It's Not What You Say It's How You Say It - Euphemisms
1 Introducing Euphemisms
This is another lesson in the unit about voice modulation, but this lesson isn't really about how your voice sounds - it's more about Euphemisms. Euphemisms are nicer or prettier words or phrases that are used to talk about something offensive, taboo, impolite or just something in a less direct way. So although it isn't about voice modulation it is about how you say it.
This lesson could be introduced the same as the other lessons, but another way to introduce it would be to simply write some example sentences on the board and ask students to read it and guess or search for what the meaning is. They can work in pairs first and discuss with each other and then share with the whole class. Examples: I've been laid off. She has a bun in the oven. The company went belly up. My dog passes away. We're downsizing. Unfortunately, he didn't make it.
2 What are Euphemisms?
After students learn the correct meaning of those phrases. Have students search for the term used to describe them. The term of course is Euphemisms. Lead the class in a discussion about when and why people would use euphemisms. Ask students about their culture and if euphemisms are popular in their culture too.
After students have discussed the meaning and use of euphemisms, have students work in a group to create a poster about euphemisms. The poster could be a specific example, uses, or a definition of it. The poster could be created the "old-fashioned" way on paper with markers, but a really creative new way, would be integrate the augmented reality app Aurasma. Aurasma could be used to make the poster interactive. So when someone looks at the poster they see definitions or uses of euphemisms, but when they use the app different examples are shown. This could be done in groups or as a whole class project. (If Aurasma is integrated, this project would take more time and maybe used as a formal assessment project for this lesson.)
3 Student Practice
Students can translate some more examples. These examples should be found by students searching through newspaper articles, magazines, or online. Newsela or the Smithsonian Tween Tribune are good news sources for students to find articles to search for euphemisms. After students find 5 or so examples have them share with other students.
After students have found and shared some examples, engage them in a discussion. Have them first discuss in groups and then together as a whole class. Ask students about the use of euphemisms and whether it is good or bad. Some questions:
When is the use of euphemisms "good”?
When is it "bad"?
Do news reporters—whose duty it is to report the news--ever use euphemisms? When? Should they use them?
Political leaders are notorious for their use of euphemisms. Why?
When it is the whole class portion of the discussion it would be interesting to get a poll of the whole class for these questions. An app to do that is Plickers (non-tech way) or Poll Everywhere
4 Student Activity
The student activity could be the poster about euphemisms that was introduced before in the "What are Euphemisms?" step. Especially if Aurasma is used, then the poster will take some time to create. Students could make video examples for the poster, so ample time for the filming and editing of that will be needed. Another activity is for students to create a quiz that they can share with the class using the examples they found earlier. Both the quiz and the poster would be excellent artifacts to include in the students' portfolio/dictionary for the unit "It's Not What You Said It's How You Said It"
To finish, students can self-reflect about how euphemisms can help them understand and communicate with English better. This is similar to the wrap-up for sentence stress, tone, intonation, and heteronyms, but if the option to create a portfolio or dictionary of each student's work is used these reflection questions would make a great addition to it. Here are a few questions to guide their thinking:
What makes identifying euphemisms difficult?
What can I do to improve my understanding?
What did I learn today that can help me in the future?
What did I struggle with today or what do I need more practice with?
What advice would I give to someone learning this topic?
Students can reflect and share anyway they are comfortable with audio recording, writing, selfie-video, etc.