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Lesson Plan

What Did They Say? Dialect in The Color Purple

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What Did They Say? Dialect in The Color Purple

Grades 9 – 12
Estimated Time Three 40- to 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Chantrise D. Sims

Decatur, Georgia


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Writers often use dialects to paint an authentic portrait of the location or time period about which they are writing. The Color Purple by Alice Walker is an excellent example of a text that is successfully and eloquently written in dialect. Unfortunately, many students find it inaccessible because they are unfamiliar with the concept of dialects and do not know how to read a book that is written in this way. Students begin this lesson by listening to examples of several dialects and discuss what they learn about each speaker from the recordings. As a class, students come up with a definition of the word dialect and continue to examine its use in Walker's novel. The lesson fosters further interaction with the text using written reflections in double-entry journal and peer-to-peer discussions in literature circles.

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Morretta, T.M., & Ambrosini, M. (2000). Experiencing and responding to literature. In Practical approaches for teaching reading and writing in middle schools (pp. 18–39). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • It is important to teach students not only to make personal connections as they read but also to use specific strategies that will help them gain information from the text. Double-entry journals and literature circles are two of the tools that can be used to accomplish these goals.

  • Double-entry journals encourage students not only to analyze texts but also to make text-to-self connections, text-to-world connections, and text-to-text connections.

  • Students who participate in literature circles work in small groups to construct meaning and expand their comprehension of texts.

  • Literature circles succeed in imparting the reading skills mandated by state and local standards; they also encourage student's personal interaction with the text.

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