Put Said to Bed

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SWBAT: analyze the impact of specific word choice and how it affects meaning.

Big Idea

After reading 130 rough drafts of our first set of Personal Narratives, I read the word "said" in dialogue no less than a thousand times. Here's what I did to remedy this!

Guiding Question

5 minutes

For this Guiding Question, I wanted to get students to start thinking about using a dialogue tag other than "said," I had them fill in the blanks for their warm-ups "Mad Libs" style.

Fill in the blanks without using “said.”

“You rock!” she ____.

“Please don’t,” I _____.

“Scooby, it’s a ghost,” Shaggy _____.


15 minutes

For this lesson, I read from our Anchor Text, Ninth Ward, under the document camera and stop each time I see that the writer uses something other than "said" in a dialogue tag. It's meant to be less of a discussion, and more of me noticing how much better it makes the story. 

It tends to go something like this, "Wow! Look what the writer does here! She uses 'muttered' instead of 'said.' That impacts the narrative because we know that Lanesha is not one to 'mutter,' so she must be feeling upset or sad. See how that impacts how we read that dialogue?"

I make sure to do it several times (actually each time I come to a dialogue tag I like), and at a few points I give the kids an opportunity to talk to elbow partners about how the specific dialogue tag may impact the meaning in the narrative. How is it better than "said"?

It's important that students see that transfer--that they see value in it when it's done authentically in a published text, rather than, say, on a worksheet.


25 minutes

So, I really just needed a giant brainstorming session to get as many words as possible. A little healthy competition never hurts, so I had the kids work at their tables in competition with the other tables. Their goal was to make a list of as many words as they could think of. One student at each table was the "recorder" and just jotted the words down on a piece of notebook paper.

Of course, most tables fizzled out quickly and I was just waiting on this as a teaching point. 

"Well, get out your independent reading books and see if there are any in there!" I exclaimed.

Then it was on! Kids were skimming and scanning their books and locating all kinds of interesting dialogue tags--ones that I hadn't even thought of.

After each table had their list, I recorded the responses on a projected Word document. To keep up the engagement and the competitive nature, as the day went on, I said things like, "Well, the last class had over 100. Just sayin'."

That got them going!

When all of my classes had given me complete lists, I cross-references and made one giant Anchor Chart. Not bad, huh?


10 minutes

For the reflection, I wanted the students to be able to apply what they learned. I had them go back to their Memory Maps and change all the "saids" to a new, more fitting word from our class list.