallinson connect these principles and frameworks to action. We Do Language is grounded, thereby, in specific examples of the work that teachers and students are actually doing, exemplifying, as their title suggests, that the primary goal of their research has been to investigate what success looks like when educators and students actually ‘do language.’” 

—From the Foreword by Dr. Jacqueline Jones Royster, Ivan Allen Chair in Liberal Arts and Technology and Dean, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Institute of Technology


From the Preface of our Book:

When author and professor Toni Morrison gave a Nobel Lecture after accepting a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, she explained the centrality of language to our daily lives: “We die. That may be the meaning of life,” Morrison said. “But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives” (Morrison, 1993).

Language is a nuanced, complex social tool that is used in different ways and in different contexts, as we are all culturally and linguistically diverse speakers. In this book, we investigate how educators and students “do language” in diverse ways within secondary English classrooms. We examine the complexities of how educators and students communicate with one another as well as understand what is being communicated by the authors whose novels, plays, poems, and other texts are commonly read in secondary English classrooms.

We believe that knowledge about language, language variation, culture, and communication is critical to the mission of helping all students achieve in the secondary English classroom. Throughout this book, concepts, skills, strategies, activities, models, and vignettes developed by us and by other teachers show how to integrate and apply information about English language variation to secondary English classrooms. By developing insight into and appreciation for the nuances of language, by learning to communicate effectively, and by working to understand diverse modes of expression, students acquire and hone the linguistic skills that are not only central to academic advancement but that are also valued in our multicultural society.


“Full of advice and support for walking hand-in-hand with students into imaginative ways of understanding the realities of language variation, this book is pure joy for teachers and college counselors. Even more important is the guarantee that when these educators embrace the humanity and philosophy so touchingly illustrated by the authors, the intrigue of thinking deeply about speaking, writing, and reading is sure to follow for students.”

—Back cover endorsement by Dr. Shirley Brice Heath, Margery Bailey Professor of English & Dramatic Literature and Professor of Linguistics, Emerita, Stanford University


We Do Language is refreshingly different, as now educators are shown how to value their own language variation and draw on their own linguistic identities as teaching resources. This work is long overdue and much needed. African American English is here to stay, and this book affirms and supports educators and African American students, their language, and their culture. I can’t thank the authors enough for writing this powerfully thoughtful, thought provoking, and critical analysis of language variation.”

—Back cover endorsement by Dr. Donna Ford, Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor of Special Education & Teaching and Learning, Peabody College of Education, Vanderbilt University


To learn more, contact us and visit our Facebook page.

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