Oral Traditions: Swapping Stories
Lesson 2 Language and Dialect
My family, the Freys, are from Alsace-Lorraine, a part of France that is right next to Germany. Most people consider us to be German, and we might as well be. When I was growing up, the porch talk was done in German and French. I can remember a question would be asked in German and the answer would be given in French.
--Larry "Bubba" Frey, Acadia Parish
English Language Arts, Social Studies
Purpose of Lesson
This lesson tests students' listening skills as they study tellers from different parts of the state and asks them to consider their own regional dialects and insider language of folk groups they belong to. They learn that language is part of folklife and that folk groups share special "insider" terms, phrases, and dialects unique to them. This lesson could dovetail with Unit IV lessons on the folk regions of Louisiana.
Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills
1. Students practice listening to oral narratives.
ELA-4-E6 Listening and responding to a wide variety of media (e.g., music, TV, film, speech). ( 1, 3, 4, 5)
ELA-4-E5 Speaking and listening for a variety of audiences (e.g., classroom, real-life, workplace) and purposes (e.g., awareness, concentration, enjoyment, information, problem solving). (1, 2, 4, 5)
CT-1-D2 Interacting with members of the local community using the target language, as well as local dialects. (1, 3, 4)
2. Students recognize different languages and dialects and connect them to cultural groups and geographical areas of the state.
CL-1-B5 Demonstrating a comprehension of common words, phrases, and idioms that reflect the target cultures. (1)
CL-1-B7 Demonstrating an awareness of social customs related to religion, school, family life, folklore, and holidays. (4, 5)
CL-1-D2 Identifying cultural practices that give rise to commonly held generalizations and/or stereotypes. (2, 3, 4)
CL-1-D Identifying and describing social, geographic, and historical factors that impact cultural practices. (3, 4)
CL-1-D5 Demonstrating an understanding of the cultural connotations of common words, phrases, and idioms. (1)
3. Students learn that language is part of folklife and that folk groups share dialects, special "insider" terms, phrases, and slang unique to them.
CP-1-B7 Demonstrating awareness of a variety of ways to express ideas. (1, 2)
CP-1-D3 Demonstrating an awareness that phrases, ideas, and grammatical structures might not translate directly from one language to the other. (1, 4)
ELA-6-M3 Classifying various genres according to their unique characteristics. (1, 2, 4, 5)
2-5 class periods
TV and VCR player, or LCD projector, online Swapping Stories, art paper and crayons or paint, printouts of the suggested tales, materials for making displays (charts, publication, table top exhibit, audio or video recording). If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.
2. Interviews or surveys of slang
3. Database or charts of results of interviews
Background Information for the Teacher
A good many people in Louisiana are bilingual, speaking two or more languages. Richly different dialects and accents abound in the state. Language, of course, is integral to oral narrative. Cultural groups who lose their language lose much of their folk culture as well. Many Native American tribes have lost their languages, and before the 1960s in Louisiana, many speakers of languages other than English were not allowed to speak their native language in school and were discouraged from speaking it altogether. This lesson tests students' listening skills as they study tellers from different parts of the state and consider their own regional dialects.
View the Swapping Stories video or website to choose appropriate stories or story excerpts that will offer different dialects to the class. Or choose examples from the book for you or students to read aloud. Consider linking this lesson with Unit V Lesson 5, which offers a narrative in Koasati and English.
4th Grade Activities
1. Have students respond and write comments on the Anticipation Guide -- Language and Dialects. This will help access background knowledge and make students aware of their attitudes.
2. Discuss how important language is and how outsiders don't always understand the language or dialect of a folk group. Have students share some of their comments from the worksheet. Have people ever misunderstood them? Have they misunderstood others' dialects or languages? How many languages are spoken in your classroom?
3. Brainstorm some words or phrases that people outside your community might not understand fully. You may even have language that is special to your classroom.
4. Make a glossary of some insider language and slang of your class, school, or other group.
5. Play How the Koasati Got Their Name on the Swapping Stories video or website, read it aloud to students, or ask them to read it.
6. Have students draw pictures to illustrate this story or the idea of "lost people." Another way of being lost is to lose language.
7. Have students work in pairs or small groups to discuss the comments on their Anticipation Guides. Have any changed their perspectives or viewpoints after this lesson?
8. As the class studies traditional oral narratives as well as literature throughout the year, remind them to pay attention to the importance of language and dialect. They can keep a class master list of all the languages and dialects they encounter over a term.
4th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. Record several people reading the same paragraph or short story. As you listen a few times, list all the words that people say differently. Be sure to ask readers where they grew up, what language they speak, and what languages were spoken in their home.
8th Grade Activities
1. Print and duplicate the Anticipation Guide -- Language and Dialects. Have students respond and write comments. This will help access background knowledge and make students aware of their attitudes.
2. Identify two students who would be good readers (or four students who would be good readers), each taking a part of the two versions of The Politician Gets His from Swapping Stories. Give them time to practice, then ask them to read or retell the versions to the class. Discuss the differences. Are they evident? This is the case of an insider wanting to showcase his folk group's language, so he writes in dialect. Ask students when is language a barrier, a measure that protects cultural insiders, or a device that enhances a story? How does language contribute to prejudice or stereotyping?
3. Brainstorm with students about dialects of Louisiana. Begin a list or wall chart for students to list them, and have them continue to add to it throughout the unit.
Technology Options: Use a concept map program to brainstorm sayings from around the state, rapid fire, until no more are given. Can we group these dialects into categories? Name them: Cajun, Creole, North Louisiana, Irish Channel, Yat, others? Categorize them into different regions. Assign each team a category of Louisiana dialects to find out more about.
4. Ask about the language of teenagers' cliques or other groups. What's the latest slang? How does language give clues to cultural groups such as "freaks" "preps," "nerds" or "skaters?" Students can conduct some fieldwork to collect slang from peers and from adults. Design an interview form, and ask one group of students to survey other students about slang terms (see Unit II). Ask another group to survey teachers or other adults about slang that was popular when they were in 8th grade.
5. Students can categorize findings to identify slang terms that more than one generation share, differences among males and females, age differences among young people.
Technology Option: Students can create a database using software using categories such as: Age, Gender, Lives In, Dialect/Language Used, Word or Phrase. Use different queries to discover generalizations. For instance, conducting a query for "males" and "older than 18" will probably produce very different words/phrases than a query for "Females" and "younger than 6." Students could also design tables to display the different results and write stories about them.
6. With students, determine effective ways to display results: charts, publication, table top exhibit, audio or video recording. Distribute the Presentation Rubric and explain the"Quality Features" that will be used in grading the presentation. Remind them to self-check themselves or their groups as they progress through the planning and presentation of the display.
7. Invite another class to view the final product.
8. View and discuss the video on New Orleans dialects, "Yeah You Rite!" (see Unit V Resources ). The film shows how just by saying a few words you can tip a listener off to what neighborhood you grew up in, and how some dialects are considered more socially prestigious than others.
4th and 8th Grade Explorations and Extensions
Look at and read aloud the Prologue and Scenes 1 and 2 of The First Meeting of the Indians and the Europeans. Has anyone ever made fun of the way you talk? How do you judge people by their language? Write a story about a boy or girl who moves to your school and talks differently form you and your friends. Or write a poem using the language or dialect of two people who speak differently from one another.