This lesson falls near the end of our study on Realism, but just at the beginning of our investigation of Mark Twain's literature as a model for later American literature. Last class period students were given notes about relevant literary terms related to humor and satire, and we constructed group examples of these elements in action. They were also given links to digital materials to further explore their own dialect in relation to other American dialects and to investigate societal attitudes associated with varying dialects. Students should arrive today with the conceptual understanding of dialect to more deeply understand Twain's literature.
To start off today's lesson, students will use their reflections from last class period's homework to first share their ideas with their assigned small groups to compare and contrast their reactions to the dialect links. While discussing this information with their groups, they should focus on what specific articles and ideas they were most interested in and found most helpful to their understanding of what dialect is on a conceptual level.
After students have had two minutes to discuss their reactions, the whole class will come together to share their findings, reactions, and evaluation of the linked material. This process should only take a few minutes, but it will be vital for warming up for today's interaction with Twain's text and generating student engagement with the focus on language use, which is often difficult. Many times students are willing to engage in discussions about larger ideas presented in text, but they are hesitant or resistant to actually evaluating the language. Basing our discussion here on the function of language sets the tone for our entire day discussing this topic.
Once we have discussed student reflections, we will move on to applying our knowledge of dialect and Twain's use of humor (discussed last class period) to "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Since Twain employs phonetic spellings and regionalisms to his text, I have found in years past that students are often hesitant to engage in reading the text aloud (despite that being the only way to truly hear the language use in all its glory!). To counter this and allow students to comfortably evaluate his use of language and humor, I have opted to play students a Librivox recording of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (14:06) that I feel does the best job of using dramatic reading while staying true to the text. Instead of just listening to the text and retroactively analyzing it, however, we will follow the procedure outlined below.
As a final collaborative activity looking at language and dialects and their power, students will have the opportunity to evaluate an informational text of their choice to further examine an idea about dialect, the evolution of language, and the relationship between language and society in America. In order to complete this activity, students will follow the procedure outlined below.
As a final activity to monitor student mastery of dialect in written expression and practice writing in the narrative form, students will have the opportunity to write a 1-2 page narrative essay using narrative elements. To maximize the alignment of this activity to the Common Core Standards and practice both language skills and writing skills simultaneously, students should be especially sure to
To help students better understand narrative elements that should be represented in their essays, students will individually view the Narrative Elements Slideshare below to review these previously-learned concepts.
After viewing the slideshow, students should use the North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns website to choose a dialect from the United States with which to write their narrative essay. Before beginning to write, students should first briefly outline the narrative's sequence, character information, and point of view to help them organize their narratives. This step will ensure students meet the narrative requirements. In the past I have not required students to outline their narratives, but I have found in prior years that without planning, students tend to launch into the "fun" part of the dialect-writing instead of first ensuring that the story makes sense.
After they outline their narratives, students should be sure to steer clear of employing stereotypes they feel are associated with their chosen dialects. It is likely that students will choose a dialect that is unfamiliar to them, so I will also encourage them to do some outside research on that region to help their stories more regionally accurate.
In the remaining class time, students will be able to begin writing their narratives using grammar and phonetics that match the dialect and region selected. These will be shared next week after I evaluate them for appropriateness.
Next week, students that wish to do so will share their narratives with their classmates. I have learned in the past that it's a potentially dangerous situation to let them read them aloud before doing so in case they violate the rules on avoiding stereotypes.