Discovering DARE is a series of curricula that includes audio and written materials from the comprehensive archive of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), consisting of six print volumes, an online version, as well as more than one thousand original interview recordings–1,843 to be exact, collected from 1,002 communities across the United States, which can be found in their entirety at Fieldwork Recordings–DARE.

We created the curricula to be as accessible to as many people as possible, primarily secondary and post-secondary instructors. Of our many goals, we hope to introduce people to the wonderful study and application of linguistics.

From eye-witness accounts of historical moments like Civil Rights marches or the Moon Landing that paralleled changes within the social dynamics of generations, we are harvesting these interviews, these conversations, and creating curricula for a variety of courses–language arts or linguistics, composition, literature, history, sociology, to name a few. We are certain the wealth of DARE materials within the freely available resources will continue to enhance our awareness of how language variety and change intersect with social change and contribute to our sense of individual, regional, and national identities.

We invite you to use our materials as they become available.

The Discovering DARE team

Kelly Abrams

Trini Stickle

Jennifer Walton-Hanley


Note of Appreciation:

We wish to thank Joan Houston Hall for envisioning curricula based on DARE and her continued support in the development of these materials. We thank the DARE staff at the University of Wisconsin–those with whom we have had the wonderful opportunity to work and those who came before us. All of their efforts provide us with great materials to build upon. Lastly, we extend our appreciation to members of the  DARE Board of Visitors who provided the initial grant that allowed us to begin the Discovering DARE curricula.

Our premier curriculum:

Discovering DARE: Linguistic Lessons from the Dictionary of American Regional English

Authors: Kelly D. Abrams & Trini Stickle

This curriculum offers a flexible 5-day unit on language variation and change in American English based on DARE, which may be used as one course of study or as single lessons embedded within a larger unit. Students are challenged to evaluate the linguistic and social implications of language diversity.


Coming soon:

Discovering DARE: Familiar voices seen and heard, investigating ‘eye’ dialects of American literature

Authors: Trini Stickle & Kelly D. Abrams

This curriculum provides a critical companion to works of American literature that represent regional language through ‘eye dialect’—representation of a dialect’s sound structure through orthography. Focusing on commonly assigned short stories, plays, and novels in which ‘eye’ dialect is used to recreate regional pronunciation (e.g., Bellow, Faulkner, Jewett, Hurston, Morrison, Welty, Wolfe), students compare orthographic representations to authentic speech data of speakers from corresponding regions selected from the DARE interview archive (available at Fieldwork Recordings–DARE). As such, students are challenged to question the artistic and social consequences of this literary effect.

Discovering DARE: Voices from the perimeter, an exploration of the Civil Rights Movement beyond the Deep South

Authors: Jennifer Walton-Hanley, Trini Stickle, & Kelly D. Abrams

This curriculum engages students with perceptions of race relations and the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s and early 1970s through eye-witness accounts present in the DARE interview data. What is notable about this curriculum is its focus on the views of communities located outside the Deep South, thus, the perimeter states such as Ohio, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska. This focus allows students to explore the greater national view on race and the Civil Rights movement and compare it with more commonly studied areas (e.g., Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia).

Arriving Later:

Discovering DARE: Tracing the History of English through Twentieth Century Conversations

Authors: Trini Stickle & Kelly D. Abrams

This curriculum supplements History of English courses by providing audio evidence of early language features—British and other historical English dialects—captured in the talk of older speakers within the DARE interview data. This curriculum engages students in linguistic sleuthing activities, allowing them to become linguistic researchers. They use DARE evidence to trace dialect features and word etymologies and conduct dialect research within their locales. By actually practicing the scholarly study of our nation’s sociolinguistic history, abstract and distant facts become internalized as knowledge.

Discovering DARE: To the Moon and back, eye-witness accounts of technological changes as experienced by ordinary people

Authors: Jennifer Walton-Hanley, Trini Stickle, & Kelly D. Abrams

This curriculum allows students to vicariously experience many technological advances of the early twentieth century through eye-witness accounts present in the DARE interview data. These changes include the Moon landing, public aviation travel, advances in agricultural practices. Students compare the perspectives of such historic changes with those of more recent technological changes (e.g., the Internet, cell phones). Drawing from these foundational exercises, students engage in research that includes data collection, analysis, and various types of reporting methods (e.g., papers, wikis, blogs).