Enjoy teaching dialogue! No need for boring worksheets. Instead, break out the comic strips!
Teaching Dialogue with Ms. Sneed
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?
Teaching Dialogue with Direct Instruction
The next day, Ms. Sneed launched right into it. “Okay, guys, we need help with writing dialogue.”
“You mean quotation marks and all that jazz?” asked a boy wearing purple glasses.
“Yep. Let’s get started. First, we’ll learn the rules with this PowerPoint presentation.
Direct and Indirect Quotes
First, 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.”
The PowerPoint led the students through some practice slides. Surprisingly, everyone remained engaged. “Wow,” thought Ms. Sneed, “I should use cartoons every day!”
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.”
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.
Dialogue Tags at the End of the Sentence
After some practice, they moved on to dialogue tags at the end.
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 endmark is a period, it’s replaced by a comma.”
Teaching Dialogue Takes Practice
After the PowerPoint, Ms. Sneed gave her class some practice. First, the students worked on writing a quote with dialogue tags at the beginning, middle, and end of the sentence.
Then they looked at cartoon strips and wrote their own dialogue.
Teaching Dialogue 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, her kids enjoyed it – and she did too.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.