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In this lesson, students will explore the forever-changing nature of language in the United States and what our language says about American society. In the following activities, students view segments of the PBS documentary DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN?, [} conduct offline and online research, and engage in a team project concerning the evolution of teen expressions so they can better understand what speaking "American" is all about. The lesson addresses such issues as American English as a deteriorating language, American English as an evolving language, and American English as an indicator of modern society's direction. PREPARATION Grade Level: Grades 9-12 Time Allotment: 2 class periods, plus 3-5 days as either in-class group work or as an extended homework assignment. Subject Matter: English, Linguistics Learning Objectives: Students will be able to: · Trace the evolution of and influences on teen slang words and expressions. · Describe expressions and slang words that have remained constant and those that have changed over time. · Understand the origins of expressions and slang words. · Explain the different teen slang words currently used in specific regions across the United States. Recognize when students change the words they use depending on their audience. Standards: NCTE - Standards for the English Language Arts Standard 4 - Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes. Standard 8 - Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

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Standard 9 - Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles. Computer Resources: Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster. Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above. Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM. Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM Software: Any presentation software such as Power Point or Hyperstudio (optional) Materials: Teachers will need the following supplies: · Board and/or chart paper · Ideally, a screen on which to project the video clips · Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom. · Copy of the PBS documentary DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? [] · Copies of the Interview Student Organizer and the Team Project Student Organizer. Students will need the following supplies: · Computers with the capacities indicated above · Notebook or journal · Pens/pencils Tip: Be sure to preview all of the sites and videos in this lesson before presenting them to your class. You may also want to bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, create a word-processing document with all of the Web sites listed as hyperlinks, upload all links to an online bookmarking utility such as, or make paper handouts of necessary Web pages so that students can access the information on these sites. Make sure that your computer has necessary media players, like RealPlayer, to show streaming clips (if applicable). Web Resources: · Languages of the World A website that lists the languages spoken in the U.S. The website breaks down the languages by population figures and provides an interactive map. · Slanguage

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A guide to slang terms by regions, both international and national. · DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? Includes essays, interactive materials and educational materials related to the documentary. · American Dialect Society Posts the results of the organization's annual word(s) of the year vote. This lesson was prepared by: Michael W. Flaherty

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STEPS Introductory Activity: (One class period) 1. Show a segment from episode 3 of the PBS documentary, DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? Start the video at approximately 24 minutes with a scene that begins in a coffee shop. Watch the segment for approximately 10 minutes -- it ends with a scene of snowboarders. During this video segment students will see the similarities and differences of how the surfing subculture speaks today, compared with 20 years ago. At the conclusion of the video segment ask your students the following questions: · Do you know which surfing expressions or slang words are popular today? · Can you think of surfing expressions or slang words that were popular twenty years ago? · If you can, define the terms you identified. · What similar subcultures, like surfing, exist today? Do they have their own language? If so, give examples of some of the expressions or slang words. On the board, define the terms "expression" and "slang." Explain the words' various definitions. The definition given on the DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? Web site is: expressions or slang words are "typically used in informal communication. Slang words often don't last for a long time, but some endure (e.g., cool). Slang is usually equated with young people, but older speakers use slang too." Ask the students to list off expressions and slang words that they use, and what the words mean. Establish a difference between slang and profanity. Create a list of popular expressions from when you were a teenager and add them to the board. 3. Ask the students to notice if your list and their list have any similarities. Have a discussion about how some expressions have lasted generations, while others have faded. Also discuss how certain expressions are brand new, stemming often from modern songs and movies. Ask students to give examples of words they think have lasted for generations. Ask them to guess at the origins of the expressions and slang words. 4. Establish a list of what students deem the most popular expressions and/or slang words right now. Learning Activities (One class period) 1. Show DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN?, episode 1, beginning the video at 10 minutes. Ask the students to focus on the difference of opinion between New York Magazine theater critic John Simon and Jesse Sheidlower, the American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Watch the clip for approximately 8 minutes. End the clip after they show teens in an Internet Café engaged in sending online instant messages.

