This post offers a lesson plan for comparing English dialects and their effects on literature. It covers the Common Core State Standard L.5.3.B, which asks 5th graders to analyze how different varieties of English are used in stories, dramas, or poems.
Be sure to get the handout. It includes the printables you need to complete some of the activities.
Comparing English Dialects: A Lesson Plan for 5th Grade
To ignite your students’ curiosity, start the lesson by showing them the video “This Map Shows Where American Accents Come From.”
This 4-minute and 33-second video showcases various American accents and English dialects. Have them discuss why people speak differently in other parts of the country.
Activity #1: Video Lesson and Organizer
Now that your students are intrigued delve deeper into the concept of dialects using the included video lesson. Print the organizer or assign the Google Slide version for students to complete while viewing the video.
The video begins by defining dialect and offering examples from different regions, such as the Gullah people, the American South, Brooklyn, New York, and rural areas of the United Kingdom.
The video then introduces six examples of how dialect enhances literature: humor, tension, culture, education level, sense of place, and identity.
Activity #2: Short Stories and Guiding Questions
In the student packet, you will find two stories and guiding questions that help students analyze how the authors use dialect to enhance their stories.
The first story, “The Gator in the Bayou,” uses the Cajun dialect to show the characters’ culture and setting. The second story, “Elspeth and the Dragon: A Scottish Tale,” uses Scottish dialect to show the contrast between the characters’ backgrounds.
Have students share their answers with a partner or a small group. Then, have them compare and contrast how the two stories use dialect differently and similarly.
Activity #3: Comparing English Dialects
The student packet includes a handout with four sentences written in eight different dialects: British English, Australian English, Southern American English, Indian English, African American English, Scottish English, Irish English, and Jamaican English.
Use this handout to discuss the different dialects. Then, have students rewrite each sentence using standard American English or another dialect of their choice. Have them explain why they chose that dialect and how it changes the meaning or tone of the sentence.
Activity #4: Dialect Detective
Present students with 24 cards from the student packet featuring short conversations for a fun and interactive task. Have students work in pairs or small groups to act as dialect detectives and determine how the author uses dialect to add humor, tension, culture, education level, sense of place, and identity to the conversations.
For students who want to explore dialect further, here are some ideas for extension activities:
- Dialect Role Play: Have students write and perform their dialogues using different dialects and purposes. Have them explain why they chose the dialect and how it enhances their dialogue.
- Dialect Mapping: Have students research and map the various dialects spoken in the United States or worldwide. Have them include examples of words or phrases unique to each dialect.
- Dialect Celebration Day: Have students celebrate the diversity of dialects by dressing up as characters from different regions or cultures and speaking in their dialects. Have them share stories or poems that use dialect and explain how it makes them feel.
Dialect is a powerful tool for writers to create realistic, engaging characters and stories. By comparing and contrasting the varieties of English used in literature, students can learn how dialect reflects and affects one’s identity, culture, and perception of the world. They can also appreciate the richness and diversity of language and how it connects us all.
If you missed the handout link earlier, here it is again.
World Turtle Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their habitats. I hope you find these activities useful and enjoyable for your 4th, 5th, and 6th-grade students.