English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Dialogue
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Persona
  • Short Story
  • Speech
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Dialogue and Speech

    Dialogue and Speech


    In this lesson, students will explore dialogue and speech. They'll work with each other to understand the significance of the language and diction we use and consider how we are judged by the way we speak.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Listen to the audio file of the story. Consider whether you will pause for note taking, play it twice, or make other modifications.
    • Race and skin color are the main topics in this lesson's reading. If it's appropriate for your class, add a minilesson introducing the subject.

    Tell-Tale Heart Narration

    • If necessary, introduce the terms narration and dialogue to your students.
    • Let students know that the narration in “The Tell-Tale Heart” was not how everyday people spoke in the 1840s. Encourage them to consider why Poe would incorporate this style in his writing. ELL: One way to help ELL students get a handle on Poe’s language is to “translate” a few lines or passages into modern English for them to use as a comparison point.


    Consider the narration in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Respond in writing to the following questions.

    • Is this how people you know talk?
    • If not, how is it different?
    • If it is the same, what are the similarities?
    • Poe makes the choice to have his narrator "speak" (narrate) in a particular way. What effect does that choice have on you?

    Open Notebook

    When you have finished writing, discuss your ideas and insights with the whole group.

    Everyday Words and Phrases

    • Encourage students to have fun with this activity. This can often be both relevant and entertaining once students realize that so much of the way we talk is both localized and often temporary.
    • Make sure students keep their lists appropriate for school.
    • Ask students to think about slang terms that were once popular, even a few months ago, but are no longer considered appropriate or “cool.”
    • Share slang terms from your teen years to build rapport and model appropriate responses.
      • ELL: This can be a great place to invite ELL students to share slang terms, whether currently in use or out of style, from their primary language.
    • Put students in pairs or with a group of three or four other students to discuss their results.

    Work Time

    • Make a list of words and phrases that you use every day. Be sure to include any words or phrases that are common among you and your friends but might be unfamiliar to your teachers and family.

    Open Notebook

    Share and compare the list of words with a partner or two. Discuss any words or phrases that you and your partner(s) had in common.

    Reflection on Speech and Judgment

    • If time permits, have two or three students share their thoughts with the whole class.
    • Let students know they are about to read a story that contains dialect, or a form of language specific to a particular group. The use of dialect in the story indicates differences between characters and are indicative of the historical context of the story. Reading and listening to dialect can be difficult, so guide students through those sections, stopping as necessary, and help them understand the way dialect functions in this story.

    Work Time

    Take a few minutes to write down your ideas about the following questions.

    • How does the way we speak communicate something about us?
    • How are we judged by the things we say and the way we say them?
      • Is this right or wrong? Why?
    • When is certain language acceptable?
      • When is it not?

    Open Notebook

    "The Wife of His Youth"

    • Encourage students to annotate within the text for easier reference later.
    • If necessary, introduce your students to the term character development and ways an author might develop a character.
    • Encourage students to refer back to the text to support their ideas with quotes.
    • Lead a full class discussion in which students share the passages they found significant.

    Work Time

    Read and annotate Part I of “The Wife of His Youth.”

    Respond in writing to the following questions.

    • How did the author begin developing the character of Mr. Ryder?
    • What are your thoughts on the so-called “Blue Veins”? Use evidence from the text to support your ideas.

    Open Notebook

    Share your ideas and evidence with the full class.

    Audio, The Wife of His Youth

    • You may want to provide some context for the story and its author prior to having students listen to the audio clip. You can explain that: the story was first published in 1898 by American author Charles W. Chesnutt. The story follows a bi-racial man during the post-Civil War time period who is a member of the “Blue Veins Society,” a social organization for people of color who used diction and skin color to determine social standing. The story explores race relations, and color and class prejudices within the black community. The author, like the lead character in the story, was African American with white ancestry.
    • Play the audio clip from “The Wife of His Youth” for the class so students can follow along in the reading while they listen.
    • Begin listening at approximately 11:30 (paragraph 4 of Part II of the story).
    • Have each pair report back briefly to the whole class or to you directly as a check for understanding.
    • Ask students to write down exactly how certain parts of Liza Jane and Mr. Ryder's conversation revealed important aspects about both characters.
      • SWD: Pre-identify specific parts of the dialogue, and have students describe how they reveal aspects of the characters, so that students can focus on interpretation.
      • ELL: The different dialects used in this story can be tricky for some of these students to understand. Consider having them work with a student whose primary language is English, he or she can model interpretation.


    Listen as your teacher plays a reading of a portion of the story “The Wife of His Youth.”

    • As you listen, follow along in your text and mark any phrases that stand out to you.
    • With a partner, discuss how the dialogue of Mr. Ryder and Liza Jane illustrates the differences between the two characters. Does listening to the dialogue improve or detract from your experience and understanding of the story?

    Open Notebook

    Plot Map, The Wife of His Youth

    • Prompt students to annotate for character development.
    • Encourage students to note plot elements in the text as they read to make the mapping activity simpler.
      • SWD: This can be a great moment to review the plot map that was created earlier in the unit.
    • Let students know how you want them to share the homework with you.


    • Finish reading and annotating “The Wife of His Youth.”
    • Map the plot of the story, identifying setting, characters, problem/conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and closure.

    Open Notebook