Look Who's Talking!

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SWBAT: identify and develop how dialogue affects characterization in narratives

Big Idea

By rewriting a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, students understand how characters "sound" different in text.

Guiding Question

5 minutes

I wanted the students to understand that writers make certain characters say certain things for certain reasons! The Guiding Question asks that they begin to think of themselves as writers. That's why I asked, "As a writer, why might you use dialogue to show characterization?"

Of course, they all ask what characterization is as they begin to write their Guiding Questions, but I just tell them to do their best. (I want them to find the word character within the word characterization). 

Here's a student response, and clearly she's giving really good answers about the point of dialogue, especially when she writes that it can show a character's mood or feeling.


15 minutes

A good Real Aloud is invaluable. For this lesson, I read Ninth Ward under the document camera again, so that students were invited to notice good dialogue. As I read Ninth Ward out loud, I stop a certain pieces of dialogue, and cover up the tag, or who said it. I stop and ask my class, "Who said this line?"

They ALWAYS answer correctly. So we talk about it. "How did you know Mama YaYa said that?" I ask.

"Well," they say, "Mama YaYa always talks about nature and here she's talking about the way the wind smells, so it sounds like something Mama YaYa would say."

So, then I tell them that they're right--dialogue can tell us a lot about a character. Here's a dialogue-rich page from Ninth Ward that I'd totally draw out so that students noticed the language, tags, and the voice of the characters.

Work Time

25 minutes

So, I found this really cute lesson on Pinterest. I thought it woulds be perfect for this lesson because Calvin and Hobbes are such characters. Basically, the students will get a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, and write it out in dialogue format, rather than relying on the "thought bubbles" that are associated with cartoons.

I, of course, had to model it first.

There are a lot of things going on here. First, they are having to go back to the "Put Said to Bed" lesson and use dialogue tags other than "said." Next, they are having to go back to their knowledge of how to punctuate correctly within dialogue. And lastly, they are having to draw out the characterization within the dialogue. When they are finished, the reader shouldn't have to rely on the cartoon to understand the text--the characterization should be vivid enough to stand on its own. 

I found four different Calvin and Hobbes cartoons and tried to spread them out all over the room so that kids weren't sitting next to someone who had the same cartoon. This will be important later, in the Wrap Up, when they share with each other.

Here's an example of student work that pulled a lot of concepts together!

Wrap Up

5 minutes

For the Wrap Up, I had the kids fold over the top of their Calvin and Hobbes paper. Then their partner reads the dialogue. The partner then had to describe what was going on in the cartoon. If they were able to describe what the characters were doing, why they were doing it--then it was successful. If not, I had them talk to their partner about how they could have used more characterization in the dialogue to make it more explicit.

They also reflected using their normal reflection stems. Here's one of my students beginning to feel better about concepts surrounding dialogue, as shown in her daily student reflection.