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Lesson Plan

Dialect Detectives: Exploring Dialect in Great Expectations

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Dialect Detectives: Exploring Dialect in Great Expectations

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Patrick Striegel

Patrick Striegel

Tolono, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Great Expectations is rich in dialogue and is written in the dialect of the working class and the poor of Victorian England.  The things characters say and how they speak is one of the ways in which readers get to know them.  What does Dickens reveal about his characters using dialect?  This lesson is based on the different words that appear in the first book of the novel.  It will help students develop a comfort level and confidence in dealing with unfamiliar dialect words and phrases.

This lesson uses Great Expectations as an example, but this activity is effective with any work of literature in which dialect is important.

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Learning, celebrating, and sharing dialect should be an ongoing experience in a diverse, multi-cultural language arts classroom.  Wheeler and Swords explain that “understanding the nature of language variation (across region, ethnic identity, social class, language styles, and registers) provides language arts teachers with a fertile ground from which to build a welcoming, multicultural language arts classroom” (471).  Furthermore, learning about other regional and vernacular dialects allows students to “honor linguistic and cultural diversity, all the while fostering students’ mastery of the Language of Wider Communication…” (471).

Wheeler, Rebecca and Rachel Swords. "Codeswitching: Tools of Language and Culture Transform the Dialectally Diverse Classroom." Language Arts 81.6 (July 2004): 470-480.

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