Language as a Gate Keeper: How It Helps and Hinders Our Place in Society

Michelle Tufano, English, West Mecklenburg High School

Final Unit (PDF)     Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)

200 Word Synopsis

This investigative grammar unit specifically explores a philosophy that is culturally relevant to high school students: the way you speak dictates how others see you and treat you. Students will explore literature and multi-media in which characters are viewed as either high-society or low-class, based on how they talk (focusing specifically on diction, word choice, vernacular and various sentence structure). They will find that language is both inclusive and exclusive: it brings people together, while also segregating social classes and regional groups: It is essentially a lasting legal form of discrimination. Students will compare both fictional characters and modern celebrities to situations they have experienced, or have witnessed in their own lives. By exploring grammar as a tool of upward social mobility, students will increase the understanding that their own speech affects how they are seen and observed by others. Further, the deep reading skills, seminar-style structure, and peer collaboration that drive this unit serve as a pathway for a college-ready scholar. The skills and mindsets built into “Language as a Gate Keeper” are in themselves on an early college level. Through this unit students will practice and utilize writing, communication and grammar skills in a practical and productive way.