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December 09

Author Joel Chandler Harris was born in 1848.

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Author Joel Chandler Harris was born in 1848.

Grades 9 – 12
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Joel Chandler Harris is best known for his Uncle Remus stories. Harris collected the Uncle Remus tales from the stories shared by slaves. His use of phonetic dialogue in his stories allowed later authors to use vernacular in their renditions of regional tales. Harris's stories remain a good example of regional folk literature from the American South.

 

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY

 

 

One striking aspect of Harris' stories is that in conveying the regional dialect the dialogue is written phonetically, which lends itself to oral reading of the stories. This vividly evokes the stories' original cultural milieu. Select a short segment of Uncle Remus with prominent dialogue and read it aloud to your students. Then read a segment from another book that features a different type of phonetic dialogue, such as The Witches by Roald Dahl, and listen to a Gullah Tale. After reading the three different examples of phonetic dialogue, have students use the interactive Venn diagram to compare them.

One thing all three examples have in common is that they render dialogue that has a vivid sound and feel. Challenge students to write a brief dialogue that might occur between themselves and a friend or parent. Encourage them to pay attention to phrasing and vocabulary, so that the dialogue sounds realistic. Next, have them exchange papers with a partner and read each other's dialogue aloud. Did the dialogue sound the same aloud as they imagined it when they wrote it? They should then revise any parts of the dialogue that did not sound realistic. They can repeat this process until they have a realistic dialogue.

 

WEBSITES

 

 
  • Biography of Joel Chandler Harris

    This site provides information about the life of author Joel Chandler Harris, as well as links to the books that made him famous.

     

  • Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings

    Links from this site take readers to songs and sayings by Harris.

     

  • Storytelling Workshop with Gerald Fierst

    In this Scholastic workshop, students hone their storytelling skills. There are online activities, examples, and practice opportunities included in this resource.

     

  • Gullah Tales

    This resource offers examples of folk tales in both English and Gullah, a phonetically written language. Students can hear folk tales read aloud in both languages.

     

RELATED RESOURCES

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Codeswitching: Tools of Language and Culture Transform the Dialectally Diverse Classroom

Grades   K – 8  |  Professional Library  |  Journal

Codeswitching: Tools of Language and Culture Transform the Dialectally Diverse Classroom

This article shows how to affirm and draw on the dialect diversity of students to foster the learning of Standard English.