Teaching Dialogue with Comic Strips – It’s Fun!

Enjoy teaching dialogue with comic strips! No need for boring worksheets. The kids (and the teacher) will have fun while learning this important language skill.

Ms. Sneed Is Teaching Dialogue with Comic Strips

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, leaned her elbows on her desk and sighed. Grading narrative writing was never easy. But this latest batch showed a distinct weakness: writing dialogue. What would she do?

As usual, Ms. Sneed began searching. “Hmmm, this is interesting,” she murmured. She clicked on a cartoon dialogue resource. Teaching dialogue with comic strips? The kids would definitely enjoy it. Yep, she would add this to her ELA block.

Direct Instruction

The next day, Ms. Sneed launched right into it. “Okay, guys, you need help with how to write dialogue.”

“You mean quotation marks and all that jazz?” asked a boy wearing purple glasses.

“Yep. Lucky for you, I’ll be teaching dialogue with comic strips.”

Her students cheered.

“First, we’ll learn the rules with this presentation.

“Okay, so what is dialogue?”

After her students offered some ideas, she clicked. “When characters talk in narrative writing, it is called dialogue.” Ms. Sneed smiled. This presentation was teacher-friendly. As she taught, prompts for both her and the students appeared little by little.

Teaching dialogue with comic strips helps kids understand punctuation rules.
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Direct and Indirect Quotes

Second, Ms. Sneed discussed using quotation marks in direct quotes.

“Remember,” she said, “every time a new character speaks, you also need to start a new paragraph.

“A direct quote tells the speaker’s exact words, and quotation marks surround the quote. An indirect quote paraphrases the speaker’s words. No quotation marks are used.”

Next, the PowerPoint led the students through some practice slides. Surprisingly, everyone remained engaged. “Wow,” thought Ms. Sneed, “I should use cartoons every day!”

Teaching dialogue is easy with clear messaging. In the first slide, students learn that dialogue is when characters talk in narrative writing.
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Dialogue Tags

When the next slide came up, she asked, “Does anyone know what a dialogue tag is?” Her students looked at each other and shrugged.

“In direct quotes, dialogue tags tell who’s speaking and provide the action (e.g., yelled). We don’t put any quotation marks around it.”

Teaching dialogue includes tags. They include who's speaking and the action (such as shouted).

Dialogue Tags at the Beginning of the Sentence

Next, Ms. Sneed addressed punctuation and capitalization of direct quotes. She began with the dialogue tag at the beginning.

When teaching dialogue, there are different rules for when the tag is at the beginning, middle, and end. When it's at the beginning, the tag is set off by a comma. Then the entire quote - capitalized and punctuated exactly as it was in the original sentence - follows inside quotation marks.

Dialogue Tags at the End of the Sentence

After some practice, they moved on to dialogue tags at the end.

When teaching dialogue with the tag at the end, pay attention to the quotation mark at the end of the quote. If it's a period, change it to a comma.

Dialogue Tags in the Middle of the Sentence

And finally, the dreaded dialogue tag in the middle. “Notice,” said Ms. Sneed, “a sentence always keeps its original capitalization and punctuation. The only exception is when the dialogue tag comes at the end. In that case, if the end mark is a period, it’s replaced by a comma.”

When teaching dialogue tags in the middle of the sentence, the punctuation and capitalization of the original sentence remains intact. However, where the sentence is split, add a comma and then a quotation mark both before and after the dialogue tag.

Dialogue Takes Practice

After teaching dialogue with comic strips, Ms. Sneed spent several days on practice. First, the students worked on direct and indirect quotes. Second, they wrote quotes with dialogue tags at the beginning, middle, and end of the sentence. Finally, students looked at cartoon strips and wrote their own dialogue.

“Each of these practice activities helps you learn more,” the teacher explained to her students. “For example, when you write comics as narrative writing, you show me that you understand paragraphing.”

Teaching dialogue requires practice. First, ask students to discriminate between and write direct and indirect quotes. Second, ask them to write quotes with dialogue tags at the beginning, middle, and end of the sentence. Finally, ask them to convert a complete comic strip to narrative writing.

Teaching Dialogue with Comic Strips Makes Kids [Practically] Perfect

The next time the students wrote stories, their dialogue had improved. “Yay!” thought Ms. Sneed, “They’re practically perfect in every way.” She hummed a little tune and smiled to herself. That little dialogue unit had done the trick. Not only that. She had some fun teaching dialogue with comic strips.

Enjoy Teaching

Learning the tricks of the trade helps you enjoy teaching. When kids are learning – and having fun in the process – the day is so much more enjoyable.

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