Since I've only taught for six years now, I don't exactly consider myself an old dog, but I do find that I often get into a rut, and now that we're almost half way through Huck Finn, I have become a bit bored myself with the tedious daily schedule of 1)review yesterday's reading and sigh when the same three kids demonstrate that they're the only ones who read their assigned pages 2) clue the rest of the class in on what happened, probably reinforcing their decision that it is unnecessary to read the assignment anyway since the teacher and the three good kids will give them the highlights 3) dive in to reading, trying to remember exactly how Huck sounded yesterday--and trying to keep the King's voice at least a little different than the Duke's, and 4) in the last minutes assign the next night's reading homework.
Sometimes, to make things fun, I vary things up a little by throwing in a pop quiz. Always depressing because then I know for sure how many kids didn't read the chapter. At least when I just ASK them about it, I can think maybe they DID read and are too shy to raise their hands. Oh, and earlier this week, I had them draw and label mappish diagram of Huck's adventures thus far. But for tomorrow, I think I've outdone myself on creativity. I am so excited about the lesson, I am almost bursting with glee.
The idea came to me last week, as I was showering. Always a great place to forment ideas, I have found. Maybe it's the steam and the still-dreamy state. And I don't turn the lights on either, which heightens the sense that I am still mostly asleep. Anyway, I got to thinking about how Mark Twain really is a genius when it comes to writing dialect, but that my reading of his novel (while, admittedly, pretty durn good) is not a true rendition of the variety of the characters. And I was also thinking about how in America, even today, we have a wealth of different accents and dialects. And I was thinking about the fact that Twain carefully studied speech patterns, eavesdropping on people and transcribing their words, and turning those patterns into the dialogue in his novel. And that's when the lightning struck my brain.
If only I could find a bunch of movies that have people speaking with really great, strong accents--the real kind, not the totally fake kind of accents, and have my kids watch clips of the movies and then transcribe what they hear, that could be really cool. So I fooled around on google for an embarrassingly long while, looking through lists of movies with good accents (and sadly, most of the lists are lists of movies with horrible accents--people are so negative!), but I finally came up with my list.
I'll start with My Fair Lady. Yeah, I know, they're Brits. But the scene where Prof. Higgins is spying on Eliza Dolittle and writing down every word she says...I can't not show that. That's exactly what Twain did, and what my students will be attempting. So we'll start with that.
Then it's on to Good Will Hunting. I had to look long and hard to find a clip without the F word, at least too many explosions of it, but I found one near the beginning. And Matt Damon's Boston accent is fantastic.
Then they'll watch Escanaba in the Moonlight. We're starting off easy, I hope, with strong clear accents that they should be able to pick up on. I plan on playing each clip twice. The first time, they'll just listen and watch. The second time, they'll write down characteristic words phonetically as they hear them. Then they'll share (and add to) their lists in their peer groups while I'm cuing up the next movie.
Then I'll pop in Sweet Home Alabama, a movie I really love, not sure why, and Reese Witherspoon's Southern accent is pretty accurate--which makes sense, considering she's a North Carolina girl.
Then I think Men in Black which is perfect because it's got both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, both with strong accents. I'm going to show the scene where the two meet after Smith has come in for initial Agency competence tests.
Next Saturday Night Fever for John Travolta's New York accent. I'm going with the scene where he eats the family dinner and they're all arguing with each other and slapping each other.
Then finally, Nell for Jodie Foster's Appalachian accent. Only problem is: I rented the thing, but I can't find it. I'm afraid Jared hid it somewhere or maybe it fell under the seat in my car...I have to find a clip before I just randomly pop it in...hopefully the lesson runs over till Monday so I've got some fudge room.
Then after they've done all those transcriptions, I am going to have them try writing some dialogue with at least 2 of the dialects they've heard and then write a reflection on the experience, hopefully showing a realization that Mark Twain's work was not easy or quick.
So I'm sure it's pretty clear that I am eager for class tomorrow. I'll let you know how it turns out.