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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Writing Fables, Part 1 - Dialogue

Short and sweet: what a great way to kick off narrative writing! Since fables are short stories with simple characters, settings, and plots, they work well at the beginning of the year. I'm able to introduce my expectations without overloading my students.

The first expectation is using dialogue effectively. Before we begin planning our fables, my students need to know how to write sentences containing dialogue. After exploring the difference between indirect and direct quotes, I explain that dialogue tags tell who's speaking (noun or pronoun) and the action (said, exclaimed, etc.) Now they're ready for two important rules:
  1. The sentence inside the quotation marks retains its original capitalization and punctuation (with few exceptions).
  2. The dialogue tag interrupts the normal flow of the sentence; therefore, it is set off by commas.
A PowerPoint presentation explains how to place the dialogue tag at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence and provides practice.

Now students are ready to practice on their own. This year, my students used two pages in their English workbook for practice. The first page simply asked them to place quotation marks where needed, and the second page asked them to write and punctuate direct quotes. Today we'll practice a bit more with this practice sheet:

For more (fun) practice, try comic strips. Just find a good strip online, print it, and paste it on top of a lined sheet of paper. Ask students to write the dialogue in narrative form. In my experience, it's best to start with strips that go back and forth between two characters then move to strips in which one-word quotes are used or one character continues speaking in a new frame. This will help them build their skills at creating a new paragraph whenever a new character speaks, as well as combining one speaker's quotes into one longer quote.

Writing dialogue can be easy and fun. Let's get started!

Common Core State Standards: W.3.3b, W.4.3b, L.3.2c, L4.2b, W.5.3b