new middle school class???

James C Stalker stalker at MSU.EDU
Thu Apr 7 02:49:11 UTC 2005

You might now be overwhelmed by the suggestions already given.  But. . . .
I worked with 8th graders who developed a slang questionnaire for grades
7-12, administered it, and analyzed the results.  They were not an
extraordinary or gifted class, just kids.  They did a really good job.  The
problem is that slang questionnaires inevitably elicit taboo language as
well as less charged words.  They wanted to know whether they should include
such terms.  We decided that since it was part of their data, it should be
dealt with.  Their conclusion was, and this is a direct quotation: "The most
taboo words were found in the 7th and 10th grades.  A possible reason for
why the 7th grade would use such words, would be to give the illusion and
perception of them being older, and to fit into the group.  As a result they
proceeded to right [sic] down this unsuitable profanity.  My colleagues and
I could not come up with any reasons as to why the 10th graders would use as
much profanity as the 7th graders did."
In my initial discussions with them, many kids claimed that "ain't" was
slang, which led to checking the dictionary and trying to decide what slang
really was.
  I have also had students do a linguistic family history.  They have to
find out what languages are in the family history and when they diappeared.
You can't build a course on this, but immigration and the sorts of
linguistic borrowings other posters have suggested gets to personal language
history as well as national language history--different languages, variant
  My general suggetion is that whatever you do, be sure to get them digging
into language, doing the research for themselves.

Jim Stalker

Jan Kammert writes:

> Those of you on this list have always been fantastic about answering my
> questions.  I hope you can help me out again.
> I teach 8th grade, and my principal has invited teachers to come up with
> new elective classes for grades 6 through 8.  I'm thinking about a course
> on language.  I'm thinking of having a bit of vocabulary, grammar, and the
> history of English.  The course would be one semester (18 weeks).
> I have to write a course description by noon on Friday.  Teachers only got
> this request yesterday.  I don't know how anyone can write anything very
> thoughtful in that amount of time, but I'm going to give it my best try!
> Do any of you have thoughts about what topics could be covered in this
> course?  Thoughts about printed resources?  Thank you in advance for any
> ideas you have.
> Jan

James C. Stalker
Department of English
Michigan State University

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