Intentional Diction, Code Switching and Character Development — Oh My!

Author: Mary Beth Grady

School/Organization:

High School of the Future

Year: 2012

Seminar: "But Mostly I Lie A Lot" - The African American Short Story in the 21st Century

Grade Level: 10

Keywords: character development, diction, Identity, self-awareness, self-identity

School Subject(s): English

In tenth grade, building self-awareness is crucial. Without proper self-awareness 10th graders are easily swayed by outside influences that have detrimental long-term effects. My goal teaching 10th graders is to ground them in a proud self-identity. They will try to do this by analyzing stories for their biographical and historical implications, by answering questions about the African American history that stories are coming out of, and by connecting their welfare with their actions and attitudes toward others.

By pushing learners to analyze the diction of stories such as “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara and “A Story in Harlem Slang” by Zora Neale Hurston I hope to get learners asking questions about the kind of audience for which the narrators are writing, the implications of their dialect on readers, and the assumptions we make about people given their speech. I will supplement the fiction reading with non-fiction narratives and studies on African American Vernacular English and Standard American English. These texts will be used to generate discussion and metacognitive thought about learners’ use of language as well as to spark analysis of the stories and to help learners address PA state standard 1.2.10.B: “assess the accuracy of facts presented in different types of informational texts by using a variety of texts and sources from all academic content areas identifying bias or propaganda where present.”

Analyzing the diction of a narrator leads to deeper understanding of narrator and audience. By having learners connect a speakers tone and diction to their actions, learners can have a deeper understanding of character and can recognize the importance of their own language.

Download Unit: mbgrady_unit.pdf

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