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A Level English Language Starters: Language & Power

Beth Kemp | Monday March 18, 2013

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  • A Level English Language Starters: Frameworks & Analysis
  • A Level English Language Starters: Accent & Dialect
  • A Level English Language Starters: Language & Gender
  • A Level English Language Starters: Language Change
  • A Level English Language Starters: Mode & Technology
  • A Level English Language Starters: Child Language Acquisition

How do we address people? is a useful starter at an early stage in considering power and spoken language. Students can be asked to think of as many different terms of address as possible in a minute, or can be encouraged to think of different contexts and relationships and the relevant terms of address for these, perhaps with a three or five minute time limit.

Who has the power? can be a very effective starter to encourage students to use their intuition to determine who is more powerful from their speech. This can be good for encouraging students to recognise that their existing proficiency in decoding spoken English can be put to good use. The technical explanations can be provided afterwards, or students can be asked to do this following the introduction of terms like ‘discourse marker’ and ‘hedge’.

One version of this asks students simply to rank topic openings based on the perceived power or status of the speaker in relation to their audience, or to discuss the power relationships implied in the turn. The situation can be given to the students or they can be asked to guess it for themselves, given that all are in a classroom context:

  • OK (.) everyone (2) here’s what we’re doing next [teacher to class]
  • oh my god (.) you’ll never guess what I heard [teen to group of friends]
  • erm (.) I suppose (.) what we’d better do is [student in classroom - group task]
  • excuse me (1) I’m sorry but could we possibly [student to teacher]

Another possibility is to ask for three volunteers for a drama starter. Each volunteer draws a card numbered 1-3 to indicate their status (1 = most...


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