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NOTE: During the interview of Cece Cutler the video contains words that may be offensive or inappropriate for your classroom. Please preview before showing the video segment to your students. You may want to fast forward through this section and show the students in the Internet Café. 2. Write the terms "descriptivist" and "prescriptive" on the board. Ask the students to define the terms. Then ask students to choose if they would be in the descriptive or the prescriptive "camp." Ask them to explain their answers. NOTE: Descriptive is open to changes in the English language as they occur. Prescriptive prefers prescribed rules so as to preserve English. 3. Homework Assignment: Interview Either in person or over the phone, have students interview a parent, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older family friend. Instruct the students to ask what their favorite expressions or slang words were when they were teenagers. Give the students the Interview Student Organizer so they can record their answers. You may collect the organizer for assessment purposes. NOTE: During the next class session, after they have completed their homework assignment, ask students to share what they learned from their interviews. Are some words still used today? What words surprised them? 4. As an introduction to the next activity on how music can influence expressions and slang words, show DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? episode 1. This time, start the video at approximately 50 minutes when you see a group of young men who are rapping. Show the video segment to the end of the episode. When the video concludes, discuss with your students how hip hop and rap music influence expressions and/or slang words. Ask your students for some examples of how they use expressions or slang from hip hop and rap songs in their everyday speech. Ask them with whom, when, and where they use these words. 5. During class give your students five minutes to create a list of three song titles that use modern day expressions in their lyrics. If you have access to computers, ask the students to find the lyrics to the songs they selected. If you do not have access to computers, ask students to think of the expressions or slang words from the songs. Have the students discuss whether it's appropriate to use these expressions or slang words in a conversation outside of their circle of friends. Ask them if they think the expressions have a positive effect on speaking American or a negative effect. Have them explain their answers. NOTE: You may want to establish a "no-profanity" rule for the songs that are selected. 6. Watch DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN?, episode 3. Begin the video at approximately 9 minutes when Steve Harvey is being interviewed at a radio station. End the video segment at the end of the Steve Harvey interview. At the conclusion of the video segment ask the students the following questions: · What do you think Steve Harvey means by the difference between speaking bilingual slang and speaking for the "job interview?"

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· Do you consider yourself bi-lingual in the way that Steve Harvey means? · Where and when are you bilingual? Give examples. 7. Show DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN, episode 3. Start the video at approximately 17 minutes when you see clips from the movie "Clueless." End the segment when it transitions to a Marie Callendar's restaurant and Robert MacNeil is interviewing a woman. Fast forward the video approximately two minutes to where you see a red car pull into a parking space. Show the video segment for about 3 minutes until the scene ends with a group of teenagers sitting around a table talking about slang words. NOTE: Be forewarned that this segment mentions a word that may be offensive or inappropriate for your classroom. Be sure to preview the video to determine if you should show this segment to your students. 8. Ask the students if they know of or use any of the expressions or slang words that were given in the video. Have students add to the list of expressions from the video segment that are commonly used today (this can be in their own life or within popular culture). Ask the students if they think these teens spoke a particular form of "American." Ask them if the words the teens used are from a particular region of the United States. 9. Show DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN, episode 2. Begin the video at approximately 15 minutes when Jeff Foxworthy is being interviewed. End the segment at the conclusion of the Foxworthy interview. Ask the students if they think people are judged by their accent. Ask them to give an example of a time when they may have made this type of judgment. NOTE: Be careful that the students don't stereotype according to ethnicity, region, intelligence, etc. You may want to discuss how perceptions of the way people speak can lead to prejudices. In episode 1, at approximately 38 minutes, there is a segment in DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? that addresses this type of speech profiling that you may choose to show your students. It begins with an interview with Dr. John Baugh and runs for just over 5 minutes. Culminating Activity/Assessment: Figure of Speech: The Project 3-5 days as either an in-class project or as a homework assignment 1. Divide students into teams of 3 or 4. Assign each team a region other than the one they live in (i.e. if you are a New York-based school, then the northeast region is off limits. An Atlanta-based school, and the south is off limits, etc.) 2. You can divide the regions as DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? does, though this will depend on your class/team size. The program divides the U.S. map in the following way: · New England ­ Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut , Northeastern New York

