Time Frame: Two Days
The students will:
- Learn how language reflects culture.
- Discern social/class differences between people
based on how they speak.
- Practice writing skills through writing letters
to different audiences.
Students will listen to "A Schoolmaster's
Progress," paying attention particularly to Point
of View and to the three main characters'
Diction. Divide the class into groups
and ask each group to take notes on ONE of the
3 main characters (Schoolmaster, Miss Bangle,
Note: The drama uses Miss Bangle's (Harriet's)
point of view through her writing of letters
to a friend in Manhattan.
Note: There are at least 3 levels
of diction -- The schoolmaster's (Mr. Homer);
Miss Bangle's; Miss Kingsbury's.
Have the students distinguish
among the levels of diction of the 3 main speakers.
Let them come up with labels for their character's
diction [Examples: scholarly schoolmaster; country
Kingsbury; Haughty Harriet?]. In discussion, ask
students to analyze differences in how characters
talk. They should list reasons for the differences
(locale, education, motivation, etc.).
Have students listen to the play a second time
and note places where language and how people
talk is the SUBJECT under discussion (the spelling
bee, Miss Bangle's and Schoolmaster's letters,
the dramatic performance, etc.)
In their groups, have students
use a dictionary and find words which seem particularly
American, erudite, informal, formal, simple, pretentious,
Have students listen to Miss Bangle's
first letter to her friend in "A Schoolmaster's
Progress." Ask them to analyze her audience (the
friend in New York,) and to consider how Audience
affects diction; then let them listen to one of
Mr Horner's letters and consider how his supposed
audience (Ellen Kingsbury affects his diction.
Ask the class to think about how
the story would differ if the point of view changed
to a different character. (Note: the STORY by
Kirkland centers more on the SCHOOLMASTER, as
the title indicates. Students might be asked why
the Dramatist would change to Miss Bangle's point
In-Class Writing Assignment:
Have the students choose another
character from the story: Josiah Armstrong (who
wins the spelling bee and challenges the Schoolmaster
concerning "foreign" words; Ellen Kingsbury; or
the Schoolmaster). Ask them to write a letter
describing the events of the spelling bee using
their character's point of view and diction. They
should create an AUDIENCE for their letter and
should consider how the determination of who will
read the letter affects diction. If time permits,
or in the next class, have the students compare
and Questions for Discussion:
1. Divide and take sides concerning Harriet
Bangle's scheme. (You might use the two different
names, Bangle and Bungle.) Are there any ways
to excuse her cruel trick or to be sympathetic
with her final disgrace?
2. Characterize Master Horner. How are we able
to contrast him to the people of this frontier
3. List different kinds of diction
that are emphasized in the drama: formal, colloquial,
flowery, down-to-earth, and so forth. How does
the way a person talks reflect aspects of his
or her character?
4. How do the two girls' readings from Johann
Schiller's tragedy, "Mary Stuart,"
reflect their actual situations?
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