Cheryl Carter
  Learners become familiar with registers of language through class discussion and exposure to examples of a common fairy tale written in two different registers. Working in small groups, learners then translate a story into two different registers.

  Adult basic education, Critical thinking, Cultural differences, Family literacy, General education development (GED), Interpersonal relationships, Listening skills, Work environment

Learner Level:

Time Frame:
  2 Hours

Learner Grouping:
  Whole class

  This activity was presented to a Family Learning Center class, consisting of learners age 18-55. Most learners in this class are Intermediate ABE or Adult Secondary Level. The emphasis in the class is on GED preparation and improving basic skills.

  Not available

  Vernon Family Learning Center

Type of Program:

Student Population Served:

Understanding language registers as a means to more effective communication

Learners become familiar with registers of language through class discussion and exposure to examples of a common fairy tale written in two different registers. Working in small groups, learners then translate a story into two different registers. __________________________________________________________

Learning Objective:
Learners will have a clear understanding of registers of language, will be able to distinguish between different registers, and will be able to utilize these registers for more effective communication.

Primary Skill:

Secondary Skills:
Convey ideas in writing, Speak so others can understand, Cooperate with others

Learner Needs & Goals:
Learners in this class have a variety of needs and goals. Some want to improve basic skills so they can qualify for an entry-level job that does not require GED certification, but that requires basic math and/or literacy skills. Most of the learners are working for GED certification so they can qualify for a job that requires a GED. Others want their GED certification so they can obtain a better job or advance in their present job. This activity is designed to assist all learners in becoming more effective communicators.

Learning Activity Description:
I. Introduction to Language Registers
Facilitator will encourage recognition of language registers with the following questions: "Do you speak the same way at home as you speak here in the classroom?" "Do you speak the same way with your children as you speak with your adult friends?" "Do you speak differently when talking with your child's teacher or doctor than when you are chatting with a friend on the telephone?" Facilitator explains that we all speak differently in different situations. These ways of speaking differently are called registers of language. Every language has five registers. Facilitator gives each learner a handout outlining and defining the five registers. Discuss each register in detail.

Discuss some of the ways we can distinguish between registers, and the way this influences our language. For instance, the word "woman" -- how many words can you think of that all mean "woman?" How about "lady," "chick," "gal," "female," or "girl?" Ask if learners can think of others. Ask which they would prefer to be called and which they would NOT like to be called. Can learners see how this might cause communication difficulties in a workplace setting? Or in a school situation?

Introduce the idea of all the words we have to describe "death." Terms like "croaked," "kicked the bucket," "bought the farm," and how about "passed on" "passed away" or "crossed over." Ask if learners can think of others. If they were describing the death of a loved one, would they use a word like "croaked?" How about if they were describing the death of someone you don't particularly like or someone they didn't know well? Ask if learners see how emotions can influence choice of register.

Further the discussion by asking: "Which of these registers do you use most often at home?" "Which is used most often in school?" "Which is used most often in business or workplace situations?"

Make learners aware that schools use formal register and that standardized tests are written in formal register, and, if they go for a job interview, they will want to use formal register with the person who is conducting the interview. This could make the difference in whether or not they get the job. The use of formal register allows one to do better in school, to score higher on tests, and even to get the more desirable job. Learners will be able to communicate more effectively with all types of people in many different situations if they understand these registers.

II. Recognizing Language Registers
Give each learner the handouts of Little Red Riding Hood written in formal register and in casual register. Have the versions read aloud. After the stories have been read, emphasize that in the formal register version, the story starts at the beginning of the action and then develops in a logical pattern to the end. Events are told in the way that they happen. In the casual register version, point out that the story begins by telling the ending first. This is the most emotional part of the story. Notice how the characters are described and events are related. Discuss which story is the most fun, which has the most interesting characters, and which has the most logical order.

III. Using Language Registers
Following this discussion, divide the class into groups of 3 or 4. Each group will work together to write two versions of a story. The first version will be in the casual register and then the group will "translate" the story to the formal register. This can be a simple fairy tale, a story from a book you have read, or a story that you create.

After the groups have completed their stories, one volunteer from each group will read the formal register version of the story and one volunteer will read the casual register version. Group discussion will end the activity.

Materials and Resources:
Book: A framework for understanding and working with students and adults from poverty (Copyright, 1995, Ruby K. Payne, RFT Publishing)

Handouts:(a) Language Registers, (b) Story in formal register,(c) Story in casual register

Attachments: (For Internet Explorer users, right click on link then choose "Save target as". For Netscape users, just hold down the shift key and click on the link.)
See Above

Learners were able to recognize, compare and contrast language registers, as evidenced by group discussion; they were able to recognize the significance of using formal register in work and school situations. Learners demonstrated their ability to work effectively as a group to produce two writings in different registers and to choose one representative from the group to act as group spokesperson.

This activity generated lots of group discussion; reading the two versions of the stories aroused much interest and class participation in the ensuing discussion. Their oral communication skills were spotlighted and enhanced by this activity. They also enjoyed working together on this project, and produced some very interesting and humorous stories in the different registers. When I do this activity again, I would add a script of a conversation written in the two registers, perhaps a script of an individual doing a job interview, or a conversation between an employer and employee--lots of possibilities for scripts here.


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