Context: This SRE is intended to introduce a linguistic concept of dialect to a high school English class. Given that I am a preservice teacher, I am unable to give contextual information for a class that I am currently teaching or have taught in the past that may benefit from this SRE. Therefore, I am assuming a setting similar to that of Forsyth Central High School in Cumming, GA. Having grown up in north Georgia, I am familiar with the general background information of Forsyth County, and I know students who went to school there although I personally did not. I decided to choose FCHS because it is located in the county seat, and information about the school and the surrounding city is readily available.
Forsyth County is located in north Georgia. It is known in the area for its marked demographic breakdown which, as of the 2000 census, was 95.05% white and less than 1% African American (which I am adding into the consideration given the material students will be asked to read for this SRE). Based on the data available so far from the 2010 census, the demographics have altered slightly, but not significantly, at 89% white and 2.5% African American. This is in stark contrast to the city of Atlanta—less than a one hour drive from Cumming—which is currently 38% white and 54% African American. In addition, Forsyth County is one of the wealthiest counties in Georgia, and it has a history of severe racism.
The makeup of FCHS is comparable to that of the surrounding community. Classes are likely to consist of a majority of white students with a few African American, Hispanic, and Asian students. They will typically come from upper-middle class or upper class backgrounds. The particular class I would teach would be 12th grade Advanced Composition which is a required class for students on the on-level track. It is a 55 minute class with between 20 and 30 students. One of the focal points of the course is literary types which is where this unit will be used. The arrangement of the classroom will depend on the particular activity in progress and whether it incorporates whole group participation, individual work, or small group work.
I have specifically chosen FCHS as an assumed setting for my project because the text for this SRE is The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. On one hand, this text is on the approved reading list for Forsyth County high schools, so I wouldn’t have to worry about acquiring prior approval for the reading material. On the other hand, given the demographic statistics of the county, I would imagine that the dialect spoken by the characters in The Bluest Eye is not a native dialect for the majority of the students, and students may even have predetermined feelings about it. For this reason, I believe that the text will function well as an introduction to dialect and its multicultural and literary properties. Based on the text from page three (which I consider the most accurate page to measure since pages one and two recite lines from Dick and Jane), The Bluest Eye scores a 74.6 on the Flesch Reading Ease scale and a 7.2 on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scale. These scores suggest that the book is very easy to read and perhaps below my targeted grade level. However, the subject matter of the book, including incest, seems more appropriate for an older audience. The Forsyth County reading list also approves the book for 12th grade only.
I expect that my students will be typical 12th graders with average reading ability and language competency for their grade level. In their previous three years of high school, these students would have completed World Literature and Composition, American Literature and Composition, and British Literature and Composition, so they should be well-versed in various pieces of literature and basic literary techniques.
Philosophical/Theoretical Rationale: As a preservice English teacher who also has a degree in linguistics, I find that students’ native languages as well as understanding of language in general can greatly impact the learning they do. Even more, I believe that the way an English teacher understands language can shape the way he or she teaches literature to students. For this SRE, I decided to begin a linguistic introduction to dialect because I ultimately seek to create a classroom where students exhibit significant reader response. My theoretical rationale is that when students are able to make personal connections to the literature they read, their learning takes on more real life application and begins a self-perpetuating cycle. For texts such as The Bluest Eye that may elicit little to no immediate personal response among students, an understanding of dialect should increase multicultural awareness and help students feel more connected to the characters and the themes of the book, allowing students to then pull out their own real life application.
II. Lesson Plan
Instructional Objectives: Upon completion of the SRE, students should be able to demonstrate understanding of how dialect creates characterization and can highlight the overall themes in a work.
Upon completion of the lesson, students should meet the Georgia ELA12LSV2 standard which includes the expectations that students a) identify and evaluate strategies used to inform, persuade, entertain, and transmit culture (i.e., advertisements, perpetuation of stereotypes, use of visual representations, special effects, language) and b) critique a speaker’s diction and syntax in relation to the purpose of an oral communication and the impact the words may have on the audience.
|IDEA website on computer
||Provided by teacher
||Provided by teacher
||Provided by students
||Provided by students
|Copies of The Bluest Eye (25-30)
||Provided by teacher
|Poster/Prezi/PowerPoint/CoSketch(in computer lab if necessary)
||Provided by teacher
||Provided by students
Prereading: (30 mins)
To introduce a discussion of dialects, I will use the IDEA website where there are several accessible recordings of speakers with various dialects, broken down by region. I will select dialects from various parts of the United States, including some from the state of Georgia which should be somewhat similar to what students would hear every day. Without telling students what they are listening to, I will play sound bites of the various recordings and ask students to jot down their thoughts on the speaker, including gender, age, race, native region, etc. After playing all of the dialect samples, I will begin a discussion with the students based on what they heard and recorded in their notebooks. To begin, we will go over several examples of what students assumed from hearing the speakers. Then, I will ease into reflective discussion by posing questions such as “Why do these speakers talk so differently even though they are all speaking English?” Throughout the half hour of allotted discussion time, I will let the students pose and answer most of the questions, speaking up to clarify confusion or to get students back on track if they wander in their discussion. At the same time, I will be writing key ideas from the discussion on the whiteboard for student reference. As the vocabulary words come up in conversation (dialect, language, culture, slang, accent, etc), I will also write those on the board and encourage students to keep thinking about what each of the words means and how they relate to each other. Near the end of the discussion time, I will steer students toward coming up with a working definition of dialect that they can reflect upon while completing the rest of the SRE activities. This vocabulary word and definition will form the foundation of the lesson.
