Thirteen Ed Online
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Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

In this lesson, students will explore the forever-changing nature of language in the United States and what our language says about American society. In the following activities, students view segments of the PBS documentary DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN?, conduct offline and online research, and engage in a team project concerning the evolution of teen expressions so they can better understand what speaking "American" is all about. The lesson addresses such issues as American English as a deteriorating language, American English as an evolving language, and American English as an indicator of modern society's direction.

Grade Level:
Grade 9-12

Time Allotment:
2 class sessions, plus 3-5 days as either in-class group work or as an extended homework assignment.

Subject Matter:
English, Linguistics

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Trace the evolution of and influences on teen slang words and expressions.
  • Describe expressions and slang words that have remained constant and those that have changed over time.
  • Understand the origins of expressions and slang words.
  • Explain the different teen slang words currently used in specific regions across the United States.
  • Recognize when students change the words they use depending on their audience.


National Standards:

NCTE - Standards for the English Language Arts

Standard 4 - Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Standard 8 - Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Standard 9 - Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.

This lesson was prepared by: Michael W. Flaherty