Code-switching is changing something about yourself to fit a certain situation or audience. The way you might talk to your friends versus talking to your parents by using two different tones of voice is an example of code-switching. People code-switch to make tone, wording, and appearance fit the situation. In the book and movie, The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas, the main character Starr Carter (played by Amandla Stenberg) learns that code-switching is essential to her various friend groups, and to her safety when interacting with people of authority as a person of color.
Code-switching is a tug of war that Starr plays between her two worlds—gangs and poverty in her neighborhood in Garden Heights, and suburbia and money at Williamson High School. Through the tragedy of losing her best friend Khalil to police brutality, Starr tries to navigate her Garden Heights self while also maintaining her Williamson self.
Download the below for a lesson on code-switching using textual evidence.
Jennifer Dryden is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She is a part of the LGBTQ+ community and advocates for queer youth any way she can, including running her school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). She has a passion for reading and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her eighth year teaching. Dryden graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in journalism and mass communication (2010) and BA in English Education (2013). She attended New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute (2010), and spent some time in children’s book publishing in New York.