"Who's Talking to Whom?": Punctuating Dialogue

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SWBAT...edit and write dialogue paragraphs that demonstrate correct punctuation and paragraphing

Big Idea

Our readers need to be able to understand "who is talking to whom" in order to follow the sequence of events in our stories.

Creating the Purpose

10 minutes

Although my students talk all the time...they have difficulty in writing dialogue correctly in their stories and research reports. This is something I practice a couple times during the year with writing, reading, editing and revising lessons to help them improve their strategies. The key missing detail that I noticed in their pre test was that their dialogue was simplistic and tended to end with the words "said ________". I wanted them to take their writing to a higher level and explain the actions and thoughts surrounding their speakers to keep their readers visualizing their stories (W 5.3b). I did this through example, practice and application to give them experience with the CC literature and writing expectations. It is important to teach this concept here because students will be working on their main idea paragraphs where most of the dialogue will be taking place in their stories. This gives them a chance to learn and apply it in sequential lessons to build stronger retention of these skills.

In this lesson I review what makes good dialogue, some rules of writing punctuation and replacing the word "said" with more descriptive verbs (L.5.2 and W.5.5). I focus more on writing for a narrative piece and editing shorter dialogue sentences. In the follow up lesson they will apply this strategy to their written work and to their main ideas for their stories. 

We start the lesson by reading (sharing) a short passage of a conversation I overheard between two staff members when walking into school (adapt as you need) - one was going to the dentist and one was getting a haircut. Because I didn't add any dialogue tags, students had a difficult time determining which one was going where. I love when I finish this lesson because I can now refer back to the "remember when..." when they demonstrate this same lack of organization in their written dialogue and they can make the connection to where their mistakes are in tagging speakers. 

After we review and question the dialogue (SL 5.1c). I introduce the objective that today we are going to edit and revise dialogue. We are going to focus on two areas: correctly punctuating the conversations and replacing the word "said" with more descriptive verbs (W 5.3b, W 5.5).  

Practicing Punctuation

15 minutes

I begin the lesson by sharing the Punctuation Rules Poster. I project my copy and give students theirs (I copy it back to back with their practice worksheet). Students need to review adding tag lines for two reasons - 1) they didn't show reactions or emotions or anything but who said what on their pre-test responses and 2) this is the level I want them to attain in their writing so its important that they understand the vocabulary and terms we will be reviewing in the lesson. 

We review all the parts using probing questioning such as when do we use indenting? what is included in the parenthesis? Where does the comma go - inside or outside? etc. (adjust these basic skills to what your student needs are) I first review the basics with students to activate their prior knowledge. This also address misconceptions and areas of weaker understanding as shown in their application of knowledge to their next worksheet (W 5.5, L 5.2, SL 5.1c). 

I then have them turn over their papers and we review the practice sheet and complete the practice page together (L 5.3a, SL 5.1d). Over the course of this year, I have noticed that my students have a harder time with knowing how to punctuate commas and quotation marks in the middle tag lines and with determining not to use quotation marks when sentences are retold rather than stated, so this review is important to include today.    


Practicing Replacing "said"

15 minutes

I added the second area review on replacing "said' and added the component of adding action tags to have students practice what they knew and what they learned in the same lesson. This supported their application of improving descriptions in their dialogues. The action tag part is where I want them to focus because it creates much stronger dialogue in their stories and provides their readers with description that draws them emotionally into their stories.

The "said" replacement is a review from past years, the action tags is a newer concept but one that they have used in their descriptive writing lessons. I had to write a resource for students to refer to in their practice writing to ensure they understood the expectations for this part so I created a practice sheet with this reminder at the bottom for them to use and then save and refer to when we complete the main idea lessons next.

I begin with the review of ways to replace said with more descriptive words. I post the replacements for "said" reference sheet and have them work with partners to complete the worksheet. We share out by random sticks (name sticks) and debate best choices and why (W 5.5, SL 5.1d).

I then share that we are going to add a "fifth grade level" improvement to our writing by using action tags that show our readers WHERE our characters are when they are talking, WHAT they are doing while they are speaking, WHY they are saying these words, or HOW they are feeling while sharing their thoughts. We create a poster of sample sentences (see video below) together and I also give tables the examples of sample sentences. I ask students to share the action words used and the verb replacement for the word "said" in each example. I ask then "How does this help you, the readers, when reading the stories? In take oral responses (SL 5.1c, W 5.3b). I now share that they are going to practice both strategies on a worksheet: replacing the "said" and adding action tags. This is an individual task because I want to assess each students areas of need with the lesson. I do circulate and assist those who struggle with choosing purposeful replacements for "said" using context clues and those who don't add enough description to their action tags ("as he walked" vs "as he turned to leave and waved goodbye" - by asking what is he doing? why? where is he going?, etc. (W 5.5, SL 5.1c)  

Here's an overview of the poster and examples we came up with in the lesson. In the video I explain more about why I feel this was an important part to ad to the unit:



Exit Ticket

10 minutes

I now ask my students if they would like to see how this affects the morning conversation I shared with them. I project the revised morning conversation sheet on the board and we read it together (RL 5.2). 

I again ask "Who was going to the dentist?" and "Who was going to her her hair done?" This time it is easy to respond so I probe them further because I want them to connect that action tags create information and visuals in their audiences minds that help them follow the sequence of events of the story. I ask "Why was Lydia going to the dentist?" "What were both women worried about?" and "What character traits would you use to describe both women this morning?"I ask students to share how they knew this and what evidence in the sentences helped them to come to these conclusions (SL 5.1d). 

I pass out the Exit Tickets and share with my students that they will now complete an assessment of what they learned today about punctuating sentences, changing "said", and adding action tags to their dialogue sentences (L 5.2c, W 5.3b).

From these short assessments and from their responses and worksheets - I create individual and small group focus lessons that continue to address these three areas. Those that got it - move on to writing their main idea paragraphs.