What's Your Local Color: Identifying & Understanding Regional Characteristics to Deepen Understanding of Regionalism

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SWBAT identify and analyze the use of dialect and the structure of a frame story by reading and reflecting upon Mark Twain's "The Notorious Jumping Frog."

Big Idea

B-L-U-E! Blue! W-H-I-T-E! White! Cheering for our local color, both in school and the community as a whole.

Welcome & Introduction: It's National Lost Penny Day!

3 minutes

As Illinoisans, my students are quite familiar with Abraham Lincoln, so I point out today is both "Lost Penny Day," and Lincoln's birthday. In a show-of-hands poll, I ask students if any of them collect coins. 

As always, the Daily Holiday serves to draw students in, building student ownership and a sense of community in the class.

The School Colors Are Blue and White, But What's Our Local Color?

20 minutes

In order to introduce the building blocks of Regional writing--local color--I begin by providing the students with a quick rundown of some of the "local color" of the city of Chicago, done in a typical "Da' Superfans" accent: Chi-town, Maxwell Street Polish, "Over By Dere," Dah-Bulls, Sout' Side, "Chelsea Dagger", etc.

I ask students what's the "local color" of our town, and provide a few minutes for them to jot down words, ideas, etc. that someone would associate with the town, those things that make it unique to the other towns surrounding it.

I then ask for a volunteer to write student responses on the board, while the class shares what they think of as the "local color" of our hometown, building on and reacting to each other's ideas, clarifying, verifying, and challenging each other's ideas and conclusions (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c). As they see other's points-of-view of their town, students will respond to these diverse perspectives, when warranted, qualifying or justifying their responses and hopefully making new connections in light of the other responses presented (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d). 

Their lists: Local Color 1Local Color 2. The words they chose all contribute to evoking a sense of time and place (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4); we discuss why our town has these characteristics, and draw some distinctions between specifically our town, the greater Chicagoland area, and the Midwest, in order to help students understand how local color can paint a small area, draw together similar areas, and establish larger characteristics as well. 

Our look at local color provides students with understanding Regional aspects in the literature we will be reading, from Mark Twain and Bret Harte in our Regionalism unit to the characteristics that craft the setting and storytelling of Stephen Crane and Kate Chopin as we move into Naturalism and Social Causes. 

Tackling Twain: Decoding Dialect and Focusing the Frame

25 minutes

Because the dialect of Mark Twain's "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" can make it challenging to read, and because students will be attempting to decode the dialect as they read, I provide time for them to read the story in class. 

I set two objectives for the students as they read, writing these tasks on the board: 

1. Address Twain's use of dialect in the story. If you come across words or phrases you do not understand or recognize, determine the meaning using a dictionary or the internet. As you read, consider how the language evokes a sense of time and place, and how the tone of the narrator and Simon Wheeler contrast. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4)

2. Identify where the "frame" of the story is. How and why does Twain switch between the
"Eastern" narrator and Simon Wheeler? What impact does the frame have on the story? On humor? (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5)

Yesterday, we introduced both Twain's dialect and his use of the frame story. Today, students are are "set loose" in order to tackle and understand these things in practice. By providing the academic environment for them to read in, I can provide any assistance they may need, once they have exhausted context clues, footnotes, and reference materials. Many of my students have grown into or fallen into the habit of having answers handed to them. Today is a step toward stressing self-directed learning, the first item identified in the new mission banner the district has adopted. 

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders, Homework

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, I ask students who may have moved to return to their regular seats and remind them that the homework is to complete anything they may not have completed in class is homework. I also ask, and address, any questions "for the good of the group."