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· Mid Atlantic ­ New York City area, New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, · South ­ Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma. · Midland ­ Southern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Southern Iowa, Eastern Kansas, Eastern Nebraska · North ­ Northwestern New York, Northern Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northern Iowa, Eastern North Dakota, Eastern South Dakota · West ­ Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Washington State, Oregon, Nevada, California. You can use the map on the DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? Web site. [] If you have a large class, you can subdivide regions, such as the South East (which includes Appalachia), The Deep South (Alabama, Mississippi), the Bayou (which would focus entirely on Louisiana), the Southwest, West Coast, etc. 3. Once they've been assigned a region, the students must come up with a list of at least three teen expressions or slang words, currently in use, that are unique to that area. The list can include one expression from the program, but it must also include two others that students get through research and conversations. Direct the students to the following sites for their research: · DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN? [] · Languages of the World [] · Slanguage [] · American Dialect Society [] 4. Hand out the Team Project Student Organizer as a guide to completing the assignment. You may collect the hand out for assessment purposes. Suggestions for research: · Have students call the mayor of a town in the region and ask them about local expressions. Have students call a high school, locate the student body president, and ask them the questions. Or have students find the chairperson of a local university who heads a department that could assist them in their research. If they conduct an interview make sure students record the name and telephone number (or school address) of their sources so you can check back with the sources when grading the project to ensure the conversations took place. · Find high school Web sites in their region with email addresses where the students can email and ask questions. · You can post to an educational list serve and ask interested teachers if your class could collaborate with their class on this project. You could post something to one of the listserves found in the Global Schoolhouse []. This option will take time for you to contact and arrange a collaborative project with another teacher before you begin the 3-5 day activity with the students.

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· You can have your students use a service like ePALS Classroom Exchange. [] This site let allows student to search for keypals by country and age group. CROSS-CURRICULAR EXTENSIONS: · · · English ­ Have students write a song using current day expressions or slang words. Art ­ Students can illustrate a comic book using expressions and slang words. History ­ Research the word origins of expressions or slang words that are used in modern-day journalism, for example "bling, bling" is a slang word you will sometimes find in journalistic writing. "Bling, bling" is used to describe flashy jewelry and other forms of showy attire and style.

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ORGANIZERS FOR STUDENTS Print out and make copies of these organizers for your students: · Interview Student Organizer · Team Project Student Organizer

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INTERVIEW STUDENT ORGANIZER Either in person or over the phone, interview a parent, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, or an older family friend. The interview should last approximately 15-20 minutes. 1. Start the interview by recording the interview subject's name, age, where they grew up, their native language, and their ethnicity (i.e. 100 % Irish, half Italian/half German, 100 % Nigerian, half Japanese, etc.).


Ask them about early expressions and/or slang words they, or their friends, used when they were teenagers. What did they mean? Where did they come from? Who taught the words to them? Try to come up with a list of at least three expressions this person used growing up.


Ask them about an expression or slang word that they recently picked up, and what it means to them. Where does it come from? If they do not know ask them to take a guess.


Ask your interview subject how speaking American has impacted their lives.


Ask whether they think American language has changed over the years, and if so, how?

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TEAM PROJECT STUDENT ORGANIZER Conduct online and offline research about your assigned a region. Compile a list of teen expressions or slang words, currently in use, that are unique to that area. The list can include one expression from the program, but it must also include two others that you find through research and/or conversations. Answer the questions below. 1. What is the region you researched?

2. What research did you conduct? Be specific.

3. What expressions or slang words did you learn? Provide a definition for each entry.

4. What is the origin of the expressions or slang words you learned?

5. What makes these expressions or slang words unique to this region of the country?

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