Title of Lesson: Language Usage
Class/Level: 9th Grade ELA


  • This lesson is aligned with the NYS ELA learning standards 1, 2, 3, & 4 for grade 9: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding, literary response and expression, critical analysis and evaluation, and social interaction.
  • Performance indicators (L=listening, R=reading, W=writing, S=speaking):
    • R.1.2 -Use specialized reference sources, such as glossaries and directories
    • R.1.3 - Read and follow written, complex directions and procedures to solve problems and accomplish tasks
    • R.1.6 - Recognize the defining features and structures of informational texts
    • R.1.7 - Interpret and evaluate data, facts, and ideas in informational texts, such as national newspapers, online and electronic databases, and websites
    • R.1.9 - Analyze information from different sources by making connections and showing relationships to other texts, such as biographies and autobiographies
      • employ a range of post-reading practices
    • R.2.3 - Recognize a range of literary elements and techniques, such as figurative language, allegory, irony, symbolism, and stream of consciousness, and use these elements to interpret the work
      • check for understanding of texts by engaging in oral reading activities, such as read-arounds, to identify and provide effective examples of literary elements
    • R.4.3 - Recognize the types of language (e.g., informal vocabulary, culture-specific terminology, jargon, colloquialisms, email conventions) that are appropriate to social communication
    • W.1.1- Use both primary and secondary sources of information for research
    • L.2.2 - Respond to authors’ reading and discussing their works
    • L.2.4 - Recognize historical and contemporary social and cultural conditions in presentation of literary texts
    • S. 2.1 - Express opinions and support them through references to the text
      • engage in a variety of collaborative conversations, such as peer- led discussions, paired reading and responding, and cooperative group discussions, to construct meaning


  • Students will identify that what may sound impressive or artistic can often be meaningless.
  • Students will evaluate good writing
  • Students will demonstrate effective writing practice.
  • Students will rewrite a passage in the vernacular language of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn into proper Standard English.
  • Students will apply editing skills.
  • Students will define general punctuation terms.
  • Students will apply general punctuation terms correctly.
  • Students will develop a synthesis on responses to writing.
  • Students will interpret the proper place for figurative language.


  • Is good writing subjective?
  • If good writing is subjective are there still rules that must be followed?
  • Can you break the rules of writing?
  • When can you break these rules?
  • Who decides what is “good writing?”
  • Can good writers write bad writing?
  • How does one glorify himself or herself through language?
  • Does “proper English” include colloquialisms?
  • How do you fix bad writing?
  • Are synonyms interchangeable?


  • Students will read a bad piece of writing by Mark Twain. Most students will assume the piece of descriptive writing is good because of the vivid language words; however, they will then discriminate between “good” and “bad” uses of colorful words, discern the proper employment and use of figurative language, and evaluate the difference.
  • Students will read a bad piece of writing by Mark Twain. Most students will assume the piece of descriptive writing is good because of who piece’s author; however, students will appraise a piece of writing on the content of the writing itself and not the author’s name, sex, gender, religion, etc.
  • Students will understand that some editing corrections are black and white: the subject and the verb have to agree, double negatives are unacceptable, and words must be spelled correctly. Things that break hard and fast rules of English are easy to spot. But, there are many gray areas in this language usage passage selected for the editing assessment. What is a run-on sentence? Exactly how should it be rewritten? What is a matter of style or meaning as opposed to correct usage? After students write their own revisions (individually or in small groups), students will discuss which things in the passage must be changed, which things probably should be changed, which things could be changed, and why.
  • Students will understand word usage, placement, and selection.
  • This lesson will scaffold with the next lesson where students edit each other’s Writing Assessment #2 Art Imitates Life papers. Since this is a major portion of the unit, it is imperative that it is written correctly.


  • Students will be placed into groups designated at the beginning of the school year (or possible modified as the teacher sees fit based on needs). These groups will be groups of four or five to allow for group discussion but be limited in size to allow each member the chance to participate.
  • Students will be expected to participate in all activities (i.e. read along, take notes, respond to questions, listen when others are talking)
  • Students’ parents will have been notified in advance as to the nature of the novel, its content being discussed in class, and the proceeding assessments. Parents will have the opportunity to discuss with their children any concerns they may have, and/or discuss with the teacher any concerns in regards to the novel, the discussions, or pertaining assessments. Parents will be made aware that the school and the district are in support of teaching the novel, but that the teacher is empathic to social and cultural issues and if possible will address any concerns as long as it does not deduce the learning opportunities of the students.


  • If an understanding cannot be reached with the parents as to their children participating in the class due to the nature of the lesson, an alternative PLE, which still maintains the same standards and purpose of the original PLE will be developed.
  • Resource notes will be provided for all students for review.
  • Supplementary class time will be available per request for additional reading time or discussion.


  • Copies of the Language Usage worksheet.
  • Copies of grammar texts.
  • Copies of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.
  • Access to the Internet to access the OWL at Purdue
  • Copies of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Resource books on Mark Twain to translate terms or figurative language in the novel.
  • Handout with Twain’s descriptive writing,
  • PowerPoint slide listing the faults in the descriptive writing piece.
  • “Computer access: PowerPoint presentation.


  • Hook: the class will begin by students being asked to read Twains’ descriptive writing piece from a handout. The students will be asked to conclude whether they believe the writing is a good description, fair description, or poor description. They will be asked to state their reasons. I will draw a graphic organizer on the board with their responses, so the entire class can draw comparisons. I will then explain that the passage is nonsense Mark Twain wrote it for a young would be writer friend as nonsense to show that what may sound impressive or artistic can often be meaningless. So the paragraph is a spoof.
    • I will explain to the class what is specifically “wrong” with the passage.
    • To make the students feel better about being “taken in” I will read what Twain stated about the piece’s purpose. “The paragraph was most ably constructed for the deception it was intended to put upon the reader. It was my intention that it should read plausibly, and it is now plain that it does; it was my intention that it should be emotional and touching… and the paragraph would have slidden through every reader’s sensibilities like oil and left not a suspicion behind.”
  • I will then handout to the class a list of texts and Web sites that detail how to write properly.
  • I will explain to the class that just because something sounds “colorful” or “artistic” does not mean it is good writing. I will use the “Mark Twain on Writing sheet” to detail this facets of writing. The intent of this is to demonstrate that just because they may chose fancy words for their papers or projects it may actually diminish and confuse their writing, rather than enhance their efforts.
    • I will demonstrate how choosing a word for a passage is an art; this means knowing the definition of a word in its ENTIRETY.
    • I will demonstrate how synonyms are not always interchangeable, by using prewritten examples on the board.
  • The class will then preview the Language Usage worksheet. Individually each student will read through the passage at least twice underlining or highlighting all of the mistakes he or she can find as he or she reads. Then in pairs they will rewrite the passage, fixing the errors in proper Standard English.


  • The students will turn in their original Language Usage worksheet with the editing marks. This will allow me to understand his or her grasp of editing practices. Additionally if they are missing the same error then I will know the student does not understand that particular element of grammar.
  • Students will also turn in their rewritten passage. This will allow me to understand their knowledge of transforming improper writing into proper writing. Correcting an error is more difficult than simple recognizing an error and this exercise will provide an authentic assessment of their grasp of grammatical knowledge.