The final student list should provide excellent raw material for
follow-up discussion on points such as the following:
Consider whether these and other points of discussion can be related to the characters in TKM, helping your students explore and assess Harper Lee¹s ideas about heroes and heroism as expressed in her characters.
Many of the words will be slang. The students might state a slang usage such as "digs" for "house," and a different slang usage such as "pad" can be identified for their parents¹ generation. Further, an obsolete word such as "domicile" might be associated with even earlier generations. Common objects often undergo slang evolutions - consider, for example, generational slang words for car, money, or clothing.
Interjections are another interesting and often amusing source of language differences among generations. Students might seek different expressions over time for interjections such as gee whiz, right on, fiddlesticks, yuk, hip, oh my goodness, etc.
Next ask your students to work in small groups to develop five or six sentences of dialogue that make use of words peculiar to their own generation, and another five or six sentences of dialogue - preferably but not necessarily on the same subject - as spoken by people from another generation. Stress that the critical point is to keep the language of each dialogue appropriate to the speakers in their own time period.
After the groups read aloud and discuss their original dialogues, introduce the concept of realistic dialogue. Point out that skilled authors attempt to portray speech patterns and vocabulary that reflect the language of the times and the environments in which the characters live. To ascribe words or language styles that are historically or culturally inaccurate for the characters in a work would be a literary flaw.
The writer's concern with realistic language may result in words and passages that some readers find offensive. In TKM, Harper Lee uses the racial epithet "" and words such as "damn" and "rutting" (for sexual intercourse). Realism is also evident in negative events in the novel, such as a rape and a murder. Point out that such language and events are only part of the larger theme and moral vision of the author. Also point out that some writers go beyond the need for realism in depicting language and events, using inflammatory words and phrases and horrid events sensationalistically or for shock value. Note that distinguishing between dialogue handled skillfully and dialogue that is exaggerated, used sensationalistically, or otherwise off target is an important critical thinking skill for readers and viewers. In this manner your students can be prepared to discuss Harper Lee's use of words/dialogue in TKM during the first teleconference.
Discuss the statements, perhaps inviting students to begin with those that struck a strong chord of response in them. Encourage different viewpoints, but ask students to talk through their ideas beyond their first impressions - e.g., by considering the fuller implications of their positions and giving concrete examples to support their views.
The items in the Questionnaire all relate to themes and issues - e.g., equal justice, heroism, vigilante action, language differences - in To Kill a Mockingbird. The discussion sets the scene, then, for the teleconference or for study or review of the novel or the film.
After students have developed an understanding of stereotyping and are comfortable with your learning environment, ask them to read the interviews, growing up in McCulley Quarters, Alabama which describes the personal experiences and memories of an African American woman. Or have them read the interview with three white women who relate their experiences from the same time period.