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Lesson Plan

Style-Shifting: Examining and Using Formal and Informal Language Styles

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Style-Shifting: Examining and Using Formal and Informal Language Styles

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two to three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Kristen di Gennaro, Ed.D.

New York, New York

Irene Schultz

New York, New York


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



As language users, we constantly move between speech communities and adjust our language accordingly. As students advance in their academic careers, they engage in more complex tasks in school, both spoken and written. †Consequently, their ability to style-shift becomes more important, as they are often judged on the appropriateness of their language choices. This lesson plan asks students to compare formal and informal language styles and articulate the specific features common to each style. Students examine their own language use to note how it varies across contexts. By becoming aware of the changes in their own language use, students can gain greater control over the language styles they adopt in different contexts.

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As language users, we constantly shift styles according to the contexts in which we find ourselves speaking or writing. Similar to code-switching, style-shifting is often below our level of consciousness as speakers or writers, but can be problematic for us as listeners or readers. Rather than ask students to leave their personalities and multiple language styles outside the classroom, this lesson plan seeks to draw on studentsí multiple language styles to compare and contrast them. Through such meta-analyses of language, students gain greater control and choice over which styles to use when engaging in academic activities.

Wheeler, R. S., & Swords, R. (2006). Code-switching: Teaching Standard English in Urban Classrooms. National Council of Teachers of English: Urbana, IL.

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