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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|
- compare and contrast the difference between casual conversation and more formal, standard English, and understand when each is acceptable.
- increase their knowledge of dialect by listening to and describing a variety of different dialect examples, as well as discussing why dialects exist, how they are formed, and why they vary.
- communicate dialect in visual, auditory, and written form by producing a Voki.
- identify and define dialects in poetry and classical literature.
- Begin the session with a class discussion about how students talk in different situations. Ask your students:
- Do you talk differently when you are with your friends versus with your parents? Why?
- Do you speak differently in the classroom versus out of school with your friends? How?
- Introduce the concept of “dialect” and “standard English” to students. Work with the students to come to a shared definition for "dialect" and display it on the whiteboard or overhead for the class. A common definition is “a variation in pronunciation, meaning, or usage from standard language whose origin may be attributed to geography, social class, or culture.”
- Hand out copies of both poems (“When Malindy Sings" and “We Wear the Mask”) and the Venn Diagram printout. Read aloud the two poems and have the students follow along, one in dialect (”When Malindy Sings”) and one in standard English (”We Wear the Mask”), or the recordings of the two poems can be played to the class. Explain to the students that these two poems were written by the same author, Paul Laurence Dunbar.
- Instruct the students to individually use the Venn Diagram printout or online interactive tool to compare and contrast the language Dunbar uses in the dialect poem to the language used in the standard English poem. Ask students to find specific words, grammatical usage, punctuation, and spelling that signals whether the author is using dialect or standard English.
- As a class, discuss the student answers from the Venn Diagram and ask the following:
- Discuss regional language differences with the students. Explain that depending on the part of the country in which students live, they may use or pronounce certain words in a distinctive way. Start writing examples on the board, and ask students to add their own examples to the list.
- Hero, grinder, submarine sandwich, hoagie, gondola
- Pop, soda, Coke, fountain drink
- Have the students consider the pronunciation these common words: water, gas, and tomato. Write down these regional pronunciations on the board.
- “waahter (wä•tәr)” – Connecticut
- “gaz (gaz)” – Philadelphia
- “tomahto (tәmä•tō)” – Boston
- “tomayto (tәmā•tō)” ” – Midwest
- Discuss with the students the use of “you”, “you all”, or “y’all." Explain that these words are used more commonly based on the region in which you live. Ask the students to suggest additional examples of variants in pronunciation and write them on the board. Additional examples could include pronunciations of “ask,”“oil," “address," “roof," or “milk."
- Handout and explain the Dialect Exit Slip. Ask the students to summarize today’s lesson in 25 carefully chosen words using at least 5 examples of dialect in their summary. Students can draw upon Dunbar’s poetry, the dialect class discussion, or their own examples. Students should turn in the completed exit slips before leaving class.
- Choose 4 to 6 exit slips from Session One to discuss with the class. Try to choose a variety of responses to share.
- Handout and explain the Great Expectations Dialect printout. As students read chapters 1 – 10 of Great Expectations they will locate the phrase and write the meaning in the space provided.
- Once the class has read up through chapter 10 and completed the Great Expectations Dialect printout, facilitate a class discussion going over the following topics (NOTE: If the reading cannot be completed in this session, add additional sessions before Session Three or assign the reading as homework):
- What is the meaning of each phrase?
- Why is the speech of Joe, Magwitch, Pumblechook, and the other villagers different from the speech of Miss Havisham, Estella, and Mr. Jarvis?
- How does dialect affect the reader?
- What is the meaning of each phrase?
- At the end of the session, explain to the students how their knowledge of dialect and Great Expectations will be used to create a project in the upcoming sessions.
- Introduce the project by explaining what the students will be doing and why. Explain to the students what a Voki is and how it will be used to complete our project. Show the sample Voki that you created. Show the three Voki tutorials that can be found in the “learn” section of the website and answer any questions.
- Go through the rubric and assess the sample Voki as a class. Discuss how the Voki portrays the characters in Great Expectations and the dialects they speak.
- Assign the students to begin work on their Voki scripts. Instruct the students to use the rubric and the Voki Dialect Checklist to aid them in script writing. (NOTE: For more information on script writing, see the ReadWriteThink lesson "
- Allow time for students to begin writing their scripts in class. Circulate around the room and help students as needed. Remind students that their scripts will need to be completed before the next session.
- Check that the students have completed the Voki Script and used the Voki Dialect Checklist. Review the requirements and expectations for the project.
- Distribute and explain the How to Make a Voki printout. Access the Voki website and go through the handout and model the instructions. Instruct the students to use the handout while making their projects.
- Provide each student with his/her username and password. When the student signs in for the first time, the student will be asked to type in his/her name.
- Allow students time to work on their Vokis. While students work, circulate around the room helping students and answering questions.
- Encourage students to work on their Vokis from any computer (home or public library, for example) since this is an Internet-based program. The Vokis must be completed before next session so the students can participate in the sharing activity.
- Have each student share his/her Voki with the class. From the teacher’s dashboard in Voki, each student’s Voki can be easily accessed so that each student does not have to login before each presentation.
- As students present their Vokis, students can use the rubric to assess a predetermined peer and/or the teacher can use this time to assess the Voki using the rubric.
- Consider linking the students' Vokis to the class wiki or another public space where they can be shared with friends and family.
- To study dialect in the context of the American oral tradition, “Brer Possum’s Dilemma” and “John Henry” can be analyzed as a class and discussed.
- An alternative culminating project could be to use the ReadWriteThink Comic Creator to illustrate a scene from Great Expectations and show examples of dialect in the captions.
- After reading Great Expectations and completing the culminating project, view the PBS version of Great Expectations. Have the students compare and contrast the use of dialect in the film and the book using the Venn Diagram Interactive or printout.
- Establish a class wiki and post links to the Vokis to the wiki. Publish your classroom wiki to the community, so the audience for your students is larger.
- Continue learning more about Dunbar's poetry by researching his works and creating projects to showcase students' work.
- Use the completed Venn Diagram, Dialect Exit Slip, Great Expectations Dialect handout and class discussion to check for increased knowledge of dialect and how dialect is used in literature and poetry.
- Before students work on their Vokis, review each student’s completed Voki Dialect Checklist and scripts.
- Have students present their Vokis to the class. Question students about their choices of dialect, background, script information, and creativity.
- Using the Voki Dialect Rubric, evaluate each student’s completed Voki. Offer feedback to the students on their Vokis.