Reading: (1 week)
The reading portion of the lesson will take place in the classroom as silent reading and outside of the classroom as homework. Students will have a week to complete The Bluest Eye since it is longer than a selection from a textbook and they will have time to work on it outside of class. During reading, students will keep a dialectic journal, dividing their page into two columns as follows:
|Passages from the text
||Connections and Analysis
|Here, students will make notes of instances when dialect is used in the text. For the most part, this will consist of examples of African American English. These may be examples that the student is familiar with or has never heard before, as long as they are dialect. In cases where comparisons may be made between Standard American English and a counterpart in African American English, the student may choose to write down both examples.
||Here, students will jot down notes about connections that can be drawn from the dialect passage or other things that are of note at that point in the novel. For example, a student might write how the dialect emphasizes the social background of the speaker. In addition, it may be worth noting the setting or race or persona of the speaker in order to go back later and draw further connections.
Additionally, students will need to keep a vocabulary list while they read. If they choose, this can initially be done in the margins of the journal entries, but ultimately, the vocabulary should be written out on a separate sheet of paper or notecards. At the end of each class period, there will be a brief postreading activity of vocabulary discussion. Any slang or dialectal terms that students may not know will be defined so that students will not have trouble interpreting the effect of the dialect on the piece as a whole.
Throughout the reading part of the SRE, there will also be discussion activities for part of the classroom time. Main ideas from each night’s reading will be covered, and students will be encouraged to share observations they made regarding the use and effect of dialect. This should be a mix of informative and reflective discussion.
Postreading: (3 days)
Upon completing the assigned reading, students will break up into several groups of 4 or 5 students, depending on the size of the class. However, 4 would be the ideal group size. Once in their groups, students will work together to discuss the ways dialect serves to enhance the novel. That is, the ways that dialect serves as a literary tool. Students will be allowed to use their journal entries to review the connections they made and bounce ideas off of each other. Once the group has made a decision on the major ways they think dialect serves the novel, they will create a collaborative project to present to the class. Students are allowed to choose a collaboration tool of their choice, but suggestions include posters, PowerPoint presentations, Prezis, or CoSketches. Whatever tool each group chooses to use, it should develop a map that illustrates the connections the group has made. Examples may be connections to other literary devices, characterization, themes, etc. The map should be supplemented with evidence from the text and personal experiences. After having a day and a half to collaborate with their group and draw out their project, the groups will then present their finished products over the course of the remaining day and a half. Following each presentation, the students listening will be encouraged to ask questions or make comments to extend the discussion initiated by the group. Ultimately, the students should be making more personal connections to the material after having taken time to reflect.
Assessment: For the most part, assessment of this SRE will be based on active participation by the student. I will assign completion grades for the journal entries each day, meaning that students simply need to make an effort to enter passages from the daily/nightly reading, comment on them, and make note of any troublesome vocabulary. For the prereading discussion and daily journal discussions, I will evaluate students based on a participation inventory that marks their enthusiasm, question raising, listening, idea sharing, and response. Finally, for the group project, I will assign a letter grade as determined by a rubric that students will view ahead of time. The rubric will cover the appropriate medium for the project as well as the types of connections students should make and the examples that they give from the text and personal experiences. It will also take into account the quality of group collaboration, including what elements of the project/presentation each group member carried out.
Prereading: What is dialect? What do I know about dialect? What would I like to learn about dialect? How does dialect define a person? How does dialect impact language? (Remembering, Understanding)
Reading: How does dialect function? What other elements connect to dialect? How might dialect influence the reading of this passage? What are these words? (Understanding, Applying, Analyzing)
Postreading: How has my definition of dialect changed? What is dialect? How does dialect serve as a literary device? What deeper connections can be made through dialect? How has my interpretation of the text been influenced? What connections does this make to my own life? How can I take this knowledge and apply it to other texts? (Understanding, Applying, Evaluating, Creating)
Since I am a preservice teacher and schools are out for the summer, I was unable to fully implement my SRE with an actual class. However, I enlisted the help of my roommate and my mom in order to give me some basic feedback. They are both older than my target student would be, but neither of them have read The Bluest Eye, so I at least was able to teach the lesson to fresh minds. Since they could not read the whole novel in time to evaluate my SRE, I selected passages that exhibit African American English as well as a few that use Standard American English.
The prereading portion went well because neither “student” has a background in linguistics, so the concept of dialect was something new to explore. However, without a full class, I was unable to have the type of discussion I had planned for. Neither my mom nor my roommate expressed any overt judgments of speakers of various dialects, though they mentioned stereotypes they knew of such as the impression of stupidity that comes with a southern accent.
The reading portion was fairly simple to implement because my mom and roommate easily made journal entries about the passages I gave them, and they didn’t have vocabulary difficulty that younger students might have.
The postreading portion was also difficult to fully apply because I couldn’t place my “students” in small groups, but each of them was still able to verbally make connections to dialect and characterization. Then, upon further prompting by me, they each agreed that the lesson was helpful because it opened them up to new understandings of dialect which they wouldn’t normally cover in a class. My roommate in particular stated that she thought the lesson was helpful in influencing the way she viewed the book in terms of its authenticity and characterization. Her reader response seemed to deepen through a consideration of dialect, so I felt that overall my main goal was met. RCA2011
Census Bureau Home Page. (n.d.). Census Bureau Home Page. Retrieved July 16, 2011, from http://census.gov
English Language Arts and Reading 9-12. (n.d.). Georgiastandards.org. Retrieved July 16, 2011, from georgiastandards.org
Forsyth County Schools Home. (n.d.). Forsyth County Schools. Retrieved July 20, 2011, from http://forsyth.k12.ga.us
IDEA – The International Dialects Of English Archive. (n.d.). Information Technology. Retrieved July 15, 2011, from http://web.ku.edu/~idea/index.htm
Morrison, T. (2007). The bluest eye: a novel. New York: Vintage International.