Don't Forget the Tone!

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TSWBAT recognize how the tone of a sentence changes its meaning.

Big Idea

The elements of lit need their TONE to stay fit!

Warm Up

15 minutes

The CCS RL.5.7 is how tone contributes attitude to the meaning of the text.  The author's position is clearly understood- whether it's informal, solemn, sarcastic, playful, etc.  Typically, tone and mood are taught together in the middle grades, but are so closely related, it's rather tricky for the kids.  For this basic introduction, I isolate tone from mood so they fully comprehend without confusion.  In the lessons for Island of the Blue Dolphins leading up to this one, I integrate the literary element with the story.  I tried to do so with tone, however, it felt forced.  I decided it more effective to teach about tone separately and in a memorable way. 

A great idea that gets them thinking is to present a sentence and have them emphasize different words each time it's read through. 

Did she really think it was a good idea to go shopping?

DID she really think it was a good idea to go shopping?

Did SHE really think it was a good idea to go shopping?

Did she REALLY think it was a good idea to go shopping?

Did she really THINK it was a good idea to go shopping?

Did she really think it was a GOOD idea to go shopping?

Did she really think it was a good IDEA to go shopping?

Did she really think it was a good idea to go SHOPPING?

The kids will have fun reciting this sentence.  The first few can be said out loud in whole group, but I'd let the students finish the rest in pairs.  They should write two basic sentences, in the same fashion to be turned in.  These fresh sentences will be used in the closure activity and as part of their homework assignment.


30 minutes

The Warm Up got the kids thinking about different ways they can use emphasis to change the tone of their meaning.  Using the attached Smart Board Tone Vocabulary lesson is a nice way to introduce the concept of tone with vivid color and examples.  An additional idea is to use a reading of a folktale on dvd or online to show tone, or find a reading passage that will give you lots of opportunities to set the tonal stage. 

Partner Application

15 minutes

Next students write a short persuasive paragraph about something they want.  They give a first read of their paragraph to their partner, as if their partner is the one they're trying to persuade.  Next, the same person reads the paragraph again, but this time their partner pretends to be: mom, dad, sibling, grandparent, teacher, store cashier, etc.

Pretty quickly they'll realize that the tone they take is different depending on their audience.

*I originally had them write about something they felt strongly about, but found that the paragraphs couldn't be spoken with much of a different tone. 

Student Example: Persuasive paragraph

Closure and Homework

20 minutes

The final activity on TONE will consist of writing sentences on the board (using those the kids created in the warm up.)  3x5 cards with various TONE-like adjectives written are given to students who delight in reading the sentences in many different ways.  No one shares what's on their card. 

The sentence is read the way it's instructed by what is written on the 3x5 card, and the other students have to guess what the tone-word is.

Tone-like words to consider: funny, sad, cheerful, scary, sarcastic, excited, angry, embarrassed, critical, enthusiastic, hopeful, insincere, surprised, insecure, etc.

The kids thoroughly enjoy this activity, and with so many sentences available, it'll go on as long as allowed.  After individual tone card shares, I let teams of students challenge the seated students.  By the end of this, they feel comfortable with the idea of tone as an element of literature.

A homework assignment, or as a review the next day is the kids writing a short story with a certain tone in mind.  They may use their own sentence as a story starter or give them the chance to choose from the new bank of sentences created by the class. Another way would be to randomly distribute the 3x5 cards and they must develop a story around whatever sentence they get.  If you do it this way, be sure to look at each card to make sure it's appropriate and written correctly.  At the bottom, or back is written, in a word, the tone they were trying to convey.  If they did a good job, it will evident before you see their word. 

Included for classwork or your own reference is a helpful worksheet from that makes clear the difference between Tone and Mood (the next lesson).  If the kids are going to fill out page two, have them start on this day and after you've taught Mood, and they can fill out that part.  I teach these two on separate days due to how closely related they are.  They are both important to the language of literature.  Perhaps one of the best illustrations of their meaning is this one.